Week 9: For Lavtia, For real!

LABDIEN! I’m here. I’M REALLY HERE! Can you believe it? Who would have
thought a year ago I would be in Latvia. Not me.

Things I have learned so far:
1. I can’t speak any Latvian
2. I can’t understand anyone or anything…at all.
3. Liepaja is the craziest, coolest city ever
4.The Soviets really hurt this and every town in Latvia
5. There are so many wonderful, strong members here. I love everyone I see
6. Latvia is the Flattest country in the world. There are not even
hills here. Its just flat, flat, flat ground.
7. Stay away from drunk old men ( I knew that one already haha)
8. Cats rule the cities here. They are EVERYWHERE!!!!
9. If you want to find shells…my goodness go to the beach in Liepaja
10. Be careful walking on cobblestone streets… your ankle will
suffer, although somehow women walk in stilettos on them and seem to
be fine.

Well I made it! I will try my hardest to explain everything that has
happened, but I feel like I would probably write a book if I tried to
write everything that happened in one week.

First: The Plane ride
Well, Salt Lake to Paris. Not too bad of a flight other than the fact
that it was quite long. My district (Bergeson, Davies, Malawauki) and
the 4 Russian-speaking Baltic Missionaries all flew together. I was in
the middle of two elders so I didn’t really get the chance to share
the gospel with the people around me… but a lot of the elders did!
One of the elders taught all 5 lessons and had discussions about
eternity and becoming Gods or something. The man next to him wasn’t
interested in joining, but was curious about our beliefs so the elder
just kept on going. It was funny. There was a priest sitting in front
of us that I talked to a little, but he talked to the elder next to
him most of the way.

Next plane ride: The Paris airport is so confusing. We got off the
airplane and none of us even knew where to go. We walked and walked
and finally found someone to ask and they told us to go to this little
desk that didn’t even say “BalticAir”. haha But we made it and after
talking to you all! (hurray!) I was headed to Latvia. I realized I was
doomed when the announcements were in Latvian and the only word I
understood was “Thank You”. yikes.

Well we arrived, got our luggage and met our mission president. I
immediately loved him and his wife.  We drove to the mission home and
on the way president told us about some of the main buildings and
streets. Riga is so great! Down town Riga is SO beautiful. Outside of
the main part everything is pretty old and run down, but very
interesting and very different from anything I’ve seen. The mission
home is very nice though. It is in a very nice apartment and is very
big for a Latvian apartment. Well its 2 apartments combined actually.\
We had dinner and talked about what we need to do in order to get a
stake here and then be able to build a temple. We have a long way to
go, but we are excited to get to work and to make it happen.

Exciting news! We have a mission conference in June with all of the
missionaries from the whole mission. We’re so lucky because mission
conferences don’t really happen because we have 3 countries involved
and it is expensive. BUT the new presiding Bishop of the church
is coming and so president is having all of the missionaries come to
hear him speak to us. We are all excited that we get to see each other
again because otherwise, we won’t ever see any Estonian or Lithuanian
missionaries.

The next day we did Visa work and then we went out contacting. I went
out with two lovely sisters one of whom I am replacing, (there are
only 4 sisters in Latvia) to a beautiful park in downtown Riga. We all
took turns and when it was my first turn, I was absolutely terrified.
But I knew I put myself into this so I had to start sometime. So I did
it. I awkwardly started a conversation with these two people on a
bench. They said they didn’t believe in God but we gave them our card
with the church’s info on it and talked a little and they said they
might come to church. They even gave us their cell phones.
Unfortunately I won’t know what happens with any of the people we
talked to that because I got sent to…….. LIEPAJA.

Yes, indeed. The next day we met our trainers and we were off. Guess
who came with me to Liepaja? Elder Bergeson! Haha. They just won’t
separate us I guess. So it’s my trainer, Sister Lindstrom and me, and
Elder Bergeson and his companion Elder Holdaway who is our district
leader. Also funny coincident, Elder Holdaway was in my freshman ward.
Who knew? So it’s just us 4 down here in Liepaja. We took a 4 hour bus
and we arrived in the city that’s known as “the city where the wind was
born” Liepaja is right on the coast, hence the wind.

