Monday, May 24, 2010

A New Record in Odessa!

Hey family!

Thank you for the amazing emails today! I couldn't help but smile the entire time I read each email! I love Mondays because I get to read how great you guys are! I am glad that you all had so much fun in St. George! It looks like everyone is tan and ready for summer now! I hope that Dennis heals up okay after his athletic attempts! That is way cool that he is doing that though!

Mom, I am excited for your big splash in your 50th year! I think starting a business at 50 is a great way to do something big in a big way! I am excited to see how this all works out! I think that you will do great things for the Sister Missionaries! We seriously need it! I am glad that you had people to run with you every day! That sounds like a lot of fun!

Dad, I am glad that you had a pretty good birthday week! It sounds like you had a lot of fun with the youth! I am glad that they all sang happy birthday to you! That is crazy that you are getting a foreign exchange student! I am excited for you to be able to practice your German with her! I am honestly a little shocked! You guys always surprise me!

Brynn, I am glad that things have gone well with your surgery! And I am way proud of you for getting on the guy's case yesterday! That made my blood boil to think of it! It sounds like you all had fun and that everyone got some golf and Sun, but the question is did you get in a little TJMaxx?

Chase and Ashley, I heard you guys are moving out this week! I always hate moving but it shouldn't be that bad right? Allen and Ashley's baby is adorable! You will have to tell them congrats for me! I showed everyone in the Internet club haha!

So last week we had a really slow week as a zone. It was one of the lowest weeks I had had on my mission but this week was the best week our zone has ever had. We set a goal to find 16 new people as a zone. The most that Odessa has found is 15 in one week. Last night, at 9:00 we ended up with 20 new people to teach as a zone! It was one of the most intense weeks ever! We were all working as a team to try and reach these goals that we set and we blew them out of the water! We definitely saw some miracles this week, along with some disappointments.

We met several really cool families and it felt like people just came out of now where! We found this awesome woman that wanted us to help her with her and her daughter with English and it was one of the coolest lessons we have had in a long time. We talked with her about how important families are and how they really are the foundation of Society! We taught her about how it is important to teach your family because that is where they learn the most basic lessons of life and how church is a way to strengthen them but it shouldn't replace the family! It was really great and I am excited to go back to see her!

President has really been stressing that we talk to everyone and try and have really natural conversations. It is harder then you might think to be natural as a missionary, it takes some practice. So since we started talking about having natural conversations I have really been trying really hard to just make it part of my character to talk with everyone. I will admit that some days I get tired and I am not as open but I really do try my best to just bring a smile to some one's face on the bus or on the street. But anyway most of the conversations turn into an English contact and then they turn into investigators but about two weeks ago something that has never happened to me before happened. I got on a bus and sat down next to an older lady, I was really tired and I struggled with the spirit before I actually got the courage to talk to her. I started talking about the weather which turned to families somehow and then she really looked at me a asked me why I was here. As I handed her a Family Proclamation, I told her that I was a missionary and that I wanted to help others find happiness and truth, and that God has blessed me with such a wonderful family and I want others to have the hope of finding that themselves. She seemed pretty interested and I asked her if she new anyone that was looking for happiness and she started telling me about her niece. Her niece had lost everything and no one knew where she was. This woman is originally from Moldova and she felt like she needed to move here and try and find her, but she had no contact info for this girl. One night she was walking on the street and she saw her niece living on the street freezing to death. She brought her home and took care of her and is now helping her to get her life back together. I gave her another Proclamation and got her number. The past few weeks it has seemed like she was one of those people that would tell you that you could come when she had time but it didn't really seem sincere. But, yesterday I called one last time because our appointment didn't show up. She asked if we could meet her at the church and give her any kind of literature that we had. She had given the Family Proclamation to her niece and her niece read it and wanted a "Book." We gave her a tour of the chapel and she just seemed so happy. She had just moved here and she felt like the Lord had blessed her to talk with us and to find and help this girl. When we gave her the Book of Mormon and a pamphlet on the Restoration she looked at the picture and said, "I have seen this before!" She had a huge smile on her face! When we left her I reminded her to read the introduction to the book and she smiled big again and said she was going home to look at the picture right now! haha I love seeing little miracles like this, it seemed like our week was full of them!

We met so many really amazing people and also some of our friends here that have refused to take a Book of Mormon took one happily and they were excited to read the chapters that we suggested! I love this work! There really are so many miracles in everyday!

