Monday, July 1, 2013

The Quickest, Hardest, Most Rewarding, Craziest, Scariest, Best Two Years For and Of My Life

Privet family!!! So basically this is the final email I'll probably be sending to you. Where has the time gone, right? Well maybe for you it's been long but it's seriously flown by for me. It is super weird to only have one more week left. Lots of stuff is going through my head, so sorry if this email is all over the place.

This past week was the best one so far of the transfer. Elder Kumferman and I taught 11 lessons total and got 3 new investigators, plus met many of our goals. Here are the investigators/progress with the ones you already know.

Chris - He is a former investigator we met on the street. He is from Nigeria. We hope to put him on a date and get him to Family Home Evening soon. But we can't go to his apartment anymore because the guard hates us haha.

Igor - He is a street contact, about 50 years old. Born in St. Petersburg. He invented a street fighting technique and is a certified fighter/instructor. We met him in a park and he gave us his "propaganda" like fighting DVDs and cool soviet pins. He wants me to look into getting his business into America. He took a Book of Mormon and wants to meet in a few weeks.

Stanislav - He is a former investigator from a few years ago. He has heard all the lessons and had a baptismal date but then had some concerns come up like betraying Russian Orthodox/faith of his forefathers, the church being a business, and the word of wisdom. He is very well off money wise, he owns two businesses and is a diving instructor, certified fencer, and his family lives in Norway. We met and just got to know him. One of the Elders who taught him sent a calendar to him through the office and so we used that as a way to meet. He wants us to come over this week and drink some tea and stuff with him. We need to probably get President Alosha with us because he has some tough concerns. He has also gotten into anti-Mormon stuff so yeah. But he's very cool though and will be a solid member.

Kingsley - We met him last night and were thinking of dropping him but he said that if he gets an answer that he will be baptized. He is just lazy and never reads or progresses but read a little bit and wants us to pray for him to receive an answer. He could potentially be baptized soon.

We also met some amazing members. 

Gorskiy family - Sergei has been Branch President twice, is a Temple worker, has shaken hands with Gordon B. Hinckley and almost all the Apostles. He is nicknamed among missionaries as "The Kharkov Healer" because he gives amazing Priesthood Blessings haha. Very solid member. We shared a short thought about miracles and they proceeded to tell us some miraculous stuff they've seen as members of the church. His wife is very faithful and loves missionaries. And their son got baptized and married in the Temple like 5 years ago. Sergei is very proud to be from the tribe of Judah, the same tribe that Jesus is from.

Chetverikov - We met them last night and got to know them. They were baptized in '96 and their oldest son served in Moscow, youngest is on a mini-mission right now in Donetsk. Just a very solid family.

Crazy Lena - I love this lady! We helped get water for her at the big community fountain then we met and sat in a garden and had a lesson. She is a little crazy but not too crazy. She loves taking pictures and spending time with missionaries.

Wednesday we had a cool experience. All of our lessons fell through which left us in a down mood. Kingsley dogged but after this we realized we were by an inactive brother named Femmi that President wanted us to find so we dropped by and found him home and talked for like 45 minutes. He promised to come to church yesterday but unfortunately something came up so will come next week. And then our lesson with Chris fell through since he was sleeping haha so we decided to just contact on the street and met a man named Nikola. It was his first day in Ukraine and was from Italy. He knew very little English and hardly no Russian but somehow we understood each other. He has a friend that is Mormon and he wants an Italian Book of Mormon. So it was just cool to see where we were supposed to be instead of these lessons working out. 

And Saturday was my TWO YEAR MARK on my mission! I spent it on a split with my Zone Leader son, Elder Harrison, in center Kharkov. We contacted many people and talked with an old babushka named Lidia Fyodorovna. She was out walking her dogs and stopped to talk with us. She has read like every book about religion out there, including the Book of Mormon, but doesn't believe any of it. She was a professor of science for 30 years and so everything we told her she just said "You don't know that. You're only 20 years old and it's just because you grew up in a believing family." We testified that God loved her and she said "You don't know that! If He's so loving then why does Ukraine suffer so much? Why do bad things happen? You don't know that! Also, if you expect to convince people with how bad your Russian is then you're also wrong!" hahaha so we were feeling kind of frustrated with this conversation and walking back to the center apartment experienced a tender mercy - a taxi drove by us and the man in the passenger seat yelled out the window to us: "God loves you!" It was so awesome to hear those words because I almost never do from people on the street! The rest of the split was great, Elder Harrison is an exceptional missionary. I'm very proud of him.

