Monday, January 28, 2013

The best week in Makeevka so far!

Privet family! Thanks for the emails, I always love reading about things at home and hearing from you. That's crazy about the snow and ice storms. We got a pretty good storm here Friday night, about 7 inches, but it's not super cold.. yet. This past week was awesome, here are the details.
I went on a split with Elder Efoshkin in his area because their investigator Sage needed a baptismal interview and I hadn't gone with Efoshkin yet. It was a great split, he is an excellent elder. We found them two new investigators, both brothers from Africa. One is named Dayo (he came to church yesterday and loved it) and the other Godwill (he is Sage's roommate). Every week at church now we have a brother corner in the back haha and we translate for them. Pretty soon we're gonna have to start doing sacrament in english for all of them. We taught a great first lesson to Dayo and he was excited about the BOM. This is funny, Sage and Bonaventure (recent convert that Fish and Efoshkin baptized, I'm pretty sure I've talked about him) forgot that Thursday we were doing the interview and dogged us! So we had to reschedule it for Friday night. It was an awesome experience though. It was my first baptismal interview I've conducted and it was being translated because Sage doesn't know English. So I sat in their hostel room with Bonaventure and Sage and held the interview. I studied and prayed that I could memorize the questions in order to focus on the interview more and this prayer was answered. Everything went fine and I even understood sometimes what he was saying in French. His baptism was on Saturday but unfortunately we didn't go because no investigators could come with us. However, we congratulated him yesterday at church and he got the Holy Ghost of course so all is well.
While on my split Elders Harrison and Carley met with our investigator Yuri. He is the one we found tracting who smokes, drinks, worships icons, etc. HE ACCEPTED A BAPTISMAL DATE FOR MARCH 2! It is amazing progress! We have lots to do with him but if he really quits everything he will be baptized. This week our goal is to get a member with him, probably Brat Velikanov.
Now some comments/tidbits. My next P-day will be next Wednesday, FEBRUARY 6, not Monday. The APs and President are trying something new and transfer calls are not coming out this upcoming Friday, but next Tuesday night. This leaves only one day to get packed and write family, instead of having 6 days to say goodbye to members/investigators/get ready. It's going to be interesting, I'm not sure how I feel about it. The possible scenarios of transfers are as follows: I stay one more, Harrison leaves; Harrison stays, I go; or we both go, which has happened to other trainer/greenie companionships even with people on date. My guess is that I'll stay but we'll see what happens. I can't believe it's already time for transfers again. Elder Harrison and I have grown a lot and are going to work to make this last full week together better than this one. Last but not least, we had a missionary fireside yesterday. It was pretty successful and I think we got the members more excited about missionary work. Elder Southam shared an experience of when he was stake president about how the members got better at sharing the gospel. In everyday conversations they would say "One reason I like my church is..." So we practiced situations with the members and it seemed to go good. We also sung "Come Thou Fount" as a district with Sister Southam playing piano. It was great! I forwarded some pictures she took from this week. Enjoy.
I love you all so much. Know that you are in my prayers and that God loves you! Talk to you next Wednesday!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, January 21, 2013

Meat jello, anyone?

Privet family!

