Monday, December 31, 2012

Cnovim Godom 2013!!

Privet family!

It was so great to see and talk with you all last week! This was definitely the highlight of Christmas for me, it is a huge blessing that we get to use modern technology in our missionary work. I honestly cannot believe that it's New Year's Eve again, those memories you reminded me about seriously seem like they were a few weeks ago. This final week of the year has been interesting to say the least haha. I don't know, there's just so much that goes on I don't know where to begin. Basically most of our contacts and investigators can't meet right now because they're all getting ready for the new year (this isn't just us though it's a mission wide thing) so we did lots of tracting and finding on the streets. We were able to meet with two investigators though. Here's their progress-

Suzanna- We met and talked about the Sabbath day with Sister Yana on the lesson. She basically understands what we tell her but she doesn't have a desire to act on any of it. We explained the Sabbath day, invited her to come to church with us because she hasn't been yet and she said no because all of the things we talked about didn't happen last time she attended church, about 4 years ago when they met in a hotel in Makeevka. She said she didn't feel welcome and has attended several other churches (word of life, J Dubs, baptists) and doesn't feel any difference between these and ours. It's a pretty tough concern because the only way to get over it is coming again. So we'll see what we can do. She's now heard all the lessons except for the main commandments (word of wisdom, chastity, tithing) so we're at an interesting point with her.

Valentina- We reviewed the gospel of Jesus Christ with her and invited her to be baptized January 19th. She said no and wants to pray about her date. She knows everything is true but there's something deeper, she's hard to figure out. We decided that next lesson we will watch Finding Faith in Christ and maybe review some of the baptismal questions. She came to church again yesterday and is making friends with more of the women in the branch which is good. She'll make it, hopefully soon.

So we're really hoping that after the new year we can meet with the rest of our investigators and get some progress going again. It's a difficult time of year trying to keep in touch because people are just busy and don't want to meet or do anything. We got 10 contacts this week, six more than last week so we're just hoping we can keep finding people ready to listen and set up with them. Our district is doing good, we were allowed to have a district dinner for Christmas so we all gathered at our apartment and made borsch, cake, ice cream, and root beer. We all get along well even though we are all diverse (ages, interests, cultures) I went on a split with Elder Groothuyzen on Saturday and we mainly searched for former investigators/ tracted. We found one person who said we could come back so hopefully that works out for the other elders. They only have one investigator right now so I was hoping on our split to find them a ton. They were finally able to move back to their apartment in center so we're back to normal again. I haven't known Groothuyzen that well until this point on my mission. He's a good missionary and we have a lot of the same opinions and interests. It was really weird being together for our 18 month mark, it's going by quick! And this upcoming week Elders Efoshkin and Carley are going to put Sage (Bonaventure's friend who only speaks French) on date so this will be exciting.

Now for some comments/tidbits. First off, I forgot to say on Skype that Sergei Heyleak says hello to you all from Daky. He was very surprised when I told him that we only talk like that twice a year. He said he'd quit the mission if he served because the rules are too strict haha. Yesterday we had the Primary program in Makeevka and 84 at church. The program was great, there are some cute kids in the branch. The rumor is that the church will start building the new meetinghouse soon and have it done sometime next year. I hope that gets started, lots of members are less active because theyr'e waiting for the new building. Count your blessings that you have running water. Last night our water got shut off and only a few hours ago got turned on again. We already got permission to celebrate New Years with Groothuyzen and Newey but we'll just be in Daky for tonight. We have to be in at 4:00 so we'll be studying then watching a movie or something probably then calling it a year. Nothing too crazy haha.

I love you all so much! The Church is true and is being led by a living Prophet today. The Book of Mormon is true. Our Savior lives. Have a great New Year's Eve and a Happy New Year! Talk to you next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, December 24, 2012

Srozhdestv​om Hristovim!​!! Merry Christmas!​!!

