June 12th, 2016: A Rain of Благословении

Have I ever mentioned how much Khabarovsk is like Seattle? It is exceedingly Seattle, by any measure.
For one, it’s all rather green. Khabarovsk is about as forested a city as I’ve seen in Russia. Trees are ever-present, and create some rather beautiful forests, pierced by enormously tall doms.

For twos (can I say that? does English work like that?) there’s a large body of water right next to the city, shaping both the geography and the attitude of the people. The city is so big, mostly because it spreads out along the river for miles, but never really spreads away from the river. This makes reaching some peoples homes an adventure in busing.

For threeses (that sounds right.) the city rains a lot. What with all the strange, weather-influencing landmarks nearby, including the Amur river, the Sea of Okhotsk to the north-east, and the Great Russian plains to the west, weather changes here faster than we can tract a dom. I as of yet have not bought a dedicated raincoat, so I’ve been wearing a winter coat that another Elder left in the apartment until I have time to go to the chinese market and get some cheap Goretex. As such, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to think about this one talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, where he compares Heaven’s blessing to a constant rainfall, and faith and repentance are the methods by which we close the umbrella of sin that separates us from receiving those blessings. Those thoughts came to my mind often as I wandered about stubbornly without an umbrella, and I consider that a great blessing. I have always been grateful for General Conference, and I have only grown in that appreciation on my mission. Those two weekends in April and October are some of my favorite weekends of the year.

I don’t have much else to report on this week, except for a split with Elder S of Highland, Utah. I love Elder S. He is a man after my own heart, full of love for the Scriptures, and fire of the Spirit. We had a great time contacting, and actually had to turn around and return to the Church to pick up more copies of the Book of Mormon, having handed out all of ours to interested people we talked to.

I love the Lord. I love His work. I am eternally grateful that that work is “to bring to pass the Immortality and Eternal Life of Man,” and that I can have a part in it.

Elder Gee

 


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June 5, 2016: This week went by especially Fast.

I can now add todays title to my increasing list of jokes that most non-LDS people will have a hard time getting. I’d by sorry, but the best way to get the jokes is to come and learn more!

And speaking of learning, if that seems to be the consistent theme of my letters, it’s because Elder Gee is learning so darn much. All the time. And then when I think I know things, and that I’ve got it all down, I am verily humbled, and I have to spend the next few days coming to terms with the fact that I am still so far from where I want to be. That’s a hard lesson to learn for me, because I’ve always had things come rather easily, so maybe more than anything else I’m learning how to work, and how to be humble. Let me tell you, you’ve got to be humble on a mission, and as we learn in Alma 32, you can either humble yourself, or you can be compelled to be humble. 

I’ve been also having a really fun time studying in Helaman in the Book of Mormon. The book of Helaman is about as roller-coaster as a book in the Book of Mormon gets, what with every few years the nation flip-flopping back and forth between utter abominable pride, and acute humility. But mostly you have the examples of people trying as hard as they can to help their brethren recognize the beauty and peace of the Gospel, and predicting the birth of Christ, who will soon be born. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it already, and yet I always find myself almost breathless with anticipation. Will they be ready? Will they recognize the signs? Or will they allow themselves to be destroyed by the secret combinations they themselves have built up to get gain. As just one of the many parts of my testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, I offer this, rather small one. I’ve read this book more often than any other book I’ve ever read, and it is still, almost uniquely new, and instructive, and demonstrative, every time I read it. I tend not to reread books, because in almost every other circumstance, I remember enough of the plot, and the jokes and the drama, that in rereading it, it would be as if I watched the same movie twice in a row. But the Book of Mormon is different. It’s like returning to a friend, as if the words were alive. I know the words never change, because I check every once in a while, and memorize a verse. But the words change to me, and their importance and depth only increases as I grow and learn. I love the Book of Mormon. I know that it is what Joseph Smith said it is. It is “the most correct of any book, and a person [will] get nearer to God by abiding by its principles, than by any other book.”

