When I went to Russia as a volunteer English teacher, I knew very little Russian. But as I lived among the Russian people, I began to have the desire to serve them and share the gospel with them. So I started working harder to learn the language.
I started by reading a children’s version of the Book of Mormon in Russian. Armed with a Russian/English dictionary, I struggled through a chapter a day, looking up nearly every word. Then I taught myself to pray in Russian, feeling foolish as the foreign words stumbled off my tongue. Finally, I started learning to bear my testimony. To practice, I would write it in Russian in my journal. It didn’t take long for me to decide that it was hard to learn Russian.
Nearly three months into my stay in Ufa, Russia, another English teacher and I planned a trip to a faraway city called Saratov. We were met at the train station by a wonderful Latter-day Saint family who opened their hearts and their home to us. Our time there was soon over, and we were once again on the train, ready for the 20-hour train ride back to Ufa.
We shared our small compartment with two businessmen who made us a little nervous. They were extremely polite though, so we soon felt safe.
When we were leaving Saratov, the family we had stayed with explained the importance of being an example. They said, “Don’t forget that everyone is watching you. Everyone.” They gave us a few missionary pamphlets and challenged us to give them away before we got home. Dubiously, I eyed the two men across from us. I sighed and decided they probably wouldn’t be interested.
But when I got out my scriptures to read, the men were curious and started asking questions. We gave them the pamphlets, which they read.
Later on the trip I started writing in my journal. The men asked why I wasn’t writing in Russian, so I showed them that I often did. The pages I happened to show them contained my testimony. They asked to read it, and I willingly obliged. They also eagerly started reading the Russian copy of the Book of Mormon I gave to them. As they asked questions, I felt as if the room would burst from the Spirit that filled it. One of the men asked if I could feel in my heart “the fire” that was in his and asked if I knew what it was. In my broken Russian I explained it was the Holy Ghost.
I had him read 3 Nephi 11. As we read of the Savior’s ministry among the people on the American continent, tears came to his eyes. He stopped reading and quietly asked, “Does Jesus Christ love me like He loved those people?”
With tears in my eyes I answered, “Yes, He knows you, and He loves you. That is why He wants you to know the truth about His gospel.” He looked at me for another moment and then dropped his eyes to read further. When we arrived in Ufa, we gave him the missionaries’ phone number.
It took a special 20-hour train ride to teach me that I don’t need to be on a full-time mission to serve the Lord and share the gospel. I don’t know if the little seeds that were planted that night have grown. But I do know that miracles occurred. I was converted, even if those men were not.