Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 10 in Cold Mountain

Hello From Donetsk Family!

I am going to be in Donetsk until this Friday. One of the Zone Leaders in Center Kharkov is going to Bulgaria this week but when missionaries travel they aren't allowed to travel alone, so they sent me down here with him and they will just be moving me around throughout the week until Elder Straddling gets back from Bulgaria, then we'll get on a bus again and go back up to Kharkov. And then I'll be with Elder Schoen for this weekend and then he leaves on Sunday to go home and I'll stay with the Zone Leaders until mid-December when the next transfer is. My schedule is going to be crazy! Thanksgiving was great this week. We had a bunch of food (see the pictures) and just said what we were grateful for. This week was probably our best one in Cold Mountain so far! We got three new investigators through English practice! One of our investigators, Vladimir, called us randomly on Sunday and asked if we still taught English classes. We said yes but that we do it individually now and only speak about our Church but he was fine with it so we planned on Monday night to meet with him. Well he dogged us so it was a bummer. The next day we had no idea what we were going to do and didn't have any plans so we prayed that we would be able to meet with somebody and have a good lesson with them. We called Vladimir again and he said that he had to work late on Monday and that he could meet that night. So we met him at the branch and he brought a friend name Mixael (Mike) who also spoke English. The lesson was amazing. We talked about families and showed our pictures to them and then had them tell us about their families. And then we talked about prayer. We asked them some reasons why we pray and then talked about how we pray, that it's a conversation with God and that we don't say written prayers or anything, all from the heart. They were asking really good questions and we were able to answer them. We talked about how God always answers prayers but often it is not how we think they will be answered or in our own time. Mike asked, "How do I know if I receive an answer to a prayer?" So we read Moroni 10:3-5 and explained a little about the Holy Ghost. They seemed to understand. And then it was getting late so we asked if it was okay if we offered a prayer to close the meeting and so that they could see how we pray. They agreed. I said the prayer and then afterward it was silent for a minute. The Spirit was definitely there. Vladimir said "I feel really good right now. What is that feeling? Your prayer was so simple but powerful." And I said "That is the Holy Ghost" and it was amazing. The Spirit just filled the room and it was like a light bulb went off in each of their heads! I won't be teaching them this week unfortunately but Elder Schoen will so I hope that it goes good again. And the other investigator's name is Dima. He's in his 20s and we met him through street contacting. He's mostly interested in English and he brought one of his friends but his friend hardly understands English so we talked a lot of Russian to him. We'll see how our lessons go with them.

It sounds like you guys had a great week as well. Sounds like Thanksgiving was good. There is a possibility that we will be skyping for Christmas but they aren't sure yet. I will let you know for sure when APs and President are for sure. This week there was a baptism from one of the other Kharkov areas. An old babushka got baptized. She requested freezing cold water because it was "refreshing" and she didn't really understand the whole baptismal process haha so she got in the water and was like "OK. 1 2 3!" and like jumped up to go under hahaha and so the elder baptizing her just said the baptismal prayer really fast. And the font was filled too high so during all of this the water was draining out and making a loud sucking noise. It was awesome. And yesterday in church there was no piano player because the guy who plays is on the High Council so he only plays for them once a month so they were like "Can anyone play piano?!" So I played the hymns right hand only and threw some bass in here and there haha. It wasn't very good which I told the Branch President after and he's like "No, no that was just fine!!" So I have a feeling I'll be playing piano for them now when the guy doesn't come. Fun stuff! There's nothing like sight reading at its best by a kid who doesn't play piano! 

Well, I hope you all have a great week! It is freezing in Donetsk, there was frost on the cars this morning and ice everywhere. It hasn't hit Kharkov yet but it will soon. I love you all very much and you are always in my prayers. Talk to you next week!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия


Monday, November 21, 2011

Week 9 in Cold Mountain

Hello family! It's been a good week here, our most successful week yet! We taught 5 lessons: 3 member lessons, 1 less-active, and 1 member present lesson to an investigator. It was our very first member present lesson and was a very good one. Our investigator's name is Sasha. He was the other elders' investigator but because we have their area now he is our investigator. He is studying right now to be an engineer of sorts and is very busy with school and studies. He believes the Book of Mormon is true but he won't make time to read it and pray about it because of school. He is confused about why there's no evidence of the Book of Mormon (like why we can't see the gold plates) so in our lesson we showed him the testimonies of the three and eight witnesses and shared Ether 12:6 with him. The member we were with is one of the youth in the branch named Pasha. He is 18 and is getting ready to go on a mission. He is also busy with school but he shared how he finds time to study the Book of Mormon. We also read from the Book of Mormon issue of the Liahona. That issue is awesome! We read the story about the girl from Russia who found that the Book of Mormon was true and shared with him the article titled "If you really want to know, you will know." He says that he will try to read but that he won't promise us anything. So we told him that we will text him and remind him to read everynight. He liked this. (And yes, we can text now, it just barely got approved in the mission!) Unfortunately, he said he can't meet until mid-January now because of school and then he's going to visit his family in Donetsk and friends in Moscow for break. So hopefully he reads and is able to know for himself that the Book of Mormon is true! The same day we taught Sasha the girl we met at my birthday dinner named Laura called us and said that she wanted to give us the Book of Mormon back that we gave her. She didn't consider it to be a holy book. She is taking the discussions from the Jehovah's Witnesses right now and she said she didn't want anything to do with the Mormons. So it was very interesting to receive a Book of Mormon back from someone who rejected its divinity and truth and then right after, teach someone who believes its true but just needs to put forth the effort to really know if it is. I am learning more and more everyday from my personal study and from experiences like this how true the Book of Mormon and how crucial it is to the work. It truly is the keystone of our religon. Our less-active lesson that we always have weekly can't meet anymore so this week was our last meeting with her. Her name is Vika and she was baptized 7 years ago. She moved in with her parents now and they are very against the Church so they won't allow her to meet anymore. She will still continue to go to Church and Institute but she can't meet with missionaries anymore. Hopefully she stays active in the Church.

I learned a 'transfer secret' from the Zone Leaders this week. Transfers happen every 6 weeks and there's always a lot of hype about transfers. Everyone tries to figure out whose going where and whose going AP and Zone Leader and stuff but sometimes secrets get out haha. So because Elder Schoen is going home in week 5 of this transfer, I will be put into a threesome with the Zone Leaders in Center Kharkov to finish training. But because they are Zone Leaders I will either be going to different companionships when they do their Zone Leader things or I may get to go with them for trips and stuff. We'll see. And then after this transfer, I will be staying in Cold Mountain for at least one more transfer with my new companion. So that's the secret! I really love this area so I'm glad I'll be staying. It is really hard but it's where I need to be. We got some good contacts this last week so hopefully we will be able to meet with them this week. Last night we met with President and Sister Miroshnichenko. (Valera and his wife) We did a short spiritual thought about receiving revelation at church and then the Zone Leaders helped him come up with a branch mission plan. This branch is really awesome. The members are great and the families that we meet with are strong. But as I have said, they just need help becoming better members. I can't even imagine being branch president after being baptized a year ago! The Lord truly prepares His children for the callings they have and to hear the gospel.

And now to answer your questions! The temperatures here are in celcius not fahrenheit so it's really like 15 F here. Its cold but I'm staying warm. I hear it gets really cold in January and February so I'll keep you posted. President and Sister Campero are amazing! Elder Rallison said it exactly right, he is like a Spanish President Hinckley. He knows what needs to happen here and is very loving of everyone. Yes, I am learning to cook many things. I really enjoy cooking now haha. We make our own pizzas every week with our own dough, we make our own flour tortillas for tacos, we make borsh so yeah I am learning a lot about cooking. We will make many things when I get back for sure! Elder Schoen is going home in like two weeks. Crazy stuff. He has been sick this past week but he's doing better now. I'm trying to keep him alive haha. I haven't heard anything about Christmas yet but I will let you know when I do. And I can't believe my package is 38 pounds!!! That's crazy!!! I can't wait to open it!

Well, I love you all very much. Thanks for everything. Tell everyone I love them and that I'm good. Have a good week!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

Monday, November 14, 2011

Week 8 in Cold Mountain

Hello Family!