I love you all, and I hope you’re growing and learning. I met a man this week who plans to live to be 250 by abiding to his exercise program. And I must say, he is an incredibly fit 70ish year old man. He gave us signed copies of his audio book, in case we want to live to be 250 too. I don’t know if I want to live that long, but I mention all this to tell you that people are wonderful. They are the reason for all of this. People are the Reason. They’re the reason we share, and the reason why God does anything. 

Elder Gee

May 29, 2016: Letter to his Father

I had heard about J, but like you, I have no idea who that is. That being said, My district consists has a missionary from western Washington in each companionship. We’re representing the rain proudly.

. . .

I’m nowhere near any of you, and I even feel like Gwen’s been gone for a long time. She seems to have grown a lot though. I hope she yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and remembers to stay committed to that growth, to being that mature and humble. 

The work is going! How it is going, is beyond my power to say, because I know not the hearts of men. I’ve come to learn very quickly in this mission that even baptisms are not an indicator of growth or success. As to what gets people interested, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I don’t know how much time you’ve spent reading from Preach My Gospel, but that’s the whole point of the new missionary curriculum. It’s from the quote in D+C 50:14 ” Unto what were you ordained? To preach my gosepel, by the spirit.” We don’t have defined missionary lessons, and if you try to give the ones that they’ve given as such, they tend to fail. That has been my experience. I’ve met a lot of people in every category that you’ve listed and all of them need the same thing, which is to be enlightened by the Spirit. Fortunately, the people who are strongly Orthodox aren’t really the problem. By and large, they tend to agree with us on almost everything. Unfortunately, those who are weakly Orthodox don’t actually know what they believe, and don’t believe in it anyway, leading to difficulties when you invite them to get to know God better.

I’ve been fortunate to have been handed people who have been eternal investigators, who have been avoiding spiritual topics while meeting with the missionaries for English, who really feel comfortable around missionaries. They have questions that I’ve been blessed with enough knowledge to answer. It’s been thrilling, but we’re not done yet. We’re still in the process of helping people to repent by actually caring enough to act. And we do a lot of finding. A lot.

All things considered, everything’s going well. 

 

On Mon, May 30, 2016 at 1:00 PM, Joseph Gee wrote:

Dear Elder Gee,

I’ll have to admit, I typically treat Memorial Day just like Germans treat Buβ und Bettag (Penance and Prayer Day) – just another day off from work. This year we’re going to try to do something related to the holiday. We don’t have any graves to visit, so we’re going to watch a movie. Mom asked for recommendations on Facebook, and we got some varied recommendations. One looked promising, but it was an HBO original, so I figured I better preview it last night before letting the little boys watch it. Mom fell asleep, of course, but I was actually quite impressed. There was only one noticeable swear word, and otherwise had nothing objectionable. It was an extremely respectful, tasteful memorial of a soldier who died in Iraq, showing the respect shown to his remains at every step as they were returned to his family and community (which happened to be Dubois, Wyoming, which is close to Lander, so I was thrilled). I’m excited to show it to the boys tomorrow, even though it’s not an action film and will be kind of slow.

So this morning at Stake PEC we had two missionaries report their missions. Elder F from our ward (his parents moved into our ward in February, so you won’t know him) went to St. George, Utah, and Elder T from Klahanie went to Seoul South, Korea. I was looking forward to telling Elder T that you loved to go to Seoul to go to the temple, and when I did he said that his sister, J, got her mission call to Vladivostok and will be leaving in July! Perhaps you already knew this, since apparently she got her call in March, but I was very surprised that we have two missionaries from our stake in a mission with so few missionaries. I don’t know if you know J (I don’t), but I know her family, and they are great people. Bishop T and his wife were Julia’s trek parents and they’re coming to see her at her dance performance this weekend.

 . . .

I’m super excited for Gwen to come home. 4 months is too long for a 15/16 year-old. Just 10 more days, but who’s counting!