I should get going but I love you all so much and I hope that everything is amazing for you! Have a great week!

Sister Larsen

p.s. Photos are of our FHE group, the grapevine outlined entrance to our apartment and the young woman in our branch.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Beautiful Morning in Odessa!

Hello fam!

So it is a beautiful morning in Odessa! The sun is shining, the dogs are barking and the streets are busy with people! It is starting to feel like summer. Thanks for the emails and it sounds like you had another eventful week!

Dad, Happy Birthday again! I hope that your day is filled with lots of Birthday fun! It sounds like you have the ideal day planned out except for the whole work thing. The streets are celebrating St. Mike Day... Well at least one of my Less Actives! She loves you! We are going to go to the Burger Club to celebrate your birthday today! You will have to tell everyone that I say hi and that I miss them! It sounds like you should have a really fun weekend!

Mom, Thanks for telling dad not to say anything about November. He may have left a few hints throughout the letter though! That is really cool about Ryan Roundy! That will be an awesome experience for him! I don't know if I want to live in a really small room! I think I might have enough of that by the end of this! It would be nice to live with someone that I knew though. It sounds like you all have a packed week coming up! I bet St. George will be so much fun! That book sounds really interesting! You might need to pass me some of your knowledge through email so that I don't come back a huge sister missionary!

Brynn, I am so happy that your procedure went well and that things are looking good! I was worried about you on Wednesday and Thursday but it is good to hear that all is well! It sounds like you guys had a great time in St. George! I bet it is really hot down there! By the way, thanks for that last little piece of info, I was kinda starting to stress out this week, wondering what I should do. I will talk to President and see what he thinks and then let you know.

Chase and Ashley, I am glad to hear that you had a pretty good start to your Birthday Ashley! That is cool that Adam and Erin get to come down this weekend to spend some time! I bet you are really excited! How is your summer starting off? Chase how are you liking your new job? What do you really do?

So this week was one of our slowest weeks in a while. We have some meetings but we have been having a hard time finding new people to teach. We have been working with this lady Katya and she is really cool. She didn't come to church yesterday which was a bummer but we will be meeting with her this week and she has shown some interest in getting baptised. She really wants to go to a baptism this weekend and she what it is like. I am excited to meet with her this week. I guess we will see. This last meeting with her was really good. She said that whenever she reads anything that we give her she really feels so peaceful and happy. We told her that it was the spirit and she seemed kinda surprised. She has liked everything that we have told her and she really likes the feeling in our meetings. She is really great and I could really see her being a really great member of the church!

This week we were on exchanges with the sisters in center Odessa. Sister Movsisyan came here with me and Sister Ethington went to center with sister Navasyardyan. It was an interesting exchange and my head really hurt after because Sister Movsisyan doesn't know very much English so it was all Russian all day, which is not bad but my Russian is better than hers... I felt bad for everyone that we met with ha! she is a really great missionary though! We worked hard and we had a lot of fun! She is a really sweet girl! Quick funny story... We were gluing up fliers for English and a guy was walking behind us pulling them down. A little boy came up and told me and I turned back and started walked back to where we had just been. The guy saw me and I yell HEY and starting running after him. He took off running away from this little girl in a mid-calf skirt! He ran away with a lot of our fliers but at least some of the stayed up! The best part was that he ran from ME! haha

Well I should probably get going but I wanted to show you all a clip from dad's letter and how he is "not" mentioning November!!!! I would hate to crush his hopes on his birthday but I don't even know how possible November is... I love you dad haha! I don't think he ever got the award for being subtle.

Dad's email read: "So, I was thinking about you this week and just thought (November) that whatever you decide to do (November) about coming home will be fine by us (November). Mom has told me to stay out of it and not mention (November) the release date (November) so as not to influence your decision. (November). I assured her I wouldn't say another word (November) about when you should consider coming home (November). So if you want to wait through the cold and dreary, miserable winter, we'd be happy to welcome you home in January. I just can't say to you: You should come home in ___________. See I didn't say it!"

Can you say subliminal messages!?!? haha Well I love you all and I hope that you have a wonderful week! Dad have an amazing Birthday! Thanks for the letters, updates, support and love! You are all amazing! I love and miss you!

Sister Larsen

Monday, May 10, 2010

Long time no talk! Happy Mother's Day!

