Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 2 in Cold Mountain

Hello Family!

I've had my first official full week and I've got lots to say as usual haha.
I'll start with some miracles that happened this past week. So last Sunday
after we met with Valera we were waiting for our marshrytka (a small bus
that is everywhere) at the end of the street. It was like 9 at night I
think. Anyway, this guy in a Mazda RX8 pulls up to us and he's like "Hey are
you guys Mormons?" so we started to talk to him about the church and his
beliefs and stuff and as we were talking to him our marshytka drove by which
was one of the last ones for the night. So we told him that we just missed
our ride and he's like "Well just hop in. I'll give you a ride to your
apartment." So he drove us home in his nice Mazda haha and we got his
contact information. His name is Aleksei. We called him and he was
interested in meeting with us so we were able to meet with him yesterday. He
picked us up in his car again haha and we went to a cafe. He bought us some
apple juice and we met for like an hour and a half. I don't understand a lot
yet but I learned from Elder Schoen that he was saying that he doesn't
understand the need to repent and that he thinks that there was a man that
did good a long time ago but that it wasn't Jesus and that Jesus has just
evolved over time. But we showed him the Book of Mormon and I had him read
the intro and the promise. He wants to meet again with us and he said that
he'd be willing to read the Book of Mormon. So we have our first
investigator! I think if we can resolve his concerns that he will be an
awesome guy to work with. The other miracle happened on Tuesday. During our
Zone Conference someone snuck in and stole the purse of a senior couple
lady, Sister Hatch. We had a group prayer that everything would be found.
She had her passport, credit cards, money and other stuff stolen. Within
half an hour, they received a call from a lady name Victoria saying that she
had found her stuff! So they went to meet her and gave her a Book of Mormon.
She lives in our area so we called her and she wants to meet with us as
well. She wanted to come to church yesterday but she didn't make it. But
we're going to meet with her sometime this week. Hopefully she turns into a
good investigator for us. I believe that these two people we have come in
contact with were truly prepared to meet us. It has really shown me that the
Lord is preparing people everyday to hear the gospel and that we need to be
ready to meet and find them.

So also this past week we went to Barabashova. This place is where all the
shopping is done. It was crazy, there are tons of shops outside and people
everywhere. It's easy to get lost in there haha. I bought myself seven ties
haha and I was able to get a good deal on a coat. Ties here are way cheap.
They are 20-35 grieven and 8 grieven is $1. Most of mine were 20 grieven so
that's like $2.50 a tie or something like that. Ties are basically the main
thing that missionaries buy in Barabashova haha. They get new shipments in
every month so I'm sure I will go there often. And my coat is very nice. It
was originally 950 grieven but the lady sold it to me for 700, so it was
around $88. I still need to get gloves but we're going back soon for those
so I should be set. In answer to your question, yes we helped the lady move
this past weekend... It was the most insane moving project I've ever done
haha. It was only Elder Schoen and I, another companionship, and one guy
from the Elders Quorum. We were moving her to a new apartment that was a few
blocks down from where she lived. Basically we moved everything in her
apartment and you name it, we moved it. I think that some of it was from the
Soviet Union! Not even kidding. We moved like 8 trees worth of wood
paneling/cabinets, several mattresses, her huge bed that runs on a motor,
tons of food that I'm pretty sure was spoiled in glass jars, tons of bags
full of who knows what, her kitchen sink and her toilet :) her couch with
moist cushions.. and three huge bags of sugar that were in a wall in her
bathroom. They smelled of urine and were sticky sackcloth bags. The sugar
had gone bad I'm pretty sure. It was disgusting. So we moved all of this
stuff into a moving truck that was more of a huge garbage truck, then walked
to her new apartment, had to load all of it out, then get it up to the third
floor. Her new apartment is still being renovated so we left it all in one
room. I'm not sure how they will get to anything they need but we finished
after 7 1/2 hours. It was quite the long day!! There are two pictures I sent
in this email that show everything. Elder Rallison congratulated me on
having my first Ukraine experience haha. He said that I'll be surprised at
the stuff that I do here everyday. And then on Saturday Elder Schoen and I
did another service project with a lady in our branch. Her name is Katya
Nadenenko. She works at a kindergarten and we helped put up wallpaper. It
was a lot better than the moving project haha.

