13 December 2017

20 years ago today - Baby CJ - 14 Dec 1997

The first part of December:
I was so happy, I was where I wanted to be; serving a mission. Doing exactly what it was I wanted to be doing; helping people. I was able to share my entire self and the love that I felt, with the people I was serving. The best part, I felt loved in return. Looking back, this was the happiest part of my mission. 

I'll never forget a phone call I received around 3 A.M. December 14th, 1997. It was my Mom. She was calling to tell me that my sister Jill had given birth to baby CJ. She arrived a little early but all was well. It is a humbling thought that little did I know that a short 19 years later I'd have so many wonderful kids in my life, between my own and my many, many, nieces and nephews, but that my Mom will have passed away. So much has happened in the past 20 years, both good and bad. Of all the changes I've witnessed, there is one thing I've learned that remains forever the keystone to the future. The youth are the treasure. Everything else passes and morphs into other things. But the young and how they are molded are what shapes the future existence of mankind. 

This is the month I started using the calendar as a journal.

Volodia and I.


Igor and I doing my favorite activity.

Zone Conference.

Patrick Pabst, Ze German. 

Sending off my greenie trainer. Oblivious to know I'd be next month.
Missionary send off's at the train station are always a big thing in Voronezh. This really made you feel cared for and loved.
The Hansen's took good care of us.

Vera's Baptism.

Vera and Eric Reidel.

Mission conference.

Dinner at Sister K's! It's easy to point out the Americanized people in this picture.

Volodia and I were best friends. I bought us hats when on my trip to Finland to renew my visa. 

Attending the young women's class, I was told I make a pretty good girl. 

30 November 2017

20 years ago today - Disco - 30 Nov 1997

It's about 5:30p.m. and we just got back from the "Disco:" Elder Bassett and I thought it was going to be something else. We met a family tracting last night and we had a good introductory BRT session. Only, they invited us to come watch their ten year old daughter Anya, sing at a performance. We thought, sure, that sounds like fun. So we met their older daughter, who had been waiting for us in the cold longer than she had to for us to show up. What happened was we were told to be there at 3:30 at the place. However, the older daughter was there at 3:00 and she waited for us out in the cold for that long. I felt really bad. When we went inside, we learned it was a disco for kids. We both didn't feel comfortable going in. The rules are that we aren't supposed to listen to anything beyond church hymns. I've been trying to follow the rules as per my interview with President Wright. However, we felt it would be an insult if we didn't at least stay until Anya's performance. Another reason we felt bad is because they had bought us tickets at 10,000 Rubles apiece to get us in because they really wanted us to hear her sing. We stayed long enough to hear Anya sing, then went home. I feel bad for ditching and leaving early. We were in the Disco for only about an hour. I didn't feel too bad because it was a disco mostly for children.

The family.


We played some fun FHE games with them throughout our discussions.





Little Disco-tek Anya.





20 years ago today - Circus - 29 Nov 1997

We went to the circus. It was pretty cool and funny. The clowns were really funny and the elephants were cool too. I saw camels for the first time in my life. It was so cool. Anyhow, Volodia is coming over right now, so I have to go. Guess what he wants to do? Eat. "Ты знаешь что я хочу! есть!" (You know what I want! to Eat!)

Elephants

Camels

Alex and Timothy. Alex would be later baptised, I bought him his own triple combination with money my Mom gave me. He's a Nigerian Prince in his local tribe. A truly humble guy. 

Dinner with the senior couple. I can't recall their names right now. 

A view from the apartment of local folks standing in line at the milk truck. 

26 November 2017

20 years ago today - Thanksgiving, an American Holiday - 27 Nov 1997

Journal entry 27 Nov 1997:

Today was thanksgiving. It also happens to be my Dad's birthday. He's getting so old!

Today the ILP (International language Program) students prepared a Thanksgiving feast for the local members and missionaries here in Voronezh. It was hosted in the children's school where they teach. As much as I appreciate exploring the rich culture and new food, I was really looking forward to the American made food because I miss home. The holidays seem to be when I get most nostalgic. I miss My niece Sammy, I miss my brother-in-laws and their families. I miss my sisters, my Dad, the wise's, my Mom and The Jensen's. I would typically visit all their different homes and usually eat no less than three Thanksgiving meals. I would prepare myself the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving by expanding my stomach with other food. Then the day before, I would eat very minimal so I would have enough space in my gut for all the glorious food. And oh the pie! IT's my favorite. I have a strategy when it comes to pie. I take little slivers of all the ones that look the best, just to get a taste to see which ones I want to go back for full slices. I dare say, this is my favorite holiday!

