Monday, February 27, 2012

It's Getting Warmer!

Privet Family!

Well, it's been another week here in Cold Mountain. As you might've noticed from the title this week, things are warming up. The snow is basically all slush now. Elder Frandsen and I are continuing to do our best in this area. We found some really cool people on the streets this week but unfortunately nothing turned out with them. One guy in particular was named Arthur (Arture in Russian) He was very interested in our message and wanted to meet on Saturday. He told us that he just barely started to read the Bible and recently quit smoking but that he didn't know why! So we were very excited to meet with him on Saturday but he didn't show up. And he told us that he didn't have a phone so we didn't have his number or anything. But hey, now he knows about the Church and all we can do is just pray that in the future when missionaries find him again that he will remember us and want to meet. We have met some pretty prepared people on the street but nothing ever happens with them and it's frustrating! But I am learning time and time again that everyone has their own agency and that no effort is wasted. Also that same night we saw two really young kids smoking. The one was probably about 10 and he passed the cigarette to his younger brother who was maybe 6 at the oldest. It's pretty sad but we can't do anything about it. I'm just grateful for laws in the US that prohibit things like this.

So Wednesday this week we had our district meeting with the Burrs. Sister Burr told me that she received an email about Turkey being opened and that there were pictures of all the missionaries arriving and stuff. So she let me look at it and there were several pictures of Elder Seymour and the other missionaries starting to work! It was crazy to see Gerrit because I was just thinking back to our lives before the mission and it was weird to think that I know him haha. I don't know if that makes sense or not but it's just weird and awesome at the same time. I forwarded you the email so that you can read it too. Hopefully the pictures work and stuff on it. This week was also Elder Frandsen's year mark on his mission. Time is crazy here, it just kind of exists. Pretty soon I will pass my year mark of getting my call. Where did that year go?! There was also a holiday this week called Men's Day. It's basically like Father's Day in the US except all of the men here get honored, not just fathers. There's basically a holiday every day here though haha, we usually just don't know what they are.

We taught three member lessons this past week. One was with a lady who has been less-active named Vika. I'm not sure if I've talked about her. I probably have. Elder Schoen and I met with her. She wants to serve a mission now so we're helping her get ready for that. The next was with the branch piano player. He's probably the best piano player I've ever heard. He is a professional classical pianist and if I understood right has won tons of competitions in Moscow and stuff. He played some Beethoven for us after our lesson and it was amazing. And then last night we met with the Nadenko family. They are an awesome family. The dad got divorced about a year ago but remarried a returned missionary and now they live together with two of his boys in Center Branch. We have been trying to work more with members here to help them share the gospel with their friends and families. We had an idea to ask them to think of a name that we can pray about and then make a plan to invite them to know more. This has been going well. The Lord always provides a way for His will to be done and as we strive to invite others to learn about the gospel He blesses all of us.

And now to answer some of your questions/comment on things. Yes, of course Elder Frandsen and I talk about music haha. Not so much percussion but sometimes. He knows Danny Soulier because he taught percussion at Bingham/graduated from there. Elder Frandsen stopped playing percussion like his senior year or around there so he's a little rusty but he can still play some things though. I have only talked to Elder Schoen once because he never emails me back. He's doing good it sounded like. He said he went on a date but didn't know what to do haha and he's also going to Institute. That's awesome we're getting a fence! Send me some pictures, it sounds like it will be very nice. That's cool you got to talk to your client about the Church. It sounds like you cleared up a lot of his concerns. But most of all you gave him a better impression of the Church and were able to testify to him. I agree with you 100% that Church members just shove religion down your throat. That's not how it should be at all and it's unfortunate that that's how it is with some members. But serving a mission I've really learned so far that no effort is wasted and that really just sharing our testimony with people is the best way to preach the gospel. Just being respectful and kind is how the work needs to be done. Of course we must be bold but we must also be loving. The first and second commandments were to love the Lord and our neighbor, so that's what we need to do. When Abinadi was teaching the priests of King Noah he started off with love. And although he thought he was unsuccessful his efforts weren't wasted because Alma listened and later became a prophet and influenced many generations all the way down to Moroni. So basically that's awesome that you were able to talk with him a little bit about the Church! Elder Frandsen and I have been talking and we have decided that it's not hard to share the gospel with people we don't know but it's terrifying to share it with those we love haha. We can walk up to Ukrainians and Russians on the street and just get rejected but we're terrified of sharing the gospel with our friends and family at home. After my mission though I really want to share the gospel with all of my friends who aren't members. I know that the Lord always provides a way and that we are blessed as we strive to share the gospel.

