Monday, September 30, 2013

Moving On


Can you say that a crazy tall 12-fingered man from Sierra Leone named Melvin is in love with you? I can. Yep. I mean, I can't blame him but it's probably good that i'm leaving this week. yep the biggest news this week is i am getting tranferred! i am so sad to leave Lugansk, but I am excited to see where I will go. I bore my testimony in sacrament meeting and i held it together and didn't cry, but when I sat down and we starting singing the closing hymn I Know That My Redeemer Lives I definitely cried. When I bore my testimony I told the members that when I first arrived in Ukraine I thought that I was here to help them, but in reality they have helped me so much more. I will forever be grateful for the lessons that I have learned here in my first area. More than anything I have learned how to rely on the Lord. I learned that relying on the Lord doesn't mean sitting back and letting Him do all the work. It means doing absolutely everything that I can, and then having a firm belief that He will do the rest. I have also learned to believe in myself this transfer. When Sister Erekson first left I didn't have very much confidence in my ability to be an effective missionary. My language skills are not great and I do not have a lot of experience, but I have been blessed to grow up in the gospel with loving parents who taught me well. I know that all I really need to have success as a missionary is to love the Lord and love the people of Ukraine.
This week was the craziest week at church ever! First of all the sunday school topic was law of chastity which was hilariously awkward because it was 6 missionaries, 2 recent converts and an investigator. but whatever i couldn't understand most of it so it wasn't that bad to me. then for third hour relief society and priesthood were combined and this crazy lady was sitting in front of us (no one knows who she is, i'm pretty sure she's not a member) and she pulls out a bottle of liquid chlorophyll and just starts drinking out of it! i'm not a chemist but i don't think that's healthy. then this nicely dressed guy in his 30s walks in and just starts arguing with everyone about how the Orthodox church is better? i couldn't really understand him, but he was saying something about tithing. anyways, general piece of advice, don't walk into a room of about 30 strongly opinionated Ukrainian Mormons and expect to win an argument. basically he got completely owned and left in shame. it was pretty hilarious although it definitely wasn't uplifting or edifying haha. after church everyone stopped to tell me goodbye and it was so cute. Brother Koshelev who is basically the grandpa of the branch (he baptized nadia) he came and gave me a huge hug and there was nothing i could do to stop it haha. he said to me "you're so small, but you did so much!" i loved that. sister zoya, the crazy lady who runs youth night told me she's gonna call Thomas S. Monson and tell him that I have to stay hahaha. Everyone in Ukraine loves to wish you success and they always get carried away and wish you tons of things like they will say "I wish you success and happiness and a nice husband and lots of money and lots of kids and a nice house etc etc etc" it's hilarious.

This week we taught Roman twice. We taught him the Plan of Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is so humble and willing to learn, it is so exciting to teach him. He has trouble understanding scriptures, so our next lesson with him we are just going to read a chapter from the Book of Mormon together and help him understand and apply what he learns. We usually have members on the lessons with us who also speak english so they can translate anything he says that we don't understand. Our first lesson with him he told us that he knows there is someone wiser than him who created the earth and each one of us, and he knows that when he prays for help someone helps him, but he doesn't know who. I was so grateful and humbled to be able to testify to him that I know who that person is. He is our Heavenly Father and He sent Sister Campbell and I to share that knowledge with him. He also said that the first time he met us he noticed a 'brightness' but he didn't know what that was, so that's why he wanted to keep meeting with us. Once again I was able to testify that that brightness is the Holy Ghost. Whenever someone speaks truth, the Holy Ghost is there to testify. Roman is probably the most humble person I have ever met. I am so grateful to have been able to teach him. We finally got him to pray out loud and it was the sweetest prayer ever. he said thank you for these beautiful missionaries and for Lena (the member we had on the lesson) who speaks my language. it was adorable.

We also taught Oliver, a young man from Zambia studying medicine. He is a Seventh-Day Adventist, but is open to learning about all religions. We taught him the Plan of Salvation and he was really interested in the Spirit World. He said that he had never heard or thought about it before, so he commited to study it this week in the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and we commited to do the same and we will talk about it with him this week. I am so grateful that he is willing to study out what we teach and is open to learning new things. I called Oliver to tell him that I am leaving on Thursday and to see if we can meet again before I leave. He said "Sister Campbelll is going to miss you." And i said, probably. And he said, if she doesn't i'll send her to the spirit world hahaha.



