Monday, December 23, 2013

Lamb Skits and Jump Ropes

okay momz you are way over thinking this whole situation. yes, the internet club will be open. yes, google plus will work. it will all be okay! the internet is way faster here than in hawaii because we are not on a college campus where 5 billion people are streaming movies online. don't worry, it's all gonna be okay. our pday is still today, wednesday is pretty much a normal day except we are allowed 2 hours for our district dinner, and 40 minutes for skype. whoops i told you an hour and a half last week, but actually it's only 40 minutes, sorry! new misison president, new rules! also please don't kill me about this one: i told you that i'm coming home July 24th. That was a big fat lie. apparently someone, somewhere changed their minds and sisters now get 12 transfers! so my release date is officially October 14th. I could come home one early on Sept 4th, but that seems kinda dumb since i wouldn't make it back for school. so yep sorry, it's gonna be october, not july. my bad!

alright so this week went much more smoothly than last week. well kinda, we didn't leave the apartment much because sister kopta and i were both sick pretty much all week. so that kinda stunk, but it didn't leave much room for losing things or falling over, so that's good. also the sun finally came back out and the layer of death ice melted so that's the best news. also i successfully made 3 sunshine rings!! they are safely in the freezer for christmas and new years. 

we did get to go to our christmas party on saturday which was probably the funniest and weirdest christmas party to have ever happened. so a grand total of about 7 people showed up and first we played musical chairs which was SO FUNNY because there's this slightly handicapped guy named Rustam. he used to be a genius but then got in a pretty bad motorcycle accident and now he's pretty off. anyways, he LOVED it and was so determined to win that he would push people out of the way and kept sitting down randomly because he was paranoid about losing, anyways, it's hard to describe but it was the funniest thing to watch ever. then for some reason they decided that we should do skits acting out 'mary had a little lamb.' i think that they thought it was christmas themed because it has the word snow in it. anyways, please try and imagine in your head elder saunders dressed as a lamb, holding a huge fork chasing around crazy Rustam dressed as a little girl. our group decided without me that our skit should be horror themed and that the lamb was trying to eat mary. it was weird. i don't get ukrainian humor at all. and the good news is they don't get american humor at all either. the other group had two lambs doing a dance off to impress mary. let's just say it brought me back to my days as a beehive real quick. 13 year old me would have LOVED IT. and 21 year old me still secretly loved it a little bit. we also were supposed to have a white elephant but surprise, surprise, sister kopta and i were the only ones who brought anything! luckily we brought extras and had enough to give one present to everyone who came. we honestly just used it as an opportunity to de-junk our apartment. we gave away, two nerf guns, a rubiks cube, some bracelets sized for a 2 year old girl, some voltage battery tester thing? i don't know it was still in the package and it was in russian and i don't think we needed it, a weird owl statue and some random tea we found in the back of our cabinet that may or may not be from 2001. weirdly enough, everyone loved their presents haha. oh ukraine. oh and the grand finale of the christmas party was the jump roping! who knew that grown adults like to jump rope? well apparently ukrainians do. i had the privilege of turning the rope while several 30ish year old ukrainians jumped for like half an hour. it was so funny because they were all TERRIBLE and yet somehow they loved it. i think ukrainians understand simple pleasures better than americans do.

okay i am sorry this is all i have time for because we are borrowing computers at the office. we are in donetsk for registration for sister kopta! yay for unexpected travel! well i will SEE you in 2 days! yes 5:00 my time is perfect! be there or be square! love you!!!! be good!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nicknames, Bad luck, Helping out the work in Ohio too!

alright this is going to be crazy short because i spent all of my email time writing an encouraging letter to your recent convert. i hope the sisters living in my room appreciate all that i do for them! anyways, this week Heavenly Father decided to really test my resolve to be positive and not think of myself. literally all of the bad things happened and i tried oh so hard not to be upset about it. first and worst, i lost my memory card with all of my mission pictures. boom gone. okay it was 100% my fault and that makes it even worse because i have no one to be mad at but myself. so that was on monday.

on tuesday real winter hit. it's all because last week i emailed everyone and said "it's not even cold here. it's colder in america than in ukraine blah blah blah" well i guess ukraine didn't like that and it decided to cover itself in a layer of DEATH ICE. poor sister kopta has biffed it 10 times already. luckily i haven't wiped out yet but i know it will happen soon. also on tuesday i attempted my first sunshine ring. what i didn't know what that your recipe for rolls makes enough dough for 2 or maybe 3 sunshine rings? i don't know, but when i rolled that thing up it was ENORMOUS. i know it was wrong, but didn't know what to do about it, so we just baked it as was and it literally filled up our entire oven. I could barely get it out. so the inside never got fully cooked, and the edges were pretty crispy, but we gave it to the elders and they didn't really care.

on wednesday i had the privlidge and opportunity to kill 2 cockroaches. here's a life question for you: can you microwave a cockroach? answer: yes. it takes approximately 10 minutes, but it will eventually die. did i feel a little bit sorry for the sucker? yes. the second one i killed by smashing with our cinnamon jar, it was gross and its guts got everywhere, so i would definietly recommend the microwave option.