So how goes the work? What works to entice people to investigate the church? Are the people mostly atheist and don’t see the point? And those that aren’t are strongly Orthodox and thus unwilling to have the further light and knowledge of the restored gospel? What do the Russian people you meet really want out of life? I suspect they are no different than anyone else in that they want to be happy. Their choices are all aimed at finding happiness and no one has shown them another way. But how can you entice them to trust you enough to have a conversation? I’ve often thought that if I could have a meaningful, heart-felt conversation with someone about what they truly believe, that I’d be able to answer their questions and show them light. But most people are so guarded and unwilling to be vulnerable and expose their innermost thoughts to others, particularly a stranger. If you can figure out how to break through that barrier and win their trust quickly, you’ll be a fantastic missionary. OK, I guess I know the answer to that. It’s the Spirit. They’ve got to feel the Spirit.

I think your cheerfulness and love for others and interest in them personally and individually will be your greatest aid in helping others feel the Spirit. Never forget that your job as a missionary is to help others feel and recognize the Spirit. If you don’t do that, nothing else you do really matters, because no true conversion can take place. I hope you’re striving to help people feel the Spirit in every teaching situation, whether with members, investigators, or other missionaries.

That’s good advice that I need to take, myself. It helped me with my last talk, because I kept that in mind as I was writing, and the talk just seemed to flow out as I was preparing it.

I see that you just wrote, so I’ll close.

We love and pray for you.

Love,

Dad

 

May 29, 2016: So many holidays!

Russians are a festive people. That might be hard for most to envision, seeing as the American stereotype of Russia is that they live in an icy wilderness for 13 months out of the year, but in fact Russians have more high intensity celebrations than any other people I’ve met so far. It’s as if Americans actually celebrated all the tiny days like “Flag day” and “President’s Day” with parades and concerts and things. 

Well, this week was Khabarovsk’s birthday, and the citizens verily partied. Since it was a Saturday, we didn’t really participate much in the festivities, but we did interact with the in-festive-ators! 

In fact, I have a pretty good story this week from us talking to a nice looking young man on the street, only to find that he was beyond drunk, to the point of having lost his short-term memory. I’ll save the full story for a later time, but the end result was the proving of Elder Gee’s long held belief that the best way to deal with drunks is lying to them, telling them you’re from Canada, and then confusing them as best you know how. It’s really quite fun, when all is said and done.

Most of all this week, I’ve become increasingly grateful for prayer. It seems a small thing, but I honestly don’t know if I could be happy without prayer. The opportunity to talk with Heavenly Father, to counsel with Him, to learn from him in quiet times of peace and be comforted of Him in times of anguish and frustration is a priceless gift. I know Heavenly Father hears prayers, because I know that He answers prayers. That fact has been hammered home in my life over and over, to become such an absolute surety that I can say it without any doubt. He loves us so much, and has commanded us to “knock, ” “ask” and “seek,” that He cannot help but answer our cries. He gives us strength to do the work that is ours to do, and answers and advice when we are ready to listen. I testify of this with all my heart.

Elder Gee

May 22, 2016: The Khabarovsk streets are lined with Green…

…and It’s a good thing, because I’m walking on them most of the day!

We’ve had a spot of some absolutely beautiful weather here recently and it’s brought Elder Gee out in his short sleeve shirts with a vengeance. However, most of the babushkas have stopped yelling at us, and downgraded to wearing a light spring coat in 75 degree weather. I think it would be absolutely fascinating to study the reactions of a Russian’s body to cold, because I swear the babushkii here are unable to get warm. 

I’ve been really grateful for the opportunity to share an apartment with 3 other Elders here, instead of the one companionship per apartment situation that we had in Ulan Ude. I’ve been very blessed to have Elders here that I very much get along with, even when dealing with the unique challenges that one faces when there are 4 elders in an apartment. We’ve had some wonderful companionship studies all together, and it’s almost as if we’re all in the same companionship sometimes. They make us food, we make them food, and everybody complains together when the hot water gets shut off, and the shower turns into aggressively cold daggers of liquid ice. But more importantly, we all get to share insights and experiences with each other, and that’s really sped up the learning process for all of us. It helps that Elder S is a master at relating the scriptures in human terms, but we all contribute. 