It’s also known as the “Rock capital”.  All along the sidewalk there are little notes
that lead you to famous sites and there’s lots of music stuff going
on. In the summer they have a huge festival here where lots of
musicians. I guess we stay away though because everyone is drunk for a
couple of days and it’s not the safest place in the world. haha.

My first day was great. Our apartment has a kitchen, bathroom,
bedroom, and study room. Its very nice compared to other apartments
here. We’re very lucky to have it. We even have a microwave! Which I
guess is very rare. The window by my desks has a beautiful view of a
big catholic church that is across the street from us. It is beautiful
and every morning at 7:45 and at noon church bells ring and we can
hear them. I love the bells. I unpacked and then we went to teach a
lesson. We taught a less active named Skaidra whom I just adore! She
has the fattest, biggest cat I have ever seen. Literally like a
cartoon fat cat it was so big. She just loved it. We taught her about
personal revelation and talked about how we can receive answers to our
prayers. She was so sweet and I loved talking to her even though I
struggled through my weak Latvian. I also didn’t understand much.
Well, practically anything. I just smiled and nodded. I knew as soon
as we finished teaching her that I was going to adore every single
person here. I loved Skaidra the moment I even heard her name and even
more when I met her.

As I laid in bed that first night I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t because
of jet lag. I seem to be a champion when it comes to jet lag and it
doesn’t really affect my sleeping. When it’s night, it’s night and I
sleep. But I lay there and my mind was going crazy about everything
that is going to happen here. I will most likely be here for a while
with how transfers and new sisters are going (But who knows it could
change unexpectedly). I couldn’t stop my mind from thinking about how
long it will take to understand people. When will I be able to say
what I want? When will I know my way around here? When will I figure
out the trams? When will my blood thicken up and it won’t be so cold?
What will it be like at church on Sunday? Will people like me? Will
they be able to understand me? Will I be able to help anyone? What are
people in the ward like? Where will we be knocking doors? What will
contacting on the street be like? Questions like these and a million
others ran through my head and somehow I fell asleep. I don’t know
when or how, but I must have because I woke up the next day.

Friday!
To start off we ran through the city for about 5 minutes and then BAM.
There it was. Miles and Miles of perfect beach. There was no one out.
We were the only ones as we ran up and down the sandy beach. Shells
everywhere. Beautiful, perfect sand everywhere.

I was in my own world. I still can’t believe that I get to run on the beach every morning and in Latvia! (for all you socal people I know you get to do that, but
it’s new for me) My eyes were wide open and I felt like a surprised
baby as I stared at the town. I wanted to run for hours and go through
every street and around every corner. So many of the once beautiful
houses are old, rotting, with windows all smashed, and the whole
outside completely falling apart. During the Soviet union people just
couldn’t afford to keep their houses. There are many beautiful, old
buildings as well, though. Winters are very hard here so buildings in
Latvia struggle to stay nice and put together.

After studies we went out to our first appointment. Kristine, her 2
year old daughter, her twin baby girls, and her sister live in a small
one room apartment in an old barn-looking apartment building. Kristine
has had all the lessons twice, but she wants to wait until the summer
to get married to her current Boyfriend who lives with them. We’ŗe
trying to get the wedding together sooner rather than later. Zane, her
sister, has a baptismal date for May 25. I once again didn’t
understand anything during our stay there. People talk SO fast here.
It’s nuts. But I did my bets to bear my testimony and ask simple questions
about scriptures we shared or experiences they have had. They are
really great people. Elisa the 2-year-old girl is the most perfect
thing I’ve ever seen. She is so cute and just hugs us and sings the
whole time. People’s circumstances here are quite humble. They don’t
have much. I want to just go around helping everyone clean, sew
clothes, and make food, but I know the gospel will help them more than
any money could. I’m so grateful I get to take part in giving them the
greatest gift of all–The Gospel of Jesus Christ! Everyone else
canceled on us that day. But we found lots more to do.

Well Saturday Morning we had a service day where we cleaned inside and
out of the church building here. President said that the church
building here is probably the nicest in all of Eastern Europe. I
believe it. It is so nice! There used to be around 120 active members
when they built it. Now we only have about 30 I think. The people are
very lucky to have this building. You can tell they all love it so
much and are so grateful for it.