thursday the zipper on one of my boots broke. that was pretty upsetting as well. there are little shoe repair stands all over the place, so we are going to go see if i can get a new zipper today, but if not i might have to buy new boots. LAME. this one was also my fault, well half my fault, half my shortness's fault. so it's been pretty cold and i have just been wearing my thermals because SPOILER ALERT: tights don't do ANYTHING. so i was thinking one day, hey these thermals are pretty baggy, i bet i could fit my jeans under here. YEP! so now i've been wearing jeans under my thermals and it is so nice and toasty. anyways, since i am crazy short, i have to roll my jeans and my thermals a bunch of times which makes a nice big bunch around my ankles. so i was trying to zip up my boot and boom the zipper broke right when we had to leave for english and it was stuck zipped up part of the way, so i just had to wear a halfway zipped boot to english but whatever, let's be real it's ukraine, no one even noticed.
friday was friday the 13th, so of course we were in for a treat. actually nothing to bad happened except our salt shaker has one half that a little bit comes out of and one half that tons come out of, so i grabbed it to put salt on my vareneke (don't know how to explain that one, you can look it up) and accidentally COVERED it in salt. i scraped off as much as i could but it was still the saltiest thing of my life. i was coughing and my tongue burned and i shouldn't have eaten it, but i was so hungry and tired. anyways, that night i burned my tongue on tea that a member made for us and i don't thing my tongue will ever be the same.

saturday and sunday nothing too bad happened, so i hope the curse is broken. i don't know what i was supposed to learn from this unlucky week, but like President Monson said, my future is as bright as my faith. so next week is going to be A LOT better!
also we did have some highlights of the week:

first i finally got nametags that say sister shrek!!! i am officially sister shrek and there's no going back. goodbye schrecengost!
second i have finally been here long enough to get nicknames. angelika calls me shrekula, and some other members call me solnishka which means sunshine and umnitsa which basically means smarty pants.
third, our less active anna came to church for the third week in a row! she's awesome. she asked me this week, "what chapter or verses did you read this week that you really liked?" and "what blessings have you noticed in your life this week?" i honestly had to stop for a minute and think about it. she invited us to come over this week to decorate her house for christmas and watch the first presidency christmas devotional. i'm so excited!!!!
last, we got 2 new investigators! they are a super cute young couple with 2 little kids. right now they are just interested in english practice, but they understand that our purpose is to talk about the gospel. hopefully eventually they will realize how much this message can bless their family.

okay sorry that's all i got this week. i think it was pretty dramatic and mostly me complaining....sorry. i just had a lot of bad luck this week. at the time it wasn't very funny but now that i think about it, it was pretty ridiculous. anyways, i hope your week went better than mine! i love you and miss you all tons! i can't wait to SEE you next week!!!!

From Katie's mom:
A cute 14 year old girl, who got baptized along with her family in our ward on Sunday, wrote to Katie a few weeks ago as part of a YW activity. She told Katie all about meeting the missionaries and discovering the gospel with her family. Here is Katie's wonderful reply to her:

Dear Christiana,
Thank you so much for your letter! Missionaries love to get mail! I loved reading your story about how you found the gospel. One of the greatest blessings of serving a misison is being able to see and experience miracles every day. I know that miracles are real, and that they are all around us, but we have to look for them. Your family finding the church and deciding to be baptized was definitely a miracle. But the greatest miracle will be when you have the opportunity to be sealed together as a family in the temple. As missionaries, our purpose is not just to help individuals be baptized, it is to help families be sealed for time and all eternity, because that is God's purpose. That is why we are all here. I know that the blessings of the temple are real, and that you do not have to wait a year to receive them.

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to do your family history work as a family, and then go to the temple together and be baptized for your ancestors. The temple is such a sacred place, and you will feel the spirit so strongly there. Every time that I go to the temple, I just feel so peaceful and happy. Anything that I am worried about just seems to go away. Also, every time that you do baptisms for the dead you will be reminded of your own baptism and how clean and happy you felt in that moment. Most importantly, when you are baptized for your ancestors, you will feel their love and gratitude for this saving work that you are doing for them. It has been said that doing temple work is the best thing that we can to do become most like our Savior, because we are literally helping others reach salvation. Our ancestors who died without the gospel need our help.
I had the opportunity to be baptized for my great-grandmother when I was 12 years old. I had known her when I was little, so I could picture her face when I was baptized for her. It was a very sacred experience, and the spirit told me very strongly that she had been waiting for that ordinance. I knew that she was so grateful to me, and that I would see her again someday. I know that you can have sacred experiences in the temple as well. I know that temples bless our lives as well as the lives of those who have come before us.
I hope you know how much our Heavenly Father loves you. He is so proud of your decision to be baptized. One of my favorite quotes that I have heard on my mission was by a woman named Janice Kapp Perry. She said "Surely that happiest person in the Plan of Happiness is Heavenly Father." I am sure that He is the happiest when His children decided to come closer to Him by making sacred covenants. I know that God is so pleased with you and your family. I know that your family will grow closwer together and receive more blessings than ever before as a result of your decision to be baptized.
I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that is only through Him that we can be saved.Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons, but mainly it is because of the peace, hope, and joy that fill my soul every time that I think of my Savior. I know that I never have to feel alone, or discouraged, or afraid because Jesus Christ knows everything that I ever have felt and that I ever will feel, and He is always there to help me if I just ask. Sometimes life is hard, and it is hard to tell if God really is there. But to me that is faith: to choose to believe that He is there, even when it doesn't feel like He is. I know that He is there because I see and feel His love every day.
I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God because I read it every day and it helps me every day. I have found many answers to prayer in the Book of Mormon. I also know that it is true because I can feel myself growing closer to God as I live by its teachings. Because I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, I also know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. He truly did see God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, on that spring morning in 1820. God's Priesthood Authority is restored to the earth today, and as a result, we can be sealed as families in the temple for time and all eternity. This is the greatest blessing of all. This is why I am here as a missionary, thousands of miles away from home, speaking a scary language, talking to sometimes scary people. Because my family has already receieved the blessings of the gospel. We know where to turn to find peace and happiness. But so many people do not know what I know. So that's why I'm here: to help people learn how to be happy. Truly happy, the kind that lasts forever.
So I want you to remember how happy you felt on your baptism day. Cherish that memory and keep it forever. But don't keep it to yourself. Share that happiness with those around you. As you allow the gospel to change you and make you better, I know that others will see a difference in you. Share the knowledge that has made you so happy with those you care about. Heavenly Father restored His gospel so that all of His children could be blessed, not just a few of us. And we can help Him in that work.
I want to share my favorite scripture with you. It is Alma 37: 6-7. "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass." You and I are small and simple, but the Lord has great things planned for us. I have learned on my mission that there's not a whole lot that I can do on my own. But with the Lord's help I can do anything. I know that this is true for you as well.
I know that Heavenly Father loves you so much, and that He will help you as you continue to follow Him. If there is one thing that Heavenly Father wants each of His daughters to know, I think it is this: You are important, and you are loved. Never forget that!
Although I have never met you, I already love you. I can't wait to meet you and your family when I come home next fall. Please feel free to write me any time, I would love to hear how you and your family are doing!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Crock Pot and Toilet Brush