The only real hiccup this week is that we learned that Gospel Discussions in English, one of the activities we used to put on every week, has been cancelled, throughout all of Russia. Though we are sad that one of our most fun and most useful finding techniques has departed, we’re confident the Lord will open up other paths for us. I’ve seen him do it before, and I know that He helps us all fulfill the work He’s given us to do, be that family, church, or educational work. He loves us, and He helps us when we let Him.

Elder Gee

May 15, 2016: I’m Khab’ing a grand old time!

This week has been one of those weeks that feels like the beginning started years ago. So, to quote a revenge-bound Spaniard, “There is too much. Let me sum up.”

Monday, i.e. last week, was the Day of Victory was crazy. Library was closed, so we sent that email last week in a little Internet cafe surrounded by 10 year olds playing video games. Oh, and we also got to skype our parents because it was Mother’s day! How could I forget that! I love my family. They’re some A+ quality people, even if they did rub in the fact that they were eating fantastically tasty food, while skyping. After that, we went to the big Mall in Ulan-Ude, to get Elder Gee a short sleeve dress shirt that doesn’t look like he’s wearing a sack around his body. On the way, we met a belligerent young woman who ripped my tie. I thought that was rude.

Tuesday was spent mostly in saying good-bye to all of the people that I’ve grown to love there in Ulan-Ude. It’s funny how fast 6 months goes by. 

We then stayed up all night, due to the flight schedules to Khabarovsk, and then stayed up a little longer than that, as the flight got delayed. But we arrived, Elder S and I, and we met our new companions, Elder P and Elder V. 

Khabarovsk is huge. Khabarovsk is also incredibly beautiful. The deciduous trees, which has not, as of yet, started to actually sprout leaves in the middle of Siberia, are laden with early leaves here. There’s a gentle rain falling today, and were it not for the signs and the people using umbrellas, I could swear that I was still in Seattle. This is the nicest city I’ve seen in Russia so far. I’m happy to serve here. 

Then, having spent less than 24 hours in our new area, Elder S and I were whisked away to Korea to renew our Visas. Korea is a magical place, it feels like a sci-fi movie. But as always, the highlight of the trip was our opportunity to visit, and attend a session in the temple. I love the temple, and that love really doesn’t vary with where the temple is. There is a peace in temples, that I have been unable to find in any other place on earth. I have seldom felt the Holy Ghost stronger than it is available. The Lord is present there, and personal counsel, comfort and guidance from Him are available there. I love the Temple. I don’t know how people can go years without attending, because I find myself yearning to return. I’m so grateful that the Lord has given us these Holy places where we can learn of Him, and assist Him in His work.

Since then, I’ve spent the last 2 1/2 days here. I got to meet the branch yesterday, and that was a wonderful experience. I’m so grateful for the examples of members and the strength of their testimonies. I’m excited to serve here.

That’s pretty much all for this week. I forgot my camera, so those promised pictures are going to be somewhat delayed. 

Love, 

Elder Gee

[pictures provided later]

It was bright. The Korean sun’s an impressive and lovely one.

May 9, 2016: Ain’t got nothing but news!

My time is short, because I have spent most of it talking to my beloved family for Mother’s Day (minus Gwen, because apparently being in France counts as an excuse).

But I have news! Transfers have come, and I’m leaving my beloved Ulan-Ude! Goodbye to the delightful wilds of outermost Mongolia, and hello to Khabarovsk, the biggest Metropolis in the wilds of outermost Siberia! President Perkinson, who was here this week, told me that it’s comparable to New York. It’s actually bigger than Vladivostok. 

Also I’m going to Korea! For my every-3-months visa trip, but also with enough time to go and pop over to the Seoul Temple. I’m excited. I love the peace the temple brings.

Talk to you next week. I promise to actually have pictures then.

