Elder Buxton at Salavat Yulaev
This was a phenomenal week! Wow, full of so many great experiences. First, we found a really great potential new investigator last week and we have a meeting set up with him tonight. His name is A~. He is a young man our age and is actually already reading the Book of Mormon that we gave him on the street when we contacted him. We weren't able to meet with him this last week because we flew up to Ufa to do some splits with the Elders there. Ufa is really my favorite place on earth right now. So many miracles happen there. The trip started great on splits with the zone leaders Elder B(from Heber) and Elder D. We had great splits and then the next day we had splits in my old area with Elder A and P. It was a great day. To top it off we went to the Baskirian Dancers which was the best performance I have ever seen in my life. Wow, it was really breathtaking. They danced so well. I wish I could send the videos to you but some of the pictures will have to do. Also Sunday, we had another great experience with teaching a large group of people. The Elders got a phone call on the week and a man asked them if they would be able to come out and meet with a few people. They of course said yes and it just so happened that Elder P and I were there that weekend when it was set up. (everything happens for a reason) :) So we go out to the bus stop that he told us to go to. We met him and then he said "follow me it's about a 30 min walk from here." We followed him out to like a recreational type place where people go to rest and have fun and this guy is their activity director or something. So about 20 people were there waiting for us. We started the meeting off just by sharing a little about the American culture and things like that. We actually also sang "Hey Jude" for them and they sang to us a few classic Russian folk songs. Then we got to the topic of our faith and why we are here in Russia. We had a good conversation with them and then one man asked who our prophet was? I answered that his name is Thomas S. Monson and that he lives. Then the room just got silent and Elder P whispers "the Spirit just came." It was such a clear feeling and then we all testified about prophets and the apostasy and so on... It was so powerful. After the testimonies we just set there in silence and then they all applauded us. It was great! They loved it and the elect stayed to learn a little more even though it was dinner time. (there was one drunk lady who was a little too friendly so we avoided her) We went on to talk about the Book of Mormon and the gospel. There were a few elect people there and I can see some good things coming of it. The man who brought us there is actually not interested himself in the gospel (but loves sharing it for some reason?) haha, He wants to organize a field trip to bring them into church for an activity. That would be great! It was a great experience kind of like "the sermon to the bus". I will include a more detailed letter of it that Elder P wrote. He is hilarious. I think you will get a kick out of it. He has quite the way with words. It's all true but a little over emphasized haha. I'll send that letter after this one. So this week was fantastic and I loved going to Ufa and feeling at home. It's always great to see the members and investigators that I have such a great relationship with and the missionaries as well.
I want to wish Guy a happy b-day and my boy Cohen on the 19th! Both are getting pretty old ;) I love you lots! Take care.
PS I love grandma so much! Tell her thank you soo much for the letter. She is the best Grandma in the world and please hug her twice for me. Candace also wrote a very touching email and I love her so much too! Tell her(Candy Cane) that we have a date for sure without a question. She'll know what that means. Please pass on my love to the family. Grandpa is helping me out I know it. I love you all sooo much. Sounds like the jazz game was sweet!!!!!! I'm jealous. Love you take care
This is our epic weekend as written by Elder P. I think that he needs to look into majoring in some kind of writing profession. He is hilarious.
The ballad of the journey to the sanitorium... experienced by Elders Parson, Buxton, Aiken and Penfield
They're taking the Elders to Avangard!
It all began on a blistering cold evening in Ufa, dinner had recently been eaten by The October Elders--Aiken and Penfield, when from the desk in the other room, the phone sounds a delightful melody. They hurried to answer it, not knowing who the call was from, but eagerly awaiting an opportunity to talk with someone new. The callers name was G~, and he had an interesting proposition. He wanted to set up a meeting, and in very short, somewhat opaque terms, hinted that there may be a group of his friends there as well. The October Elders were elated to have the opportunity to do as the early church missionaries had done, and preach the gospel to large groups at once, and with this in mind, they set up the meeting for that Sunday evening.