Wax Museum

Thanksgiving

okay wow sorry this is gonna be a short one, i just spent half an hour trying to save the picture of our house that dad sent me to my flash drive and it won't work! lame. anyways this week we went to Donetsk for zone conference which was way fun but the best part was our christmas presents from the Lochheads. they bought us all tickets to go see the nutcracker on new year's eve!!!! i am so excited you don't even know. i have been dancing around singing the nutcracker all week. sister kopta has finally figured out that i'm crazy, so that's good. i had her going for a solid 3 weeks though, so that's pretty impressive. also sister lochhead made each of us a stocking! we are in charge of filling our companion's stockings so sister kopta and i are going to go on a member split so we can go shopping for each other. also sister lochhead is basically oprah and there's this part of zone conference that's everyone's favorite part when she calls out a healthy food and if you've eaten that food in the past week you stand up and then who ever stands up the most times gets a prize, any way it's a joke because she gets enough prizes for every one anyways and she always just throws random stuff at us like shoe shiners and cutting boards and this time it was toilet brushes! haha well when they give us this stuff they don't think about the people that live in different cities that have to travel with this stuff, so try and imagine me walking halfway across donetsk, getting on a 2 hour bus, then walking halfway across mariupol with a package for sister kopta, a CROCKPOT (yes we finally got one!) and a christmas stocking with a toilet brush sticking out of the top hahaha. let's just say the people on those buses probably won't be getting baptized anytime soon.
oh elder saunders and i both got packages from sister eyre (Thank you!!!!) and the post office decided to steal all of my candy but none of elder saunders! i am so mad. i did get the socks though which was definitely the most important part. elder harrison called me and was like, um elder saunders got a package and we think sister eyre may have mixed up the socks because his are purple polka dots and i was like, um knowing sister eyre, there's a very good chance that she did that on purpose haha. also i'm not switching because i'm already wearing mine! i am making quite the fashion statement today with black and white patterened socks, brown boots. gray patterened tights, a navy coat, black gloves, and a teal hat. good thing i've been a trend setter my whole life. (also, ps whoever thought that stirrup pants are dead hasn't been to ukraine recently!)

last week on p-day we had the great privilege of visiting mariupol's highly esteemed Wax Museum. Ruslan a recent convert who LOVES missionaries and gets offended if we don't ask for his help on lessons every single day invited all of us to come with him and of course we had to say yes. so we each coughed up 60 grieven (which is still less than 10 dollars but seemed like a lot at the time) to go into this tiny room with maybe 20 wax figures of all weird disfigured people, like a man with two heads, a girl with a pig nose, etc etc. they were all supposed to be real people, but the last two were Shrek and Fiona, so i'm not too sure about that one. anyways it was such a joke but Ruslan loved it so we had to pretend like we thought it was cool, and then this lady comes in and  talks for like 2 hours about each person and i almost died!!!! oh well we got out of there eventually, and i got a picture with shrek, so it wasn't a complete fail. anyways, next time someone invites you to a wax museum in ukraine, feel free to say no.
this week we had a hilarious fail of a lesson. i feel like that happens more often than not....hmmm. anyways, we were teaching Nadia our golden investigator who never actually meets with us, so the one time we actually have a lesson with her the fire alarm goes off right in the middle of the lesson! luckily the elders were at the church so we left them to deal with that (there wasn't actually a fire, i promise) so we decided to continue with the lesson despite the alarm, and we are watching the restoration video and right when Joseph Smith starts the see the first vision, the pillar of light appears and BAM nadia's phone goes off and she leaves to go into the hall to answer it! haha i was like umm we're gonna rewind that and watch it again. i think satan REALLY doesn't want Nadia to feel the spirit. no worries though, i'm pretty good at fighting satan by now.

the other exciting part of the week was i invented a new recipe! i call it "how to eat vegetables without hating your life." so this is what you do. you make yourself a nice quesadilla (on the stove not in the microwave fool!) then on half of the quesadilla you spread a nice layer of sour cream. then you choose the vegetables which you hate least (for me it is bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and sometimes tomatoes if i am feeling brave) chop up the vegetables and put them on the hallf of the quesadilla with the sour cream, then fold it all in half like a new york pizza slice. and there you have it. how to eat vegetables without hating your life. also today we are buying a blender! so if you could send me some good smoothie recipes i would love it.
this week i found my scripture of the year for 2014. it's 2 Nephi 10:33. cheer up and choose eternal life! just do it!!!!! 