Transfer calls are coming out again this Friday. I am pretty certain I will be getting one but at the same time anything is possible haha. But most likely I will get one, only time will tell. If I had a guess I would say that next transfer I will go to a younger companion who has just finished being trained because next week there is a huge group of missionaries going home, many of whom were training, but we'll see. I'll keep you posted. Also, I have a few picture requests - a picture of the Church building, our house, and the beast! People here like to see stuff like that. I can't think of anything else for this week. I love you all very much and am grateful for your love to me. I hope all is well with you. The Church is true! Keep on keepin on!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

ps - Pictures this week are our current district, a picture from a celebration this week in Center about winter leaving and spring coming, and me standing by a poster in Church about Men's Day. (We brought ties that we didn't want anymore and they were given to men in the branch as gifts) Enjoy!


Monday, February 20, 2012

With Love from Cold Mountain

Privet family! Once again, I can't believe it's been another week here. I couldn't think of a good title for this week so because it was Valentine's Day I just did something really cheesy. Don't judge me haha. Thanks for your emails, they were great. I was so thrilled to hear that Dad got a new job! That is awesome. And on top of that to hear that Brynn got a sweet internship! Heavenly Father blesses our lives as we are patient and turn to Him. It's never right when we want it but it always comes in His own timing. I know this to be true. This past week was good, just another week in Cold Mountain. We were able to meet with Sasha, the investigator who Elder Schoen and I met with a few times. It was a good lesson, we just talked about the Book of Mormon and he wanted to read a chapter from it so we read 1 Nephi 4 with him. He says that reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon bring light to his life. He recognizes the Spirit in his life which is awesome but he won't act on what he feels. We asked him to keep reading at home but he said his same excuse as the previous times- that he doesn't have any time at all because of school and that he doesn't want to get school and the gospel mixed up with each other. So unfortunately we can't really do anything with him until he decides to act. It's frustrating to teach people that know the Book of Mormon is true and can feel the Spirit but just don't really have a desire to do anything further. But I am learning that all I can do is just love and invite these people to act and the rest is up to them. I feel sometimes that I haven't really done a lot for Cold Mountain but I must remember that I have been doing my best to build it up and have been following the counsel from President Campero. My work here will help future missionaries who serve and I am faithful that the people I have met with will be able to meet in the future and remember the Church.

Let's see, I went on a split this past week with the Native Ukrainian in our district now. His name is Elder Vitali Yurtaev. He is 28 and is in the Branch Presidency at the Saltovka Branch. I asked him about his conversion story and it was pretty cool. In 1992 sister missionaries contacted his mom on the street and then they came over and started teaching his whole family. His whole family (grandma, mom, sister) and himself got baptized pretty quick but his dad never joined. He went in-active in his late-teens but he said that because of good friends and their influence that he became active again and is grateful that he can be a member of the Church. We didn't do too much on our split, just went finding on the streets and talked to people. We were supposed to have a lesson but it fell through. It was interesting to be with a native doing missionary work. He said that he hopes that everyone remembers at the final day that they rejected the gospel when it was presented to them on the street. It's pretty harsh but true haha. And also this past week there was a Valentine's Night activity at the branch that the members arranged. We watched some youtube clips about where Valentine's Day came from, listened to a spiritual thought about love, and then there were some musical numbers as well. It was a good activity, the members are doing good at planning and carrying out things like that, instead of the missionaries doing it like it's been in the past. Elder Frandsen and I are continuing to do what we can here in Cold Mountain. We have basically made a huge call list of everyone that might be able to meet and we just call them everyday. It's pretty frustrating though because no one picks up. We also do lots of contacting on the streets as I'm sure you know. We have talked with some cool people on the streets but nothing has come out of it yet. One man gave us his address but he wasn't home and two numbers that we got don't work. But we just gotta keep on keeping on and just keep on trying to find people that are ready. We had an interesting contact on Saturday night. We stopped an older man and he talked to us for like 20 seconds maybe. We asked him if he wanted to live with his family for eternity and he said no! That pretty much stopped our conversation from there. It's pretty sad but like I keep saying everyone has their own agency and all we can do is invite people to come unto Christ.