Thanks for all your emails, it sounds like things are going good at home. This upcoming week the weather's supposed to be in the negatives so we'll see what happens. It's been pretty warm, like mid 30's or something. I'm glad you got the furnace figured out, that's a miracle the second guy was smarter/cheaper. Our past week was good and bad, mostly good though haha. None of our investigators could meet BUT we did find two new ones- Svetlana and Sergei. Svetlana is a former investigator and has read the BOM already. She is probably like 55 and is a teacher. We're not sure what she really wants from meeting us, we had a very short lesson just to get to know her. More about her next week. And Sergei is 26 and works for a door company near our apartment. We see him everywhere and finally got his number to set up with him. He's not the most religious guy ever but is interested to know more about the Church.
Last Tuesday we had interviews with President. Before our interviews though the Southams got permission to make us a lunch and invited us over to their apartment. They are amazing people and love having missionaries around. They have added a new level of spirituality and fun to our district as well as the branch. Elder Southam is very knowledgable with the scriptures and can answer basically any question. He's written several documents, one of which is called "How the Book of Mormon proves the Bible is true" I need to send you a copy, it's very well written. He also does magic tricks so all the kids in the branch love him. I sent some pictures from our lunch so enjoy. My interview with President went well. I asked him two questions- 1) How to get investigators on date when they don't accept a date and 2) How to stay focused for the final push until the end of my mission. He basically told me to get tons of investigators and think about them all the time to stay focused because if I'm focused on them then I won't be concerned with matters at home. President is a great man, I love him. It's weird that I only have one more interview with him and then my exit interview. The time is flying!
This last week we made some cookies and took them to some investigators we haven't met with in a while, Oleg and Valentina (the old Valentina, not smoking Valentina) At Oleg's house we didn't know the code to get in so we prayed that we could open the door. Right after we said amen two little kids ran up from playing in the snow and opened it! I asked the one for the code and he told me. It was pretty cool. And then at Valentina's she wouldn't let us just drop by and so she offered us some food. After lots of hesistation we finally said OK, we'll eat something really quick. So of all things she gave us each some holodets. This is the meat-jello stuff that's really nasty. Elder Harrison liked it and downed it pretty quick, I only ate like a fourth and couldn't do it anymore haha. I don't think I'll ever try that again. Ask Lena about it, maybe she could make you some :)
We've been doing lots of tracting (knocking on doors) in the night time because it's cold and it's more effective than walking the streets. We pray that doors will be open and walk around in the areas we pray about until we find an open door. Inside each stairwell are 15 doors. We walk to the top then knock all of them until the bottom, then find a new stairwell and repeat until about 8:00 because people hate it when you knock after 8. I don't know how many doors we've knocked, maybe like 300, and of all of those we found 1 lady who took a BOM. We still need to go back there and see if she wants to meet. I can't really explain tracting that well in words, but I actually like it though. It takes some luck, skill, and the Spirit but is rewarding when you find someone.
And yesterday morning we got up and Elder Harrison felt that we should go finding before Church. I told him I've never been finding Sunday morning my whole mission and didn't want to. But then I changed my mind and said "Alright let's go but we've gotta be quick though to get ready for church." Elder Harrison in his prayer prayed that we'd find someone ready to talk and that they'd be wearing red clothing. So we went out and after 10 minutes stopped a nice lady. It turned out she is a missionary as well from the word of life church. And she was wearing red! We talked for a while but her main concern the whole time was that we can't prove that the BOM is an inspired book. We bore testimony, read Moroni 10:3-5 and explained the whole prayer process, but in the end she rejected it. The whole time I was trying to find 2 Corinthian 13:1 but forgot where it was and felt like that would've backed up the BOM but really it just comes down to people's free agency and sometimes it's really hard to find someone that seems like they would accept it but then reject it. But next time she finds missionaries perhaps she'll have a change of heart.
Now for some comments/tidbits. This Saturday Sage will be baptized! Thursday I'll be going on a split with Elder Efoshkin to interview him but all is in order for Saturday. Our district is doing good, we've made amazing progress since the beginning of the transfer, it's cool to see this.
I love you all and hope you have a great week. Know that you're in my prayers and that the work is moving forward every day. I know my Savior lives and loves each us personally. Talk to you next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Crazy Week of Firsts