oh you asked for an update on mark. since we fasted for him and he got the job he is now on the sea until june! he is a sailor, i don't know if i mentioned that. basically the worst job ever for church activity. i am so sad! i was worried about him leaving when he was just starting to get active, but he came up to me on his last sunday and promised to read his Book of Mormon every day and to pray every day. he also brought his friend to meet with the elders, so i'm not too worried about mark.
as for the package, i have mainly been using the peanut butter and hot chocolate! sister kopta is not a huge syrup fan, so i'm saving that for a companion who will enjoy it with me. we are going to look for a muffin tin today so that we can try to make brown sugar muffins!
also in zone conference we were told that we are not allowed to chat with anyone online, so no chatting me mom!!!
okay that's all i've got this week sorry! also i'm not sure about skype details but i'm pretty sure that we should be able to google chat with everyone together. i think we are free all day, so you should all figure out a time that you can all be free and then we can do it then. also i guess you could coordinate with sister kopta's mom since apparently you are bff's now haha. anyways, can't wait to see all of your beautiful faces in 16 days!!! love you and miss you! have a great week!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving

December 2, 2013

hahaha okay first off, i typed the email 'from angelica' so i'm glad that you think my english is very good haha. she asked me to type it because she is a pretty slow typer in english, which is quite understandable. i tried to type my name in russian and it took a good 10 minutes. angelica is 22 and has done some college here in ukraine but didn't like it, so she's been studying english for awhile so that she can go study at byu. it is so weird to think that she and sarah are doing the same application....sarah is not old enough to go to college!!!!

okay so my two miracles from last week. first of all i wish i had written them last week because over the past week they have sort of become less miraculous, but that's okay. so first off the elders passed us this GOLDEN girl named Nadia. She is 24 and speaks english and has been to 3 churches in the past 3 years because she is looking for a church that is run by God not by people. um hello perfect. anyways the only catch is that she is literally the flakiest person on the planet. she is not actually avoiding us, she really loves us and i think she is really sincere, she just is kind of spacey and not exactly the most prompt person i've met (good thing i have 2 wonderful siblings that have taught me how to love this type of person). anyways, i strongly believe she is ready to hear the gospel, she just has to actually meet with us at some point! miracle #2 was that a less active woman named Vera came back to church! she was offended by someone in the branch and stopped coming for several months, but she called up her friend and said "I'm ready to come back" wow. well actually turns out that she just came because her grandson (who has been active the whole time) didn't want to come to church that week and the only way she could make sure he went is if she went with him. She did not come to church this week. so i mean it was a step, just not as big as we originally thought.

okay so that was last week. this week was Thanksgiving!!!!! We had a dinner that originally was supposed to be just missionaries, but several members invited themselves in typical ukrainian style, so it grew to be a whole bunch of random people but it was fun. the food was great (the elders couldn't find a turkey anywhere, so we had 2 roast chickens which were amazing), our apple pie turned out great by some thanksgiving miracle, and i spent all morning mashing a billion potatoes by hand. my right hand may or may not be bruised right now, but it was worth it. this week all of the lessons and spiritual thoughts we shared were about gratitude and i challenged everyone to write down their top 5 biggest blessings and thank Heavenly Father for them in their personal prayers that night. I decided I should probably keep my own commitment, so here are mine:

1. The Atonement of Jesus Christ and the opportunity to change and become better every day.
2. My Family
3. Personal Revelation (through scriptures and the Holy Ghost)
4. My Mission
5. Covenants

So that's my top 5. What's yours? you should do it for family night or something.


this week i had one of those moments when you realize, woah i have actually learned stuff. i'm not a greenie anymore. it is so hard to gauge or even notice your progress on a mission because it happens a tiny bit every single day. anyways on tuesday we were at a Family Night at one of the members' houses and it was Sister Kopta's first time. I looked over at her sitting on the couch sitting straight up, hands folded in her lap, looking around nervously trying to understand anything at all. then i realized that i was just sitting all relaxed eating some weird ukrainian food without thinking twice about it, chatting with a member, feeling totally at home. i realized that in this moment, in this randon ukrainian apartment, i felt 100% at home. it probably would feel more normal to me to be there than to be at home right now honestly. that's weird. i don't know when that happened.

this week one of our less actives Anna came back to church!!! she just randomly decided to come to our halloween party and since then we have gone and visited her house at least once a week. she admitted that when she came to the party she knew we would try and talk to her and get her to come back to church, but she decided to come anyways. she has a 2 year old daughter and they want to have another kid soon. anyways, her husband is less active and the elders are trying to work with him but he is being a poop. but Anna is great! we just go over and talk (she speaks perfect english thank goodness) and she knows that she needs to come back, she just knows that being active is a big time commitment. anyways we called her this week to invite her to game night and sister kopta told me that i should invite her to church ( i always listen to her because i believe in greenie intuition AKA the Spirit) and when i did she said "you know what, i've been thinking about it and i want to come to church this week." it was definitely a miracle!!! sacrament meeting was pretty crazy like it always is on fast sunday, but she said she was really glad they came so hopefully they will come again next week! even though we don't really have any investigators right now, working with less actives has been so great. it is so exciting to see real progress!