Also last night we met with President Miroshnichenko (Valera) and his wife. It was a good meeting. We talked more with them about doing My Zion and how the most effective way to do missionary work is with members inviting friends to know about the Church in their own home. They want to do it but they wanted more time to pray and think about it. Elder Frandsen gave a talk yesterday in Church about this and so we just talked more with them basically about doing work with members. We talked about this area and about the Church here. Someday there will be a stake in Cold Mountain and a Temple in Kharkov! But in order to get there members have to do their part. The Church is still young here but in the future it is going to be booming.

And now for some other comments/tidbits. I wasn't too freaked out with the whole police incident because the police here don't really do anything and I've always heard from other missionaries that all you really need to do is just show your passport. And I just kept praying throughout the whole thing that everything would be okay and it was. It's still pretty cold here. Maybe not as cold as it has been but it's definitely just bitter cold. I hear that next month things will start warming up again. And it sounds like your lesson was the same one that I heard yesterday in Sunday School Mom. 2 Nephi 4 is definitely my favorite part of the Book of Mormon. It's pretty powerful stuff. I'm glad that you are enjoying teaching it. And one more thing, very soon here the new translation of the Book of Mormon in Russian is going to come out. The current Russian Book of Mormon has several errors in it and was not translated very good so they have been working on a new one for a while now and it's almost time to be revealed. All of the missionaries are getting a free hardback triple of the new translation but we can order a leather bound one on and it's like $20 so I'm going to do that.

Thanks for everything family, I love you very much. I continue to pray for you and hope that all is going well for you in work and school. Heavenly Father loves us. He hears and answers our prayers. The Church is true and I'm so grateful to be a part of this great and marvelous work. Talk to you next week!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just Another Week in Cold Mountain

Privet family! I can't believe it's been another week, this past one flew by for me. I guess I'll start from the beginning. So Elder Warner who was getting trained by Elder Fish had to go back home to America because he has lots of health problems that just can't be fixed here. He has some knee problems and internal stuff like cysts that need to be taken care of. I feel bad for him because he's just had all these crazy things happen to him on his mission. Hopefully he will get to come back here but it might be difficult because the visas are getting harder to deal with I hear. Speaking of that some groups of missionaries are now going to Armenia for visa trips. I don't know where my group is going yet but it will either be Bulgaria or Armenia. But that's not for a while haha so I won't know until then. So we took a taxi to the Kharkov airport and sent him off. It was really weird because pretty much in the blink of an eye missionaries leave. We all kind of realized how crazy time is on the mission. In fact tomorrow is my 5 month mark in Ukraine, it's pretty crazy to think about! The airport by the way was super nice. They just finished building it for the Euro Cup that's coming this summer. It was kind of like being in America because it was nice and the workers spoke English. So after we sent him off Elders Frandsen and Fish became my companions and we were in a threesome from Tuesday to Friday. It was hard to be in a threesome because it makes everything a challenge haha. Like talking to people on the street for example is harder with three because people feel kind of intimidated. But it was a good experience though being together. I think that we could have made it work in the long run but I'm grateful to just be back with Elder Frandsen now and be a normal companionship. A plus from the threesome though was having more money haha. We made some amazing burgers this past week. I wish I had more to report on from Cold Mountain but I don't. We continue to call people that we have contacted on the street or have met with in the past but they don't answer their phones. We have a lesson with an investigator tonight named Sasha, maybe you remember him. Elder Schoen and I met with him a few times and he can finally meet again tonight. Elder Frandsen and I are trying to update the member book that we have as well. There are still some members that I don't know because I never met them/didn't really know that they lived in the area. Elder Schoen and I mostly just met with the members that were written on our whitewash notes. (I don't know if I told you this but before Elder Schoen and I were here there were sisters and sometimes for transfers both companions from an area are transferred out so they leave whitewash notes for the new missionaries coming in. Such is the case with Cold Mountain.) So we mainly just went off the whitewash notes but I'm now finding that there are more people that I didn't even know about. So we're doing our best to get things in order with this. This area has been good to start my mission in. When I got here not a lot was going on but I feel that I have built it up. It's still not booming so to say but it is much better than it was. I would guess that Elder Frandsen is going to train next transfer which he doesn't want to happen haha but we'll see.