Good morning everyone!

I can't tell you how happy I was to talk to you all yesterday! I know you were all probably very upset with me making you get up at the crack of dawn but I really loved every minute of it! I love how great our family is and how we can talk about everything and nothing and it is always great! Just hearing your voices made my day!!!

Mom, by the way happy Mother's Day!!! I think I got so excited to hear your voices that I didn't even say anything!!! I am really sorry! But I hope you had a great mother's day! It sounds like everyone made it pretty special! It sounds like your little company is taking off in the right direction! Skirts really are the big need! In the missionary packets they have pictures of skirts and they forget to tell you that you can actually dress pretty normalish! That was the most frustrating thing, is not knowing that you can wear cute things that are just modest. Also it would be really nice to have pockets... in case you need any ideas haha.

Dad, Thanks for the pictures! Everyone looks a little different but everyone looks really good! Ellie is a skinny, lurpy thing isn't she! I never noticed how gawky she is! She is dang cute! But my Kota is the cutest little thing in the whole wide world! It looks like you are still doing a great job with the singles! It seems like they love you more then ever! You are so great to really bring them into your lives like that! I love how open you are to everyone!

Brynn! I am glad that your song went well and that you feel good about it. Mom said that it was perfect and I can't wait to hear it! Thanks for recording it for me! I am really excited for you and everything you have going on! You look beautiful in all of the pictures that dad sent, of course! I am so glad that you are happy! I hope that everything goes well this week! Please keep me updated on everything that happens! I will keep you in my prayers!

Chase and Ashley, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ASHLEY!!! I hope that you have a really, really amazing day today! I heard you guys made some killer rolls for dinner last night! It was really great to talk to you and to hear kinda what is going on, and what is coming up! You guys have some really fun adventures coming up soon and I am really excited for you!

Well, you guys mostly got the run down of the week. It has been a pretty normal week. We have been having family home evening with some of the single members and our investigators and it has been a lot of fun to get them to interact with each other. We have kinda created our own little group of our investigators and members. They are the most mismatched group but they work together really well. We have Inna, she is our investigator and she just run and plays with all of the boys! She is hilarious and she is this tall skinny girl that always has a huge smile on her face! Then there is Elliah, he is a recent convert and he has long black dreds and wears all black. Stas who is just a friend of the elders but he doesn't really want to investigate. He is this funny guy that runs around and screams a lot. Hopefully I can get a picture of the possy tonight and send it next week. I don't really know how but they all work together and we have so much fun! They also really get involved in the spiritual thoughts at the beginning. They are awesome!

This week we met with Katya again and it was really awesome! You can really tell that she has been searching for the gospel, for the truth. Everytime we sit down to pray with her the spirit just floods the room. Yesterday she came to church but she left because she was late and didn't want to walk in, and she thought it was wierd that we were sitting down while we were singing. She is so sweet and I can't wait to meet with her again this week. You can tell that she really takes it seriously and that she really wants to know. She always brings her own Book of Mormon with her and really tries to study it with us. She is investigating several other churches but she just wants to find the truth. This last week we invited her to find out if she needs to be baptized. I think she already knew that she did because she asked what that would mean she would need to do after. She said that she really wanted to pray and involve the Lord to see what He thinks. We told her that it was probably a good idea! She is really great.

Well anyway the rest of the week was pretty much the same old stuff. We did a lot of contacting on the streets and we taught a lot of english. Oh we did have Zone Conference on Tuesday which was really cool! President talked a lot about families and the roles of Men and Women! It was really interesting because they are so intertwined that they hard to separate and talk about one with out the other. It was really great though and it really made me grateful for my family and for the separate roles of Men and Women and how they are divinely different for a reason! I love how it all just works together!

Well I love you all so much! I am so thankful for your examples and for your love! I miss you all so much, more than I can really explain but I am so grateful for your prayers and your concern for me! I hope that everything is going well! Pass a Hello to everyone and tell them that I love them! Have a great week!

Sister Larsen

Monday, May 3, 2010

May Flowers!!

Editor's Index to photos: Brooke and her adopted pup, her post mission shoes, in Odessa with man swimming in fountain, and checking out some Idaho plates!

Good Morning,

I am happy to tell you that I am sitting in a short sleeve shirt and I am actually feeling really warm! It has really warmed up here and we haven't had snow in a really long time! I am sorry that you guys had snow, that always seems to happen, right when the flowers start to bloom it snows one last time!