Monday, September 23, 2013

Thor Sighting, Supertitions, Russian Language Lesson


A member sent me this pretty picture.


This week i got a letters from Emily and Jason so they win cousins of the week! (yes that's a thing, but Paul is the only one who has ever won). Also I got a letter with pictures from the eyres when they were in Las Vegas and then a postcard from the Eyres from New York. Not sure if the mail is super delayed or if they just decided to go on two trips in one week. oh on friday night i had a nightmare that i was called to be stake president haha!! i was so mad because nobody would listen to me. i kept saying "you can't call me, i'm a girl! you can't do it! you can't make me!" but nobody would listen and Elder Ballard was supposed to come set me apart and I was freaking out but then I woke up haha. definitely glad it's dad and not me.
So by far the most exciting thing that happened this week was I saw Thor on a bus. That's right, Thor is a real person and he lives in Lugansk, Ukraine and he rides the bus on monday nights to go to mcdonald's. There was this HUGE guy on the bus (and that's unusual in ukraine, there are not really any tall people in ukraine) with shoulder length luscious blonde hair wearing a black leather jacket with red trim and jeans. I kid you not, he was Thor. I wanted to take a picture so bad, but there was no possible way to do it without him seeing. anyways, this doesn't sound very exciting now that i am thinking about it, but it was a big deal to me.
also this week "show me the meaning of being lonely" by the somehow still together Backstreet Boys played on a bus and i almost died. It was so hard for me not to sing along. Go on youtube right now and watch the music video. you won't regret it.
so this week had a lot of little fails and bad luck and things just going wrong but it was all pretty funny. this week I extended (or tried to) the baptismal commitment for the first time and I apparently did not do it correctly (russians phrase questions very differently) because our investigator responded: Thank You. hahaha it was really awkward and hilarious. also we asked him to pray and he sat there quietly with his eyes closed for a solid 5 minutes and said; Thank You. (that's the only phrase he knows in english and i think he just likes to use it) anyways, we're meeting with him tonight and going to ask him to pray vslooh (out loud). also we accidently assignmed him to read the wrong chapter in the Book of Mormon and it's all about suffering and destruction, so yeah, poor Roman, he's just had a rough week with us. also yesterday our power went out and we lost our phone for a good while so that was fun! i am glad
that we like to laugh because we have been doing it a lot this week!
We had a miracle this week when we were trying to find a former investigator. We were looking for a young Indian girl who is here studying, but when we knocked on her door this old babushka answered and we were going to say "sorry wrong address" but she said "hey, you're from america right? i know your friends, the guys in white shirts and ties." Turns out she already has a Book of Mormon and has been to church once! Well she invited us in and wanted us to read the Book of Mormon to her because she has bad eyesight and can't read. She wanted to feed us but I said that we didn't have a lot of time, so she invited us to come back sometime this week when we have more time (AKA she's going to feed us and it's probably going to be nasty, but it's worth it). I'm not sure how interested she is in the gospel, I think she's just lonely and would love to be visited by two nice american girls who speak terrible russian, but who knows.
Oh man another huge fail of the week was English conversation group. we are in charge of picking the topics and we try so hard every week to pick something that won't turn into an argument or won't turn into people bashing Ukraine. (most people who come to english are learning english so that they can move to america because they don't like ukraine, so it's kind of a touchy subject). anyways, we thought we would be super safe this week and talk about art. well this one guy who just comes to start trouble and loves to argue, he was saying that we shouldn't respect artists because all of the most famous ones were either alcoholics or perverts. this other lady was freaking out and getting so mad saying, you need to respect these people and appreciate what amazing works they have done. they were just going at it for like 15 minutes and everyone else was just sitting there laughing at them it was pretty bad.
Okay so people in Ukraine are crazy supersitious. They have some pretty funny ones like you can't make borsh on a Thursday, if you sit at the corner of a table you won't be able to have kids for 7 years, you cannot walk with an empty bag, it is really bad luck. i'm not kidding if you are walking down the street with an empty bag someone will walk up to you and put something in your bag so that it's not empty anymore. Also they paint every tree white at the bottom for some reason, i can't remember why, i think it's to keep bad spirits away or something. if it's raining people just don't go anywhere because they are positive they will get sick. also you are not allowed to sit down on a cold surface, like a bench outside because it means you won't be able to have children. but if you put anything down on top of it, like a single sheet of newspaper then you're fine. if you whistle in an enclosed space (like on a bus) it means everyone who hears it will be poor, so you are 'stealing their money' and you get a lot of dirty looks. haha there are too many of them to even keep track of, i swear a make at least one ukrainian mad every day. the other day i had mud on my shoe so i was wiping it off on some grass and this old grandpa started freaking out and yelling at me! i was with a ukrainian girl and she was laughing and told me he was crazy, so i didn't feel too bad. also there are 51 holidays every year in Ukraine. That's right, they only have one week a year that doesn't have a holiday, and that's probably in the middle of the summer when everyone's on vacation anyways haha. the people here definitely love to party and will find any excuse to have a celebration.
Also I thought I would teach you some russian today. there are actually several words that you already know in Russian without knowing it. If you ever say kuckoo you are saying peek-a-boo in russian. If you say 'rod' you are saying family and if you say Rodney you are saying relative. The word Kara means retribution, the word Sarai means shed, and the word sushi means existing. so there you go, now you know 6 Russian words! see it's easy! i actually just learned all of these words this week. oh also everyone's favorite phrase in the MTC is "poop toot" which means "there's the belly button." seriously. here is how you spell Chicago: Чикаго, Cincinnatti: Цинциннати, and my personal favorite, Salt Lake City: Солт-Лейк Сити. I have been trying to think of good Russian names for everyone in our family. Mine and dad's are the easiest because there are russian equivalents. Eugene is pronounced like "yevgennie" with a hard g like in golf, and my name is Katya obviously. I have to keep thinking about everyone else though. i'll let you know. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Reminder