Yesterday all of the missionaries spoke in church, including me. We
basically just shared a little bit about ourselves and bore our testimonies.
I felt like I did terrible in speaking but all of the missionaries said that
I did way better than they ever did in their first times speaking so this is
good. In time I will be able to speak I just need to keep working and going
out of my comfort zone. We did some contacting this past week as well. It
was frustrating because I couldn't get out what I wanted to in time and if I
did then the person would just reject us. We did find a kid named David
though. He said that we can come by anytime at night to visit him and his
family. So we'll be doing that this week. Something I've noticed here is
that everyone stares at the missionaries haha. It doesn't matter where we
are and sometimes they stare at our tags for like five minutes. It's hard to
have a conversation with them because usually it's on the bus and they don't
want to listen or it's just really awkward to talk to them. So we're just
trying to go out of our comfort zones and talk to people everywhere. You
never know what could happen, right? Also, people enjoy taking pictures of
us walking haha. I guess that's a pretty normal thing that happens.

And now to answer questions in your email. We get 1600 grieven each for the whole month which is $150. So we live on little money but we're able to make do with it. Pretty soon we'll be
getting more because the other missions get more than us because prices have
gone up. Stores have basically the same things as back home but not
everything. There is no peanut butter and taco seasoning so those would be
great to get in a package. We buy juice and milk often because we go through
it quickly. We live next to a senior couple so they make us food and give us
leftover food and stuff. It's a sweet set up. But for the most part we can
buy everything at the store. My bed is seriously on a piece of wood, there
are no springs under the mattress haha. I wake up during the night because
it's hard to sleep on it and I'm too tall for the bed so I have to sleep in
weird positions haha. But I'm getting used to it. I don't have any pictures
yet but I'll send some. And as far as General Conference goes we will be
watching it on October 8-9 on DVD. They give us the broadcast after it is
translated and stuff. And the Liahona with the messages doesn't come out for
like four months so I hope I can understand and remember what I hear. Thanks
for the suggestions from President Uchtdorf. I will do those. It sounds like
things are good back home.

I love you all and hope that your doing well. Tell everyone that I love
them. Have a good week!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

MTC District

Off to Donetsk

Elders Rallison and Keown

First Service Project - Helping a Babushka Move...They Even Moved the Toilet!

First Service Project - Helping a Babushka Move

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Greetings From Cold Mountain!!

Hello Family!

Well, this is my first official email from Ukraine! It's crazy that I'm here but I'm loving it! I have tons to tell you so I'll just start from Day 1! 

So after many hours of flying we got to Donetsk and we arrived at the "airport" haha. It was like a shed, not really an airport. And in huge Russian letters on the top it said DONETSK in English, Russian, and Ukrainian. We walked in to customs and handed our passports to the workers. They accepted them and then let us get our luggage. Our luggage made it with us and wasn't lost! And then we met President and Sister Campero and the APs. President and his wife are amazing! They are so humble and loving. President knows exactly what needs to be done and he has excellent vision in how to move to the work forward. I'll get to that later. We drove from the airport to the mission office and then we went to the mission home after. The mission home is in a run down building on like the 6th floor or something. But the apartment is really nice and felt just like home. Our dinner was some meat/egg thing that Sister Campero cooked. It was pretty good. She is a really good cook! We stayed with the APs for the evening and then the next day had breakfast with President again then we walked around Donetsk until we had our transfer meeting. It was so crazy to be walking around because I've been in "spirit prison" for two and a half months haha and now I'm in Eastern Europe where I can read the signs and stuff but I have no idea what I read and no idea what people say to me! We went to the huge soccer stadium and went to a few WWII sites with tanks and stuff. It was pretty sweet. And then came our first transfer meeting! As you can see by the title of this email, I was assigned to Kharkov. My trainer was already in Kharkov though so I rode up with some other elders going there as well. Among some of them were Elder Moss and Elder Lewis so it was great to go up with them. They are both actually in Sumy though but they took a train after Kharkov to go there. The ride to Kharkov was five hours and it was miserable! No A/C, it was probably like 90 degrees, Russian rap music was playing and our driver, like most drivers, was insane behind the wheel haha. But it was a good first transfer experience. I got to the branch building in Kharkov and then met my trainer. His name is Elder Schoen and he's from Toronto, Canada. He's pretty sweet. He's been here for 18 months and he's going home in December so I will be killing him haha. That means I am his last companion before he leaves. We took a taxi to our apartment and then got in and unpacked a little then went to bed. My "bed" doesn't have a mattress, it's a very thin comforter thing haha. And the bed is made all out of wood so it's like sleeping on a wooden box! And I'm too tall for it haha but it's great, I'm so happy to finally be here and to be serving the Lord! So as my email title says, my area right now is called Cold Mountain. It is in Kharkov. It is pretty crazy because we have been "whitewashed" into the area which means that my trainer knows as much as I do about it so we're still trying to figure everything out. I will be here for at least three transfers so that will be until about January and then we'll see what happens after that. You will be pleased to know that Valera is the Branch President of my branch so I have met him already. I should probably call him President Miroshnichenko haha. He is pretty cool! I told him that Brother Eckersley was my teacher and he started going off about him haha. He was his favorite missionary. We live right next to his store that he owns and we bought some milk there. His son is our landlord and we also live right next to a senior couple, Brother and Sister Burr, so they give us a lot of food which is great! 