oh this week we had the craziest referral i've ever gotten. so this woman calls me one random morning and starts taking so fast in Russian and i had no idea what she was saying. all i caught was that her name was Aliona, she wanted me to talk to her parents, and something about a post office. i asked her if she knew the elders' phone number and she said yes, so I told her to call them because they speak russian a lot better haha. turns out she is a member who lives in Kiev and she wanted us to deliver a package to her parents as a sneaky way to get them to meet the missionaries. well they saw right through that plan and the dad freaked out and was yelling at us. anyways, turns out the dad (he's way old) was just crazy and he is mean to everyone, but the mom and sister were super sweet. they had us stay for tea and cookies and looked at our family pictures and showed us theirs. haha all old people have really bad eyesight here, but the mom Ulia must have really bad eyesight because she said that Dad looks like Jesus. haha she also said that dad is so young, she thought dad was my brother and justin was the dad. Hahaha she also said that she can tell our whole family is very smart, so that's good. whenever people see our family picture they are always shocked that i am the one in the middle. every single time they say "woah that's you?!?! you are beautiful!......what happened?" hahahaha every single time!!! there's a phenomenon in this mission where i guess ukraine kinda just takes the life out of you, i don't know why, but everyone comes home looking like 5 years older and slightly dead. but then as soon as you get home you go back to normal so no worries, i probably won't look like this forever. i just love everyone's reaction when they see our family picture.

okay so winter fashion is officially in full swing and it just the greatest. first of all, all the little kids have to wear these thick bunchy tights under their jeans, even the boys and it is hilarious because they HATE it. they get all bunchy and twisted and the kids are always complaining and i really feel for them. also it's true, everyone told me that they dress the kids up like the little brother in a christmas story and it is 100% true. even now when it's still in the upper 30's these kids are like little snowmen waddling around, it's the cutest thing ever. my second favorite item of winter clothing is the men's leather baseball hats. i don't understand them because i'm pretty sure the point of a hat is to cover your ears, but these are literally just super thick baseball hats that all the guys wear. i will try and get a picture of one because i'm not describing it very well. all of the babushki are paranoid about us poor baby americans freezing to death. they are always yelling at us to put on more layers. i swear multiple times every day people ask me if i'm cold and why i'm not wearing a hat. sister kopta didn't have boots for her first 2 days and everyone freaked out and told me i was a bad trainer!!! seriously my success as a missionary is judged by how well my companion is dressed.

oh also i don't think i've told you much about mariupol. since it is right on the sea it is a huge fishing town. there are little old ladies sitting on every street corner selling fish. sometimes they are dried and on a string and the lady shakes the string and yells at you to buy her fish. sometimes they are just wet and slimy in a huge bucket straight out of the sea. no matter what they definietly smell fresh and look nasty! good thing we are not allowed to eat the fish here on account of heavy metal poisoning. also mariupol is known for it's pollution. there are tons of factories here, but the good news is that one of them is a chocolate factory. and if you stand in just the right spot it smells like you are living in a bucket of hot fudge. it's my favorite spot in mariupol as you could probably imagine.

okay okay that's all i have time for this week! i hope that you have a great week! listen to Delilah (93.9 WLIT!!!!) for me! i miss that woman!

p.s. two things i forgot last week that are different about me. there is approximately 10 pounds less of me, i have no way of actually measuring but that is a wild guess. and also i eat cereal with big spoons now. that's a big change for me! i used to HATE big spoons, but now i'm on dad's side. big spoon=fast spoon!

Biggest Loser: Ukraine

Monday, November 25, 2013

Halfway!