To all of Katie's fans:
Please take seriously the caution to not forward any of Katie's posts or photos via social media (email, Facebook, twitter, etc.) Due to new regulations from the Eastern European Area Presidency, we can only post on this blog if it and all the information on it stays private. If you want to copy and print for your personal use, that's fine. The governments in that part of the world don't want personal information about their citizens out there on the internet. Thank you for your cooperation! Claire

I Choose to be Happy!


Here's the thing about being happy: you just gotta choose it. A wise 21 year old kid in Bolivia taught me that. This week I decided that I wanted to be happier, so I decided to get over myself, stop blaming myself for the fact that we have zero investigators, and just be grateful for what I do have! Well let me tell you, it works. We went from having zero investigators to 7. I have been in country for almost 4 months and never had more than one investigator at a time. Now I'm not saying that choosing to be happy also means choosing to have success, or even that the number of investigators you have is related to how successful of a missionary you are. But I do strongly believe that if you don't belive in yourself as a missionary, why would anyone else believe in you? Whenever a negative thought comes into my head I just say "get outta here Satan!" and I choose to think of something positive.
So on Saturday we had 5 lessons planned with investigators!!!! I've never even had 2 lessons with investigators on the same day! Anyways, 2 of them didn't show up, but we still had 3 lessons which was incredible. We taught a guy named Jid from Nigeria who just finished his masters degree here. He is way cool, and the lesson was in english so of course i loved it. He was contacted by the elders about a year ago, but immediately moved to a different part of Ukraine, so he lost contact with the missionaries. Then he moved back to Lugansk on monday and we happened to call him on Tuesday! He and I both agree that it was inspired timing. He commited to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and wants to meet with us again this week! Then we taught this guy Roman. He seemed really humble and interested to learn more but at the end of the lesson when we tried to give him a book of mormon he said, no i want to meditate on it tonight and I'll come to church tomorrow and you can give it to me then .Well, guess who didn't show up to church? Anyways, we'll try to get a hold of him this week. Our third lesson was with a guy named Oliver from Zambia. He is here studying neuroscience and is Seventh Day Adventist, but clearly open to learning more about other religions. The lesson went really well, it was just me and Candy because Sister Campbell was on a split with a member because we were supposed to have 2 lessons at the same time. Well Sister Campbell's lesson never showed, but Oliver's lesson went really well! He commited to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, and wants to meet this Saturday to talk more about it!
Oh also earlier in the week we taught Candy's friend Tommy, who is from Nigeria too. (seriously africans are the coolest people i know. I think a love for the Lord is just in their blood or something). It was so awesome because we were just singing hymns with him and then Candy said, "okay are you guys done? i have a testimony i want to share" hahaha it was so great. then we taught him a really shortened version of the first lesson because we had to leave to get home on time, but he accepted it all really well and his only question was "why haven't I heard of this book before?" haha. We are meeting with him tonight! Seriously the work has just exploded this past week. The only difference in what I have been doing is just deciding to be happy and be grateful for all that I have. I have a testimony of the power of a positive attitude. I have generally always been a positive person, (except that phase from age 4-7 when I just hated the world, but we don't have to go there) but Satan works extra hard on missionaries I think.
Okay I meant to do this weeks ago but I kept forgetting to bring my journal. What I learned my second transfer:
