Monday, March 18, 2013

Week 100+ and something, Yulian's Baptism

Interesting Fact - Russia is an amazing place full of history. I can't even describe how amazing this place is. 

Well this last week was a busy busy busy one, but so fulfilling. After my last email, we had one more Zone Conference with President and Sister Lawrence from the Seventy. My brain has never exploded that much from so many deep doctrines concerning the Gathering of Israel. It was one of the most interesting things I have ever heard and because of it, scripture study has become so much more interesting. We also learned a lot of how we can better work with members, be even better missionaries, and be even more obedient. If only I got this training earlier in my mission when I had so more time to apply what I have learned...

After we got back, we had meeting after meeting back in Pskov. It felt great teaching that much. There were a lot of farewell meetings, but also lots of farewell commitments to church. We met with our main man, Jules from Poland (the WW2 Auszwisz veteran) twice and got him to church with his wife! It was a little difficult for him to get to church, but taxis helped with that one. He turned 90 last October. He reminds me a lot of grandpa - just so nice and full of warmth and love. That is the kind of old guy I want to become! 

We had another opportunity to give a blessing to the branch's new convert, Tamara. She had recently gotten really sick, so we came over with a member and gave her a blessing. Her mother was there who did not know much about the church or the missionaries. She really loved what we did, and was incredibly thankful. And now she is interested in hearing more. Yay! 

The greatest thing that happened this week was perhaps our biggest miracle yet in Pskov. Yulian got baptized this last Sunday. The events leading up to it were also a miracle. Seeing and knowing about his work situation and how he basically works and sends money to his family back in Moldova, we thought that the Law of the Tithe would be something difficult for him to accept, as to most people, even members, it is a difficult thing to follow and obey. But knowing about the miracles and blessings and coming from said law, we prepared to teach it and we also prayed all week so that he would be touched by the commandment. We prayed, literally, all week long. We finally meet with him and teach him and then we ask him the commitment, "Will you pay tithing after you are baptized?". After a brief pause we hear, "Da." (Yes). I was shocked because our expectation of the difficulty wasn't there, and our prayer was answered. We set up the baptismal interview with the Senior Couple here and he had it at 9 pm at night. He passed and on Sunday, after church, Yulian Maror' got baptized by Il'ya Kazharskiy, our branch president. I will show some pictures another time. 

Yesterday was definitely my favorite Sunday here in Pskov. After the baptism, the branch made a bunch of blini (a Russian thin pancake - kind of like crepes) and we had a feast. It was to celebrate three things: Yulian's baptism, Maslaniza (A Russian holiday that celebrates the coming of Spring), and my farewell. It was really hard to say goodbye to all of my favorite branch members. I spoke at church yesterday about the relation of Love and Missionary Work. Perhaps I will share the talk another time.

So a few more thoughts: This mission has completely changed my life. I like to look at as "my mission SAVED my life". I have never been more happy in my life. It really is 2 years full of hard work, spiritual experiences, prayer, and study. I have never done anything more fulfilling in my life, and I am eternally grateful that I came out on a mission. I had no idea that it would both be this amazing and also so difficult. All of the great miracles, happy moments, the laughs and fun times completely outweigh any hardship, heartache, or tear shed in the field. I kind of see my mission experience as 4 different missions: 1st mission - Surviving the MTC (self-explanatory). 2nd Mission - Learning and Developing (Transfers 1 - 5, Vyborg, and part of my time in St. Petersburg; The time when I adjusted to missionary life, missionary work, and learning how to lead). 3rd Mission - Surviving being Assistant (Transfers 5 - 10. Self-explanatory; I feel like it was the most development and perhaps the most stressful part of the mission). 4rd Mission - Pskov. These past 9 months in Pskov have been completely unique to any other part of my mission. I took everything I learned and used it. I talked to so many people in this small little city, found many investigators, taught dozens and dozens of lessons, but the baptisms lacked. It troubled me and really stressed me out. I feel like this last portion of my mission I really got to know more personally my Father in Heaven and his love for me and also these people, whom I serve. Prayer played a very special part on my mission these past few months. The scripture that best described this time on my mission: 

Psalm 126: 5 - 6 "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

We finally we able to reap in joy and bring our sheave to Him, our Lord. I am so glad I am here as a missionary. This has been the best experience of my life. I will miss a lot of people here in the Motherland! 