Well, here's some final comments/tidbits. President and Sister Campero have left and President Lochhead and his wife have arrived. He is a lawyer and was in Moscow for the last while for the church so knows some Russian. And from what the Assistants say, he is very loving, his life is filled with the Gospel, and he teaches like a General Authority. After 14 hours on the plane and 5 hour meeting with President Campero he just wanted to go talk to people and teach a family. And apparently he got a contact on a marshrutka by himself yesterday! He sounds like a very good man. This upcoming week we have interviews with him on Wednesday and then Thursday is a Zone Conference with him and President Malm from the Area Presidency. Should be awesome. And then next Monday I'll get on a train and go to Donetsk, have final interviews, dinner with him and Sister Lochhead, and then begin my journey to the Promised Land!! So weird. It's gonna fly by faster than I can fly back home to you all! But I'm excited and ready for my final week. 

Family, I love you so much, words can't describe it! THANK YOU for everything - for love, prayers, support, encouragement, letters, skype calls. You mean the world to me. I know that this Church is true. Thomas S. Monson is a living Prophet in our day. Through Joseph Smith the church was restored and the Book of Mormon was translated. God lives and answers prayers. Jesus is the Christ. He guides His Church today. This work is the most important thing that we can ever do. And the Ukraine Donetsk Mission is the greatest on the earth. 

I wish you all an awesome week and will see you in 8 days!!!!!!! Tell everyone I love them and am grateful for their influence in my life. And please tell America Happy birthday on the 4th for me!! And save some snappers or fireworks, ok? 


с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, June 24, 2013

2 More 2 Go!

Hey privet family! Thanks so much for the emails, love, support, and prayers. They mean so much to me. This past week was full of more ups and downs, just another roller coaster haha. It is very weird to be at the end. I'm still going strong, don't worry, but it's just hard to describe my feelings. I've been reflecting a lot about my mission every day and just striving to get down on paper everything going through my head. Here's some highlights from the week.

We met with three investigators - Raad, Tolu, and a new one, Leonid. Raad is still the same. We're probably going to stop meeting him just because there's no progress happening. We will try to meet once more with Akbar on the lesson and go from there. He's super nice, just very rooted in the Muslim faith. Tolu is still very busy with school so we met on the street and read a verse from the Book of Mormon. He wants to invite us over this week to play us some songs on piano since he's a music major so hopefully this works out. Many people here are just super busy with school which is understandable. And Leonid is the husband of an inactive sister. The sisters ran into him on the street and passed him to us. We dropped by last night and got to know him a little bit. He answered the door with his shirt off (pretty common here lol) and invited us in. He's in his sixties and his wife actually started going back to Provoslavni church and was at their dacha. He was very nice and well, Ukrainian. Grew up atheist, went to church like one time to get his kids baptized by the priest there, and that's about it. Mostly we just talked about our lives and what we do as missionaries. We talked a little about prayer as well. He said we could come back again in September because he's going to their dacha until then next week so we'll write a record for him for the future missionaries. Unfortunately Anton has been super busy and Natasha has been as well. So our work seems slow right now. However, yesterday we were going through our area book and calling former investigators and I called one who seems very promising who wants to meet again Tuesday so we're really hoping this will be good. This last Monday we had Family Home Evening at the Arnesons and took Anton with us. He seemed to like it and talked to the Arnesons quite a bit. It was also Paddy's birthday, so several brothers came as well. Anton was supposed to come to church yesterday but something came up and he couldn't anymore so we really hope he can make it this week. 

Saturday we had final interviews with President. It wasn't my real exit interview but basically was in a way. It was a great conversation with President one on one. He asked me if I was happy and then the question, "How was your mission?" 'It's been a dream,' I said. 'The best two years for my life.' We talked about some experiences I've had, trials I've faced, and then he told me "Elder Keown, I consider you one of the best missionaries in this mission. You have grown so much since the start and it is evident in who you are today. I love you." I didn't expect these words but am very humbled by them. President is one of the biggest role models in my life. He and Sister Campero came to Alekseevka yesterday for their final Sunday in Ukraine. Sister Campero bore her testimony and President talked. It was actually a miracle because tons of youth and less-actives came to see them speak. President encouraged everyone to get their kids to Youth Conference in September, which will be in Western Ukraine. Seminary, Institute, and Youth Conference prepare the youth for missions, marriages, and leadership in the church. And then this morning we watched the worldwide broadcast as a zone called "The Work of Salvation." President and Sister Campero came in at the end and gave final hugs to us before they left for Donetsk. It was sad to see them go, they love this mission, these people, and us with all their hearts. I felt like a part of me left with them. But all will be well with them in their future, they have done so much good for so many people. The new Mission President and wife will be here a week from today, and then next week we'll have another Zone Conference with them and President Malm from the Area Presidency. Should be awesome!