Privet family, how are you doing?!
Thanks for your emails, it's always great to read and hear how things are going at home. I have tons of stuff to talk about from this past week so we'll see if I can fit them all in!
Last Monday, January 7th, we didn't have any plans and were just planning on finding on the streets and tracting. About 4:00 Sergei called us and asked what we were doing that evening. I told him nothing, so he invited us over as guests for Christmas. We knew that we'd be eating a lot of food but I didn't know it would be THAT much haha. His wife cooked some soup kind of like borsh but without beets, then we had mashed potatoes and fish with bones in it everywhere, there was a white beet salad, pickled tomatoes and cucumbers, then apple cake and a dish called kutya (accent on the end of word). Kutya is cooked rice with honey, walnuts, and poppy seeds. They make a ton of it and leave it on the table for New years and Christmas until it's basically all gone. It was a huge meal but tasty. We talked about a lot of stuff with them but unfortunately didn't really get a chance to fit in a gospel message. It just didn't seem right for some reason. I love this family so much but I fear that our relationship is more of "hey come over and eat and talk with us" instead of us teaching them. They've been really busy and haven't had time to read. Sergei should be coming to church soon so this is our focus with him, as well as getting them to pray. They told us if we ever come back to visit after we go home that we can stay with them. This is my favorite thing about these people- they are really closed when you first meet them on the street but after you get to know them you are basically family. They are awesome and we keep praying for them to be opened more to the gospel.
Thursday we had a Zone Meeting in Donetsk. I was expecting to hear a lot about missionary work as always and how to improve the work in our areas but the focus this time was our personal relationships with God. We watched Elder Bruce R. McConkie's final talk before he passed away and focused on his invitation "to know the Savior better buy learning of His Atonement and not listening to what the world says." The best way to come to know Him better is through obedience, and grace makes up our weaknesses as we strive to better ourselves everyday as we faithfully do missionary work. It was a very uplifting meeting. Afterwards, we had to take a taxi home because we had tons of stuff so we shared with Elders Efoshkin and Carley. The lady from the company called back to tell us our taxi was there but I didn't understand her and passed our phone to Efoshkin. He talked to her and said that the taxi was here and waiting in front of the office, so we all went and took our BOMs/water filter stuff with us. Basically we were really distracted and forgot to get the phone back from Efoshkin. So when we got back to the apartment we were supposed to have a less-active lesson but then I realized we didn't have the phone, which meant we couldn't call anyone and had no connection with the district or zone leaders. Pretty bad! So we decided to ask the less-active to use her phone and call zone leaders and see if we could stay with center elders Groothuyzen and Newey for the night to call in or else no one would know if we were home or not. So we got to her apartment and found that her main door was locked! of course! There was no domo-phone to call her on and so we waited to see if anyone who lived there would come by and open the door but no one came. We then decided to try Richard's house, the American peace corps volunteer. We walked there and miraculously his door was open and he was home. We knocked and asked to use his phone, he let us of course, and I found out that Carley and Efoshkin had already given it to center elders so I called them and then we traveled all the way to their apartment, we got our phone, called the less-active and explained what happened, and were home by 9! Pretty crazy stuff haha but I guess I'm just kind of used to things like this happening. Also something cool from this is Richard gave us a referral! A lady who works in a little shop by his apartment thought he was an LDS missionary. He told her no, but that he knows us and would pass the message along she wants to meet. We haven't been able to find her yet but hopefully we will this week.
To add to this our faucet broke on Wednesday hahaha. Part of it broke a few months ago when the APs came (maybe you remember my little flood story) but Elder Bolingbroke was able to buy a new part and fix it. Well this time the other side, the hot water part, broke off, so we made a contraption to catch the water into the sink and still use the water at the same time. But it was a really lame faucet anyway and leaks when the water's on everywhere on the counter so you would turn it on, wash a dish or something, then wipe down the counter every 10 seconds. Fun stuff. But anyway, we went to a little store nearby and they didn't have the part and said we could come back Saturday for it. So this was all good until the next day when our hot water stopped working in general because our pilot light went out! So basically we boiled water and used that to shower until Saturday. THEN Saturday morning we were very excited because the part should have come in, right? Well, it didn't. We went back and forth to different stores looking for the little part and everyone said they didn't have it and so we finally just called our landlord and said "Hey, we're buying a new faucet and installing it by ourselves. Also, our hot water doesn't work so come by whenever you can." So all morning we ran around, then bought a new faucet and installed it ourselves. It was pretty rewarding to do that I must say. I've learned a little bit about fixing stuff on my mission so some things I know how to deal with. So our water worked but there still wasn't any hot water. Elder Harrison then realized that HE turned the gas off thinking it was water for the sink!!!! So I turned it on, lit the pilot light, called the landlord and said don't come anymore, then we continued on with our day. haha I'm just laughing as I'm writing this. I thought that the gas just somehow got cut off, kind of like how sometimes our water just gets turned off but in the end, everything worked out and all is well in Zion again. :)
AND to add to this, for the very first time on my mission I had to give a talk in Sacrament yesterday! This is quite ironic because last week I told Brynn I will probably never speak but I spoke too soon haha. Our whole district was asked to speak and give 5-7 minute talks about missionary work. I ended up speaking longer than needed and the branch president passed me a note that said "Unfortunately you're time has finished. Please bear your testimony and sit down." The branch really enjoyed the talks though, we have a good relationship with them. Next week I'll send you my talk. I talked about how we can share the gospel just going about doing good, praying for opportunities to serve, and used Ammon's example of service first/building relationships then teaching leading to the start of missionary work among the Lamanites and many baptisms.
I love you all so very much! I'm out of time but please know that you are in my prayers and I am so grateful to be here at this time in Ukraine. The Church is true and the Lord truly directs His work in these Latter-days. Have a great week and I'll talk to you next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy 2013 from Daky!

