Monday, August 19, 2013

Wow sounds like you guys just can't sit still this summer! Well I can't either. so I guess that's good.
Here's the thing about miracles: they happen. Here's the thing about fasting and prayer: it works. Here's the thing about baptisms: they're the BEST.

Okay let me tell you the story of my good friend Nadia. 2 weeks ago we challenged Nadia to commit to the baptismal date of August 10th. She was a bit surprised because it was only 2 weeks away, but we had her kneel down right then and pray about it. We promised her that if she commited to this date, it would be showing the Lord that she was exercising her faith and that He would answer her prayers before that date (she had been reading the Book of Mormon every day and praying to know if it was true). She definitely felt the Spirit during that prayer and promised to continue praying about it. The problem was, she left that week to go to her parents house (they live an hour or 2 away) and her parents are strongly against the church. They don't know that her older sister, Olya was baptized a year ago. Last week on Sunday Nadia was completely distraught and she told us that her parents forbade her from ever coming to church again, let alone being baptized. Nadia is 19, so she doesn't legally have to listen to her parents, but she obviously cares about what they think. Anyways, she basically came to church to  tell us goodbye, but she was so upset about it. If she hadn't really cared about the church or wanted to be baptized, she would not have been so distraught about it. Olya suggested that she get a priesthood blessing, so we went in and talked with the elders about what was going on, and they gave her a blessing. We also decided to fast together from Monday night to Tuesday and we promised her again that we would receive her answer. She admitted to us that she had a strong feeling that she should be baptized on Saturday. So Monday night we had a Family Home Evening at the church, so we saw Nadia and Olya at the beginning of our fast. Nadia said that she was pretty sure that she wanted to be baptized on Saturday but she would let us know for sure on tuesday. Tuesday night we had a lesson with Nadia and Olya before Youth Night and she told us that she had received her answer! Monday night she and her sister were praying together and Nadia explained that before the prayer she felt the worst she had ever felt in her entire life. She was distraught and worried and just felt bad inside. Then as soon as they started praying she felt the happiest she has ever felt in her life. This complete peace and joy completely overcame her. It was her answer, and she knew that she needed to be baptized. Miracles happen!!!!! So anyone who has ever planned a baptism knows that 3 days to prepare is not really sufficient, but we pulled it together alright. Luckily Sister Erekson has a lot of experience. We basically spent all afternoon Wednesday putting together a program and figuring out how to print it and then all Thursday afternoon scanning the hymns and figuring how to put them on one page and printing those haha it was way more complicated than it should have been, but it all worked out. Also on Saturday about half of the active members were going to Donetsk to get their patriarchal blessings, so we were worried about the turnout. Amazingly we had a huge turnout and also the weather cooperated beautifully so it was literally a perfect day. A member of the branch, Brother Koshelev (basically the branch grandpa, he was the branch president a while ago and everyone still calls him president) baptized Nadia and after she came back up from the water he gave her  a big kiss on the cheek and it was the sweetest thing ever! Olya, her sister and Natasha another girl from the branch gave talks and the 5 of us missionaries sang Called to Serve and it was just great.Oh and Sister Erekson drew a picture of Jesus for Nadia and we bought a frame for it and she loved it! She had it out on her lap and was just looking at it the whole ride home. Oh so we all ride a bus down together and sing hymns the whole way there and back. Well as I've already mentioned, Ukrainian singing is sub-par to say the least, and also they love singing Christmas songs year round which makes me happy of course, but singing the chorus of Angels we Have Heard On High on a bumpy bus ride with a bunch of Ukrainians is probably one of the funniest things I have ever experienced. Also they believe in singing every verse to every hymn so we sang all 7 verses of How Firm a Foundation which took at least 10 full minutes haha.