So one night this past week we decided to do some tracting in our threesome which we have started to do more of now because it's so cold on the street. Basically we find an apartment building (dome) and figure out the code to get in and then start from the top and make our way back down knocking all the doors. We try to give people Liahonas but no one ever wants them. But anyway, we were doing this and in one dome a man came up the stairs and asked us what we were doing. We explained what was going on and then he demanded to see our passports. We said that wasn't necessary because it's not against the law to do what we were doing but he wouldn't let us leave unless we showed him. So Elder Fish and I showed him ours but Elder Frandsen didn't have his with him, it was in his other bag back at the apartment. So then the guy who was like some government official or something wouldn't let Elder Frandsen leave with us because he didn't believe that he was with us. He thought that we were bandits just doing some scam. It was ridiculous. So then he called the police on us and we had to wait for them to show up. They looked at our passports and then basically said "You probably shouldn't be doing this at this hour. People are trying to sleep" haha. So the police didn't care and the guy told us to never come back again. But then we clarified this with the main guy in the office who deals with legal issues and whatnot and he said that there's no law against that. And it was only 7:30 pm haha. So it was fun to have an experience with the police! At the end of the week Elder Fish got a new companion, something that is called a mini missionary here. President Campero asks mission-aged youth (18-30) if they can serve mini missions with the missionaries and then they serve. It's pretty cool because you get to have a native and show them the ropes of being a missionary here. Elder Fish's mini missionary is actually not that mini, he's 28 and was serving in the branch presidency at Saltivka Branch. So he's now in our district until the end of this transfer. His name is Vitali. He's pretty cool and understands a lot of English as well. I'm going on a split with him this week so it should be cool to be with him.

We also had a new type of district meeting this past week that President Campero has started to do. It's like a normal district meeting but 100X better because President is in charge! It was a great meeting, he and the APs talked about how we need to focus on helping our investigators to feel the Spirit instead of just trying to teach them the gospel. We had a testimony meeting afterwards and President asked only a few people to share their testimonies. I was one of those chosen. I don't remember everything I said, just that the Spirit was very strong as everyone bore testimony, but after I bore mine President said that he has heard many testimonies in his life but will always remember the one he just heard from me. He then said "You are AWESOME!" President Campero is the man haha, I don't know how else to describe him. He is one of the most loving, spiritual people that I know. We are so blessed to have him as our mission president. We also attended the world-wide leadership training meeting on Saturday night. I'm not sure if you went to this or not. They had it set up with two speakers speaking at once and one would ask questions and the other would answer them. I think it was Elder Scott and Elder Christofferson going back and forth? Anyway, I came all ready to take notes and to learn a ton but then we all found out that it was in Russian haha and so basically I didn't really understand anything from it. Every time that something is translated in Russian they always use huge words that no one understands except for the members of course. I understood a little bit here and there but to be honest after a while it just gets difficult to stay focused haha. If you attended it you probably learned more than me.

And now for comments/tidbits - I don't know exactly what the temperature has been here, just bitter cold haha. I heard like -20 or something but I don't really know. Yes I was disappointed that Dima and Vova lost interest, but I am faithful that several years down the road they will remember the Church or come in contact again with it and get baptized. It's a small world that you know Elder Frandsen's mom! She emailed Elder Frandsen as well and remembers you. She just wants your phone number so I gave it to him to send to her. And this is her number so that you can just call her: 801-414-6385. So I have a few more requets for my package that I thought of. There is a book called "The Missionary's Little Book of Answers" by Gilbert Scharffs. Elder Fish has it and it's a great little book. I am also wondering if you can send me a bunch of pictures of me when I was younger or just any pictures you can find that you think are good. I'm just looking for pictures to put in my photo album that I show to everyone. Send me a lot if you can! And it would be cool to just get a mini English Book of Mormon that I can have with me. And also a can of chocolate frosting would be wonderful haha. If I think of anything else I'll tell you.

I love you all very much and hope that you are doing well. I pray for you and I just know that Heavenly Father loves all of us very much. Thank you for your testimony Mom. The Church is true. I know it with all my heart. Have a good week and I'll talk to you soon!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия

ps- pics for this week are 1 - our district before Elder Warner left (from left to right is Elder Fish, Elder Warner, myself, Elder Frandsen) 2 - myself and Elder Warner right before he left 3 - our burgers we made this past week and 4 - just a different time of day at the view of Kharkov. Enjoy!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Freezing Cold, Hard Week in Cold Mountain