Okay people I don't want to freak you out, but tomorrow is the halfway point of my mission. You might say, wait that math doesn't add up, you've only been out for 8 months! Well let me exlain to you the unfairness that is sister missions. so 18 months does not divide evenly into transfers, so someone somewhere decided (i don't know if this is universal or just our mission) that a normal sister mission is 11 transfers, which turns out to be 3 weeks less than 18 months. but we have the option to go one less transfer or one more transfer. since i want to come home in time for fall semester, i have decided to come home one transfer early, which means i actually will serve 9 weeks less than 18 months. LAME! yes i am aware that this was my choice, but i still think it's lame.
So since tomorrow is the start of the second half of my mission, i think it is reflection time. First of all, you might be wondering if I am the same person that you know and love. The answer is yes.
Do I still love to sleep? Yes. (i just don't get to very often)
Do I still love Christmas music? YES
Do I still love to read? Yes
Do I stilll love chesseburgers? Yes
Do I still love to quote She's the Man? Yes
Do I still love messy buns? Yes
Do I still not know how to take a normal picture? Yes
Do I still find myself in awkward situations daily? Yes
Do I still hate talking on the phone? Yes (but i do it)
Do I still love basketball shorts? Yes
Is my favorite color still yellow? Yes
Do I still love JT? YES. ( i heard suit and tie in a store last monday and literally almost cried. i held it together because sister kopta doesn't know that i'm a freak yet and i'm trying to keep up the act for as long as possible)
okay so now for the things that are different. yes i am still me, don't worry, but I have changed in a few ways since March. 
-first i think the biggest thing is something that happens to most missionaries. being here, my priorities have become very clear. not that i didn't understand this before, but now more than ever I understand that family is everything. i am not going to lie, being here is not easy. but i have a reason to be here that keeps me going. everything that i do is for you, my current family, and for my future family. somehow being on a mission helps you realize how little everything else matters. so i think that's the biggest difference in me so far.
-also my life is no longer about me, and it never will be again. that is really hard to realize and accept. i liked when my life was all about me in high school and college. it is easy to think about yourself and no one else, but that's not why i'm here. as a missionary i spend all day thinking about others and how to help them, and i know from experience that that is where true joy comes from. i know that the days of focusing on myself are behind me. that is tough, but i am grateful to have realized it now.
-also on my mission i have learned how to study the gospel. right before my mission i kind of hit a spiritual lull, where i didn't really know what else there was to learn. that sounds pretty conceited to think i knew everything, but i knew the seminary answers, i knew the sunday school answers, and i didn't know what else to study. luckily on my mission i learned from a great trainer and others how to come up with questions myself like "how are patience and faith related?" and then go to the scriptures, find some answers and find a way to apply that knowledge in my life. i am still working on it of couse, but i am so grateful to have learned that lesson. i don't know where i would be if i never learned how to study the scriptures. 
-also i have learned how to be wrong. it is hard and i don't like it, but sometimes it happens. you have to humble yourself, admit that you were wrong, get back up and try again.
-more than ever before i know that i by myself am nothing. i learned this one right at the beginning. before my mission i didn't need to depend on the Lord for much, but here i need Him every day. 
-lastly, from living with companions I have learned how to let things go. i have always been a peace maker and hated conflict, but now i think i have a better understanding of what things are worth putting your foot down, and when it is better to just let it go. also choosing to be happy is something that i work on every day and it really does work.
so that is how i have changed so far. I know that the second half of my mission will be even better and I will learn and grow even more. I have decided that starting tomorrow I am not going to think about myself anymore. I already spend the majority of my days thinking about others and how to help them, but this second half of my mission i really want to lose myself and go to work.
okay so that's how i'm different, now i have some questions about the real world.
Is instagram still a thing?
What happened to Rebecca Black?
Does the royal baby look more like Kate or William?
Is Ron Swanson still the funniest character on TV?
Is the Miley Cyrus song "we can't stop, we won't stop" as big over there as it is over here? It is literally Everywhere.
Has Leonardo Dicaprio finally won an oscar yet? (just kidding i know there haven't been any oscars since i left)
Are top knots still a thing? (i am trying to make them a thing in ukraine, it's not working)
Does anyone care about the Harry Potter movie or just me?
Does Dad still tweet? (@discodaddyy)
Who is doing the superbowl halftime show and why is it not Beyonce?

okay that's all i got. 

oh also i finally decided you russian names! ready?
 -Dad is Zhenya (the russian equivalent of eugene),
 -Mom is Vera (means faith and is just classy),
-Abby is Alina (named after one of my favorite people in Ukraine),
-Justin is Nikolai (total mob boss name),
-Adam is Dima and also Adam is a russian name (pronounce a-dahm with the emphasis on the second syllable), the nickname is Adamchik,
-Stevie is Eva (pronounced yeva) because Adam and Eve
-Sarah is Nastia because she's a princess. 


To answer your questions, no we still have not gotten our crockpot!!! Hopefully at zone conference in two weeks we'll get it. We are doing a thanksgiving dinner with our district on thursday and i am so excited!!! should be great.

Sister Kopta is doing just great. On her second day she said "I love ukraine! i mean it smells like death most of the time, but for some reason i just love it!" That is the miracle of missionary work my friends. 

okay i'm sorry that was a lame letter, i didn't even get to tell you about our 2 miracles! i will tell you next week for sure!!! love you and have a great week!!!!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Christmas Came Early!

Already decorated for Christmas!

Don't worry, Mom. I haven't peeked.

First of all, Happy Anniversary Adam and Stevie!!!!!!! I can't believe a year ago I got my mission call, went through the temple and went to  their wedding all in 3 days. that was kind of insane but also awesome, just like every day here in Ukraine: insane and awesome. ALso I got the christmas package!!!! thank you!!!!!! i was so excited to open it because i knew it would smell like home and christmas, but it actually smelled like chicken bouillon and beef jerky, but hey that's still better than what the vast majority of ukraine smells like, so i'm not complaining. i am using all of the stuff that wasn't wrapped, and i haven't even peeked into my stocking yet! i am quite proud of myself. of course i already decorated the christmas tree! who do you think i am? dad/mr scrooge?
The biggest news of the week is I got my new companion!!!!!! Sister Kopta is from Dallas, Texas (shout out to dad) and she is 19. She studied out at BYU Hawaii (shout out to me) for a year before she came on her mission. She is studying physics (shout out to albert einstein) but doesn't exactly know what to do with it yet (shout out to every college freshman). she is super smart and knows german, japanese, and latin! what? yeah she's teaching me a thing or two about russian, it's fine. so we have 2 grammar books that they give us in the mtc, the beginners one is called penguin and the advanced one is called modern russian. our first day i asked sister kopta if she has read penguin at all and she was like "yeah, i started but it was mostly just review for me, so i'm working on modern russian right now..." and i was like "hmmmm well i'm still on penguin so.........yeah" haha awkward. You asked me how I'm feeling with my fluency, hm. well some of the time i can understand most of what's going on, and most of the time i can say some of what i want to say. basically i'm still working on it and i will probably still be working on it when i come home, but I have a firm testimony that every missionary's language is where Heavenly Father needs it to be, as long as they are giving their best effort of course.