Privet family!
This week has flown by, I can't believe that tomorrow we'll be skyping for Christmas 2012! There have been a few changes around Makeevka because Thursday was transfer meeting. First off, I have been called to serve as district leader again. I am pretty humbled and excited with this call. Since my time in Saltovka President has come out with training for district leaders and things are outlined much more clearly now as to what my responsibilities are and how to really become a Christlike leader. I'm excited to learn and grow with my district and come closer to Christ. We had a meeting last night with the zone leaders and I learned so much about how district leaders should live and inspire those around them. It's going to be a great transfer. The new missionaries in my district are Elder Newey (Alpine, UT, just got finished training) with Elder Groothuyzen and Elder Carley (Hyrum, UT, almost a year out) with Elder Efoshkin. We've had one district meeting already and have some good, challenging goals for the transfer, the main one being 4 baptisms. Now for some updates on investigators.
Suzanna- We met and talked about the Holy Ghost/receiving answers to prayers. She seemed to enjoy the lesson and is reading in the Book of Mormon from the beginning. She asks good questions and is thinking about baptism right now. She won't commit yet but it's good she is thinking.
Richard- We met and he made us some dinner at his apartment. He's a really nice guy, just not very religious anymore. We gave him the book Our Search for Happiness and talked about the missionary work section in there. We want to leave him a BOM but it's hard to say right now. He enjoys meeting and seeing our views on life because he's not familliar with LDS customs. We'll see how our next visit goes. He went to Germany for Christmas so after the new year we'll get in contact again.
Valentina- We met and had a quick lesson about God's love and committed her to pray to feel it everyday. We decided to stop talking about smoking and just focus on good, spiritually uplifting lessons for her. She knows everything is true but just has the smoking problem. She's supposed to quit on January 7th and if she does then she could very well be baptized soon. Her and Yuri came to Church yesterday and seemed to enjoy it. Yuri wants to be the one to baptize her so we're faithful that he can also become worthy with her.
Sergei Heyleak- Sergei is one of the coolest men I've ever met here. He is making progress slowly but enjoys meeeting. We tried to go over last Monday for an FHE but they had to cancel because their lock on their door froze and the only way to get in was climbing over their fence with a ladder. It took them like an hour or something to heat the lock and unfreeze it. So we went by Wednesday night instead. Only Sergei has been on the discussions, the rest of the family are too busy. He promised that soon he will come to church and I feel that if he does then he'll really like it. We can both see him being the next branch president or something here, he has that type of personality. He is a main one we're really hoping can be baptized.
Valeria Suhotyoplaya- She has come to church all of December with her family and they are all active again! Unfortunately we haven't gone by for 2 weeks because they are doing a remodel and won't let us come. We really hope we can drop by this week and talk about baptism. We feel that she will want to be baptized, she seems to enjoy church enough!
Friday we had a Zone Conference from 9AM to 6PM. It was very spiritually uplifting and really got me into the Spirit of Christmas. A sister who went to BYU Jerusalem did a presentation about Christ's life and it was amazing to see pictures and hear her experiences. The biggest thing learned in Zone Conference was actually the ending. President Campero chose a film for us to watch called "Chariots of Fire." Maybe you've seen this? It is about a runner who competes in the 1924 Olympics in France, is Jewish, and stays obedient to his beliefs. Even though I have six more months, I thought it really applied to my mission. These last six will really be the ones I remember best. As I am obedient and do what I can the Lord will bless me and those around me. Also this last week I finished reading the Book of Mormon in Russian! It was a great experience. It took me nine months but I made it. The two biggest blessings I have seen from this are one, my testimony growing every day of reading, and two, my ability to understand and speak this difficult language. It's hard to explain the scriptures in Russian, there is a different understanding that comes but the Spirit is the same. I know with all my heart that the Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith translated it by the power of God. I prayed after finishing that I might have an experience to testify to someone that day. Later that night we were tracting and got let in to a babushka's apartment. She had a huge dog that was more like a bear ready to attack us haha but she invited us in, made us some mint tea, and we had a first lesson. She is a Baptist and knows the Bible very well. She didn't understand the need to read the BOM but both Elder Harrison and I testified of the power and truthfulness of it and she ended up accepting a copy and said she'd start reading. It was truly an answer to a few prayers that day, getting into a dom to tract, getting let in, and have the opportunity to testify. Her name is Tatiana Grigorivna and is like 62 and works as a miner. New investigator!
Really quick, comments/tidbits. I received both packages you sent me, thank you so much! I will be opening the gifts tomorrow morning. You guys are the best! Yes, I did find a new coat. There was one that got left in the office elder apartment and so I grabbed it. It's warm and does the trick. Sorry if there was any confusion last week with the time, I was in a hurry and typed the wrong one for you haha. So I had the office email you. But yeah, tomorrow we'll Skype and I'm super excited to see you all!
I love you all and am so grateful for all that you do. The experiences I'm having here cannot be learned anywhere else in the world. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I know that this work is His. Pass everyone my love and a warm Merry Christmas from freezing cold Daky, Makeevka! Until tomorrow!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, December 17, 2012

Staying 7 more in Daky!

Privet family!