Mom, I am jealous! I love NY! I heard that your flat wasn't very good though, that is never fun! At least you are usually out and about and not really spending a lot of time there. You will have to let me know what you found out! I hope that everything went well for you guys there! I am glad that you guys have started doing some family history. A lot of the members here are really into it. A lot of them stay after church for 2 hours and do family history to get ready for the Temple. They also love to sit and show you what they found! It is really cool to see some of their old records in Russian! I don't know how they read it!

Dad, Sounds like you have had dog duty a lot! I am sure that those dogs just love hanging with you! Sounds like you had a pretty packed week again! I am sorry to hear about the Jazz! It sucks that they are playing the Lakers again! I wish that they could just tear them apart, just once... maybe while I am there though ha. That is scary about Times Square. Did they figure out who set it off?

Brynn, Happy Birthday again! I am happy to hear that all went well even with the snow. I think you should record this song and send it to me so that I can hear it. You really have my interest peaked! Thank you for looking up my school schedule, I was actually really wondering about that. haha. That helps a little actually. I will see what I can do to find out when I should be coming home.

Chase and Ashley, Hey how did your week go? Ashley I am pretty sure that you have finals this week so good luck with those! Chase how are you liking your new job? Are you working in Provo or in Salt Lake? What are your plans for this summer?

So this week was a lot of the same old stuff. Nina is still in the hospital resting. She has some other health problems so they just want her to rest for a little but she should be home today or tomorrow. She is doing fine thought. This week we had a lot of really good meetings! We met with this woman named Katiya. The elders tracted into her in February and she has been really busy and hasn't had time to call, but they gave her a Family Proclamation. She had read it so many times that it was really old looking. We have been trying to meet with her for almost a transfer and it finally worked out this last week. She asked a lot of really great questions and she accepted a Book of Mormon within the first few minutes of the meeting. She couldn't come to church yesterday because she got sick, but we are meeting again with her later this week! I am really excited! She is one of those people that really just wants to get to the point and know if it is true or not! She is really awesome! I can't believe that she was found through tracting. I read something today in Jesus the Christ. Elder Talmage was talking about the different parables that Christ uses to teach and there was one parable that I had never really noticed. It talked about a sower that sowed seeds and then went on to work in other places. The seeds grew, not because of anything he did but because of forces completely out of his control. I always seem to forget the influence that we have on people even when we are not there for every step of the way. And also that sometimes people just need a little time to let their faith grow a little! It was a really great chapter!

We found out this week that Vlad will probably leave this week for either 2 weeks or 2 months!! I am really sad because he is so close and I am worried about what will happen when he is so far away from Nina, us and the Elders. I guess I need to put a little more faith in the Lord that His will is what is best for all of us! I feel like so many people here have been so close to accepting truth and then something happens and they get pulled out of our reach. I guess we are not meant to change every person with whom we come in contact.

On a lighter note, Agnessa, one of the less actives we have been working with has been to church 3 times and has really enjoyed herself. She is really making the steps to go to the temple and to be worthy to go even if she can't get there. It is so great to see people changed their lives for the better! She has been ready in the Book of Mormon a lot and I think that has made a lot of the difference! She is really great! Remind me to tell you a story about her next week!

Speaking of Sunday! You can call at 6:30 if you want. I have church until 3 but we should be back at the apartment by 3:30. I just hope that no one kills me for making them get up so early! Well I can't WAIT to talk to you! I hope you have an amazing week, I love you all!
011-38-Area code- Phone# (050)353-6185

Sister Larsen

Hey, Hey, The Temple is Coming!!!!

What a beautiful morning, what a beautiful day!!

Good morning fam! I am glad to hear that all is well in the Big City and down in Happy Valley! It sounds like you all had a very eventful and exciting week! Sounds like all of the events went off without a hitch and I am stocked that the Jazz are doing well. Of course that is how it would work out the one season that I am going to miss! I am guessing that they will go to the finals this year and I am praying that they don't, because I don't know if I can stand missing it! haha. I just have to count on you recording it and saving it for a year.... haha

Dad, Thanks for the sports update. It always feels good to be clued in a little to what is going on. Sometimes I feel so out of the world, which is probably a good thing. I was feeling a little like you are and it has helped so much seeing the sun shine outside. Just getting outside and remembering that everything that we have is because Heavenly Father loves us so much that he wanted to surround us with wonderful things and wonderful people. I have to look at everyday as a new day and as a new adventure. Sometimes I feel like a do a lot of the same things everyday so I have to find the one new excited thing that sets that day apart from the rest. It makes each day seem so much more exciting!