We had what I am going to call a “gift baptism” on Saturday afternoon.
A lady named Vesma (probably in her 50s) got baptized. She was so
cute. We set up and made treats and called everybody to remind them to
come the day before. The baptism was really special. I got to play the
piano for it because no one here knows how…so its all me from here on
out. I am so grateful I know how to play so I can help in another way.
Everyone had fun talking afterward.

Church was great. I struggled to introduce myself and bear my
testimony in Sacrament. Everyone is very nice and they all like to
give hugs. It is great. Me and sister Lindstrom taught Primary and the
kids are all so loving, and just hang all over you wanting attention.
So we gave it to them! We hold their hands, they give us kisses on our
cheeks, they run around to make us laugh, and they try to tickle us
and have us swing them around. There were about 6 of them. It was
easier for me to try and talk to little kids so I was grateful I could
spend some time with them.

Now that brings me to TODAY which is P-day. Well despite my efforts,
I have written a book. I was going to try and keep it simple, but I
just can’t because I want so badly to share all of this with you and
have you be a apart of it.

We ran all over town running errands. I got to see a lot of Liepaja
and find lots of little treasures and cool vintage stores and fun
alleyways, and cool buildings, and fun statues. I can’t wait until I
know my way around and I know where I am going. They have so many neat
things here.
I really do love Liepaja. It is so wonderful. And although it is hard
not being able to understand anyone and not being able to say anything
I love it here. It’s hard to remember that I have only been here a
couple days and its okay that I don’t understand everything. It’s hard
to see over the horizon and realize that it will come. But Patience is
going to be everything for me. Patience and bravery.

Since I’ve come I am even shyer with my Latvian. It’s hard for me to speak because I know I wont understand their response. I feel a bit like I’m starting
over with the language. BUT The Lord is on our side and I know it will
come even if it doesn’t come for 6 months. It will come.

Well I made it through my first week. I’m still confused most of the
time but I’m slowly getting it. Through our trials we grow closer to
Christ. I know I need Him more than I ever have. I’m grateful for the
opportunities to not only grow closer to Him myself, but to also take
part in helping others come unto Him and partake of His love and
mercy.

Well more will come next week. I’m sure the adventures will continue.
I love you all and hope you have a wonderful day! Be safe! Keep
praying and reading the Book of Mormon. THAT, my friends, is the way
to stay on “the strait and narrow” pathway. It really is those little
things that can keep us strong and keep us going. The Book Of Mormon
always brings peace and courage to my heart. Until next week! Stay
strong!

-Masa Galagera

PS
MAIL:
Anyone can e-mail me, but I can’t directly e-mail them back. Also I
guess letters to me get lost sometimes, so if I never write you back,
itš probably because I never got your letter. But still write me! 🙂 I
get letters when I go up to Riga or someone comes down here from Riga
and they leave the letters. So a couple times a month.

Liepaja looks like this:

And a few pictures from Maddie in the MTC too! 🙂

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One response to “Week 9: For Lavtia, For real!

  1. Vanessa Houssian

    Sister Gallacher, I just love reading your updates. It takes me back to my mission. Go ahead and write book length entries. After your mission, you can edit a bit, and then publish it as a book. It will be a nice memory for your family. I know it has been years and years since we lived in Salzburg, but I follow all of your family’s progress, and am so excited that you get to share your love and enthusiasm for the gospel with the people in Latvia. The language will come. Nobody in your presence can miss seeing the love, enthusiasm, and the Spirit of God emanate from your countenance. They will remember how you looked and what they felt in your presence long after. None of God’s children will be lost, because your language skills aren’t yet perfect. I’ve learned over the years that my mission, more than anything served to strengthen my own testimony (however strong I thought it already was), and prepared me for the challenges ahead. It was like God was teaching me the way he works with his children, almost like when I let my little son Micah “help” me make dinner. I could do it much faster and more efficiently myself, but in letting Micah help I build a bond between us, strengthen his confidence, and pass on some skills. Through full-time missions the Lord gets to train his future leaders/mothers. That the gospel is also shared and his kingdom established is a welcome side effect. You are doing great. You’re right on track. Lots of love, Vanessa

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Baltic Mission Sister Madison Gallacher Cesu iela 31-2K2 Riga LV -1012 Latvia, Europe For dearelders.com and pouch mail: Baltic Mission POB 30150 Salt Lake City 84130-0150

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