Monday, December 26, 2011

Week 14 in Cold Mountain

Hello family! Thanks for your emails and the pictures of the Christmas party. It looks like everyone is doing good. It was so great to talk to you all on Christmas Eve! I hope we get to Skype again. I don't really have anything to tell you for this week because we talked about pretty much everything over Skype haha. The only thing I really have to say is just how Christmas was here yesterday. It didn't seem like Christmas at all because there was no snow and everyone celebrates Christmas on January 7 but we had a really cool experience at the end of the day that brought Christmas to light for me. At Church we watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional except it was in Russian so I understood very little haha. Whenever something like that is translated the translator always uses really big words and talks pretty fast so it's hard to understand stuff. But from what I understood it was great. A little later in the day we got to go to the Burr's house for two hours to do a Christmas dinner. She made some amazing tacos and then we got to watch some videos about Christ's life that are on Apparently all of them are filmed on the west side of Utah Lake and that area has been built to look exactly like Jerusalem. The videos are the Church's gift to the world and they film 1 or 2 every month and put them online. They want to have 50 I think by the end of it all. They are really awesome, you should check them out when you have time. So anyway, we watched those, and then later on we got a call from the branch president to come open our door. So we went out and him and his wife were standing there and wanted to get into the Burrs' house so that they could sing a carol for them but their door was closed. So we called the Burr's and had them open their door and then we went back inside. Probably about 3 min later Elder Burr called us and said "Come translate for us!" (that happens a lot haha) So we went over and were able to translate back and forth for the Burr's. The Miroshnichenko's are very fond of them and brought them some food and a nice card. They told them that they were grateful to them for coming to Ukraine and for teaching them how to love. Apparently Elder Burr's testimony helped Valera get baptized so they have had a good friendship since that. And then they sang "What Child is This?" for us. It was really cool. It kind of hit me at that time just how blessed I am to be here at this time and to be serving the Lord's children in a place that really needs the gospel.

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. He lives and is at the head of this Church. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a living prophet and that through him we can know how to progress and become better members of this Church. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It was written for our day and contains the fulness of the gospel. I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet. Through him this Church was restored back onto the earth. I know that prayer works. God hears and answers our prayers in his own ways and timing. He knows us each personally. I know that missionary work is the most important and rewarding work on the earth. It has changed my life in a very short period of time and strengthens my testimony everyday I am here. And I know that the Lord blesses all of you because he loves us and wants us to be happy. How awesome is this? The Church is true, I know it with all my heart! What else is there to say? I love all of you very much and am grateful to be here at this time and to be serving these people. These things I say in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Have a great week! I'll talk to you all later. Love you very much!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

Monday, December 19, 2011

Week 13 - Back at Home in Cold Mountain

Hello family! It's been a good week here. I'm back in Cold Mountain and have a new companion. His name is Elder Robison and is pretty sweet. He's from Provo, went to Timpview, is 6'4 and plays basketball for UVU. He is 1 transfer in front of me (6 weeks) so we are a very young companionship but it's going to be awesome. We have a very young district, probably the youngest in the mission. It is me, Elder Robison, Elder Fish (who is training and is in his 5th transfer) and Elder Warner who is a greenie. Cold Mountain is really young but I just know that we're going to get some serious work done here. I hope I can stay for 2 more transfers here. Today is the first day of my third transfer. Usually greenies stay in their areas for three but it's not uncommon to stay four. We'll see. But anyway, Elder Robison is ready to work hard. He has an awesome attitude and I really feel that we are going to do some good things here. I'm excited. This past week I was in Saltivka until Thursday and then everyone met their new companions Thursday night. Friday and Saturday there was an open house at the Center Kharkov branch. Several areas have been having open houses in the mission like Donetsk but they haven't had hardly any success, like one or two people came through total. So basically we spent Friday and Saturday contacting people on the streets about the open house and passing out little invites. Apparently 3,000 invites were printed and we passed out almost all of them throughout Kharkov. Out of those, 22 people came to the open house and some people came right off the street. So it was very successful I think. And as far as I know the center ZLs got some serious contacts out of it so it's good. For the open house some members were there and they would walk around with them and explain things in the church. So they came in, watched a 5 min. video about Christmas that had the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing, the nativity scene, and a short talk by Elder Andersen about families, then went and saw the baptismal font, primary room, classrooms, and then it ended upstairs in a room with cookies, juice, and two missionaries to further talk and answer questions. I was wondering what would happen back home if a Church had an open house. The temple open houses bring tons of people through so I bet it would be about the same maybe. But yeah, the open house here was good. And it was really great having members there because they need to learn how to talk to people about the church and be missionaries.