Elder Gee

[as a bonus, here’s his response to his brother’s Mother’s Day poem, because the poem is worth sharing:]

—–Original Message—–
From: Lincoln Robison Gee
To: Erin Robison Gee
Sent: Sun, May 8, 2016 6:11 pm
Subject: Re: Marco’s poem

That’s got the clear trappings of a Gee child, well taught by their limerick loving father. I can’t wait to see the wedding songs they create together.

 

On Mon, May 9, 2016 at 8:33 AM, Erin Robison Gee wrote:

My Mom (by Marco Gee)
(to be accompanied by a sick beat)

She pays for my lessons
and prays for my blessings….
she will sing her ballad
while she is making a salad
She wears her librarian glasses
to help me sign up for classes
She helps control how I’m feeling
while potatoes I’m peeling.
Her hair is so curly
She gives me meat so I’ll be burly

She’ll cut me an apple
Don’t get hit with the shrapnel
because she’s the bomb!
Yes that’s my mom.

 

My Dad calls her “girlfriend”
because she’s his best friend.
She’s too pretty for Avon,
All she needs is her apron.
She thinks of good questions
To ask her righteous sons.
She does not worship Buddha,
But she loves some good gouda.
When you ask which kid do you love,
She’ll answer “all the above”

She’ll cut me an apple
Don’t get hit with the shrapnel
because she’s the bomb!
Yes that’s my mom.

 

May 2, 2016: Letter from his Mission President

Dear Parents,

We want to report to you about your missionary’s  Easter Sunday here in Ulan Ude. We were able to meet several of the investigators that rode the tram with us and attended church with these Saints. These investigators are being loved and taught true principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Perkinson1

We are grateful for all of their study of the language, scriptures, the gospel and their diligence and work with the people here in Ulan Ude.

Perkinson2

We feel blessed with the opportunity to serve The Lord here in this Vladivostok Russia mission with your son. We cherish time together. 

Sunday was Easter in Russia and next week is Mother’s Day in the U. S. We are happy that you will be able to talk to these wonderful Elders. Thank you for your support, love and prayers.

Sincerely,

President and Sister Perkinson

Vladivostok Russia Mission

On 02 May 2016, at 21:31, Erin Gee <erinrgee@aol.com> wrote:

Thanks Sister Perkinson�� Lincoln is happy and growing so much!!!

 

From: Verna Rae Perkinson Sent: ‎5/‎2/‎2016 7:07 AM To: Erin Gee Subject: Re: Happy Easter from Ulan Ude

He really is an amazing Elder! He is a student of the language in that he is able to translate well and encourages us all to learn and do better!

Thanks for your guidance, care and much love for him in this work.

Sincerely, Sister Verna Rae Perkinson

Vladivostok Russia

 

May 1, 2016: Letter to his Mother

Teaching the Gospel is a great source of satisfaction to me. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher in church, although honestly, with the understanding I have now, I’ve never been qualified before, so the Lord wisely hasn’t called me to be one. But I hope just because my patriarchal blessing doesn’t talk about teaching in the slightest, it doesn’t mean that I won’t get the opportunity.

The Old Testament! I tried to read all of it, everything, for a little while when it was that year in Seminary, but I gave up somewhere in Leviticus. Too many specifications about the Tabernacle. I have, though, grown to appreciate and deepen my appreciation of the Books of Moses as they’ve come up in my studies. There’s a verse in Numbers, I think 11:9 or 9:11, that says “would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that He would put His spirit upon them.” I believe that God does want us all to have the spirit of prophesy, the ability to receive revelation from God for us and our families. And as we find in Revelations 19:10, the testimony of Christ is the spirit of prophesy. So yeah, that’s something that I’m trying to develop.