Well that is about it for this week. I love you all, and thank you all for writing and being such a great support. The Church is the only true and living church. I know with all of my heart that this Church is Christ's Church again restored on the Earth. My testimony is worth more than anything. I love you all!

See you soon.
Elder Tekulve

Monday, March 11, 2013

Aha! I Still get to write you! - Yulian, Joel Zonn, Pasha and his Cousin

Dear Friends and Family!

Interesting Fact - the 8th of March is International Woman's Day! Happy Woman's Day!

This was an awesome week. We had a lot of teaching opportunities that were just priceless. After about 2 weeks, we were finally able to meet with Yulian! He hadn't come to church for 2 weeks, because of various issues, but this week were able to meet twice in the park and we got him to church again! We taught him some of the commandments, like Sabbath Day, Law of Chastity, Scripture Study, Prayer, and everytime we asked him to do those things, he says, "I want to do those things". What kind of better response can there be? Anyway, He is already in the Book of Mosiah, almost finished. He remembers names and places and dates really well. He one time shocked us by saying that Lorenzo Snow lived in Brigham City, and various other things. He is really prepared and ready. He will be getting baptized this Sunday.

We got a Media Referral from It is a 90 year old man and his caretaker, Joel and Tatiana. Joel is a Polish man who lived in San Francisco for 50 years and knows English, Russian, and Polish perfectly. He is a survivor of Auswicz and experienced a lot. He just loves us and the church. He knew a lot about us already, and he really wanted a Book of Mormon in Polish and Russian.  He has lots of doubts about God, but he did say, "I am 90 years old. Convert me quick!". He is a jolly old guy that you just instantly love. His caretaker is a nice Russian lady as well. Well actually she is Latvian, but speaks only Russian. He is one of the highlights this week.

We started teaching Pasha, who came to church this last week. (The son who we visited in the hospital). That was also a great lesson, but he sees the Book of Mormon not terribly needed. He is looking for the meaning of life! The weird/cool/miracle thign that happened was that we talked to his cousin on the street the day after. We are now teaching him as well. On the second lesson, his cousin, Roma, was present. The Gardiners were there and we had a very spiritual meeting about what the Book of Mormon is. We explained that in John 10:16. that the Nephites are the other sheep  that he speaks about. Jesus was called to preach to the house of Israel, not the Gentiles. There were other sheep that were NOT of that fold in Jerusalem, and this is their record. Pasha's and Roma's minds were so enlightened, and it was just an awesome lesson.

Our family is not doing that hot, to be honest. Everything we have taught them has kind of gone out the door. They are willing to meet, but not willing to do anything, like going to church, or reading. So it makes it really difficult to try to help them progress to baptism. In fact, nearly impossible. But we are going to still work with them!

Elder Abbott developed a hilarious new technique to contact - Streetlighting. There is a large intersection next to our apartment with 6 crosswalk lights. So we go in circles and talk to with people at the lights; they can't move and they can't cross, so they are stuck and have to talk to us. That is how we found Roma actually. I commented that he had a cool bike, we just started hitting it off. Missionary work is really the coolest. You are just talking to hundreds and hundreds of people every month.

We then, right after church, took a long, hot, and cramped bus ride back to Peter. We were stuck in traffic for about an hour and a half. But, the neat thing is, we made it to Peter safe and sound. We had an amazing Zone Leader Council with President Lawrance from the Quorum of the Seventy. It was just amazing and I took a lot of notes. I have a big Zone Conference that I have to conduct tomorrow, after which we are racing back to Pskov. I think every single week this transfer, we have traveled... It happens. 