-the Lord is in charge, and is actually involved in my day to day life. over and over again I have seen little things happen that have helped me realize that Heavenly Father loves me SO much and is helping me out every day.
-the Lord has prepared me for every trial I will face without me realizing it. it is hard to recognize in the moment, but afterwards I can look back and say, wow that specific experience has prepared me for this specific trial. it's really cool.
-Charity is by far the most important thing that a missionary can have. a missionary literally cannot have success without charity. if we love the people, everything else will work itself out.
-the Lord trusts me, He called me here, I just need to trust Him.
-I studied power for the majority of my second transfer and realize that power comes as we obey Him. (It shouldn't have taken me that long to figure that one out, it was in two conference talks in a row) but I realized it from studying my patriarchal blessing. power comes naturally as we become more like God, aka by being obedient.
-prayer and fasting work!!! (see Nadia's story)
-President Lochhead taught us that missionaries need a combination of two things: conescration and competence. We can be 100% consecrated, but if we're completley incompetent, the Lord doesn't really have any skills to work with. On the other hand we can be competely competent, know the language perfectly, have tons of scriptures memorized, etc. but if we're not consecrated, completely dedicated to the work, we won't be successful missionaries.
-president Lochhead also taught us that the most important thing that we can teach to people is also the most fundamental: God is Our Loving Heavenly Father. When people truly understand their relationship with their Heavenly Father, everything else that we teach makes sense. Of course He would provide a restoration of the fulness of the gospel for us. of course He would provide a Plan of happiness for us. Of course He would give us His son to atone for us. Also everything that we ask them to do will make sense. Of course we should take care of our bodies and live the Word of Wisdom. Of course we should keep the Sabbath day holy and so on and so on. But if people do not understand this relationship, there is no point in moving on in our lessons because they just won't get it. I am so grateful to have always understood this relationship. Of course I am understanding it more and more every day.
-I read a quote by Brigham Young along the lines that every trial that we go through is necessary for our salvation. wow. I never thought of it like that before. I guess we really should be grateful for every single trial because without it we couldn't be saved! that's pretty intense.
alright so that's what i learned last transfer! it feels like a million years ago. we only have 2 more weeks of this transfer and then I'm probably leaving Lugansk! I don't want to go! Leaving lugansk will be hard, but I didn't go to young women's for 6 years for nothing: i know that I can do hard things!
have a great week and eat some beef for me! i haven't eaten beef for more than 3 months and I am almost crying just thinking about it. we did find microwave popcorn this week and it made my week. i love you and miss you!!! have an awesome week!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Message from Claire (Sister Shrek's mom):

We have received an email from Katie's mission president. Unfortunately, not every country enjoys the freedom of expression that we do here. We have been asked to make the missionaries' blogs private - by invitation only. We also ask that you please not copy, paste or forward anything that you read or view on Katie's blog to anyone else. If you know of other family members or friends who would like to be invited to this blog, please let me know at claire4kids@sbcglobal.net

This is a little sad for me, as Katie writes such interesting and entertaining emails, I think that we will notice much less information in the future, as she has been counseled about sharing personal information about other missionaries, members and some of their activities. I hope you will stick with her blog and be patient as we all try to sort out how to deal with the new restrictions. We definitely want to comply with the rules and not do anything to risk the safety of the missionaries or put in jeopardy the status of the church in Ukraine. Thanks for supporting Katie. Keep the prayers coming!