The ILP students dinner didn't disappoint. There were so many people. I really enjoyed all the food. They succeeded, it reminded me of home! I think I may have overdone it a little though, I ate until I couldn't move. In fact, I had to lay on my side for about half an hour until I could finally get up to go shiz.

I really enjoy the time we spend with the members here in Voronezh. We always do activities with them. During the summer we would go out to the river and enjoy a picnic and play games. So many of them attend our English classes. Family home evenings are always a treat. Lately we have been going ice skating and I love it so much! While we were all eating, I sat on the floor across the table from some member girls. We were talking and joking the entire time. An interesting part that stuck out to me was when I asked one of them, What do you want? and she replied, What I want, you aren't allowed. (Which happens to rhyme in Russian.) I was just like, Okaay. and laughed it off. There is an unspoken feel here, that there are so many cute young girls in the branch simply because they want to marry a missionary and go to America. There is actually a track record of this so far. I'm not going to lie, it is a little disappointing, wondering how many of them are actually converted to the gospel or if they are just in it for a green card. Either way, it makes it a fun place to serve. The attention and involvement has provided a great first experience.

That was my Thanksgiving this year. It was pretty cool!

Hugs and kisses,
Tony

The entire group that was there for the Thanksgiving meal. 

My comp thought it funny to take a picture of me in my vulnerable state. 


24 November 2017

20 years ago today - Poem -

Dear God,

I want to share some things I'm thankful for
Of course there's Christ, whom was given the chore
To pay the debt of my sins, so great
I'm thankful for his loving fate.

You're always there, no matter what
No matter how deep I dig my rut
No matter how bad I get, you're always there
You're there for every step and every stair

For every bad mistake I make
There is love instead of revenge and hate

You stand with open arms about me
Loving, caring, protecting, undoubting
With faith unwavering, believing too
That I will some day, return to you.

22 November 2017

20 years ago today - To teach or to walk aimlessly around the city, that is the question. - 23 Nov 1997

Journal entry 23 Nov 1997:

Today is Sunday, we had a baptism in the zone today. It was a young kid who Elder Nelson was been teaching. My new companion's name is Elder Bassett. He is VERY molly mormon. I've learned that his parents have protected him his entire life. ie: edited his entire life, what he did, watched, ate, thought, everything. He is dead bent on following the rules as he perceives them, at all costs. I don't know why President Wright keeps assigning me with these types of companions. Perhaps it is that this is how most missionaries are and that I am the enigma. They seem to lack the life experience and consequential ability to think for themselves, so they rely on the rule book to think for them.

I need to vent:
We went tracting tonight and had a rare thing happen, a woman let us in to talk with her. Which is "against the rules." We aren't supposed to teach anyone of the opposite gender because we might slip and fall into their vagina's. Instead, we are to get their info and have the Sister missionaries talk with them. But that doesn't help when we are initially contacting people. It actually hinders. We were able to spark her interest because she knew English. So we began talking with her in English. She told us she has a test tomorrow in her English class, so I offered to help her study. Bassett was against it the entire time, trying to get us to bail. But after we helped her, she let her guard down enough that she allowed me an opportunity to tell her about the book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and about the church. She said she doesn't want to change religions but is willing and would like to listen to what we have to say. She began to tell us about her son, that he doesn't believe in God. I offered to help, saying that we would be more than happy to try to teach him about God and Jesus Christ. Which are commonalities between our differing religions. She seemed to very much like that idea. However, after this point, Bassett started being a dick and made us bail telling me that, "it was a total waste of time." I didn't say but what seems to me to be a total waste of time is walking around the city calling it, "productive street contacting" when we didn't even talk to anyone. He doesn't seem to make the connection that walking around the city and not talking to anyone is not productive. And that actually getting into someone's home and talking with them and building a relationship of trust then talking to them about the gospel is much more productive and in fact why we are here. I could go on and complain more about my companion but let me just say, he believes everything he is told and follows every rule and tries to follow the missionary guide but doesn't really know it. I wish he could know that being sincere can replace pretty much any and everything in the missionary guide and more.

Oh well, I am learning in a companionship that the first few weeks are the roughest. So I will just ignore the first few weeks worth of things that piss me off.

Okay, I'll get off my soap box now and go to bed. Thanks for listening to me bitch and moan.
Yours truly,
Tony


Elder Spruel and myself giving Igor a lift.

20 November 2017

20 years ago today - Gas - 20 Nov 1997

I had really bad gas today.

It was like fire and brimstone. Everywhere I went I heard weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Before

After

Before gas release.

After