I have just finished reading your e-mails from yesterday and it sounds like you had a great time with the Rallisons! I'm glad you were able to attend his homecoming. He was a great missionary. Thanks for the birthday wishes! I guess I will start with my birthday first. We were going to go out to eat on my birthday but then it turned out to be the only day that we could do district meeting so we went out to eat on the 10th. We went to this place called Pazutta Hutta. It is like a family-style restaurant and they serve Ukrainian food there. Elder Schoen went to one in Donetsk and said it was pretty good so we went there. However, we went on a crappy night haha because they didn't have a very big selection. They didn't have borsch!! They ran out or something. Elder Schoen said that I deserved a better birthday dinner haha but it was alright. I am sending a picture of that dinner. There was a lady sitting at the table next to us and about halfway through our meal her friend showed up. She pulled out a Bible and starting talking with her friend. We eavesdropped on their conversation for like 20 minutes haha and then her friend left to go get some food. We asked her what religion she was and she said she used to be Russian Orthodox (what everyone is here) but is taking the discussions from the Jehovah's Witnesses right now. We asked her if she had ever heard of our church and she said no (which is very surprising). So we talked a little bit and then ended up giving her a Book of Mormon to read. Jehovah's Witnesses have crazy beliefs. I don't really want to go into it haha. There is a lot of Bible bashing that goes on when you talk to them. So we'll see if anything happens with this lady. My actual birthday was great! We made a cake the night before that turned out to be very good (I'm going to write the recipe down) and we went to some different places to shop. I bought myself a matroshka doll that is pretty sweet. There are 10 pieces and the smallest one is like 1 cm tall its crazy! We also went to a toy store but I didn't get anything there because most of the toys were just for little kids. We also went to McDonalds. I bought myself a happy meal! A happy meal for a happy boy! We came home and did some studies and then went to our district meeting with the senior couple next to us the Burrs and our Zone Leaders. We had a good dinner that was noodles, sauce, and meat, and then had our cake we made with ice cream. (The ice cream here is really good by the way) The Zone Leaders gave me 2 ties, Elder Schoen gave me a box of smarties from Canada and the Burrs gave me a Kit Kat Bar haha. It was a good birthday. It didn't really seem like it was my birthday but I guess that's what happens as you get older?! How was Brynn's birthday? It's pretty crazy that she is 18 now! She can vote now! Scary.

This week was pretty slow as far as progress in Cold Mountain. We planned on meeting with several potential investigators but none of them could meet. We continue to drop by the apartment building where the family lives that we helped because we didn't get their number but they never answer the dome phone as we call it when we go there so we can't get into the building. This next week we are hoping to meet with this guy named Sasha. He has a Book of Mormon and likes to read but he can't find time to do it because he is really busy with school. We'll see what happens with him. This past week we did some contacting on the street and handed out invitations to an open house for another building in Kharkov. We had two small miracles happen with this. The first night we tried to get out maybe 10 invites and I had one more to give out but we had to go home because it was getting late. I said a silent prayer that I could find somebody that needed it. Our street is very quiet and there usually aren't too many people on it at night. But as we walked home, there were several people. I talked to two people but they told me to go away haha. We walked for a while and we saw a guy in the distance standing on his ladder raking leaves off his roof. As we approached him, he had just barely got off his ladder so it was like perfect timing. We started talking to him and at first he didn't want to the invite but as we continued talking with him he asked for it. He also accepted a brochure that we pass out. It has the living Christ and the Proclamation to the Family on it. I don't know if I'll ever hear from him again but I feel that he was the one who needed the invite. And the following night we had the same thing happen, except this time we ended with three invites to give out. We both prayed again and before we got home we were able to give them out. We each took an invite when there were two left and were able to give them out. Once again, I don't know if the people even went to the open house or if I'll ever hear from them again but my prayer was answered in a very simple way. I know that Heavenly Father answers our prayers!