Well that is it for this week! I love love love being a missionary here. I have learned so much, and I continue to learn. Just feeling the Spirit's presence in everything you do and doing everything you can possible do to keep His presence is the most fulfilling and awesome work ever. The Church is true! That is something that I will never forget or deny. This is Christ's Church once again restored on this Earth.

Elder Tekulve

Petersburg... again! And a Busy week

Dear Family!

This week felt incredibly fast. I can't even believe it is another week. To be honest, I am really tired of traveling, and it looks like I have to go back to Peter this Sunday for another Zone Leader Council and another Zone Conference/Mission Tour. This week, we just had a Zone Leader Council and a Zone Training meeting over Skype. It was fairly stressful this week running around in Russia and trying to fulfill these responsibilities, but in the end, it all worked out. We found a great new bus that leaves by our place to Petersburg for a lot cheaper and it is a lot more comfortable, so that was a big plus for this week. We then had an exchange in the city with the Assistants, and I went out with the new assistant, who came into the field the day I became an assistant, which was fun to reminisce. I remember taking him out contacting to show him the ropes, and now he is showing me the ropes. It is so interesting how missions just keep going. The work of the Lord will continue and advanced until the Gospel has reached into every ear on this planet. So my time is getting short, but the Mission is still growing and moving. 

Anyway, we had a few cool moments: We had no time to go back to the apartment and eat, so we grabbed some Carl's Jr. instead. As we sat there, and heard strange but familiar tongues behind us. A language that I had once known before. It was American English! There were 2 American study abroad students. We ended up talking to them for a while and got their phone number to meet up. It was just a surprise to hear English around here besides amongst missionaries in the apartments. We decided afterwards to walk in the park to talk to some more people (by the way, it was raining and quite windy in Peter) and there we found yet another American study abroad student! This one, however, is from San Juan Capo, CA and went to Capo High, which was a shock since I have a few really good friends from there. He didn't know them, but it was kind of great meeting a fellow Californian, let alone, Southern Californian in St. Petersburg Russia. 

We had Zone Leader Council with President Webb. President Clark right now is in the U.S. recovering from a surgery he got last week. (So this is my 4th Mission President in the field). President Clark and Sister Clark will be coming home really soon, as in, this week. But we had a great ZLC and then left with the Gardiners back to Pskov in a car, this time. Cars are incredibly more comfortable than buses, for sure. We race back, and then we had a baptismal interview with the Pskov Sisters' investigator Tamara. It was awesome to be a part of it. Elder Gardiner had to give it with me as his translator, and I realized how amazing it is to be a Church leader helping people access the power of the Atonement. It really is a special duty. 

Tamara got baptized this Saturday by the branch members this week! She is a wonderful woman, and by ethnicity she is as Gypsy, interesting enough. The branch has fully welcomed her with open hands. This week, we had the opportunity to help her move into a new apartment and also gave her little 7 year old son a blessing for health. He had a very intense fever, so she had us come over to give her a blessing. We needed a 3rd man with us, so we called up Karl to come with us. He is basically a member now. He is a lot more active than most of the members on our records, and he does service when he can, but just not baptized. But, the more the merrier in Pskov. This Tamara woman though has 2 young children who just love going to primary. So at the baptism, for a musical number, her little son sang her "I am a Child of God". It was cute stuffs.

Anyway, that is about it for this week. We have been racing around Pskov and Petersburg trying to get things done. I think I have taken about 4 or 5 taxis this week along, which on average we take about 1 a week. (Taxis  are a lifesaver in Pskov. Buses are so unpredictable here). I love being a missionary here. This really is a special time for me right now, and I know the God will compensate for the time and efforts that I have sacrificed for you guys! The Church is true!

Elder Tekulve

P.S. It is snowing like crazy here.

Novgorod.... Again... and a few other things!

Interesting Fact - The really only place to ski here in Russia are on frozen rivers. The Vilikaya River this past weekend was filled with people skiing around on the ice. To compare, it honestly looks so boring because there are no real mountains here like there are in the states. They just kind of slide forward awkwardly. No dips, slopes, turns, trees, ski lifts, snowboarders to avoid, or cool hot cocoa places. I guess the only sense of risk is that you are skiing on a FROZEN river and if it broke, you would be in trouble. 

