December 14, 2000 - December 24, 2000
We continued to teach my first investigator, Lilia (our landlady) and she continued to progress in the gospel. We were able to teach first discussions to her daughters and many of their friends. I compared one of the girls to my younger sister Rachelle, until she started smoking (at 16 or 17). We often saw kids of 10 or 11 years old smoking. During our 2nd discussion with Lilia, we were able to commit her to be baptized on January 6th, for which I was very excited. She was a fantastic first investigator for a green missionary. She was always encouraging me in my Russian and never faulting me for my inability to speak.
About every two weeks I would wash my clothes in the bathtub. Some of the apartments that we would live in would have small washing buckets, but because we were in a new missionary apartment, many of those types of conveniences were not yet available.
I was still new enough in the mission field to make a big deal about every piece of mail that I received. To those that ever wrote me while I was on my mission I am very grateful, but by the end of the mission, the letters from home just remind you that your time there will someday have to end.
We also continued to get to know the members in the small Smolensk branch. One of the young men, Max, was in the hospital and we visited him there. From my journal: "This morning we visited Max at the hospital. I am not sure why he's there but he looks fine. He'll be there for two weeks or something. I don't ever want to go to a Russian Hospital. We brought him some fruit and juice. (Emphasis added)"
A couple of days later (12/18) my companion decided to go to the doctor's office because he had been sick for quite a while. Another entry from my journal: "This morning we went to the doctor's office. (Elder Rudenko) has been sick lately. He's got bronchitis. They took x-rays and just checked his breathing. The clinics here are horrible. Russia never was America's equal." We continued to go to the hospital for him to get checked every day for about the next week. One day we went to 8 pharmacy's trying to find one that had the drugs he had been prescribed, but we never found them.
A journal entry from another one of our visits to the hospital for my companion: "Hello. Today was a really good day. It was a little strange though too though. This morning we went to the doctor's office so my companion could do "inhalations." When we got there they couldn't do them because the hospital didn't have any water - hot or cold. It was all turned off. --> Only in Russia...
On Christmas Eve, Sunday December 24, 2000, we had our regular Sabbath meetings and were lucky to have President and Sister Romney in attendance. From my journal: "This morning after my shower my eye really started hurting. I washed it under filtered water but it still really hurts. All day long it has really bothered me." I wore my contacts to church, but had to leave right before sacrament meeting to run home and take them out. We came back to church and I was able to play the piano for all of the meetings. That night we had a discussion with Yuri, another one of our investigators: "The whole time there [at the discussion] my eye was hurting so bad. Tonight I called Sister Romney and we think that it's pink-eye. I even went to bed early."
I was excited to call home to my family the next day (Christmas) at 7:00 AM their time, which would have been around 5:00 PM Smolensk time. Sometimes, things don't go as planned.