So as the title says, Elder Harrison and I are staying seven more weeks in Daky (next transfer is a seven weeker to make up for this one). I'm happy to be staying longer, we still have a lot of work to get done here and need to baptize a few people. This past week has been pretty good for the most part. I don't know if you track the weather here but the first snowfall came last Wednesday and it snowed on and off until Saturday. The coldest it's been so far is like -15 C which is 2 F. It's supposed to get colder this week but don't worry I'm staying very warm. I've decided that I love Ukrainian winter. It is beautiful in it's own way. This is the time of the year that I imagined when I first opened up my call- snow is everywhere, you try to talk with people but they blow you off because its freezing, all of the apartment buildings just glow at night with lights, stray dogs running around in packs (oh wait that always happens haha) babushki shoveling the sidewalks and roads, people getting stuck everywhere because they dont have four wheel drive so we help them out, people wearing the big Russian hats (called shopka) freezing cold hands holding a Kniga Mormona, tracting lots of apartment buildings because it's a frozen wasteland outside- This is Ukrainian winter!
Here's some investigator progress for you.
Suzanna- We met with her Tuesday and had a member with us, Sister Yana, the RS Pres. It was a good lesson, we taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and drew a picture of all the steps. She is reading and has been investigating for 4 years. She doesn't want to get baptized or choose a date because she doesn't feel ready yet so our next lesson we will teach about the Spirit and getting answers to prayers.
Valentina- We had a lesson about quitting smoking but it didn't go over very well. She has a date to quit at Christmas (january 7th) but it's super hard. We decided from now on that we will just teach good spiritual lessons and not talk about smoking anymore.
Sergei- We're meeting them tonight and will be teaching about prayer. I talk to him a few times throughout the week and he's doing good, just really busy. Hopefully the lesson is successful. We can definitely see him getting baptized in this next transfer.
Now for some comments/tidbits. At Church yesterday the whole Syhotyoplaya family as well as Valentina! Miracles! We're hoping to meet with Valeria this week and put her on a date, she's been getting her family active and she's not baptized yet. Two elders in our district are getting transferred, Elders Packard and Fish. This means next transfer there will be a new district leader and we'll have two new elders. We find out Thursday all the details. Also last week Elders Groothuyzen and Packard moved in with us. It's been fun so far, it's basically like The Best Two Years movie, four elders in one apartment. SKYPE!!!! How does next Monday at 9 AM sound to you? This is 6 pm Tuesday (Christmas night) for me. Hopefully this works for you. I can't wait to see you all and talk, it's going to be amazing!!
I love you all and wish you an excellent week. The weather outside is frightful but the warm message of the restored gospel keeps me going everyday. I love this work, my Savior, and am so grateful to be here at this time. See you next week!!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, December 10, 2012

Where did that week go?

Privet family!

I can't believe it's Monday again, it's been a quick week here in Daky. Our days are pretty full and we're trying to meet with everyone we can out of our investigators. And on top of this we're still working towards our goal of one baptism before the end of the year. We fasted yesterday for this and have decided that out of all our investigators the one ready for baptism is Valeria, the 14 year old girl. We met with their family on Friday but unfortunately Valeria wasn't there so we weren't able to put her on date yet. However, she came to church again yesterday which makes two times already so we are really hoping this week to put her on date for the 29th of this month! Here's more progress on other investigators:

Richard- Yes, this is an American if you're wondering. We found him on the street about a little more than a month ago and we were finally able to meet with him. He is here with the Peace Corps and has been here for about two years already. He is in his 30's and isn't married. He used to be pretty religious and even served some service missions in his teens for the Presbyterian church but in college he decided to study philosophy and theology and has basically decided for himself that the world is better without a God. However, he is really interested in what we believe and why we are here as missionaries and so we're going to keep meeting with him. He is very into Calvinism which is the idea that only certain people are saved and that they only have one chance. It's an interesting idea. Anyway, we felt at the end of our meeting that we should give him a copy of "Our Search for Happiness" by M. Russell Ballard. (amazing book) He's going to read that and we're meeting again on Friday.

Syzanna- We were able to meet with her and we taught the Plan of Salvation. She met with missionaries about 7 years ago. We're not really sure why she stopped, sometimes people just stop meeting or get busy and things just don't work out anymore. She doesn't have any questions about what we have taught so far, except why can people go to heaven if they live sinful lives and then repent on their deathbed? We explained this and she seemed to be content with our answer. We tried putting her on a date but she doesn't feel ready yet. She is reading the Book of Mormon though so we're just going to keep working with her.