This week went incredibly fast. We left to go to Novgorod again. I think this is my fifth time there in that city? I know the layout fairly well now and can get around to various places without asking any directions. We had to do some exchanges there with the Elders. One of the elders there is the Branch President of the branch and is stuck doing all sorts of stuff that Financial clerks, bishopric members, and bishops end up doing all week long. But he is also a missionary and so his schedule really makes it difficult. The Elder on the otherhand is a beast of an Elder and teaches like a champ and talks to anyone and everyone, but he is stuck inside most of the time because of the Branch President that his companion has to do. Also to add, his companion has been sick for the past 2 months. So we risked it to help them out and take them out to contact and talk to people. It was a fun little exchange, and we still haven't gotten sick, so all is well. I think it was a strain of flu that I had taken a flu shot for before I left to Russia. Yay! Apparently there is a big flu going around in Pskov as well. Maybe all of Russia, I don't really know.

Also this week, we visited one of our investigator's sons in the hospital. He had recently gotten a surgery for his stomach. THe parents of the son are Sergay and Raya. Sergay has gotten back into alcoholism and he have been trying to help him quit by holding an addiction recovery program that with the Senior Couple here. But the wife, Raya, took us to see her son this week. It turns out that her son, Pasha, investigated a few hours ago, and that night I found his teaching record in the Missionary Area Book. The world really is a small place.

We couldn't get the rest of our investigators to come to church this weekend. The 23rd was a big holiday here in Russia: The Day of the Defenders, or in other words, Men's Day. So we were unable to meet our investigators this weekend. I also celebrated my 2 year mark on the 23rd. It really feels like yesterday when I left, but it also feels like this is my life and that living any other way doesn't happen. It is a weird funny feeling haha.

We found a few other investigators this week on the street who ended up being way open to meet the following day. One of them is a professional potato shipper. The other is from Siberia.

Pskov will finally be having a baptism this Saturday! It is a woman named Tamara who has 2 kids who are 6 and 7 years old. Today, we are actually going to help her move today with the branch and then have a FHE at her new apartment. The sisters have been teaching her, so its been great being another support.

That's about it for this week. It is getting warmer and warmer and brighter and brighter. Oh thank heavens!

Elder Tekulve

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cool week. I can't think of a good subject.

Dorogaya Sem'ya moya, i Dorogiye Druz'ya Moi,

This past week was a great amazing week in which we saw a lot of miracles and success. We found a few new investigators and we had some great success with our current ones this week. The "Swansons" who we are working with had a cool little miracle. So we try to commit them to baptism last week, which they weren't sure. As Yulia, the wife, was reading the Book of Mormon, she read 3 Nephi 27:20. She took that to be her answer, and now both of them are commited to be baptized on March 16th, that Saturday. We taught them the Word of Wisdom, which Yulia committed to with excitement, but Sergay was a tad hesitant stating that he is not ready. But we gave them the assignment to read Mosiah 18 on their own. Sergay joked that he wants to baptized in the waters of Mormon now. We are seeing them again tonight.

We had another cool miracle happen this week. Our other investigator, Yulian (or Julian), from Moldova, agreed to a baptismal date. He has gone to church for the past month and really participating all three hours. He is already in the Book of Mosiah and he his faith is growing so much. It's way awesome. He prays all of the time now, and he is definitely our most sincere and progressing investigator. We committed him to be baptized on March 9th which he agreed to. So we are getting him prepared for that.