Privet family! Cnovim godom 2013!
I hope that your new year was all that you could imagine it being and more! We went finding for three hours to make up for coming in early and got one contact, did shopping, wrote our families, went bowling and got charged an arm and a leg 170 grieven, then came in at 4:00, did our studies, made some mac and cheese (thanks for that by the way) then watched Legacy and went to bed. We were planning on getting up at 12:00 and having some Zhivchik (Ukrainian soda thats basically like Martinelli's) but we didn't hear the alarm so I just had some by myself on New Year's since Elder Harrison has decided to give up sugar completely from his diet. New Year's Day we had to go to the office and grab some supplies/more copies of the Book of Mormon but they didn't even have any so it was kind of a worthless trip. And we came in at 6:00 New Year's Day and had planned to do a few things but Elder Harrison has a habit of falling asleep really easily and was out until 6:30 the next morning haha. So I finalized some goals for the new year, did some studies, and that's about it. That'd be cool to go see a play for New Year's, sounds like that was fun. And it's too bad the family parties have stopped, but I guess life goes on, right?
Elder Harrison and I are continuing to work with our current investigators. We taught several of them this past week, not all of them though. Here's some progress.
Valentina- Elder Harrison and Efoshkin taught her because I was on a split with Elder Carley. They watched Finding Faith in Christ and had Sister Yana the Relief Society Pres on the lesson. I know I've said this already probably but she knows everything is true, just needs to make the decision for herself to be baptized and quit smoking. From this point on we've decided to just teach good spiritual lessons and ask at the end of each one how prayers are going about the decision to be baptized. She's progressing and reads the Bible and BOM everyday for more than an hour. She'll get there.
Suzanna- Harrison and Efoshkin also taught her. Elder Efoshkin was able to answer all of her questions since he's Russian haha and from what I hear she really wants to come to church this week, which is great progress since last time we talked about church she had no desire to go. Cross your fingers for next Sunday.
Ruslan- We taught him the plan of salvation with Sister Yana on the lesson. She knows good English and bore a great testimony. It was a very spiritual lesson and we're pretty sure that it was the first time Ruslan's ever felt the spirit like that. He had several questions about the next life and we were able to answer them with the scriptures and testimony. We gave him a soft baptismal commitment (If you find out that this is true will you be baptized) and he said maybe, he needs to think about it. He's making progress though! He likes practicing English but is starting to become more open. The only problem is that he goes to Gorlovka every weekend so can't come to church. We told him that there's a church in Gorlovka but he doesn't have time because he studies the whole time. He's a great kid though, he's only 22.
Now for lots of comments/tidbits. Elder Efoshkin and Carley put Sage on date for January 26! Sage knows very basic English (my name is, I'm 24, etc) and little Russian, French is his native language. So they teach him with Bonaventure and have it all translated. He bore his testimony yesterday in Sacrament so he talked, then Bonaventure translated into English then Elder Carley translated into Russian. It's pretty cool stuff. As district leader normally I would interview him but President Campero will be doing the interview and it will be the same set-up probably with translating since no one speaks French in Donetsk. The district is doing good, and now we have Elder and Sister Southam in our district. They were in Gorlovka but now live in Donetsk because Elder Southam's the only one who has been a stake president and is doing some training with the district presidency or something. Basically sometime soon in President Campero's time there will be a stake here, no doubt. I've been blessed to get to know most of the senior couples in our mission. The Southams are from Colorado and already served a mission in Novosibirsk. He worked as an attorney and is very knowledgable with the scriptures. It will be awesome to have them in Makeevka. FYI last year in our mission we had 62 baptisms! And this year we already have 3, with 10 on date for January. This is a record because the last two Januarys there haven't been baptisms. The mission just keeps getting better and better.
I love you all and will talk to you next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия
And one more thing. We did tons of caroling this past week and got some members to come last night. There's a huge Christmas tree in center Makeevka and we gave out like 200 calendars that Pres. Campero made and got one new contact from it. It's not a very popular thing to go caroling but it's been rewarding and successful. Love you all!