Speaking of food, which you are probably wondering about, my first meal that I made myself in the apartment was two pieces of toast and two glasses of orange Fanta haha. We had zero food in the apartment because the sister missionaries that lived there before us didn't leave anything except for half a loaf of bread and some Fanta. So we went shopping and bought some stuff. I have eaten cereal for breakfast most days and it's like Frosted Flakes except not so much frost haha. But they're pretty good. And I absolutely love juice now! Ukraine has amazing juice. My favorite so far is grape-apple. So we have a lot of that. And for dinners I made an omelet and we made some verniki which is like ravioli with potatoes inside and then sour cream on top. It's pretty good. I had my first borsch with Pres. Miroshnichenko. It wasn't half bad haha, I'm sure I will grow to love it. I haven't had anything too crazy yet but I'm sure my time will come :) Let's see, in our branch there are about forty members. President Campero wants us to really work with the members and help them know how to do member missionary work. That's the only way that the work is really going to take off in Donetsk. There's no other way. So President came up with an idea called My Zion. It comes from mission in Spanish and splitting that up. Basically, this is our church, we're all members of it together, and this is our branch. And we each have our own Zion with friends and family that we want to hear the gospel. So we are really working with members to help them understand what they can do to do missionary work. However, they don't think they need to do missionary work because that's why we're here. So we've already had our Zone Conference which was Monday and Tuesday this week and President wants us to use the My Zion sheets when teaching members and also with investigators. And we need to show them that we're working together in the branch, not that we need help and not that we want their help. So that's basically what the work is going to be like in the mission. Of course we will still contact but the only way to move forward is with members. In the Armenia and Samara Russia Missions, they are having excellent results and doing amazing work because of the members. In Armenia the missionaries can't proselyte yet they average three baptisms per missionary per year. The reason is from the members. (Samara averages two) So whenever the Donetsk members catch this vision the work will start taking off. The goal is to have a stake in Donetsk by the end of President Campero's service. I hope that it happens!

Let's see, I've had a few lessons so far. One was with an invalid lady who couldn't walk. Her name is Milaniya Burdyk. I didn't understand hardly understand she said (I don't understand a lot of what anyone says haha) but it was a good lesson. We taught the Restoration to her. And she is moving this Friday so we're going to help her with that. Also, we taught a family on Sunday night, the Nadenenko Family. It is a couple and two boys. The sisters who were teaching them challenged them to teach the Restoration lesson to the missionaries so they taught us and we learned and taught them. It was good. It's frustrating because I don't understand like anything that people say but it'll come in time. Many missionaries that I've talked to that are about to go home say that they still don't understand everything that people say. They know enough to get around but not everything. Russian is hard stuff! But I'm going to work my best to learn as much as I can. The elders here are great. I have met Elder Rallison several times. He is my Zone Leader. He's pretty awesome! I didn't know that he plays the piano and has been playing for fourteen years. He plays all the hymns and then he writes music for firesides and stuff. He's got amazing talent. And he's always happy about everything. Today is his birthday and we're going to have a surprise party for him. It should be fun. Oh and before I forget, my P-day is on Mondays, so you'll want to send me your emails by midnight your time Sunday night so that I will have them. Because we had our Zone Conference Monday and Tuesday this week we are having our P-day today. 

I'm glad you received the packages and stuff. Whenever you send me my first package, here's some things I’d like. Maybe you can start making a list. Send me one of my stationaries. (I didn't have room for them in my luggage) and some peanut butter would be great because they don't sell that here. And if you could find me a missionary journal of sorts that would be cool too. I am writing in a notebook right now but soon I will want a good hardback journal of sorts to write in. They don't sell journals here. I was going to buy one before I left the MTC but I ran out of time and I'm not sure I would've had space. That's all I can think of for now. But I'll tell you if there's more that comes to mind. I'm going to buy a coat and gloves pretty soon.