Yura- He is probably the most humble of all our investigators right now but is also breaking every single commandment in the book! It is kind of ironic? We were able to stop by him on Tuesday unplanned and we had a great lesson about prayer (read some of Ether with him) and he prayed and only said Saint Nikolai one time! Usually he prays to him the whole prayer but I think he's starting to understand prayer a little better. We read some verses about baptism in Mormon and committed him to pray about a baptismal date. For him to get baptized he will need to stop doing lots of things but we are faithful that in time he will understand and make it to the waters of baptism. He needs to come to church but is always busy on Sundays.

Sveta- So this lady is a former investigator from about a year ago. The sisters found her on the street and started teaching her but then she stopped answering her phone. She answered this week and let us come over. She has three kids ages 13, 11, and 9. She wants them to learn English so we talked a little bit in English for like 15 min and then did a restoration lesson. We really need to get a member with us next time or else I don't think she'll understand the true purpose of our visits. Nonetheless, they are a new investigator family and we have been praying for one of those so our prayer was answered!

Ruslan- He has started reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning and is understanding now! We met Thursday night with the branch President on the lesson and it was actually pretty good. We read a little bit of Mosiah 3 about Christ's life and His gospel and President Vadim shared a powerful testimony about how the missionaries found him, then choosing to serve a mission, getting called to London and having his life changed forever, and how his family now (wife and two kids) is due to the fact that he served a mission. We talk in English with Ruslan because he has extremely good English but we feel that he is actually starting to progress now.

Slavik and Valeria- So as I kind of mentioned at the beginning of my letter, Valeria wasn't there when we dropped by, only Slavik and Sister Lena were. So our back-up plan was to watch the Restoration film with them. Slavik seemed to really enjoy the film and it seems that Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are starting to make sense to him. This whole family was less-active but last week Sister Lena and Valeria came, this week Valeria brought her older less-active sister and nephew to church, it's awesome! Now Valeria needs to get baptized because somehow she didn't get baptized when the rest of the family did!

We also met a few members this past week. Sister Ludmila Matveeva is awesome, she is a chemist and has a super strong testimony. We meet at her house and invite her less-active neighbor Sister Sveta on the lessons as well. She is only less-active because she has to stay with her ill mother all day. We also met with Sister Valentina, the coolest babushka I've ever met in Ukraine. I don't remember if I've talked about her at all. She is about 4 feet tall, late 70's or early 80's, and just does family history work all day. She has a huge table with a computer and she sits behind it and does names all day, then every now and then goes to Kiev to have the work done. She showed us a book of all the names done and there were 1, 350!! Simply amazing. She also told us about her conversion story. Something that really struck me was that even though the missionaries testified of the Restoration every lesson, she didn't understand that in fulness the same church that Christ organized is back on the earth until AFTER her baptism. She said that many years of darkness needed to be removed from her mind before she understood this.

A few months ago we met a lady on the street who had great English and was actually a private English teacher. She gave us her card but we never called her because we kind of forgot and didn't think too much of it because she was only interested in English. Well, we called her and she invited us to come and give a presentation about missionary life to her class last week and invited us back this week as well. It went pretty good actually, we talked about prophets and how we have a living prophet on the earth today. There are 5 students in her class and they are all in university right now, from the ages of 18-22. They have good English and we're friends with them now. Next time we are going to try to get some of their numbers and see if we can meet with them. There are opportunities everywhere to share the gospel!

Now for some comments/tidbits. With Valentina right now we are using some principles in Preach My Gospel to help overcome addictions. Somehow she needs to get involved with the branch president or someone who teaches an addiction recovery class though. It's hard to teach her because lessons come every two weeks and she has been investigating for a long time. She'll make it though! This upcoming week is going to be pretty crazy for a couple reasons- transfer calls are on Friday!!! and the center elders' apartment is getting some work done so they're moving in with us this week for three weeks!! I really hope that Elder Harrison and I stay together for next transfer. We're doing tons of work and they shouldn't take us apart! Plus we can celebrate Christmas and New Years together with the other elders. I'll keep you posted next week on what happens.

TIme is going by fast but my mission truly becomes more and more a part of me each day I am here. I love you all so much. I love this work and I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. Have an awesome week, good luck with everything- work, studies, tests, callings- and I'll talk to you next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, December 3, 2012

So much for December!

Privet family, kak dela?