On Saturday we did service pretty much all day. I am calling it Service Saturday. We started at the zoo again and helped them get rid of trash and litter. We gathered it up and wheeled it to this pit and then they burned all of it haha. It probably wasn't very good for the environment but hey, it's service! Then we helped the Burr's go shopping and buy hats and shopka for their children and grandchildren. They have 6 children and 33 grandchildren! So we were their translators as they shopped. All of the senior couples have their own translators but when they can't come they just use missionaries. I'm understanding more and more Russian but often it's hard for me to think of how to respond on the spot haha. I feel I'm getting a little better at talking with people. I know that the only way I can learn Russian is with Heavenly Father's help. As long as I do what I'm supposed to and study then He will help me. Our third service we did was help our landlord move into the apartment above us. He is Valera's son (our Branch President) and is the Branch President of another branch in Kharkov. He does construction and many different jobs and is very successful. He is building his own house somewhere and so moved into the apartment above us with his wife and kids to live there for about a year until their house is done. He was very grateful for our service to him. And to end the day, we cleaned the branch building. We swept and mopped all the floors. It was a very long day but was good because all of the service was needed. It was also Fast Sunday yesterday. I fasted to come up with a personal baptismal goal for next year. I have decided to set a goal of four baptisms. That means one baptism per two transfers, which is three months. I think that with My Zion and the members becoming more involved that this goal is very attainable. By the way, how are your Zions? Have you started them yet? If not, I invite you all to make time this week and start. Just think of anyone who you know that doesn't have the gospel. Then look over your list. Think of anyone else who needs the gospel and then pray to know who you should start with. And then make a plan of how you will invite them to learn more about the Church. It could be inviting them to an activity, it could be giving them a Book of Mormon. It could be doing a service project for them. It could be just bearing testimony to them. There are many ways but Heavenly Father will help you to know how to share the gospel with whoever you choose. I am also doing My Zion. President let us get on Facebook one time and message friends in our Zions. I sent out messages to my friends who are less-active/non-members. I am still waiting to hear back from them but I feel that one of them may be interested. Read Matthew 28:19-20 and D&C 18:10, 15-16. Every member is a missionary, not just missionaries. I know that Heavenly Father will help us to help those we know receive the gospel.

Thanks for your emails and love! I love you all very much! Thanks for everything! Have a good week!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

Birthday Dinner at Pazutta Hutta

11:11 on 11-11-11

A Happy Meal for A Happy Boy!

Homemade Birthday Cake and Ukrainian Ice Cream
Taylor's Birthday Gift
Taylor's Birthday Gift
Weather Report on 11-11
Elders ?, Schoen, Keown, and ?


Monday, November 7, 2011

Start of Transfer 2 in Cold Mountain

Hello family! As usual, can't believe it's been another week here. Our area is slowly progressing, but we are working hard and doing our best. We have made it a goal to talk to at least 10 people a day and we've talked to some crazy people here haha but at least for our area, contacting is how we're going to find people. We continue to work with the few members that we have and are trying to involve them in the work with My Zion and stuff, but they are not catching on yet. So for now we contact and continue to meet with and teach the few less-actives and members in Cold Mountain.

This past week, we watched 17 Miracles with the senior couple that lives next to us for district meeting. I really enjoyed it, I can't believe how many trials that they had to go through and how the Lord was truly with them. It really made me think about the work and how they're sacrifice made it possible for the Church to be established in Salt Lake. We celebrated Halloween with the members in the branch, but I'm not gonna lie it was pretty lame haha. But they don't celebrate Halloween so we didn't expect a lot. They had two pumpkins and just had everyone draw a face and they carved them and then they pulled out Monopoly again haha. And that's how they did Halloween. We were hoping to meet with a lot of people this week because the other part of Cold Mountain has been given to us for a few weeks until the end of this month because of transfers (the other elders in our district got moved out) but hardly no one answered their phone so we were only able to meet with one of their investigators. We visited him last night in the hospital. He just got a hernia removed. I hope I never have to go to a hospital here! An elder here Elder Perry got really sick and something ruptured in his stomach. He had surgery and he's still recovering from it like 5 months later. Anyway, the hospital was really sketchy. But the investigator was really cool. His name is Oleg. He knows perfect English and has been speaking since the 90's he told us. He told us that he wants to move to the US because work here isn't good and stuff. We taught him about prayer and he prayed at the end of the lesson. We will continue to work with him but I don't know how long we'll have him because new elders are coming in at the end of the month and will retake the other area of Cold Mountain. We are hoping to meet with the family that we helped move the linoleum floor this week. They are hard to find home. Last night the boy talked to us but his parents work really late and weren't there so we're going to go by tonight and try and set up with them for this week. We got stood up by a lady who called us wanting English practice so we're going to try to meet with her again as well. We were also stood up by the lady who we moved all that stuff for. She needs help moving it out of that room and into her apartment now. We were waiting for our ride to pick us up but then they called and said that she cancelled so sometime in the future we'll be helping her again. We have some good goals for this week and we are hoping to achieve them. As I said, Cold Mountain is a slow area but we're doing what we can.

