Happy Thanksgiving to you too.
Oh, if you only knew the last few crazy days of life. The new cycle had been especially anticipated, what with SIster Young preparing for the departure home and all. The excitement began on Thursday-as the Balikova sisters showed up early for the soon rescheduled exchange we'd be conducting with them, this time on our home turf. Headed off to three days of on and off conference with amazing member of the 70, Randall Bennett, who also came down with President Schwabb and the assistants. Great day of council and learning--and subway sandwiches, yum-- then followed the exchange. ANyway-- inbetween that with previews, reviews, cleaning and tyding the apartment while suitcases laid everywhere-- in addition to welcoming in the Penza sisters to the peanut gang on Saturday night--and anticipating saying bye to my precious companion, and then being head honcho after she was gone to lead the gang on the last night in the area before shooting up to Samara on a train with them and four elders. Whoo. Tryihng to catch my breath remembering the stress of cleaning and locking up the apartment atwhile throwing suitcases and duffle bags in to a jammed elevator in addition to our three persons. Sight and sound only enhancing the pleasure of the experience. Hahah.
So exchanges went very well. It was our last one of the cycle with Balikova sisters. They came--and we did a preview, outlining some area of work we'd like to work on in general--be it finding, transport contacting, knocking--or teaching on the street---and then an attribute we'll be workign on, like focus, or charity, that we can learn fromt eh sister we'll be paired with. Last of all, we each set a numerical goal we'd like to see for the area--number of books of Mormon passed out, lessons with members present, new investigators. And then, reviews are always great for feedback. It was our last one of the cycle-- we've attended the mission leader training councils--which have recently been conducted over skype so we save traveling money and time, which is still fun to get together with zone leaders Elder Hangen, a deep thinker genuis who likes the Boston Red Socks, why I don't know, and then Elder Davydov. I can't explain this Ukrainian in the allotted period of time. Hahah. It's a neat time to dissect the issues and successes currently in the mission-- and offer opinions on matters as we come to conclusions about implementing certain things amongst the missionaries throughout exchanges.Sister Young and I were able to call all of the sisters and give a kind of booster conference phone call as we shared recent experiences about faith, and seeing the fruits of our teaching through blessings from Heavenly Father and baptisms.
So last day with SIster Young, let me bridge to the most important part. We learned last week that we'd be missing out on the traditional drop off of a secluded, peaceful trainride up to Samara together, to be brought to the office and a grace period of 15 minutes to accept the circumstances and bring all you've experienced together to a fully-closured ending. Instead, she'd be heading back up in the same van as President Schwab with another elder, booking it back to mission headquarters in time for their departing dinner and president interviews. That meant saying goodbye right after the conference ended. But right after the turn off the translated broadcast, the silver-haired District President gets up to the stand to regretfully excuse the fact that President Bennett and Schwab were dismayed to leave early on their way back to Samara. "What?? They're riding in the same prospective vehicle as my companion in the next half hour--surely that doesn't mean...." when I looked over to my left down the row to see frantic note-scribbling sister young shoot me a look that says, "Now, We're going." In rushed panic I grabbed all my things, and climbed over our investigator and Russians to follow her out, not knowing what's going on. " We scurried in tot he hallway, where all the other leaders and elders were waiting, rolling suitcases. Sister Young and I ran to grab coats, as I heard her add, "I can't believe they're making me rush this with you." She then grabbed the 15 notes she'd just penned to investigators and church memebrs-- and hurriedly assigned me to pass them out like no one's business after the conference. I didn't know what to think, and emotions were running fast as I braced myself for parting with her. She stopped talking, we looked at eachother and recognized the moment had come, and then hugged eachother. Tightly. I couldn't keep my tears back as I embraced the sister I've grown so close to over the past four months--helped serve other sisters---and seen so many miracles--and hardships--and laughed, and loved eachother--and now it would all be gone, in a moment. Ugh, I'm cryin again just thinking of it. We whispered to eachother how much we loved eachother, with promises of seeing eachother again some day soon. And then there's little Bogdan, who now has the priesthood and has passed us the sacrament, who comes stumbling out behind us to get in his last word for someone he's loved so much. And I see, in his clossy 12 year old eyes, how much he truly treasures the relationship he has with the missionaries who have taught him. Ugh, this moment. We followed them hurriedly out to the car--and Sister Young looked at me and firmly said, "Olive Garden," affirming our plans to eat at her favorite restaurant after seeing the Saratov Approach together in a a time period soon enough. Before she jumped in the van, the door was shut, and they were off.
I felt so strange walking back in to that building, with sisters who aren't even my companions. I beckoned Bogdan to stay by me, because he's the only one who could help me feel a little ok after feeling so abandoned. Hah, such a surreal feeling it was, even surrounded by hordes of other missionaries and people when we went back in. And now, she's on an airplane home.
So strange to see the roller coaster of life that a mission puts one through. Strange can probably be interchangeable with a million other adjectives. 90% of them are blessedly good context. Pick one, it'll probably fit.
This morning atthe taxi man was in perfect time when Sisters Johnson, Sigman, and I jumped out the door with boxes bags and all. He was a chipper older man for so early in the morning, as he helped us load in the heaps of baggage in to his trunk. While manually holding up the trunk lid while he threw other bags in, I noticed something probably not good. "Whoa there, your car--it's like, movin', man..." were my exact thoughts as the taxi began to roll away from us--without anyone in the driver's seat. Hahah, oy vey it's too early for this. I had the shotgun on the way to the train station, and did what I could to make conversation and help him remember his role in the situation--telling him, "eyes on the road," as he inquired repeatedly as to whether we were Americans and insisting on excavating the wedding announcements of his daughters from the stuffed glove compartment. Haha- we got his number, and he made us promise to call him again on Tuesday morning when Sister Hancock and I need a ride home in Saratov.
We got the call. Looks like my buddy and I have some unfinished business together:) Sister Hancock is coming back down with me to Saratov. I can't wait to be there for her first train ride. Haha, she'll be a great addition to Solnechney.
Love you all, have a great week, the gospel means everything to me.