You all should watch that broadcast called "The Work of Salvation" by the way. Brynn told me she watched it but you guys should too. You can find it on With a whole new wave of missionaries come new ways and responsibilities to do the work. They placed a big emphasis on member-missionary work and don't want missionaries to be finding as much anymore. I really liked the broadcast but honestly it was hard to relate to because I haven't done a lot of member work on my mission. Members have helped on lessons and baptisms which has been awesome but I've never received a referral or invitation to teach someone's friend or family member with that person present as shown in the broadcast. But the mission is taking a huge turn towards members. The new president is coming and President Campero has prepared the mission to make the change. It's hard to explain so just wait until I get back.

I love you all so much! Everything you have done and do means the world to me. Know that you're in my prayers and I think about you every day. Have a great week and I'll talk to you next time!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, June 17, 2013

Down to Donetsk, Back to Kharkov!

Privet my family! I'm not sure about yours, but my past week FLEW by. And I don't have too much time to write but here's some highlights for you.

First off, investigator progress. We met with three investigators last week, Raad, Aleksander, and a new one, Anton. 
Raad is a practicing Muslim and we met him with a member from Pakistan here named Joshua. It was hard to teach him because he just wanted to talk about who Jesus Christ was, not why we need Him. Every time we tried to say something he just cut us off and "corrected" us because he doesn't believe Christ to be anything more than a prophet. He is different than Akbar because Akbar wanted to change religions and knew who Christ was. This week we will try to get Akbar with us on the lesson. Joshua says we're just wasting time because we need to read the Koran in order to understand Raad's view. 
Aleksander read from the Book of Mormon, but asked many basic questions like "Why is your church different from the rest? I think that all churches are true." His big problem is that he can't come to church. If he came to church then he'd really know why we do the things we do. We might be going to his summer house this Saturday to help him pick cherries so we'll see how things turn out.
And Anton is my new favorite investigator. We ran into him on our way to Raad's lesson Tuesday night. He is about 6' 3", knows awesome English, and is 29. He plays tennis and was actually on his way home from tennis. We gave him an English club invite and then he came Friday night. He liked it a lot and actually translated the story and spiritual thought. And after English he asked "What makes your church different?" So we sat down with him and had a great first lesson in English with a little Russian and found out his history. When he was 6 he started studying English because his Grandpa immigrated to America and wanted his family to come as well. Life went on and Anton's parents got divorced, then his mom and step-dad actually decided to move to Italy for work. They are very smart scientists and apparently do pretty well. So Anton got left in Ukraine and his parents set him up to become a Computer Engineer in University. But he hated this and decided to try his luck gambling. He turned out to be a pretty dang good gambler and started making $15,000 a month (this comes out to be a Ukrainian millionaire after 1 year.) He bought a car, house, and toys, but always felt something was missing. He kept gambling and eventually ended up losing everything in a huge bet. He said that God must have had different plans for him. So he sold his house, car, and now lives in his mom's apartment as a translator for English and German. Our topic for English club was The Apostasy, and during our lesson he said that he just felt lost. It seems that everything has led up to him meeting us. He accepted a Book of Mormon and said something that most Ukrainians don't: "I don't care whether its Mormons, Catholics, Pravoslavnies, you show me their fruits and I'll decide from there." So many times people here the word Mormons and automatically decide. Anton is special. And on Saturday he invited us to come play tennis with him, so we spent a little time with him and got to know him better. Elder Kumferman played tennis all throughout high school so loved it. I'm not that good haha but it was a sweet experience. And Anton is coming to Family Night tonight at the Arnesens, so we're hoping he can make some good friendships there. New investigators are good!

This past week we also had a zone meeting about member missionary work, and I didn't know this would be the last one but bore my final testimony! It was very weird because I've seen so many other missionaries do so who always say 'yeah, the time comes fast' and never believed them until now. There was a great spirit at the meeting though.

Saturday we got to go to a WWII Museum with the branch and did a picnic afterwards. This was probably one of the coolest experiences of my mission. I had no idea that Kharkov was such a historic city. The stuff I saw in the museum was unreal. I took tons of pictures and videos to better remember it. I have plans after mission to really understand the history of Ukraine and former Soviet Union better. This was a great starting point to that. 