So yesterday at church they had their Primary program. It was awesome! I really felt the Spirit throughout the whole meeting. Two kids gave talks, one about prophets, the other about Moroni, and then they just sang some songs like The wise man built his house upon a rock haha. It was pretty cool to hear it in Russian and see the hand actions. And then they also sang I am a Child of God and would hold up a picture every new line. At the end of the line this kid named Akim (we meet with his family now and then. he is this awesome little 4 year old with red hair and a mullet!) had that picture of Jesus coming out of the clouds with angels on the sides and he held it up for the end of the song but it was upside down haha so everyone just laughed. But it was awesome though. I'd take that Primary program over any American one I've seen. At church now President Campero wants us to mingle with members a lot more and split up for sacrament and classes and stuff. I'm getting to know members and youth more here in Center. It's hard to talk to youth because I can never understand what they say but it's good though. Center branch has a lot of strong members. It's great to get to go there and to be in this area.

So as far as Skype goes, I don't know why the APs only said the 26th is allowed because all the Zone Leaders said that we can do Christmas Eve or the 26th. So we are planning on doing Christmas Eve. I am going to do my Christmas on Christmas Eve and open all my gifts in the morning so that when I talk to you I will have already opened everything and whatnot. So Elder Robison and I have decided to do it at 6:00 PM here which will make it 9:00 AM your time on Christmas Eve. Hopefully this will work for all of you. It's very last minute notice which is frustrating because the next time I do internet will be after Christmas. So I hope that that time works for you. Send me back an email saying if that works or not and then I'll ask the Zone Leaders if I can come to internet tomorrow and just see what you say. I'm sure they will let me. I think that's kinda what everyone's doing. I'm really looking forward to seeing and talking with you guys! I can't believe it's Christmas next week. Time has gone by really fast.

Now to comment a little on your email. It sounds like the Christmas party was good. I want to see some pictures. Brynn says she'll send them next week or something like that. And yes, I got my journals back. Our landlord's little kid stole them haha. I guess he wanted some paper to write in and our landlord found them on the floor. Fortunately they weren't written in and everything is good. And again, thanks for the package. It got tossed around a lot haha but everything is still in tact. I'm excited to open everything up soon! Roxolana is the best way to send packages for sure. Elder Robison's package got Ukrained (the postal people open packages here and steal things because there's no law) and he had some gloves and candy missing from his. So keep sending them through Roxolana!

I love you all very much and I'm glad that things are going well back home. Have a good week! I am excited to Skype you on Christmas Eve! See you in 5 days!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

Monday, December 12, 2011

Week 12 in Cold Mountain/Saltovka

Hello Family!

Can't believe it's been another week here. This week went by pretty quick. Thanks for the emails and pictures. It sounds and looks like you had a good week back home. I'm glad everything's going good. I'm excited to get to talk to you at Christmas! I'm looking forward to Skyping you! I've heard that Christmas phone calls for other missionaries have been like over $300 so Skype will be awesome. I don't want you to have to pay anything to talk to me, you've already done too much! So all we need to do is set up a time for Christmas that we can Skype. Whenever works for you will work for me. I will just go to the internet club here and do it. We have an hour to talk but honestly, I really don't care if it goes over an hour because it's Christmas! So figure out a time that will work and tell me next week. Maybe sometime in the morning for you would be best like 8ish because then it would be 5 PM here but just tell me and we'll make it happen! Go to and make an account and then tell me your username that you make. Mine is taylor.keown and then just make sure that you buy a webcam and test it to make sure it works and we'll be good to go!

I received your package! You guys are the best! I had to open it to get the CTR rings out for the guy (which turned out fine for him) and so I went through everything and found what I needed to open and whatnot. Everyone joked that it looked like it got ran over by a plane because there was a huge tire mark on it haha but everything was fine. You are too kind for sending that tree! I thought for sure that some of the ornaments would be broken and stuff but everything was in tact. Cold Mountain has a tree but there's no stand and no lights so we'll be using it for sure. Thanks for the things that I could notice - the syrup, peanut butter, and brownie mixes. It will probably take me my whole mission to use all that syrup haha! And the animal cookies exploded everywhere maybe because of pressure or something but besides that everything is good. Now I just need to get the package from Saltovka to Cold Mountain haha. I'll figure it out.