We had 3 other investigators at church yesterday. One of which is a woman named Chinara from Kigurzia, which is a republic next to Kazakhstan. She is awesomely Christian and was really happy to find a Church like ours here in Pskov. She recently moved here and met a member here and he invited her to chuch. We introduced her to the sisters who will be teaching her now. Another investigator that came to chuch is a young guy named Dima. We had called him Sunday morning and woke him up, and he said he won't come. He then called back 5 minutes later and changed his mind. He came and stayed all three hours, and fairly enjoyed it. He is really interested in Joseph Smith and know more about his story. We haven't had much of a chance to really teach him, but we hope to sometime this week. We also had 2 other less active brothers come to church. All around, a very fun and successful week this week.

I love it here! It is getting slightly warmer. Spring is around the corner. Russian Springs are probably the most gorgeous thing in the world.

I love you all. The Church is true! And this is the Lord's work.

Elder Tekulve

Shooting and Editing videos on the Mission! Families Galore in Pskov

Interesting Fact - I can't really think of anything right now except a Russian word that sounds funny. I don't know what the word is in English, but when you go through a parking lot and there is this lever that stops the cars from coming in and out, and when you pay for a parking pass the lever goes up and you can drive through. I don't remember the word in English, but the word in Russian is Shlagbaum, which is also a German word I am guessing.

So this week was a cool week. So I never thought that I would ever have any video projects while on the mission, but I just had an interesting video project this last week. President Clark wanted me to go back up to Peter to shoot a video of a member telling about his mother's experience during the Siege of Leningrad. I then had to edit the video for President Clark to show the Area Presidency. It was pretty frustrating because before my mission I was so used to using hi-tech equipment, cameras, microphones, and editing software, so it felt like I was trying to make arts and crafts using really small scissors. The camera I had was pretty nice but everything was still auto, so everything was out of focus, and I was using iMovie to edit which is like using Microsoft Paint to make a Photoshop project. It is possible, but painstakingly long. It ended up fairly decently given the fact that I had to get it done in a day. It is no Albert though.

However, it was still fun going back to what I loved to do but in Russia and as a missionary. The member told an incredible and heartbreaking story. I will share a litle bit with you all! So his mother was 12 during the siege, and they had accidentally lost their food card, which was the only way to get food at the time. They wrote their father who was fighting on the front that they were dying, so the father got permission to leave the frontline, kill a horse, and give them the food to eat until the next month of food cards, and then turned around and faught back in the line. I have the recording saved also on my camera in Russian. It is an amazing story.

This week, we didn't have many lessons or teaching appointments, so we did what we do best; Talk to lots of people. We had dinner with the Clark's this week which was also a bonus. And then we drove back with them back to Pskov. We took President Clark out contacting with us. It had rained in Pskov, so all of the snow is melting and there are rivers of water EVERYWHERE. Needless to say, myfeet were soaked. We had a great night of contacting. 

Sunday was awesome. Days like yesterday really make me not want to go home AT ALL. So we got Karl and Yulian back to church again. The Pskov Sister missionaries brought a new investigator mother with her 2 young children to church. President and Sister Clark were prepared for the family that we are working with to be there (they ended up coming after Sacrament Meeting), so they spoke a lot about families. Right as church started, a young couple walked in as well with a young baby. I thought they were members maybe coming to visit Pskov. After sacrament meeting I talked to them and it turns out I talked to them on the street and invited them to come to church last fall.. First off, I don't remember that at all, and second off, it is amazing that they came yesterday of all days when Sister and President Clark were in town. They prepared talks about families for the "Swansons", but they weren't there. Instead this other investigating family came at that day. Coincidence? Nope. It was all part of God's plan. So they took their young child to primary with the other two children. So now we have 3 families the missionaries in the branch are working with. A month ago, we had 0. We are seeing blessing after blessing as we continue to work diligently!

The "Swansons" ended up coming, so President Clark and Sister Clark and I met with them seperately and had a great meeting. We showed the Ukraine Temple Youth Celebration and talked about eternal families. It was a powerful meeting. So the branch had about 10 investigators to church. I love this little branch. What is great about it is that we are all working together. 

I really love being a missionary. I love it here. I really do. This is really the Lord's work and His hand is so evident here.