And yesterday was Mission Conference in Donetsk. We left on a bus at 4 AM from Kharkov with all the missionaries, arrived in Donetsk at 9, 10-12 was the Donetsk District Conference so I got to see all my favorite members from Donetsk, Makeekva, and Mariupol, then 2-4 was Mission Conference. The speakers were President and Sister Campero, President and Sister Bennett (Europe East Presidency) and President and Sister Soares (Presidency of the Seventy). Conference was very different than a year ago, but in a good way. The mission has grown a lot and so focus on member work is being pushed. The main topic from President Soares though was to cast out all fear. We all made covenants with God to serve in Donetsk in the pre-mortal life and renewed these covenants by writing Thomas S. Monson back that we'd do it. He talked a lot about having a good attitude for the new Mission President as well because it won't be an easy change. There's a lot more but I just don't have time to say everything. Yesterday was awesome though. Probably the best news was to hear that Brat Vladimir Vovk (convert with Elder Harrison in Donetsk) got the Melchizedek Priesthood! He's definitely the strongest out of all the converts. 

Now for some comments/tidbits. Happy Father's Day Dad! I love you so much! And in case you didn't hear, Elder Nelson organized the first Stake this past week in Armenia. He came over with President Bennett and Elder Soares and talked with the Camperos personally. It's so cool to see the work moving forward in this area of the world and to see/hear of the lives of the Prophet, Twelve and Seventy. 

This work is true, I know it with all my heart. Have an awesome week and I'll talk to you later!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, June 10, 2013

One Down, Four To Go!!

Privetchik family!

WOW thanks for your emails, I'm pretty trunky right now, not gonna lie haha. I'm SO glad to hear you got to go to Moss's homecoming. That punk didn't write me yet and then I saw on President Alyosha's iPad yesterday that Moss posted the time and date on facebook so I thought there was no way you'd make it there but everything worked out perfectly I guess!
This past week has been a great start to my final transfer here. It seemed like it was super long but every day was filled with great experiences. Elder Kumferman and I are keeping pretty busy with everything since we're the only Elders in Alekseevka. President Alyosha doesn't have counselors so it feels like he just relies on us a ton to do stuff, mostly translate/help with the brothers but we do more than that. We told him he needs counselors but he disagrees haha. So we're pretty involved in the branch, which is good. It's keeping me busy. At the end of this month the brothers will be taking a Temple trip, June 27. Hopefully there will be 9 brothers going. But they need to figure out money and tickets pretty quick here so we had a meeting after church yesterday. It ended in them just arguing in pidgeon with each other (pidgeon is brother English) and was kind of dramatic but hopefully things will be in order by Wednesday. Kumferman and I also are dealing with three apartments in Alekseevka (his old one, mine, and the Seev Cave) so this past week we had to deal with an angry landlady since that apartment got closed. We gave her the money and stuff for the final rent but it wasn't pretty. I'm really not sure if we as missionaries should even be dealing with closing apartments and stuff but it's whatever. Just add it to the list of crazy things I've done. The mission at this time is putting a focus more on meeting with members than getting contacts. Maybe I already talked about this, don't remember, but it needed to happen. We met with a solid member family last night, Sasha and Irina Gorski. Sasha's dad has been Branch President twice and was one of the first members in Kharkov. However, Sasha didn't join the church until 10 years ago when he was like 21. His parents fasted EVERY SUNDAY that he would join the church and after seven years he finally joined! Crazy huh? We had a great visit with them, just got to know them, showed our pictures, saw their pictures, heard their conversion stories, and then we almost forgot we hadn't left a spiritual thought because they gave us cake and compote haha. They want us to come over again, which is just what we want. President Campero wants the missionaries to push for referrals and helping members share the Gospel. This upcoming week we are hoping to work with more members. However, despite contacts not really counting anymore, we got 9 this week which is the most I've got in a long time, one of which seems super promising, Sasha. He randomly came to English thanks to an invite from his friends, really liked meeting us, and even stayed for the spiritual thought (no one ever stays, its sad!) He reminds me a lot of Artour. He's 21, knows ok English, was impressed by the church and our temples, and wants to meet this week. We can for sure see him being baptized if he can come to church. 

As far as investigators, this past week we met with three - Kingsly, Aleksander, and Tolu. Kingsly is from Cameroon and first met with sisters. He is pretty cool, just doesn't have time to read Book of Mormon. He believes in the Bible but doesn't see the importance of Book of Mormon so we talked a little about the importance and asked him what his favorite verse was from the Bible. He said John 1:1. We talked about that and then the thought came to me to show how the Book of Mormon teaches the same principles. So we jumped to 3 Nephi 9:15-22 and this really brought the Spirit into the lesson. We left him with 3 Nephi 11 and hope that he can read that. Aleksander is the man that Elder Jones and I met with. Used to be atheist, but progresses a little bit each time. He has heard all the lessons now but goes to his cottage each weekend and has never been to church. This week we'll hope to talk about baptism with him and the importance. And Tolu is from Nigeria. He is here as a music major and plays piano. He is very close to God and believes that all churches are good, doesn't matter which one you go to, all lead to God. So we talked a little about church organization (Ephesians 4:11-14) and the importance of authority. He too doesn't have time to read the Book of Mormon, but if he did and prayed he would for sure get an answer. We didn't make progress with Natasha this week but are hoping to meet at the end of the week. She could potentially be baptized before I go home if we can get her on a date.