Love,
Claire

Cool tire toys
Sister C. with zebra

Fun, colorful playground



Okay wow okay I'm not really sure what I'm allowed to email about anymore so this is going to be interesting. I'll try to set my blog to private after this but if it doesn't work I'll let you know.
so fall is officially here! starting september 1st it was just BOOM cold! i already broke out my boots and tights and wool socks! the socks may have been a bit premature, but whatever. So apparently Fall in Ukraine means rain, so we're going to buy rainboots today. all of the elders wear sweaters now and it's adorable. i feel like i'm at hogwarts.
this week we have been trying really hard to find someone to teach, so in the mornings we find a bus that has a circular route and we just ride and ride it talking to different people who get on. it's more effective than walking around parks because only crazy people sit in parks at 7 in the morning. I mean we still haven't found anyone to teach, but at least we've had a few conversations.
we also have spent several hours this week making phone calls, which as you can imagine is not something that i particularly look forward to, but it actually hasn't been too bad. it's actually hilarious because no matter who you are calling the first minute of the conversation goes exactly the same. The person says "hello, who is this?" and we say "we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' and they say "WHAT?" and we say "we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" and they say "WHAT?" and we say "WE'RE MISSIONARIES'" and then they say "ohhhhhh, what do you want?" hahahaha it happens literally every single time.
we had our first cleaning check this week and passed with flying colors! the senior couple was shocked by how nice our apartment was and told us that we definitely have the best in the mission! we told them to keep it a secret though so that all of the sisters don't put in requests to come to Lugansk haha. Sister Campbell and I are trying to figure out a way to stay here our whole missions. 

this week we have been focusing on increasing our expectations. in district meeting we were asked to think about what we've been praying for and to think if there's anything greater we could be asking for. I have always thought that if I ask for big blessings or a lot of blessings in my prayers it means I am being selfish, but as a missionary the things that i want most (investigators, lessons) are really all to help others anyways. so i thought about it and basically for the past 3 weeks I have just been praying to survive and I could definitely raise my expectations for myself. I can expect to have success and to be happy now! This week I have been praying to believe in myself and my abilities to be a good missionary, even though my Russian is not very good.
this week we started what we're calling the 'open door policy' where we have missionaries at the church building pretty much all the time so that people who are curious to learn more can walk in and ask questions. Sister Campbell and I were the first ones to try it and someone walked in the first hour we were there! She came in and said "Can you tell me what is the church and who is allowed to come and what do i need to do to come?" We were like ummm of course we would love to tell you about our church haha. we gave her a book of mormon and she was really excited, but she didn't come to church so we'll see what happens with her.
this week we had a lesson with a former investigator who had one lesson 4 years ago. we never thought she'd agree to meet, but we called her anyways and she said yes!!! we taught her the restoration and she was really open and interested! it was a really great experience for me because our member who was helping us out came late, so sister campbell and i fumbled through 90% of the lesson on our own, and it proved to me that we can do this. definitely not perfectly, but we can do this! Heavenly Father is continuing to bless us so much because we definitely need it!!! I'm grateful for this experience because I am learning so much every day. Thanks for all of your love and prayers, I definitely appreciate them!!!
Love you and miss you! Have a great week!!!
p.s. Zach Labrum and Steven Bevan are in the same mission right now, you should tell them to look out for each other!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Winter Coat

Ready for Winter


Saying goodbye to Albina

Sister Campbell got a hand-me-down

The most exciting news this week is that there was a baptism!!! The elders' investigator Aziz, finally got baptized after 3 years! He's from Nigeria, and he's awesome. The weather was supposed to be bad, so we had the baptism in a sauna even though it turned out that the weather was fine. It was so funny because the 'sauna' was so tiny that Aziz smacked his head on the way down! It was half funny and half awkward because we weren't sure if he was okay, but he's fine so it's all good. I gave the talk about baptism, but it was in english so it was no big deal. I think it's so funny now that after being on a mission for 5 months nothing seems scary anymore, as long as it's in English! Seriously, I don't know how I was ever afraid to speak in english before. I know all the words and I know how to say them correctly! What could go wrong? 