This week's been interesting because we worked Cold Mountain and Saltovka. On Tuesday this past week we went to Cold Mountain to clean our apartment because apartment checks are this week and Schoen and I didn't clean it before he left. So anyway, I walked in and saw that all of the windows were opened and that someone had gone through my stuff in our room! I then noticed immediately that they had stolen the missionary journals that you got me before my mission and the journal that I bought for myself here, as well as my Post-It Notes haha. So I called our landlord who lives above us in Cold Mountain and he came down and I was able to explain what happened. He said that he left our door open because our apartment was starting to smell really bad and so maybe one of his little kids stole them or maybe his wife or something. He said that he'd call me back if he found them. So then later that night I got a call from him that he had found them. I asked him where they were but he didn't have time to tell me because he was on his way to Kiev to go to the temple but he just said that everything was okay. So I am yet to get them back but I'm glad that they were found! And then on Thursday I went on a split with Elder Thornburg (he was in the other Cold Mountain apartment for my first transfer and is now in Saltovka) and we went back to Cold Mountain to finish cleaning it. We cleaned out the closet which had tons of old missionary clothes and coats and stuff and then we put it all in the dumpsters outside of the house. People always go through them to find food and things that they need so we figured that somebody would go through the clothes and find them useful. When we got to the dumpster there was already a man going through it. We put all the bags in there and then walked away. I'm sure that he probably went through them and more people after him but it felt good to have put the clothes to good use. I'm pretty used to seeing stuff like this now. It's really humbling to see. I took life very much for granted back home. This is one thing that I have learned early on here on my mission. Just how blessed we truly are to have the gospel and to have the basic needs of life.

There are a lot of investigators here in Saltovka to meet with. One lesson we taught this past week was to an old lady who will be getting baptized on Christmas Eve. It was about the Word of Wisdom. It went really good and we had a member with us who basically explained it and testified of it to her. It didn't take more than that to commit her to live it. It was cool to teach someone who actually has a date and wants to be baptized. The Lord always has people ready, we just need to find them. As far as Cold Mountain went this week, I was able to set up two lessons for Saturday (I had my first ever successful phone call in Russian!!) BUT I had to cancel them due to the Mini MTC because the whole Center Branch building was being used for it. So this week I'll be meeting with them and hopefully they want to progress in the gospel. This Thursday I will be going back to Cold Mountain and will have a new companion. I don't know who it is yet. The APs gave everyone hints but I'm not sure about who mine is. I'll find out soon though! So now a little bit about the Mini MTC - basically it was for all of the youth in Kharkov to come and learn about missionary work. They all got tags and there was a baptism there that the Zone Leaders had so it was cool. The Branch President (aka Valera) baptized the man. It was pretty cool in many ways. And then we (all the missionaries in Kharkov) sang Called to Serve and then split up with the youth and taught them a principle and had them teach us. I sent a recording of the video for Called to Serve. Hopefully it works. And also this past week Elder Hardy and I gave the Sacrament to an old babushka here in Saltovka. I had never said the Sacrament prayers in Russian so it was a good experience. She was very grateful that we came over and did that for her.

 And here's my little Christmas card paragraph for the family:

С Рождеством из Украины! SrozdestVOM eez Ookraeenie! (Now just say that with a deep Russian accent and your good to go!) Merry Christmas from Ukraine! I honestly can't believe it's already Christmas. It seems like yesterday that I started my mission and now I've been out for nearly six months! The time is flying by and I am loving my mission. Coming on my mission is the best decision I have ever made. I have learned a lot about myself in the short period of time that I've been here and I have a greater respect for this wonderful gospel that we are so blessed to have. But most important of all, I have grown closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that He lives. He loves us. I know that through His Atonement we can receive strength to do and become better. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. He is always there waiting to help us if we will but align our will with His. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that through him the Lord restored His church onto the earth again. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It was written for our day. It is evidence that God loves us. Through daily study and application of its pages we can feel the Holy Ghost and God's love more in our lives I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, and that through him the Lord directs His church. I am so grateful to be here in the service of the Lord and to be serving His children in Ukraine. He leads this marvelous work. I am only an instrument in His hands. I love all of you very much. The Church is true! I know it with all my heart. I hope that you may all remember our Savior, Jesus Christ, at this time of the year and continue to do so throughout your everyday lives. I leave these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

Moving Day

Christmas Package - Looks Like The Plane Ran Over It!

Amazingly Everything Still In One Piece!

Taylor Can Cook!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Week 11 in Cold Mountain