As luck would have it, these Elders were due for splits with the Assistants that weekend, and so they decided to discuss it more with the Assistants when they arrived. When the topic came up, everyone thought it was going to be excellent, except for Elder Penfield, who insisted that this was a kidnapping attempt. The meeting approached as swiftly as a laser through the night sky, and after a joyous Sunday dinner with the Chernikovka Elders, who stayed to do dishes, the October Elders and the Assistants went off to teach to the multitude.
The place for the meeting had never been established, but the only information the small fellowship of Elders had was a bus number and a stop. They had been instructed over the phone that their contact would be waiting for them there and so they, on a whim of faith, boarded the bus towards the mystery shrouded meeting.
45 minutes later, the conductor indicated to them that this was in fact the bus stop at which they were to disembark and so, they got off the bus. No sooner had their feet touched the ground, then a man in a winter coat and blue jeans approached them and said simply, "Let's go, it is about 30 minutes walk from here," -- and they went. They journeyed over the freeway, and then down onto a path that led to a small town, and then to a road through the woods. The frozen asphalt on the road pricked at their feet through their shoes as they made their journey towards the meeting. While talking with this "G~," they found out that their arranged meeting was a little different than they had expected, in that their would be as many as 30 people waiting to talk to them, and that the premise of the meeting was as simple as getting to know and befriending some Americans. All this they learned as they walked with G~, as well as the name of the Sanitorium where the meeting would be held-- Avangard.
They entered the marble looking entry way to the sanitorium, and were greeted by friendly faces, and were then lead up three flights of stairs to the ball room of the building where the meeting was arranged to take place. G~ left them there for a while in order to go and invite those within the sanitorium to come and listen to us and get to know us a little. They began to trickle in the door, one, two, even three at a time, and they did their best to be the normal happy people they usually are. Nigh unto 15 minutes after the first person had entered the room, the Elders decided that they had better get started, and in standard missionary fashion, they wanted to begin with a song. Elder Aiken gave a dejected groan as he realized that there was no piano in the room, but then he remembered seeing one just outside in the small attache room. They quickly put their heads together and decided that the only song that would be suitable for a situation of friendshipping and ice breaking like that which they now had on their hands was in fact, Hey Jude. Elder Aiken put on a marvelous performance, and the rest of them muddled through the lyrics, clapping and all, and everyone in the room felt a little closer after that. They then returned to the ball room, and took their seats, but the people there had a treat there for the Elders also. They decided to play two songs for us, both of which would be accompanied by an accordion-- which was a treat in itself. They sang One song called Kartoosha, and the other has not been remembered. Both were excellent.
After the singing of songs, the questions came in as usual, concerning the differences between America and Russia, and they were masterfully answered as well as any politician could have done, slip-sliding away from definite answers as to which was better. But then as the questions went on, some man kicked off the meaty section of the conversation and said simply " Tell us about your faith." Better requests are not often made to missionaries, and the Elders were more than happy to oblige the request. Not many words on the subject were asked when another man asked, "Who is your prophet?" Elder Buxton opted to answer the question and as he began his powerfully simple response, the spirit entered the room... he said "His name is Thomas S. Monson, and he lives." The room went silent, and Elder Parson whispered to the other Elders "The Spirit just came in." The Elders began to testify of the truth and share the message of the gospel with the people in the room. When they had finished their testimonies, their was again a silence... and then... Applause? The Elders were slightly taken aback as the group began applauding their testimonies, it was indeed the last thing they expected.
As the meeting went on, we found out that at least one of those in attendance was a little drunk, and had a newly acquired and burning passion for the smooth facial features of Elder Buxton, but the others were seemingly genuinely interested. Some got up and left, others stayed but all heard at least a small part of the truth that their souls are searching for. 9 people at that sanitorium received a copy of the Book of Mormon, and a few less than that number read the entire introduction of the book with the Elders, and felt even more of the spirit that had come to dwell there for a season.
Only time will tell what may come of this meeting, perhaps a sanitorium field trip will be organized, and they will come and visit the Ufa branch with that group of 20 or so, or maybe not. Perhaps some of them will begin investigating the church on their own. Who knows? But what we can tell, is that when they took the Elders to Avangard, they couldn't foresee, that the Elders would take the gospel to them.