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 skype.com 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.