However, . . . I know that God is a God of order. He will not reveal to us directions for those who are in a position to receive revelation for us, like our bishops, or the apostles. So, if she continues, and becomes as those who broke away from the church, as Sidney Rigdon, and Emma Smith, she must face the prophecy and solemn declaration of Brigham Young, that “those who break away from Zion will not prosper.” I’ve actually been studying the succession crisis to a small degree, both as it is told in “Our Heritage” and our little Church history college text. The Lord will not leave the Saints to wonder, if they humble themselves in Ask. He will show them “in power and great glory” who he has chosen, as he did Brigham Young, as he did with every prophet. Words are all fine and good, and I love words and how they work, but as we learn from 1 Corinthians 4:20, “The Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” Without the power that comes from the authority and support of God, words, in the end, are empty and useless. I testify that President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. He is a good man, yes. He was a good man, and a great speaker when he was an apostle, too. But now he is something different. The mantle of the prophet has fallen on him, and he has changed, and grown, and when he speaks, it is the “mind of God, the will of God, the word of God.” God doesn’t have anybody perfect to work with, but oh, how He does His perfect work despite that. 

. . .

I’m so happy for Ren! As he continues to do this, he’ll get better, and even more confident in it. He’s got a great body, and it’s about to start getting even better. He’s already big for his grade (just the way his birthday worked out) and so he’ll be getting really big really soon. I hit peak height when I was 13, and started gaining mass from there. If he starts eating a ton, just remind him that he’s about to explode.

I’m going to write to Marco a letter about Scouts. It will probably read something like this, if I’m honest: “Scouting can be fun. But it can also be awful, boring, full of stupid traditions and ceremonies, and a lot of stupid competition. I’m a firm believer that Scout Camp is partially inspired of the Devil, because it tends to bring out the worst in every single young man. Every weakness gets pushed and displayed in its extreme, to the great annoyance and disappointment of everyone. So, if you don’t do scouts because you’re doing something you like better, be glad! Because you’re following the wonderful tradition of your father and brothers, who all have not gotten their Eagle, because we decided we had better things to do. If someone bugs you about it, then be glad for them. Be glad that they like camping, and sweating, and being covered in dirt as you pretend to like meals and carrying heavy backpacks even though you’ve got blisters. I don’t like that. That sounds like a terrible time, and no amount of camping trips has really made it better. Let’s be real, Scouting is not that much fun if you don’t like camping.”

Yes, Salmon told me of his many monies that he’ll be getting. Fun.

It’s cool that you’re having all these missionary experiences! Make sure to tell the Russian man, that there’s a Russian branch, and for that matter, Russian-speaking Missionaries serving in Seattle. If he’s interested.

May 1, 2016: Steps on how to make Babushkii hate you.

1) Wear any sort of short sleeved shirt before the middle of July. 

It’s been really very nice and warm here, so much so that, due to the excessive amount that one sweats in a dark suit coat under the sun, Elder W and I started wearing short sleeved dress shirts. It makes me feel like I’m serving my mission in Guatemala or somewhere. Good stuff.

And oh, how the eyes followed us. I mean, they followed us earlier, because most people thought just a suit was too little clothing as it was. But I’ve never seen such a disgusted look on a Babushka’s face. She looked as if we had told her something incredibly offensive, like “hot sauce is supposed to be spicy,” or “I honestly don’t mind the draft.” I think if she had been younger, she probably would have beaten us with her cane.

However, we didn’t feel that bad, because it was hot! It was like 70 whole degrees out here! Nobody warns you about the famous Siberian Summers! (although maybe that’s because everybody seems to ignore that it’s summer until the coat spontaneously falls off you due to the gallons of sweat pouring off)

Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot of noteworthy experiences this week other than meeting P. We met him Sunday night, when he walked up to us, asking for a lighter. He, uh, chose the wrong amerikantsii. But, having found out the readily apparent fact that we weren’t local, he pulled us over to the side of the street, and just started talking with us, asking us all sorts of questions, and honestly, most of a spiritual nature. He’s a very fun, charismatic man, and to me he seems like he’d be a really good Young Men’s leader. Just a jolly little ball of a man with a good beard. He invited us to his house, and we’re planning on going there later this week!

That’s pretty much it. I bought some caviar, which is somehow way cheap here, and I’ve just started eating it by the spoonful. I feel very sophisticated. 

If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and I’ll try my best to elaborate or explain. 

Love you

Elder Gee.