This week was crazy, we went around saying goodbye to everyone with Sister Welch and then made the rounds again introducing Sister Kopta to everyone. I have felt like a chicken running around with my head chopped off all week, but this week should calm down a lot. Poor Sister Kopta had the craziest first day ever. First we had two packages for the elders and they have been sick with the flu all week, so we decided to be nice and walk them over to their apartment. Well, they live further away than i remembered and the packages were heavier than we initially thought, so we got on a bus which ended up taking us the wrong way, so basically we walked halfway across mariupol to deliver these packages and literally the minute we get to the elders to drop them off, the other elders call and say, hey do you mind dropping your plans today to go do service at the hospital? last time we did service at the hospital it was literally washing two windows and took 10 minutes, so of course we said yes. Well this time we weren't washing windows. We were removing leaves Ukrainian style, which involves raking huge piles of leaves onto blankets, then tying the blankets so that you have a huge bundle, and carry the massive heavy bundle of leaves to a bigger pile of leaves about 15 minutes away, and then repeat about 20 times. I wish I had a picture because we looked absolutely ridiculous, but don't fear, we're going back tomorrow to do it again! Poor Sister Kopta was freezing during this whole process because she didn't have any winter clothes yet! don't worry we went shopping the next day and got her all the good stuff, including the thick lumpy ukrainian babushka tights that just make you feel real good about yourself.
oh this week before sister welch left everyone wanted to make her favorite food for her, so we ended up having 2 pizzas in 24 hours which in america is fine, no problem, but ukrainian pizza is a little different and not so easy on the stomach, so sister welch and i had a touch of food poisoning when we went to transfer meeting, we were mostly just hot and sweaty and our stomachs had weird jabby pains, but i think everyone thought we were just a couple of sweaty weirdos, so yeah. welcome to my life.
other funny/awkward story of my life. we called our 'investigator' denis, he has had one lesson with us only because we told him he had to have a lesson with us if he wanted to play ping pong with us haha. anyways, i called and asked if he wanted to meet with us friday at 6:00. then i realized institute is on fridays at 6 and i thought, maybe that wasn't a coincidence. maybe he should come to institute and that would be interesting to him. so he shows up, and institute starts and about 5 minutes into it he gets up and walks out. tanya a member told me later, he asked "wait this isn't english conversation group?" nope. "okay, i'm out" haha whoops.
oh our taxi driver to donetsk for transfer meeting is the cooletst guy ever. he is HUGE and has a ponytail and he played britney spears and sang along and danced the whole way there. it was so great. he showed me his tattooo on his forearm that is supposedly french, now i am no linguist but i am 99% sure that that was definitely not french haha.
also we went back to visit our doctor one last time before sister welch left and he read the Book of Mormon! He explained to us how he read it, he said something about reading the first few words and last few words, i didn't really get it, but i'm pretty sure he skimmed the whole thing. anyways, he said he liked it and it's a lot like the Bible but he didn't know what else to say about it. The bad news is he's out of town for a whole week, so hopefully when he gets back we can meet with him again. who would have thought that extreme constipation could bring someone to Christ?
okay it's that time again: What I Learned My 4th Transfer:
-when I left Lugansk I got a glimpse of what it will be like to finish my mission. It was so hard to say goodbye to the people and town that I love so much, but at the same time I knew that the Lord had more in store for me somewhere else. I was able to leave with confidence in knowing that I did all I could do in Lugansk and gave my best effort every single day. I am so grateful to not have any regrets or doubts about my first 3 transfers.
-The Lord hides blessings in trials (see constipation story)
-Always, always keep inviting people to things. Don't give up on them. Make people feel loved and eventually they will come, or come back. Never give up on people even when others have. Of course you have to balance spending your time on those who are willing and ready to progress now, but you can't quit on people because the Savior never would.
-This transfer I studied authority because there were a few talks about moral authority in conference and I never really thought about that before. I learned that authority comes from obedience and worthiness. I also studied leadership and decided what kind of a trainer I want to be this time around. Last time i was basically an infant just struggling to survive. now i feel more like a toddler, and I think I am at least a little more equipped to lead someone at this point of my mission. 
-I also thought about how I want to feel when I go home. I obviously want to feel sad, because that means I loved my mission and don't want it to end, but I also want to be happy with my efforts. In the church we talk about 'know, do, and become.' Before my 18 months are up, I want to make sure that I learn, do and become all that I need to be, and all that the Lord knows I can be. 
-This transfer I taught a district meeting lesson about comfort zones, and realized that our comfort zones only grow when we are outside of them. the more minutes per day that i spend outside that comfort zone, the faster it will grow. and there is always room for it to grow. even the most experienced, confident missionary still has aspects of missionary work that aren't totally comfortable for them. 
-i also thought about the connection between miracles and faith. the Lord doesn't just throw miracles at us all the time, i mean sometimes i feel like i get miracles that i didn't necessarily earn or wait for, but most of the time miracles come after trials. this is because in that waiting period is when we grow. by the time the miracle comes we have already learned our lesson and our faith has grown because of it. if miracles happened all day every day, we wouldn't need faith.

okay i know that i learned more, but i can't think of any more right now. i hope you know how much i love you and miss you!!!! i can't wait to skype you in just over a month!!! start writing your questions down because i am ready to answer them! i hope you have a great week and don't get blown away by a tornado! love you!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Diet is Over, Flowers for Babushkas

November 11, 2013
 Preaching By the Sea

okay this is gonna be short one because my dear trainer sister erekson is writing a book (isn't she the coolest) about sister missionaries and asked me to write something for it. i guess i'll share it with you, but it's nothing i haven't already told you i think. anyways here it is:

"Everyone told me that my mission would be hard, and I believed them. I didn't expect a walk in the park, or even to love every day of my mission, but in all honesty I have. I have actually woken up every day of my mission happy to be here. And that doesn't mean that life is easy or that there aren't hard days, but I have chosen to be happy and that's really all it takes.