Privet, family. I don't know if you know that word but it means hello in Russian. I hope you have all had a good week home in the USA This week was probably my hardest yet in Cold Mountain. Dima and Vova showed up to our lesson on Thursday night and said that they came by to say thanks for our lessons and for our book, but that they are not interested to meet anymore. We invited them to come up and talk with us a little bit more so we did. They said that they just don't have time to meet anymore and that they just plain and simple aren't interested anymore. Dima said that he has a lot of problems with the Book of Mormon even though he has prayed about it and Vova says that he thinks that the Church has a lot of good things but just doesn't really want to come anymore. I was pretty heart-broken about them dropping us but that's missionary life I guess. I was pretty down on myself after that but through prayer and talking with Elder Frandsen I have come to know that I did what I was supposed to with them. They won't forget me, the Church, or the things that they have learned and I feel that in the future they will remember one day and want to come to back to Church again. I still love them and am grateful that I could teach them the gospel. This area has been hard. They were my only real investigators that were doing progress I've know on my mission. I don't know what else I can do in this area. I've been wondering this question since I walked in the door with Elder Schoen. It's always been a tough area I hear. But I continue to pray that my efforts don't go to waste and that we can find people that want to listen. We have several people that we can meet with but they never pick up their phones! It's super frustrating. So Elder Frandsen and I will be doing a lot of finding, just as Elder Schoen and Robison did with me. We go out every morning at 7 to find and then go finding at night time as well. Because it's pretty cold here now we have started to do some tracting in domes, the huge apartment buildings. I am faithful that we will find elect people that want to hear the gospel. I have been thinking a lot about something I learned in the MTC this week, and that is a mission isn't supposed to be easy because if it wasn't then you wouldn't learn anything. I have been thinking about things that I have learned from being in Cold Mountain so far and I think that the main one is just accepting the will of the Lord and striving to be obedient. No effort is wasted and He always works in His own time. I have also learned to trust in Him with everything that I do. He is only a prayer away and is waiting to help me. I pray that I may continue to grow everyday that I am here and that I can become the missionary that He needs me to be.

And now I will comment on your emails/talk about other things. Yes the weather is freezing right now! Apparently it got to -30 this past week. But I am staying warm though. The members say it's pretty cold and that it's like a rare cold. We went to a family night this past week with a family that Elder Schoen and I got active again (the Morgoon family- I'm not sure if I've talked about them. They are an awesome family!) and the dad scolded me for not wearing a sweater under all my layers haha. I always wear my sweater now! Elder Frandsen and I are getting along better now. It's always weird getting used to a new comp but usually after a week all is well. With my past companions it's just been really easy from the get-go but it wasn't as easy with Elder Frandsen. But we get along good now. We have our differences but he is great. We know some of the same people back home which is cool. We were talking about dates we've been on and whatnot and it turns out that Melinda Murri was in his BYU ward and he knows her. Small world! Also, he seems to think that maybe you might know his mom from Olympus, Janet Thueson. He says that she was a dancer and is probably about your same age. Maybe you know her? I'm sorry that you all have been sick. I haven't been sick since Elder Schoen was with me and that was only for like 2 days (knock on wood) Get better! What did the groundhog say on Groundhog Day? Will there be 6 more weeks of winter? Do you think it would be possible to send me an absentee ballot for the upcoming election? Lots of elders are having their families do that for them. It sounds like Mitt Romney is ahead right now. Also this past week we got mattressess!! So now my back doesn't always ache from sleeping on a piece of plywood! Elder Robison and I had got one mattress but we had to share and took turns every other week. But now we got one more so sleeping is awesome now. And one more thing is that Elder Warner has to go back home due to having some crazy health problems going on right now. They were going to send him to Germany but decided to send him home. Hopefully he can come back. I've only known him for a little more than a transfer but he's a good missionary. So it sounds like for a while now Elder Frandsen and I will be in a threesome with his trainer Elder Fish. I'm not sure yet how that's going to work out, it will be interesting to do things, but we'll make it work. 

Thanks for everything family, you're the best! I love you very much and am so thankful for all that you do for me. Have a good week. The Church is true and we are beyond blessed to have the knowledge that we do of this restored gospel. Talk to you next week!

с любовью,
старейшина каун
украинская донецкая миссия
PS - The picture I sent is how frozen I was after coming in from our morning finding one day this week. You might also find this interesting. There is an Elder in our mission who is from Novosibirsk, Russia, aka Siberia. He says that it feels much colder here than it does back home for him because of the bitter winds and humidity here. So yeah, it's pretty cold here. Drink some candy cane hot chocolate for me! Love you all very much!