Hello again family! It has been a very interesting week. I will start with Donetsk. I stayed with Elders Smith and Roberts. They are probably the most opposite set of elders in the mission haha. They are opposite in almost every single way so you can imagine this with me there. They had two investigators on date to be baptized but they lost them so they didn't have anything planned for the week really. We did a lot of contacting, which was kind of awkward to do with three people and they worked a lot on their spisok (ward directory). I had to stay there an extra day because the Bulgaria elders didn't get back until Thursday night so we left on Friday and got back to Kharkov around 2 pm. The bus ride was super long because it stopped at every stop. We left at 6:55 in the morning and it's only supposed to be like 4 hours. I was able to sleep though but it was a very long day. So I only had one and a half days with Elder Schoen this week. Saturday was our last day. It was kind of depressing to see him pack up haha. He gave me some really good advice though, which is "don't worry about home on your mission. I thought about home and everything there too much because sometimes I didn't want to be here but now that the time to actually go home has come I don't want to go!" But the best advice he has given me though has been through his example to me of loving the people here and their culture. I will be forever grateful to him for training me. He left me his practice pad and sticks which I'll be using throughout my mission and he left half a cup of tea haha. The picture I sent is right before he left. I'm going to miss him but I'll see him again. In the mission your trainer is your father, so I am Schoen's son. He has another son who is Elder Perry but Elder Perry and Schoen were together again the transfer before I came so Elder Perry is also my mother haha. I have a brother for a mother. Schoen told me that he loves me like a brother, even though I'm his son. I'll still email him and stuff and keep in touch throughout the mission. He has become a great friend to me. I am grateful that I got to serve with him.

So now that I am an orphan, I have a temporary companion until December 15 which is when transfers start again. His name is Elder Hardy. I am in his area which is called Saltivka. It is also in Kharkov and is like 45 minutes from Cold Mountain. His companion had to go home that he had so he was serving with a mini missionary (youth here can serve mini missions for a transfer to learn about mission work) whose name is Viktor. He is like 25ish and has his mission call to this mission. He's coming in March. He is handicapped and is from a place in Kharkov called Novie Doma. They wanted him to stay until transfers so that I could just go with the ZLs but apparently Elder Hardy and him had a hard time getting along because Viktor doesn't speak any English and Elder Hardy doesn't understand a lot of Russian. So anyway, I'm with Elder Hardy now in Saltivka. He is an interesting fellow, but we'll get along fine. We will be working his area and Cold Mountain. After Schoen left yesterday, I felt everything kind of fall on me being the only one responsible for our area in Cold Mountain. I need to visit youth in our area and remind them about an activity this Saturday called "Mini MTC", update our spisok, set up lessons with the investigators we have and call our contacts. There is a lot to do for someone only in his second transfer! I prayed that I would have the strength to make it through these next two weeks and that everything will be okay. After my prayer I just felt really peaceful and calm. These next two weeks are going to be a huge period of growth for me I think. I am finding that the Lord blesses us through trials. We have to decide how much we want what we're praying for and then be willing to do what the Lord needs us to. I will be staying in Cold Mountain for at least one more transfer so next Thursday I'll get a new official companion. New greenies just came in on Saturday that were in the group after me in the MTC. They finally got their visas! If I had been in their group then I would just have arrived. The other companionship in Cold Mountain will be Elder Fish and a greenie so we'll all be in the same district with the Burr's. I'll find out this week who the greenie is. Elder Fish is two transfers in front of me. They have missionaries train really young because they learn a lot that way. The Zone Leaders keep telling me that I'm going to get a young missionary in Cold Mountain and it's going to be like kindergarten haha. This is really scary to think about, but as I said before, the Lord blesses us through trials. These next two weeks and third transfer are going to be huge growing opportunites for me. I know that the Lord will be with me though. I know that He is aware of me and is always there to help.

On Saturday there was another baptism. Some elders from an area called Alekseevka baptized a girl whose like 16 or 17. And then after the baptism there was a free classical piano concert held by the branch piano player. He is a professional player and he held the concert for free just to get his name out there and whatnot. It was amazing!! I wish I would've filmed some of it but I didn't have the chance. It reminded me of concerts at the U, but better haha. And also this past week I passed my 5 month mark on the 29th! I can't believe I've been out 5 months, it's crazy. When I talk to you guys at Christmas I'll practically be at 6! Speaking of Christmas, it is official that you can use SKYPE! So buy yourselves a webcam and get skype! I don't know what time I will be talking to you or the specifics yet but I will tell you when I know. 20 more days til Christmas!

Now to comment on your email. Elder Schoen said that the lessons went good with the investigators this past week. However, Vladimir had to be passed to elders in a different area of Kharkov because that's where he lives. They gave him a Book of Mormon though so I hope that he is able to progress! And Schoen also gave Books of Mormon to Dima and Vova. He said that Vova was very interested in the lesson but Dima mostly just wants English though. These are our main investigators for now. I will hopefully be meeting with them this week.

Well, that is my week. Thanks for your emails and love. I love you all very much and pray for you often. Have a great week! I look forward to talking with you soon!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

ps - the pictures for this week are Elder Schoen and I right before he left, the advertisement for the piano concert, me in front of a huge banner in Donetsk that says "I Love Donetsk" (Ya lublew Donetsk) and me with a dead dog by the APs apartment.. there are strays everywhere and apparently the city is feeding them poisoned meat now because they want them gone before the Euro Cup. Only in Ukraine! Enjoy!