This past Saturday and yesterday were district conference for all of the branches here. (It is the same as stake conference) Saturday night was a Priesthood session and general session and then yesterday was a broadcast from Salt Lake for the Europe East Area. All of the conference was in Russian, so I didn't understand a lot but from what I did understand it was a good conference. Other elders translate for the senior couples and for English speakers that are here (like people from Nigeria) so Elder Schoen was translating and every now and then I would try and listen to what he was saying as well. The session yesterday was great. Elder Uchtdorf, Elder Oaks, Elder Whitney L. Clayton, and SIster Barbara Thompson all spoke from Salt Lake and then it was translated into Russian. As I said the conference was for the Europe East Area. They talked about marriage and encouraged the young single adults to get married. They also talked about helping less-actives come back to church. And Elder Uchtdorf's talk was especially good. He said that the people in the Europe East Area need to be doing three things: they need to have a current temple recommend, they need to read the scriptures as a family together everyday, and they need to pray as a family everyday, morning and night. He also stressed the importance of paying tithing, avoiding pornography, attending the temple as often as they can, and helping the youth in their branches prepare to serve missions. They need more Russian speaking missionaries!!!! It was a good conference. This really cool guy in another branch in Kharkov brought his mission call to open up on Saturday night. He is the branch mission leader there. He is handicapped and has difficulties walking and using his hands, but he is awesome. Elder Schoen worked with him when he was in that branch. So he opened his call up in front of everyone and he has been called to the Ukraine Donetsk Mission! This is where everyone thought that he would serve. He's coming in sometime next year, so it will be awesome to have him here. I don't know him or anything but I know he will be a great missionary for this mission. Maybe I will serve with him? We'll see.

So I mentioned earlier our contacting goal of 10 people a day. It is going good so far. I learn a lot when contacting and I gain more confidence as I do it. There are a few experiences I'd like to share. I've been trying to learn things to say about the Book of Mormon to people on the street in my language study because we always carry copies of the BOM as we contact. The first happened when we were going home after Saturday night's session. We were waiting for our metro train to come and this guy came up and grabbed me and said "I've never read your book before. Can I ask you a question? Who is Mormon? He was a person, right?" So I did my best to explain what I could but I couldn't remember anything I'd studied for the life of me! But then Elder Schoen stepped in and explained things in more detail. We gave him our number and a brochure and stuff so maybe he will call back. The second one was on our way home from Sunday's session. We talked with some Jehovah's Witnesses. It was pretty frustrating! They're arguments were quite lame and we talked to them for like 15 minutes at least. I understood like everything they were saying and we stomped their arguments and everything but they refused to read the BOM so we were both just like Well your choosing to reject the word of God. We know its true because we have read it. That's all we can say to you. Happiness to you! (that's what you say to people after you talk with them) And then last night I approached an older man and starting to talk to him. He said he believed in God and so I started walking next to him. I told him we were here to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and then he asked me "How can you preach something you can't see?" I looked to my left for Elder Schoen but he wasn't there! I was on my own. I asked him to repeat the question to make sure I understood it and then I said Well we can't see God, but we believe in him, right? And I know that he loves us. And then the man said "Well I'm glad that you are here preaching what you believe." and that's how it ended haha, but it was my first time talking to somebody on the street by myself. It was kinda scary but it was a good experience for me.

I received the newsletter and the notes from the Primary yesterday. It's always good to read about how everyone's doing. I especially enjoyed the notes from the Primary. Thanks for those! Annie Abramov wants me 'to tell Stacey how many baptisms I have.' Well Mom, I don't have any yet but I'm here doing the Lord's work and working hard. I know I'm here for a reason. I'm loving my mission very much so far. It's hard to explain the things that I'm learning already but this mission is the best thing that I could've done in my life. I'm very blessed to be here and I'm loving everything about my mission. It's hard work but I know that it is the Lord's work and that there is no other work more important than this on the earth.

This guy came up to me at the district conference and wanted me to do a favor for him. He needs me to order him two CTR rings and have them shipped here. He showed me the exact rings and everything and they're just from the company in Utah where I got mine from. So I'm placing the order today and they will be shipped to the house. He is going to pay me back and everything so when they arrive just put them in my package. That would be awesome! It sounds like everything is going well for you guys. I love you very much! Thanks for your emails, love, and prayers. Thanks for the birthday wishes. I can't believe its my 20th birthday this Friday! Crazy. I will be making a wish at 11:11 and 11 seconds. That's the only time that will happen haha. And Brynn is turning 18! Where has the time gone? Happy Birthday Brynn! I love you all very much. Have a good week!