The streets of Ulan Ude teamed with life that cold November day. Jameson noticed pedestrians bundled up against the biting cold. They seemed locked in their own small world.
People wore fur hats that revealed their origins as dampness wafted scent of wet dog. He fought the reflex to wrinkle his nose at the smell as one passed.
“I was thinking, Elder Holland,” he looked to his blond–– blue eyed companion.
“Did it hurt, Elder Jameson?” Holland said with a smirk.
Jameson chuckled and gave Holland a playful shove. “Do you know what your hat is made of?”
“Mine is made from mystery fur and I don’t want to know otherwise. I have to admit though,” he gave his hat a pat, “it would be a good way to remember a long lost friend. He smirked at the irony of what kept your head warmest in Russia. If only his friends back home knew how many were made of fido!
Jameson and his companion’s teasing mood sobered as they walked the cold streets of Ulan Ude. They stopped to greet and invite people they met along the way to come to English class. He felt the ease of the Lord’s work that he had come to love so much. Sharing the Gospel––the Savior’s plan of happiness was what he lived for these days. Amazing when he thought about where he had started out back in Minnesota six months previous.
He flipped the collar of his wool coat around his neck, grateful for the warmth it provided. The wind still bit his face.
“Hey, Jameson, I can’t wait to send that picture of you flexing your muscles to my little sister in California. I can’t believe that a guy wearing a t-shirt over his coat that said “Free English Lessons”–– could draw such a crowd! Man, you sure gave me something to write home about. Thanks buddy!” Holland patted him on the back.
“It was nothing” he shrugged. The girls were laughing at me in the streets and I decided to turn it around. So I flexed my puffy “muscles” a bit. I can’t believe 72 people signed up. The Lord does provide a way dear brother.” Jameson’s smile lit his green eyes.
The Missionaries reached the corner the church was on. They hesitated as they saw how many had come. More than ever before! Jameson smiled as he unlocked the church doors. He was happy to take off his dirty shoes to exchange them for his slippers. Then turned to greet each person as they entered the church foyer. Holland directed them to the classroom.
A family who’d been taking English lessons for a few weeks arrived. It was one of those unforgettable moments in his life. Something was different about them this time.
The woman’s name was Elvira, she and her husband were intensely interested in learning to speak English. They had found the Missionaries through friends, fellow architects who’d been to their class. Elder Jameson was patient, this couple mispronounced many words, made silly jokes and mistakes while they attempted the new language. They never gave up and the joy of learning was written on their faces each time they met with them.
This day was different though. After the class was over this wonderful couple and many others lingered. It was Elvira who spoke for the group after exchanging nods.
“Dear Elder Jameson and Elder Holland,” Elvira said in English. Then in Russian she spoke softly, “We all wish to know more about why you are here in Ulan Ude and what gives you such a light in your countenance. We all wish to have this in our lives too. Would you please share with us about your church then we can each decide if this is what we want in our lives?”
Her fellow classmates all nodded and murmered in agreement.
Elder Jameson’s eyes glistened with unshed tears as he nodded to Elder Holland, who motioned for all to take a seat.
“Thank you for staying today, Elder Holland and I will be happy to teach you what gives us such a light. But first, I’d like to offer a prayer before we begin.”
All bowed their heads as he prayed. The students were touched by Elder Jameson’s words. The spirit filled the church in the city they called Ulan-Ude. It was a beginning, of further light and knowledge shed from above on the people of Russia.
This story is a work of fiction based loosely on fact. I dedicate this story to my missionary son and my dear friend Elya, in Russia. Bless you both for letting your light shine so bright!
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