Well I need to finish this up. Things are going good, don't worry about me. I'm happy to finally be here and I know that Heavenly Father is watching after me and all of you as well. I love you all and please tell everyone else that asks about me that I love them too. Have a good week! I can't figure out how to send pictures haha so expect some next week.

Love, Elder Keown

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Arrival in Donetsk!


Well I am officially here now! The flights were long but good. It's so weird that I am officially on my mission now but I know that I'm going to love it here! I can't really describe the short ride I just took to get from the airport to the mission home haha. I guess I would say that it is quite different than the US in every way but it's awesome. Every sign is in cyrillic and most of them are in Ukrainian I think and everyone drives crazy here haha. But I'm so grateful to be here and excited to get to work. I know that Heavenly Father will be with me and with you guys as well. I love you all so much! Thanks for everything! Have a good week and tell everyone that I made it safely and that I love them as well. 

до свиданя!

с любовю,
старейшина каун

Elder Keown with President and Sister Campero
A long trip...

Donetsk September 2011 Arrivals

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MTC - Week Ten

Howdy Family!
Can't believe that this is my last email you'll get from the MTC! Time has gone by fast. I've got a lot to write so I'll get started.
First things first, THE TRAVEL PLANS HAVE ARRIVED! We got them last Thursday. So here is the plan - we're leaving Tuesday at 5 AM and our flight leaves at 8:10 AM from SLC. We fly to Washington, DC and will arrive there at 2:12 PM their time. (So that is 12:12 in Utah time) We have a three hour layover in DC so I will call you guys when I get to DC. And I will call your cell phone Mom. It will be between 12:30 and 2:30 Utah time. Then we leave DC at 5:25 PM their time and will fly to Vienna, Austria and arrive there at 8:30 AM their time. We have a layover for a little less than two hours and then we leave Austria at 10:20 AM their time and fly directly to Donetsk, getting there at 1:50 PM their time on September 14th. So at 4:50 AM your time Wednesday I will have arrived in Donetsk! They are nine hours ahead of Utah so it will take some getting used to haha. As far as who all will be traveling with me, there are eight missionaries that are going to Donetsk - four from my district and four from the district next to us. And there is one sister in the group as well. The Kiev missionaries are taking a different flight plan so we won't fly with them. And most of the Russian Elders are leaving here on Monday so us Ukrainian elders will all be here by ourselves Monday night just finishing up packing and whatnot. The elders in my district going to Vlad leave Monday night, fly to LAX, then to Korea, then to Vlad and we leave twelve hours after them and still beat them getting to our mission haha. Lots of flight time! I'm excited to go, but a little nervous of course! A week from now I will be in Donetsk and I won't know what has hit me! But I know that Heavenly Father will be with me and that it will all work out. 
And now to comment on your dearelders and stuff - Thanks for the heads up about the mailroom being closed. They don't tell us these things for some reason haha. I am going to send one or two more packages home with things I don't need for Ukraine. We're going to start packing a little today so hopefully I can better see what to leave and what to pack. And my Book of Mormon reading is going good. I am set to finish this Saturday or Sunday. I feel like I am learning how to really use the Book of Mormon when teaching investigators and that I am really understanding all of the stories and events that happen. It is really important to introduce the scriptures when I use them because most people will have no clue what they are saying and obviously no clue who any of the people are. I really enjoyed Alma 56 this last week. I believe it is like verse 45 that Helaman asks the stripling warriors whether or not they will go, and then the next verse he says that he has never seen such courage among all the Nephites. And then like a few verses after this they all say that they don't doubt their mother's knew it. I really applied this to leaving next Tuesday and how your guys' love and example for me is one reason that I am out here - so that I can help other families be together forever and invite them to come unto Christ. This truly is a marvelous work! I know that it is the Lord's work and that He works in His own time and ways to bring about the gospel. It is a privilege to be apart of this work. I know that Heavenly Father will watch over me and all of the missionaries so that we may be safe and know what to do when we arrive to the field. I know that The Book of Mormon is true. It is another testament of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. (or in Russian, new testimonies of Jesus Christ) I know that Joseph Smith is the prophet of this last dispensation and that everything that he says happened to him happened. It either did or it didn't and I know that it did. I love you guys so much!! Thanks for everything that you do for me, your prayers, love, letters, and examples. I look forward to calling you next Tuesday and talking with you! I can't believe it's that time to leave the MTC soon. I have learned a lot about the Gospel, but much more about myself. I feel ready to go to Ukraine and work my hardest to serve the Lord and His people. What a blessing this is! Again, I love you all so very much! Tell everyone that asks about me that I love them too! Have a good week!! 
Love, Elder Keown