This week I had the interesting experience of shopping with a Ukrainian. A member from the branch, Larisa took Sister Campbell and I shopping for our winter clothes. Let's just say it's a little different than American shopping. We walked into the very first store and looked at the winter coats. Larisa  said, to the man, "let me see that one, nope that's ugly. let me see that one, nope that's ugly. let me see that one, yep that's good. try it on. okay yep it fits we're getting it." haha and so i found my winter coat in about 5 minutes! my kind of shopping!!! I still haven't gotten a hat and gloves yet because she told us there will be a lot mroe selection in about a month, but it's good to get your coat early because it's way cheaper. Don't worry I'll send you a picture of it...it's awesome!

Yesterday I gained a stronger testimony of fasting. We fasted specifically that we could somehow be able to see Lilia this week. She is our 'investigator' who we've only taught once because she lives 2 hours away. She wanted to be baptized this week, but she kind of has to come to Lugansk first so that we can teach her. She doesn't have a cell phone so we literally have no way to contact her, but we fasted that somehow it would work out. Yesterday guess who showed up to church, LIlia!!! It turns out that she was sick and didn't want to meet with us, and left early this morning, so we didn't actually get to teach her, but we at least got to see her and know that she's still interested. Hopefully she can come back soon and we can actually teach her.
Yesterday was also the first day of school. Yep in Ukraine the first day of school is always on September 1st, no matter what day of the week it is (Harry Potter anyone?!?!). Anyways, it's basically a holiday, it's called "knowledge day" and all the parents walk their kids to school and it's a big deal. Basically no one was at church, because everyone is either a parent, grandparent, or teacher of a student. There were 6 people in Relief Society I think. It's so funny because here people get more dressed up to go to school than to church! Weird.
This past week was transfers for the elders (the sisters had their transfers 2 weeks ago, but we didn't move so we didn't know it happened! we're kinda out of the loop here in lugansk) anyways, elder withers left and we got three new elders! we were not expecting to have 4 elders again, but it's awesome. elder butterworth is our new district/zone leader, he is from australia, his companion is elder o'leary, he's from alaska but was adopted from russia when he was little. elder klein's new companion is elder krenz, he's from washington d.c. so no one from our district is from utah or idaho or even the western united states in general...that's insane! we are the most diverse distrtict in the mission, and sister campbell and i are the youngest companionship in the mission, so we're just basically the coolest all around.
So every week we have english conversation group, and Sister Campbell and I were put in charge of it! It's a good assignment for us because it's english, so it's something we can actually do haha. Anyways, we have to brainstorm some ways to make it more interesting and to get more people to come. The main problem is just thinking of different topics to talk about each week. The problem is Ukrainians don't want to talk about anything personal, but that's all that Americans want to talk about. If you have any ideas for topics, we would love to hear them. We are also trying to come up with some fun games to play, and ways to spread the word about it so that we can get more people coming. If you get any good ideas, let me know.
This week we taught our recent convert Nadia and her sister Olia about service and missionary work. We read from Elder Christofferson's redemption talk about how the best service you can do for someone is to bring them to Christ. We gave them a Russian Preach My Gospel and they were so excited!!! Nadia really wants to serve a mission and Olia really wants to get married in the temple and start a family. I told Olia that even if she doesn't serve a mission, preparing for one will bless her family. They are so awesome! They promised to help us out on lessons, but we need to get lessons first! We told Nadia that if she wants to practice being a missionary she needs to invite her friends to meet with us. We have zero investigators right now except for Lilia, but that's okay. I think we're gonna find someone this week.
Alright that's it for this week, hopefully next week I'll have an investigator to tell you about and you will all send me nice long emails with details about your lives and stuff. Miss you every day and love you lots!!!!