So anyways, we were kinda worried on Friday during Weekly Planning because we realized that our only investigator was no longer going to be an investigator after this weekend, so our investigators were going to go from 1 to 0. And Sister Erekson is LEAVING US next week so here we are, two completely new missionaries who don't know how to do or say anything with zero investigators. I mean, having someone get baptized is the best way to lose an investigator, don't get me wrong, but Sister Campbell and I were stressing a little bit. We decided that the best way for us to find new people to teach is through the members because contacing is nearly impossible here, especially when you can't understand anyone. Anyways, so we have been praying so hard these past few days to find a new investigator through the members. Lo and behold, Sister Valentina, an awesome member from the branch, brought her non-member adult daughter to the baptism!!! They showed up about half and hour early and Sister Valentina was like "You missionaries need to have a spiritual thought with my daughter right now. She wants to hear the word of God!" haha we of course said yes. So us sisters and the elders had a lesson with Lilia and her mom Valentina. We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then Elder Withers asked Lilia if she reads the Book of Mormon. She said yes. He asked her if she knew it was the Word of God. She said yes. He asked her if she would follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized. She said yes! He asked her if she would commit to the date of August 31st. She said yes!!!!! What is this South America!??!?!?! Miracles happen, even in Ukraine. We were stunned. The only problem is Lilia lives outside of Lugansk and only is here sometimes to visit her mom, and she doesn't have a phone. We will have to coordinate through her mom, but she is so golden. This week has been such a testimony builder for me. Seriously everything that we have prayed for this week has happened...we don't even know what to ask for anymore we are so blessed! It is incredible.
This sunday I spoke in church on the Holy Ghost which goes up there on the list of scarier things I've done in my life but it went fine. All of the members were amazed at how good my Russian was, but little do they know that I gave it to one of the Elders and had him correct my grammar, so basically he re-wrote the whole thing for me haha.
This week we went and worked on a dacha (summer house w/ a garden) again, which would have been fine, except we were fasting for Nadia so we nearly died. It was of course the one day that was super hot and we were weeding for like 3 hours but we survived and Nadia got baptized so it was all worth it. Also this week Nastia an awesome member from the branch got her mission call to St. Petersburg!!!! She leaves October 16th for the Spain MTC! We're so excited for her! She has more missionary experience than I do...she is helping missionaries on lessons all the time. She's gonna be incredible.

Okay last funny story for this week. I was telling my companions during dinner how we would always impersonate each other and our teachers in the MTC and Sister Erekson asked me to impersonate her, so I stood up and opened the fridge to say "Sisters, what do you want for lunch?" because sister erekson hates choosing and always makes us do it. Anyways, I didn't even get the words out because as soon as I opened the fridge, a soy sauce bottle came flying out and hit the floor and shattered everywhere!!!! I had glass all up in my feet but it only cut me on one toe and it's fine now, but that's what I get for making fun of my companion!!!!! But then the next day a can of beans fell from our top shelf and hit sister erkeson on the head and we think she got a slight concussion, so there may or may not be an evil spirit living in our kitchen. I'll get back to you on that one.
T-shirt of the week: Our branch president's 17 year old daughter wears a Jack Daniels Whiskey shirt to church every week. We're fairly certain she doesn't know what is says....but you never know.

Okay that's it for this week. All I can say is, miracles happen!!!!!! I am so grateful to be here in Lugansk right now. I miss you all every day but I know I'm where I'm supposed to be. My flipchart this week is from Paul and it talks about how any righteous desires will be granted by the Lord and I can definitely testify to that after this week. I have to admit I was a little doubtful if Nadia was going to get her answer in time for the baptism, but she did! I love the Lord and am so grateful to be serving Him. I can't believe that I am losing my trainer next week. I feel like someone is about to take off my training wheels and I'm not ready yet! There will definitely be some scraped knees in the next few weeks, but I will also learn the most. I will definitely be needed your prayers next week. I love you and thank you for all that you do for me! You are the best!!!! Have and awesome week! Love you!!!!!

Nadia and Brother Koshelev
Nadia and Me

Sister Erekson's artwork

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