When I asked my mom what was harder, serving a mission or raising 4 small kids she said, "Oh no question, raising four small kids. But I couldn't have done it without my mission because the most valuable lesson I learned on my mission is that I can do hard things." Every day on my mission I do things that are hard. Even things that I couldn't have imagined myself doing a year ago. Yes, serving a mission is the hardest thing that I have done so far in my life, but I know that it will not be the hardest.

When I was asked to train in my third transfer I was more than surprised. I was overwhelmed and did not believe in myself. I didn't have very strong language skills, I had very little experience as a missionary (12 weeks in country) but the biggest problem was that I didn't believe in my own capacity to be a successful missionary. I knew that the Lord trusted me, but I did not trust myself. Of course I kept working hard and doing what I guessed I was supposed to do, but I was not confident. So I did what all good missionaries do, and I turned to the scriptures. I studied confidence. I looked up every single verse that mentions or refers to confidence. I looked for patterns and I noticed somthing. I learned that there are 2 kinds of confidence taught in the scriptures. There is confidence in the Lord, which means having faith in Him, knowing who He is and believing that He will keep His promises, and there is confidence in front of the Lord, which means being able to stand in front of Him, confident in one's worthiness to receive the blessings He has promised. I realized that as long as I lived worthily, obeying the rules 100%, and continued to study more about my Father in Heaven and grow closer to Him, I had every reason to be confident. My confidence is not in myself, it is in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

I have learned firsthand that the Atonement doesn't just undo mistakes or take away the pain, but it stretches us and makes us more than we are. It makes us better, stronger, and more like our Savior. On my mission I have learned how to rely on the Lord, which doesn't mean sitting back and letting Him do all the work, it means working my very hardest and trusting in Him to do the rest. I have learned that the more I know who Heavenly Father is, the easier it becomes to trust Him and do His will rather than my own."

I think i quoted you wrong, i couldn't really remember what you said but i think that was the gist of it. anyways this was a really good week. we got transfer calls and sister welch is leaving...boo!! also, guess who's training again? this guy! yep, apparently i didn't quite get it right the first time because i'm doing it again! just kidding i'm way excited though. i hope she's cool and likes cereal because now that sister welch is leaving the diet is officially over! it was worth it though because we ended up teaching her doctor and he committed to read the Book of Mormon (the whole thing...he's a super genius) and meet with us again! new investigator waddup.

This week I learned the hilariously ironic fact that Ukrainians are TERRIBLE at the mafia game. like literally the worst. every saturday night we have game night and we usually just play ping pong and uno but we decided to play mafia because we had a really good turnout and it was hilarous. i won't go into details but it just took forever and i don't think they understood the point of it at all. i actually told everyone that i was the mafia so they would kill me so that i could get out of there. it was pretty bad.

this week we bought a bouquet (i don't know how to spell anymore and i want to cry) of flowers to take to a sick babushka in the ward but she didn't answer the door, so we just walked down the street and handed a flower to each babushka we passed. some of them loved it and some of them asked why and we said "because you're beautiful" or 'because God loves you" or whatever. anyways they loved it. actually one old lady came up to us and was like "i saw a bunch of ladies with flowers and wondered what was going on...can i have one?" haha it was so much fun.

this week we thought we had such a good plan for english. we talked about gifts and then at the end sister welch taught a spiritual thought about the Book of Mormon and then said, today we talked about gifts and we have a gift for each of you. there's a table by the door with a stack of Books of Mormon on it, and you can take one on your way out. well, it was a good idea in theory, but nobody actually took one so we were pretty bummed. but then after english we had an awesome lesson that i don't even know how it happened. we were just going to teach these 2 guys, but sister welch just kept inviting people to join the lesson, so it ended up being us, 4 investigators (2 old 2 new) and a less active! haha it was crazy and kind of went all over the place, but we got 2 new invesitgators out of it, so it definitely made up for our fail of a spiritual thought.

yesterday we had district conference (stake conference minus the stake) which i think was good, but i don't really know since i didn't hear any of it. there wasn't any room for the missionaries in the actual chapel (that's good because it means it was a good turnout) so we all sat in this random classroom upstairs and the audio playing in the room was such bad quality we couldn't understand anything (also it was in russian, so that didn't really help), but the good news is we had 2 investigators come! we had to leave Mariupol at 7am to get there on time, and they still came. that's impressive.

okay sorry i don't have any more time to write, i was busy writing a book! i want to end with a recipe for an authetic ukrainian salad. you should try making it this week! also you can get a sense for how ukrainians speak english, i'm going to write it out exactly as we got it. our branch president's mom told him the recipe and he wrote it down for us in english. this is what the paper says:

"So,
let's go

"Far East Salad"

Ingredients:
a half of a small cabbage
one middle size carrot
one small beet
one or two pepper_bells
two cucumbers
one lemon (to get a lemon juice)
5 teaspoon of oil

Shred the cabbage and the carrot, oh, and the beet also. Then you make like small "mountains" of each ingredient. Then put some salt, pepper, and garlic on each of the "mountain." Then put one teaspoon of lemon juice on each of the "mountain." Heat the oil on a frying pan and then put a teaspoon of this oil on those mountain (each one). Add some "soy sauce." When you are ready to eat mix everything and enjoy!"


Oh this week i got packages from the Walkers and Lex's and a letter from Sister Walker! Thank you!!!!! I don't want to say I ate all the candy in a 24 hour period, but I also don't want to lie...so we'll leave it at that. yes i got the last missionary mom letters and the recipes! thank you!!! love you and miss you! have a great week! didn't hear from this sibs this week, better luck next week?