I love you all!
Elder Tekulve 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Great Week, Petersburg, German Pancakes, and Pskov's first Primary

Dearest all,

This week was great! The first half of the week went by fairly slowly, and we couldn't get a single meeting for the first 4 days. So we ended up talking to lots of people on the streets, and stopping by addresses with no one home. On Wednesday, in the afternoon, we left to Peter and got there within 4 hours which is pretty fast. Normally, it takes anywhere between 5 to 6 hours. We have discovered these smaller private buses that you can order ahead of time that go a lot faster, and they all depart from this mall right next to our apartment. And they also cost about the same. So, we had another Zone Leader Council there with President Clark. Normal, we participate over skype on those, but we needed to go into the city anyways, so we decided to kill two rabbits with one bullet, as they say in Russian (two birds with one stone). 

Our Zone Leader Council was amazing and I learned an incredible amount. We got into very interesting doctrines about obedience and The Letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law. When I got into this mission, it felt like all of the missionaries made excuses and justified their disobedience by saying they live by the Spirit of the Law. We studied it all out together in our council and learned that the Spirit of the Law is the Higher Law that Jesus taught. It isn't what the law is trying to show, or the point of the law. The Spirit of the Law is living by the Letter of Law and having the Spirit with you, which would never saw to brake a law. It is giving more and not less. By justifying that you live by the Spirit of the Law you are giving much much less. It was way interesting and inspiring. We then had an awesome lunch at the Clark's and left to go back to Pskov.

We had another Zone Training Meeting, this time over skype. We had it at the Senior Couple's here in Pskov, who fed us an amazing breakfast of German Pancakes, thus the random statement of German Pancakes in the title. The Zone Training went very well. The next one will be in a month from now. So finally, we get back to Pskov and get back to work. We met with our new investigator Sasha (guy) who is a friend of a member here. He is progressing really well. The member, Masha, bore an awesome testimony about her baptism and her conversion which helped a lot. We met with a few others this past weekend.

We had three miracles this week:

1. Our investigator, Yulian, came back from Moldova after about a week or two. He called us himself and asked if there still will be church. And he came for all three hours again and loved it. We met and talked some more and he has read already into page 110 in the Book of Mormon and marking where he has got questions. He is incredibly sincere. Since our last meeting, almost a month ago, he has been praying everyday like we have told him to, and he really feels the Book of Mormon is true because he feels really good when he reads it.

2. Our investigator Family, the Lebedyevs came to church! All 6 of them! It was not easy for them to get all together and go on time. They came to the last 10 minutes of Sacrament Meeting. The wife loved Gospel Principles, which we held in the primary room so that the parents could be with the children. We haven't had a full family with little children in Pskov in years, so we kind of had no idea what to do. They then had Primary combined with Relief Society in the Nursery/Primary room. The family all loved it. Sergay had to go, so he took his wife with him, but the 16 year old daughter was thoroughly loving Young Women's and stayed with her 2 younger sisters who were playing in the Nursery with Relief Society. So, if there is any kind of problem to run into, I guess this is the best one to have. How to incorporate a family of 4 kids in the branch calling-wise... 

3. We got a call from another investigator Sergay, who is one of my favorites. About a month ago, he fell back into alcoholism, and has lost all self control. He called me to tell me hadn't drank in 24 hours and that he admits that he is an addict and lost his self control. The is the first step in the 12 step addiction recovery program that the Senior Couple runs. Sometimes it is the hardest step, to admit and recognize your addiction. He is ready to move on. So we stopped by again with the Gardiners to do the program with him last night. He told us that when he first saw Elder Gardiner (the senior missionary), he wanted to be like him. He is ten years older but looks ten years younger than Sergay. He decided he wants to change his life and fix his bad habits. It was a powerful meeting. I have never seen Sergay so humble before.

This email is quite long! I did not realize. In other news, I am staying here in Pskov for my last transfer! This will be the longest I have been in a given area. I can't complain. This is probably my favorite area too. Well, the church is true! I am incredibly happy that I am a missionary. I honestly love these people with all of my heart.

Elder Tekulve