We are working with several recent converts and less actives right now. Last Monday we met with Crazy Lena. She is 60 years old and LOVES missionaries and LOVES pictures, especially with flowers. So we went and helped her get water from the free fountain and then took some pictures with her. She is a great member, just less active because of working on Sundays. She knows Natasha very well (Natasha and her daughter Karina are friends) so if all works out we'll be meeting Natasha with Lena. Ken is a brother from Nigeria, got baptized in December. Out of all the brothers he understands the most but is also super sneaky haha. Like he only meets with us if we make deals (we have to give him candies, or chocolates, or planners lol) He is a punk but pretty solid. And we had an excellent lesson with Apostle 13. He got his nickname from his friends because he's religious and is actually a comedian that gets hired for shows and stuff. He talked about the difference between before baptism and after and its just really cool to see. We helped him choose two friends that are ready to hear the Gospel, so hopefully things go well with them and he can refer them to us. And we also met with Henry, another brother from Nigeria. He messed up his toe and had to get surgery so has been at his house because he can't walk too much on it. We found out it was his birthday on Saturday so we called him up, wished him Happy Birthday and found out he wasn't doing anything for his birthday. That's no way to celebrate! So we went over and brought a cake with us and met. We also gave him each a tie. He was so happy to see us because he didn't want anyone to know about his birthday, but at the same time wanted to celebrate. Hopefully he can come to church this next Sunday, as his toe is doing a lot better. This past week I have really been praying for service opportunities each day and just striving to do something good for someone. So far each day the Lord has given us opportunities and it's been awesome. Sometimes big things, sometimes small, but through helping others in a time of need or just to make their life a little easier is truly the way to happiness.

This upcoming week is gonna be crazy, we already have things planned out for each day, so it's gonna fly by. And this next Sunday, June 16, we're having Mission Conference in Donetsk! So we're leaving Kharkov Sunday morning at 3:30 am, busing down there, then we get to go to the Donetsk District Conference (gonna see all of Donetsk members and Mariupol!) then there will be a lunch with President and Sister Campero, President Bennett, and Elder Ulisses S. Soares from the Quorum of the Seventy. And then we will have our conference with all the missionaries, bus back up to Kharkov, and hopefully get back by 9:30. It's gonna be awesome, can't wait!!

Well, that's about it for this week. Know that you're all in my prayers and that life is good. I miss you all a ton but I'm keeping busy and can't wait to see you all pretty soon! Tell everyone I say hello and pass my love to them! Have a great week and I'll talk to you later! 

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия


CHURCH TRAVEL CWT                          DATE 05JUNE13
TELEPHONE: 801 240-5111                    BORGET/BRANDON RICH 237371-R
FAX      : 801-240-5115                    HODGSON/KYLER KALIL 243632-R
                                           KEOWN/TAYLOR BRENT  219641-R
SERVICE               DATE  FROM           TO             DEPART  ARRIVE
_____________________ _____ ______________ ______________ _______ ______
UKRAINE INTL AIRLINES 09JUL DONETSK        KIEV           710A    820A
Q ECONOMY                                  TERMINAL B
           NON SMOKING                                    NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         1:10 DURATION
                            SEATS 08D/08E/08F NO SMOKING CONFIRMED
DELTA AIR LINES       09JUL KIEV           AMSTERDAM      200P    400P
K ECONOMY                   TERMINAL D
           NON SMOKING      DINNER                        NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         3:00 DURATION
                            SEATS 12D/12E/12F NO SMOKING CONFIRMED
K ECONOMY                                  TERMINAL EM
                            DINNER                        NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         8:15 DURATION
                  AIRCRAFT: BOEING 777-200/300
                            SEATS 48F/50G/50F NO SMOKING CONFIRMED
K ECONOMY                   TERMINAL EM    TERMINAL 2
                                                          NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         3:59 DURATION
                  AIRCRAFT: BOEING (DOUGLAS) MD-90    
                            SEATS 29B/28A/28B NO SMOKING CONFIRMED
     ETKT:PS/566 7241415764
     ETKT:DL/006 7241415772
     ETKT:PS/566 7241415765
     ETKT:DL/006 7241415774
     ETKT:PS/566 7241415766
     ETKT:DL/006 7241415775

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Final Countdown

Privet family! Thank y'all for the letters, it means a lot to hear from you. Sounds like life continues to go on in the Promised Land. Today is day 1 of transfer 16. It's so weird that I'm at this point, I have tons of crazy feelings right now. Super excited to end here with Kumferman in the Seev Cave, we get along great and we've set some good goals but at the same time I'm starting to get trunky and kind of tired of the missionary schedule. I got some emails today from former companions who just got home and their journey back to the promised land was EPIC! Flights getting cancelled that led to them having to stay in Kiev, mix ups with the airports, 4 new sets of flight plans, crazy stuff! But in the end they all made it back to the airport and said it was glorious. I can't wait!!

There are a few new things since last Wednesday so here we go. We found a new investigator named Akin. He is a brother here from Maryland studying medicine. And turns out he knows Harold, so small world. He is 21 years old and is going back to America for the summer in a few weeks. He is Catholic. When we first met him on the street we weren't wearing our proselyting clothes because we were coming from exercise. So when we met him the second time in our white shirts and slacks carrying a Book of Mormon he was like "Whoa guys, whatchoo dressed up for? Aww man, and you brought the Mormon Bible too!" Our first little meeting (we sat down at an outdoor restaurant) he said he's not going to convert so don't even try and we basically just talked about a ton of stuff. He can't believe we do everything we do. "Being in Ukraine sucks enough, and on top of that you can't have girlfriends, watch tv, movies, or have fun? And you cook for yourselves? Sounds like prison man!" So we talked a lot about our daily life and why we're here. He respected us for what we're doing but isn't too interested in the Gospel. We found out he plays basketball every weekend so we asked if we could come and play and he said sure. So Saturday we went and played basketball with him/other brothers and Ukrainians in the area on a street court. We were in teams of 4. We won our first game but lost the second, then it started pouring rain so we called it quits. Akin wanted to talk to us again so we went to the same little restaurant place and chatted. This time though he asked us "So what's with the Mormons? Like, how do they live their lives different than mine?" So we explained several main differences, like word of wisdom, law of chastity, tithing, church attendance, and a few other ones. He agreed with all of it. He also asked what will happen after this life according to Mormons, so we talked about a few Plan of Salvation doctrines. Kumferman said jokingly, "So basically Akin, you should become a Mormon" and then he said 'I don't know man, I gotta think about it." It was pretty cool to see his change from the first chat to this one. We haven't set up with him again yet but we want to give him a Book of Mormon this week and try and get something going with Harold. 

Since we are working two areas we have some other investigators that Moss and Kumferman were working with as well. One is Sergei. This guy has been coming to church every week for like 10+ years but doesn't want to meet with missionaries. Funny side note, my first week in Alekseevka I went up and shook his hand and asked how long he'd been a member (looks like a member). He said '20 years' so turns out he's not a member after all lol. Only in Ukraine. So we're gonna try and get him meeting with us. Another investigator is Natasha, she is 23 and friends with a member. She should've got baptized already but the member went on a vacation to Kiev last transfer and so progress stopped. She is probably the closest to baptism out of everyone right now. This transfer we've set a goal of 2 baptisms and to work with as many members as possible since most of them live in our area. Member work is starting to become a greater focus than contacting now, which should've happened a while ago. It should be a great final transfer.

Elder Kumferman is the District Leader and we have the smallest district I've ever been in on my mission. We are the only elders and Sister Bull is training two new sisters, Hopin and Walker. May I just say that I fear very much for the new sisters in the mission! There are 10 new ones and are all just really young. I hope they don't get Ukrained too bad. One of the sisters in our district told us she is the youngest in all of Europe East (turned 19 in the MTC). Hopefully they last and stay strong. I don't think it's a good idea to send such young girls here but God knows all so can't argue with that. Also this last week a missionary from Kharkov serving in Kiev got home. He flew into Donetsk and got released then came up to Kharkov on the transfer bus with all the missionaries coming up. So we waited at the branch building with a ton of members greeting him. It was awesome, I don't know him at all but you can just tell he's an RM. This also made me a little trunky haha.

Friday Elder Kumferman and I went and ate lunch with Elder Bolingbroke and his parents. They flew in to pick him up and are touring the mission. That was pretty weird to be honest. Bolingbroke has changed a lot since I served around him in Mariupol, probably just because he's finished his mission, but also because his parents were there. They seemed to be in culture shock at Ukraine, but said it wasn't as bad as they imagined lol. I'll explain things later when I get home. And Saturday the Alekseevka sisters had a baptism. A brother named Richard got baptized. He's been here 10 years and married a Ukrainian so knows pretty good Russian. Michael, one of the members in the branch, baptized and fellowshipped him and bore his testimony about this yesterday, basically just talking about how member missionary work is the way to go. Good stuff. Richard should be a strong member for the brothers. We found out that if all the brothers baptized here were active they could have their own branch. There are several less actives/brothers that have gone missing so President Alyosha really wants us to work with them to do home teaching/find the missing, especially as the Temple trip is coming up at the end of the month. This will probably be a huge focus this month as well. 

I love you guys so much! I hope your week is awesome and filled with good experiences. Know that you're always in my prayers and that I'm doing good. The Church is true, I know it with all my heart. If I didn't, there's no way I'd be out here!

Talk to you later!Inline image 1

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Coming Full Circle

Privet family! Man I feel like I haven't written in a really long time. Thanks for your emails and updates, they mean a lot to me. Glad to hear that things are relatively good, minus craziness with school. This past week and a half has been crazy, not really sure how to explain it. Last week was my final full week with Elder Jones. I think we worked our hardest yet, but unfortunately didn't see the success we wanted. All we've wanted to do is put someone on date but it hasn't happened. It's been a transfer of ups and downs. Many investigators that he and Rooney met with haven't been able to meet and the ones we've been meeting haven't gone anywhere. We spent lots of time on the streets and only had two lessons total, both with Vadim young. He also isn't progressing and we have told him now that if he drinks anymore we will stop meeting with him. We met and worked out in the morning Saturday and that night he came to the member meeting for Kharkov District Conference drunk...we explained that this isn't fair to the members who have changed their lives to have someone come drunk to the church, let alone it is disrespectful to God. He agreed and so hopefully he can kick the booze. We're following up with him daily so we hope he can stay strong. Last week I also translated for another brother to get his Temple Recommend, his name is Michael or his nickname is "Apostle of Laughter 13" haha. He passed so now all the brothers have recommends! Their temple trip is at the end of June. 

Thursday we went on a "super split." One of the assistants, Elder Coakwell, came with Elder Harrison (yes, the Harrison who I trained). They were with us for two nights. It was super weird to be with Harrison again, this time as my Zone Leader. He has changed a little bit since I trained him but is still about the same haha. He truly is filled with charity for everyone around him. He is the type of missionary that literally talks to every single person, for example, we were on our way to district meeting and were already late 10 minutes and he stopped a guy on the way and we talked another 10 minutes. He is a good Zone Leader and is striving to do his best. And now his Russian is on fire (it was already better than mine when I trained him) serving with the native after me pretty much perfected it. We got 4 contacts on our split total but none of them have turned out yet. We'll see what happens with them in the upcoming week. All in all it was a good split. 

Friday President Alosha threw Elder Moss a going away BBQ. They have a BBQ at their house (we call it the Seev Cave) and President loves barbecuing so we got together and had a great time. We were just talking about how time has gone by so fast. A year and a half ago I was a greenie at his other house with Schoen not knowing anything lol and now I am serving in his branch, understanding and speaking Russian. President's a pretty sweet guy, perhaps one of the strongest members in Kharkov. That night Elder Jones and I were contacting and wanted to get one more before coming in. We walked by some guys playing basketball and we remembered one of our transfer goals was to teach the gospel through basketball. We both looked at each other and said "I'm down if you are" so I walked up to them and said "Hey, we have a proposition for you. We will  play you 2 on 2 and if you win we'll buy you juice and candy. But if we win then you have to listen to our gospel message." The one guy looked at his friends, then back at us, and said "You're gonna play in those clothes?" Yeah, we'll play in them, don't worry. "OK, let's play." haha so me and Jones played against them at this court right in front of our dom. We played to 15 and ended up winning 15-7. It was weird playing basketball again, haven't played in so long. The guys were mad they lost haha but agreed to listen to us. They all sat on a bench and we taught them a short restoration lesson. We offered them Books of Mormon but they didn't really want them, they're content with being Pravoslavni (Eastern Orthodox). However we got their number though to play again sometime so this is good. Saturday was a Zone Meeting in the morning, then the first session of Kharkov District Conference in the evening. Zone Meeting was amazing, I haven't felt the spirit that strong in a while. the Zone Leaders talked about the principle of accountability and responsibility, the Atonement, our callings, and faith. I have a set a goal for my last transfer to really be accountable for all that I do through daily prayers. So many times I just get into the motions and forget why we need prayer. The evening session was good, all the members watched the training videos from the church that came out recently about the Priesthood where some church leaders are sitting in a circle and discussing how to use Priesthood. I had to translate for the senior couple which was really hard cause of the fast speakers on the videos for 2 hours but I think I got the main points across for them. If you haven't noticed I seem to always get stuck translating haha because I'm the oldest in Alekseevka and Kharkov. It's sometimes scary stuff but I've had many good learning experiences doing it. This is definitely a spiritual gift I've developed on my mission, gift of interpretation of tongues.

Sunday was the actual Kharkov District Conference from 10-12 am. It was weird seeing old members that I haven't seen for a year. The speakers were the District President, the District Relief Society President, President Campero, Sister Campero (who spoke Spanish and President translated that into Russian) and the Kiev Temple President and his wife. And you guessed right, I translated for all the English speakers haha. It was super frustrating because we couldn't get the translating equipment to work but finally did halfway through District President's talk. I sat in a side room with the headset and watched a TV with the speakers on it. The topics were sanctifying yourself, daily scripture study, family home evening, the temple, and the doctrine of election (D&C 29:7) This final topic very much interested me because it was what the Kiev Temple President talked about. My patriarchal blessing specifically says that I would be called to serve among the Lord's elect and my whole mission President Campero has put an emphasis on "finding the elect." The Temple President expounded on this scripture and talked about what it means to be elect. The elect are everyone who fought on Christ's side in the pre-mortal life. So even those who died without the chance to have the gospel in Ukraine are elect and their work must be done through their ancestors, the members of the church in Ukraine right now. It was an awesome talk. Sunday night Harold invited all the missionaries over to his house. He gave us playoff updates of course and we just talked/ate with him. He shared his conversion story and said final goodbye to Elder Moss. Then that night we all stayed at the Seev Cave because Monday morning Moss left early for Donetsk and so I've been in a threesome with Jones and Elder Kumferman since Monday. It was super weird to see Moss go/the whole group who left. I have spent my whole mission around them and now they're gone! Elder Moss called us Monday night and gave me some advice for my final transfer. I can't believe it's almost here! So crazy. 

We met with Vadim old yesterday and unfortunately dropped him. He hasn't prayed about baptism and that commitment was three weeks ago. He just can't make up his mind. He believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet and Book of Mormon is true, but that everyone is a prophet and that all paths go to God. He has met missionaries a very long time and hasn't done too much progress. It is sad but he understood fully why we're going to stop meeting so it's good. And last night transfer calls came out.... Elder Coakwell called and we all gathered around and listened on speaker phone. "Can I speak with Elder Jones?" "Yeah, he's here." "Elder Jones, you have received a transfer call. You're coming down on the transfer bus Thursday morning, 6 am. Come with bags packed." "Awwww man, I don't wanna go!" he said. "Sorry Jones, it'll be good though. Now can I talk to Elder Keown and Kumferman?" "Yeah we're here listening." "OK so Elder Keown, you need to pack your bags as well and move to the other Alekseevka area." Wait, I'm moving to the Seev Cave with Elder Kumferman?" "Yeah, you're going to be finishing with him." silence..."Yeeeeeaaaah!!!!!!!"  SO I will be finishing my mission where Elder Moss just finished, in the Seev Cave with Elder Kumferman. My area with Jones was called Pavlovo Poley, this one is just Alekseevka. But we're going to be working both areas because they're not putting missionaries in Pavlovo Pole. So we're gonna be super busy but I'm way excited. It was a bittersweet moment having Jones there to see me learn I'm going to Kumferman but all is well. I don't know what I did to deserve this put I am very grateful and just ready to work this area until the end. I have come full circle because I started my mission in President Alosha's house as a greenie and am ending in his way nice one in Alekseevka. We have air conditioning, a BBQ, all new appliances, and heated tiles, plus a TV to watch Mormon Messages/church dvds on. I am very content with where I'll be ending. Still super surprised but very excited. I was Kumferman's first companion in country when he came in because his trainer was in Bulgaria and I have served around him this past transfer so we already know each other pretty well. He's from Idaho, his dad teaches Russian at BYU-Idaho, and he's now going into his ninth transfer. I'll send a picture next time.

Alekseevka is a super ethnic place, I love it. Yesterday we got a contact in the morning who is a brother here from Maryland studying medicine, met with Paddy in the evening (from Cameroon) then after went contacting and talked to people from Turkmenistan and China (there's tons of students in Alekseevka) and throughout the day spoke Russian! It's awesome.

And to end this email we found out that the Elders who left yesterday morning (Moss and all them) didn't get out of Ukraine because their flight got cancelled from Donetsk to Kiev in the morning which messed up all the rest!!! So they got new flights to Kiev, stayed there in a hotel and probably went to the Temple. I'm pretty sure they're on their way to America right now so keep them in your prayers. We'll see now what happens to my group in 6 weeks!

Family, I love you all so much. Thank you all for all that you do and tell everyone I say hello and send my love. Know that you are always in my prayers and I am doing well. Have an awesome week and I'll talk to you on Monday! 

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия