June 19, 2013
Ahh okay this was a crazy week!! So starting on last monday night we had a lesson with a girl named Vika who has been coming to Youth Night and English Conversation group. We taught her the Restoration in English because she because she asked us to, but next time we're definitely teaching her in Russian so that she can understand more. She is very interested in religion but doesn't believe that one church can contain all truth. It was very humbling for me to realize that I am so blessed to know that our church does contain all truth. There is so much peace in knowing that. We testified to her and asked her to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, but she says she will only read if she feels like she needs to otherwise it won't be sincere. So we'll see.
Tuesday we had a lesson with Olya and Nadia, who are two sisters that have been meeting with the missionaries for a long time. Olya was recently baptized and is the older sister, but Nadia has not been baptized yet. We taught about faith and how believing is enough. We read from Elder Holland's conference talk and Ether 12:6. We challeneged them to read Ether 12 together this week and then teach us about faith next time we meet. Hopefully Nadia will realize that her faith is enough. After our lesson we had Youth Night and a random old babushka came named sister Zoya. No one knows why she showed up, but she seemed to be under the impression that she was in charge, it was the funniest thing. She would boss us around and say, okay now we're gonna play this game. Okay now let's do this. She taught us some Ukrainian folk dances which was so fun. She tried to get us to dance with the elders and we had to explain to her that that's not allowed and she was very disappointed in us haha.
Our district had a goal to memorize D&C 4 (in russian) by our district meeting last week, let me tell you that was rough stuff, but I did it!!! I put the words to hymns (it was a medley) and just sang it over and over and over in my head until i got it. I actually couldn't sleep at night because it just kept going through my head but I did it! We were supposed to recite it at our mission conference on sunday but we never did and i was so bummed! oh well, i'm just glad that i did it.
Saturday we were making plans and we called a contact that the elders had passed to us and asked when we could come over, they said right now so we were like okay!! The only problem was we had never been to this part of town and we forgot our map so that was interesting. After wandering around for about an hour we finally found it which was definitely a miracle! We taught Gulia and Kam, a sister and brother who are both young adults. They are very devout Muslims and are mostly interesting in learning English, but we explained that we can only come back to visit them if we talk about the Gospel and they said okay so we'll go see them again this week. The brother said he would come to English Group on Friday but Gulia is handicapped so she can't come very easily. Saturday night we went over and had dessert with Oleg a recent convert and his non-member wife Tanya. The elders were having a lesson with Oleg and she heard their prayers and really liked them so she invited them to come back with the sisters for dessert! Never underestimate the power of a good prayer! The elders made peanut butter and chocolate ice cream which was delicious!!! Oleg and Tanya didn't love it because i guess only americans like to put stuft in their ice cream, but they asked us to bring an american dessert so we did. Anyways, we just shared our family pictures and they showed us their wedding video, (they got married in April) which was so funny because our elders were in it! They were just lurking like weirdos in the background and it was the funniest thing. They didn't go to the actual ceremony (that's not allowed) but they were outside for pictures haha it was so great. We shared a spiritual thought about prayer and Tanya really seemed to like it so we're going to try and meet with her soon.
So sunday morning we had a district conference with all the church members in the Donetsk district and then that afternoon we had mission conference. Our branch rented a bus and drove the 3 hours to Donetsk together. I counted and there were 26 people on the bus, 6 of whom were missionaries.....we definitely have some work to do in Lugansk! At the conference there were 450 members there....that's barely more than Liberty ward! Sometimes I forget how young and small the church here is. But the members are so solid. Seriously they are amazing. We think it's hard to grow up in the church in Chicago...wrong! Anyways, we had Elder Suarez from the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy and Elder Bennet (who i'm pretty sure was Spencer's mission president). Here are some highlights of what I learned in the mission conference:
-Sister Campero told us about a Bolivian tradition that if certain birds land on your roof in the morning it means you will have the best day. She told us that every morning we should listen for those birds and every day will be our best day. I wrote down "every day will be the best day because every day I will give my best."
-Sister Bennett challenged us to think of how we can be uncommon missionaries. What is unique about me that can make me stand out as a missionary? The church members here won't trust any ordinary missionary with their family members and friends.
-Elder Bennett read to us Jeremiah 16: 14-16 which is so cool because it is literally about us. If you look at a map, Donetsk is pretty much straight North of Jerusalem. There's a lot of talk about the House of Israel here because there are literally all of the lost 10 tribes here. Sister Erekson was in a meeting in Harkov where they named each of the tribes and asked people to stand up when their tribe was called. LIterally every tribe was in that meeting that day. That is incredible!
-Sister Suarez quoted Dallin H. Oaks who said, "If you want to know the Lord, serve Him. If you want to know the Lord better, serve Him better." She told a story about her 9 year old daughter when she found out about her Dad's calling to the 70, she said "does this mean I have to be nice all the time?" haha Yes. We as missionaries (and members of the church) have to be nice and grateful to be here all the time. Even when it's hard.
-Elder Suarez told us over and over again DON'T FEAR. We should not be afraid of persecution, of what the world thinks of us, we should not fear to open our mouths and we should not fear to plan well. He told us that when we signed a letter to the first presidency to accept our mission calls we were making a covenant. And this was simply a reaffirmation of the promise we made before this life. He said that when we complain, we are breaking that covenant. That is some pretty strong stuff! I had already made a goal to never complain on my mission but I think it's more than just not saying negative things. It is not thinking negatively either. He talked about the leaders of the church here and how they need our help. He especially asked us to never criticize the church leaders here. I don't think he meant to rhyme, but he said this and I loved it. He said, "Do not criticize, do not compare. It's not worth it, it's not fair."
On Monday we got majorly lost twice, but Sister Erekson told me that's just what happens when you have two people brand new to an area. The fact that we eventually got to both of our lessons is definitely a miracle. We first went to Lena who the elders passed to us. She is a super bright lady who has been trying to learn about religion her whole life but has never really found what she is looking for. We taught her the plan of salvation (when I say we I mean mostly sister erekson but i smiled and nodded) and she really seemed to like it, but she kept asking us why God allows bad things to happen. We tried to explain that this life is a test, and we don't really always know, but that throught the Atonement everything will be made right eventually. Yesterday in my personal study I found a scripture that I wish I had known then, it's D&C 58:2-4. Anyways, she really wants to meet with us again, so we can talk about it more. After Lena, we had family night with a family in the ward, the Koshelev's. It took us forever to find their apartment but when we did it was really good. We had a lesson on scripture study and how it can bless our families. The family is an older couple and their 6 year old grandson was there which was a lot of fun. He, the little kid, told us a story of how they couldn't find their cell phone so he decided to say a prayer and found it. I didn't understand what he was saying, but sister Erekson told me later and I thought that was so special. I realized that he's one of the first people in Ukraine to be raised in the church. His dad is a branch president in another branch right now. They are one of the few super solid complete member families that we have. The church here is mostly young women and old babushkas, there's not a lot of strong priesthood holders, and very few complete member families. That is what we are trying to focus on is families right now.
Last night we had youth night again and this time a random old man came! He actually isn't that random, he came to english conversation on friday and we told him about it because he loves ping pong! It's actually a pretty big deal here I guess. Anyways he came and played the whole time and was apparently swearing a lot but i had no idea haha. The rest of us played Uno and Skip-Bo and I loved it of course!
Now today we finally have p-day!! We're taking a bus to a town about an hour away and a church member is going to take us on a tour and we're going to a WWII museum! It should be awesome!
Other random facts/obersvations/whatever:
-I have decided that Ukraine is District 12. Like seriously watch the hunger games again, and the beginning where they show District 12, that's where I live. Sister Erekson is a super talented archer so I think she might be Katniss. I dont' know who that makes me though.
-I had a dream that Adam and Stevie had a baby and for my whole mission I thought it was a boy and then I came home and it was a girl and things were real awkward.
-I saw the greatest babushka ever the other day. She had on slippers and really baggy clothes and a total gangster hat...you know the kind with the flat brim? It was so awesome. She was exercising at the same elementary school where we go to exercise (sister erekson runs around the track and i stretch) anyways, she would walk back and forth about as far as it would take me to walk in 30 seconds, but it took her like a solid five minutes. Each time she got to the end should would pull out a stopwatch, look at it, and turn around and do it again. She's my hero.
-you know how we went to work on that dacha last week? well apparently that wasn't even Lance's dacha, it was his friends i have no idea why but i guess she liked our berry picking skills and now she wants to meet with us and talk about the scriptures so you never know when your service will impact someone!
-observation about ukraine: clothing is entirely optional, and so is deodorant so that makes for a fun combo.
-this week I heard that russian is the second hardest language in the world after Finnish. Now this info came from elders so you might want to do some fact checking on that one, but what the heck?. The only thing that got me through the MTC was at least it's not Chinese, but now that's not even true!?!? Wow.
-I got yelled at on a bus the other day because when I get on I always make sure to shut the door really tight because you don't want to have to do the awkward, it didn't close all the way try again thing, so I slammed it and the bus driver flipped out and yelled at me. I obviously didn't catch a single word that he said, but i could sense the disappointment from his face and tone.
-one of the ways that I can tell I have been so blessed on my mission is that I am just so happy and not stressed. Realistically I should be so exhausted and stressed out all the time but I'm just so happy i love it!
-I got mail yesterday which is the greatest! I got missionary updates sent from you and Sister Eyre and I got a really nice card from Grandma and Grandpa, thank you!!! Also i forgot to thank Aunt Ali and Aunt Cindy for super nice packages in the MTC! THANK YOU!!!!!
okay that's all i've got for you this week! You are the greatest, I love you and miss you!!!!
p.s. I am starting a list of scriptures that apply to me right now. So far I have Genesis 21:6, 1 Tim 4:12, Alma 37:6-7, 2 Cor 12:10, 1 Cor 16:13, John 15, Alma 31: 34-35, D&C 121: 7-8, D&C 58:2-4, 1 Cor 1:26-27, Jer 16: 14-16, 2 Chron 15:7, D&C 39: 13, D&C 33: 8, 2 Tim 1:7, 1 John 4:18, D&C 50: 40-46, D&C 128:22.