Well this past week has gone by pretty quick! We met with Akbar every day and he's doing awesome. I can't remember how much I've told you about him so here is his story basically.
Akbar Davoodlou is 35 and grew up in Tehran, Iran. His dad wasn't the best example for him and his mom was a devout Muslim, so he followed her example and practiced being Muslim. After eight years of hardcore Muslim practice he decided that being Muslim just wasn't right. He didn't like how the government in Iran ruled over everything, including religion, and he was sick of many people taking it way too far, like when 9/11 happened. He started to think about the possibility of Christianity. He has always loved Jesus Christ but just hasn't known anything about him really, other than seeing Passion of the Christ. So determined to go to a free country, he decided to come to Ukraine four years ago because America is very expensive to come to, especially for an Iranian. He has a love for languages and started learning Russian. He told us that "something was just pulling him to Ukraine." About one year ago his mother died. He took it very hard and turned to Ukraine for help, starting to drink and fall into depression. He told us this story that happened to him one month ago. He was pretty sick of life and got really drunk. He said he wanted to kill himself. He knew the whole time that he shouldn't be drinking but he did anyway. His mother hated alcohol (his father was an alcoholic) and he knew that he was in trouble. He started to cry and pray to God for forgiveness. He didn't pray like Muslims do though, he just prayed to God. After a while he fell asleep and had a dream. In his dream he saw his mother and he tried to approach and hug her. She refused to talk to him because he was drunk and so he was devastated. He woke up several times just crying and would start praying again and then fall asleep into the same dream. This happened on and off through the night until it was morning. In the morning he prayed again and this time he doesn't know why but he prayed in the name of Jesus Christ. He asked God to "please send angels to save me."
A few days after this Akbar saw two young men wearing white shirts and ties on the street. We were passing out the old translation of the Russian Book of Mormon for free. He walked by and we didn't talk to him because he was in a group of friends and there were lots of people walking by. But then he walked back to us and asked us what we were doing and then if we knew English. We said "yes of course!" and then told him about English class. We got his number and he said he was interested in English. A whole week went by and we didn't call him because we didn't have English set up in Saltovka yet. So then the next week we called him and invited him to English in Center Branch. He came, absolutely loved it, and wanted to know more. Two days after on Sunday we met with him, got to know him, and then on the following Thursday asked him to baptized. He said yes! Then he came to Church, absolutely loved it and met tons of members, it was amazing! And this puts us to last week now. We met with him everyday and on Monday had an awesome lesson about the Restoration. On Tuesday we followed up and he said he prayed about it and knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was true! I was on a split with Elder Klestrop one of our Zone Leaders, and it was an amazing lesson. We talked about it that night and he told me that we should think about baptizing him as soon as possible haha because he is just ready. Elder Lambert and I both prayed about whether or not to baptize him early and on our next lesson with him we just both felt the Spirit tell us that he's ready. We asked him his thoughts about it and he also wanted to be baptized sooner. So basically this Saturday, May 12, at 1:00, Akbar is being baptized!!!!! We are so happy for him and for this HUGE change he's making in his life! He wants it so bad and knows what he has to do. He realizes that he's probably one of the first Muslims to convert to the LDS church in Ukraine (or maybe even in general) and is so happy that he found it. He doesn't want to go back to Iran because he doesn't have anything there for him so he's not really sure what's next but he is super excited about his new life! And he doesn't want lots of people to know that he has changed his religion because apparently in Iran if people find out then he could be killed. He says he's not afraid of death though and he calls baptism "the perfect way to Jesus Christ." Akbar refers to us as "his brothers sent from God." He is a true friend to us. Words really can't describe how I feel at this time. We have truly been a part of a miracle. I know that God answers prayers and that he truly loves each and every one of his children. And I know that only through this gospel can we be truly happy. So next week I'll tell you all about Akbar's baptism and how everything goes!
Also this past week we went to a baptism with Akbar and he really enjoyed it. A little black girl in Saltovka got baptized and it was a great baptismal service. Akbar was a little nervous but now he's just excited for his baptism. He was even telling members there that "next Saturday's my turn!" And he even fasted this weekend about his baptism and came to Church again yesterday. He met the District President and one of his counselors. Everyone was surprised that he's getting baptized but they're all so happy for him. He calls Church a big family. He is doing great and we're just so happy to have met him! I don't know what else to say!
And now for some comments/tidbits. Thanks for the recipe, we'll try it out this week. I'm wondering if you could send me a recipe for choc. chip cookies and oatmeal raisin. Elder Lambert and I have been cooking a lot haha. And I am very excited to talk to everyone on Skype! I was thinking though that we should just do like 10 min each and then 30 min together. That would be swell. It sounds like everyone's doing good at home. Pretty busy but good. I'm glad to hear it. Just keep on keepin' on. I love you all so much and I know that Heavenly Father loves you too. Have a great week and I'll SEE you soon!!
украинская донецкая миссия
ps- pics are me with Akbar, a random temple I found on my split, and last week's picture from district meeting with Pres. Campero