Mom, I am glad you got a little run in and some Chuck-a-rama. It sounds like you guys had a lot of fun! You and your running still blow my mind! I don't know how you do all of it. I want to run but I just don't know how I will manage to keep up with all of you! I am sad to hear about Coach. I had heard that he had had a rough go, but I don't think I really knew how rough it was. It is strange the way that life takes sudden turns. I hope that his family is doing okay. It just reminds me that we always need to be ready because we never really know what is going to happen tomorrow.

Brynn, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I hope you have an amazing birthday! I am sorry that you were so sick! It is always a bummer being sick, and I know that you have slept past 2 in your life!!! haha I think we all have if we ever slept in the room downstairs. I am proud of you for running this last week! I need to start running again so I can keep up with you guys! I am sure that you are just loving the Jazz right now! I hope that Carmello is getting worked over by Fez! Thanks for sharing that story with me! That is an amazing story! I don't think that I have ever heard anything like that before! I know it is true but it was just so apparent to her. Tell her that I say thanks for sharing that!

Chase and Ashley, Congrats again Chase and good luck Ashley this week!! Also HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you too Ashley on the 10th! I am sure that these last two weeks have been super stressful! Ash you will have to let me know what is going on for your student teaching. I don't know if I remember right but you will be graduating this summer yeah? Chase will you be selling in Salt Lake or Provo for the summer? I am super proud of you guys!

So I have some good news! We found out this week that the Temple dedication will be in August!!! The open house will be from the 7th until the 21st and then the dedication will be on the 29th. I have no idea where I will be in August but I am really hoping that I will be up in Kiev. We also found out transfer info and I will be here again with Sister Ethington. We were both with our companions for 3 transfers before we were put together and we will be staying together for a 3rd, which we are both pretty happy about! We have so much fun together and we have been working pretty hard. We really really want to see some success this transfer so we will be working hard! It is crazy how fast time has flown by! It feels like just a few weeks ago that we came down here together! I am seriously hoping that time starts to slow down a little because as I look at the rest of my mission it just seems shorter then I expected! We have 2 transfers and then the temple opens the next transfer and then I only have 3 more transfers after that!! Crazy!

So this week was pretty mellow. We had some really good lessons and some missed appointments but that is just missionary work :D. We have started working with this really really great family and they seem to enjoy talking to us about religion. The daughter wanted to meet with us for English and her Godmother joined in on the next meeting. The Godmother has had some health issues and she said that she has been praying for Heavenly Father to send someone to help her find truth. The mom of the girl is a very strong Orthodox but she enjoys talking to us and she has said that we seem different and she likes it for some reason. I love going to their house because I just feel like I am around a really great family. They have two other younger children that love to come and talk to us. You can just feel the love in their home.

Yesterday we had a pretty scary experience. We have been working with Nina and Vlad. They are progressing at different paces and so we are trying to pass Vlad to the elders and we are going to try and continue working with Nina. So yesterday we set up a meeting with Vlad and the elders at Nina's apartment. We were waiting for Vlad to get home and Nina was fixing something in the kitchen while we were waiting. All of a sudden we hear the scariest loudest scream I have ever heard in my whole life. I thought that for sure I was going to walk in the kitchen and her hand or arm was going to be gone! When we walked in she was intact but she had just been electrocuted by her washing machine!!! She had been shocked pretty bad and she already has some heart problems. We called the ambulance and they came and took a look at her. They ended up taking her to the hospital to keep an eye on her. She is doing fine and everything turned out okay but I think it hurt and scared her pretty bad! We were all a little shaken up after that! We are going to call her today and see how she is doing. The doctors said she was going to be fine but keep her in your prayers.

Well I don't really know how to transition from that.... So I am just going to ask about mother's day. Would it work for you guys to call me at 4 again Ukraine time and 7 your time? When is your sacrament? Let me know if that works for you..

Well I should probably get going but I love you all! I hope that you have an amazing week and a great party this weekend! Tell everyone that I say and I love them!

Sister Larsen