I'm not really sure how to describe this past week, it's been interesting, lots of ups and downs. Many investigators and contacts have been sick and so we haven't been able to meet with them at all, it's frustrating but if you're sick you're sick. Here are some updates on peoples' progress this week:

Suhotoplaya family (Slavik and Valeria)- Elder Harrison and Groothuyzen taught them this week on a split. They taught about prayer and both Brat and Sister Nikitenko came on that lesson. Sister Nikitenko basically sweet talked Sister Elena (less-active mom) and Valeria to come to church and they came yesterday! I think they enjoyed it for the most part, several members were talking to them and the young women seemed to get along with Valeria which is good.

Valentina- Didn't meet with her because it was her work week. We'll be meeting this week and she'll be coming to Church. Yes she was Elder Rallison's contact. She knows everything is true but just can't kick the smoking habit. But like I said we gave her a date to do it and so we think that our next meeting we will help them make a detailed plan of everything and try to talk more about baptism.

Heyleak family- Vera is finally feeling better after 3 weeks and so we were able to have a lesson with them last night. However, only Sergei was on the lesson so we haven't taught them as a family for probably a month now. It's really hard when lessons are only once a week because the investigator forgets a lot. Brat Nikitenko came with us again because him and Sergei are best buds now. The only problem with this is that they both LOVE to talk and so it's hard for us to get our say in sometimes. Sergei's main concern right now is "Why would God send us all on the earth if He knew what would happen with each of us?" And further, why we all chose to come to where we did in the pre-Earth life (why he ended up in Daky, Makeevka, Ukraine and we ended up in America) He is definitely progressing though, he read 2 Nephi 2, Mosiah 2, and Alma 42, and is reading the New testament as well. Elder Harrison and I had a lesson planned about the gospel of Jesus Christ and why all of this is relevant for him but the lesson was basically him and Brat Nikitenko just bouncing crazy ideas off of each other and us trying to fit in what we could. You should know that sitting down and talking is a Ukrainian past time, so this makes things difficult on lessons when we're only supposed to stay for 45 min. Anyway, Sergei is an amazing man, he really wants to know if the things we talk about are true. He said last night that the Book of Mormon is inspired, he just needs to read, ponder, and pray more about it. Once he gets a testimony of that, we truly feel that all the rest will happen pretty quickly and he'll become an awesome member here in Makeekva.

We also got two new investigators this week, not sure how promising they are but we're grateful to have them. Valentina is 62 and Provoslavni (Russian Catholic). She invited us over and fed us a huge lunch and we tried teaching her a first lesson but it was a train wreck. She is one of those nice people who just thinks that every Church is true and that there isn't one true Church on the earth. And she had tons of concerns and doubts about the Book of Mormon when we introduced it, but Elder Harrison bore a powerful testimony of it and she decided to keep a copy. If we ever return we're for sure taking a member. And Valeri is in his fifties, Greek, architect, very agnostic. He basically gave us a history lesson of all religions and it was super hard to understand, I probably understood like 20% of everything he said. He admits there is a higher power but there is no God. Super confusing stuff. He is reading the Book of Mormon though so we just need to give him time.

Throughout the mission right now every companionship has set a goal (as far as I know) for one baptism before the end of the year. We fasted for our goal and what we can do as a companionship to achieve it and at this time I'm going to put more effort on not getting caught up in the motions of missionary work and really consecrating my thoughts to my calling and responsibilities. I have been thinking about my thoughts I have throughout the day- family, life at home, investigators and progress, goals, Russian, friends- and I realized that I don't think about my Savior as much as I should and my sacred missionary calling. Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in everything that you forget WHY your here. So especially in this month and to the end of my mission I'm really going to put a focus on this through prayer and greater scripture study. We have been blessed with tons of people to teach. We're hopeful that very soon we find the one who is ready to be baptized because we're sure that he or she is there.

Now for some comments/tidbits. You might be interested to know that my release date has moved up---- I will be finishing JULY 9, 2013! This will be perfect time to get ready for everything. It has been raining here for the past three days so I still don't believe it's December. Don't worry, it's very warm and humid. Very odd weather. I'll let you know when SKYPE is happening. It will probably be 3 weeks from today! I can't wait! What I said in Russian last week means "Happy Thanksgiving from Makeevka." One final thought is go and read Mosiah 15:10-17. I studied this in personal study this week and found great comfort in Abinadi's words. We are the seed of Christ if we follow the prophet and live the gospel, as well as share the gospel and participate in missionary work. (This part was especially cool) The Book of Mormon is true, I love it with all my heart.

Well, my time's up! I love you all and wish you a great week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия