Monday, February 25, 2013

This is The Azov Sea, Huh?

Privet family!

I can't believe another week has gone by. For some reason this past one was very fast. This week wasn't exactly the best going by numbers but the work is definitely progressing forward. To be honest these first few weeks in Mariupol have been some of the toughest on my mission because Elder Sanger can't walk around too much so we spend time inside working the area book and trying to get in touch with former investigators and not a lot of time on the streets talking to people. I don't blame him for not wanting to walk around all day on crutches because he needs to keep his foot resting as much as possible but it's tough when we're both the type of missionaries that go out and get things done if this makes sense. However, through all the setbacks we have been blessed with two investigators that will hopefully be baptized soon, Nina and Denis.

Nina - You know Nina, a very sweet babushka who is a referral from Valeri Gooshin. She has come to church every week and is totally ready for baptism, she just wants to talk to her family about everything and make sure they're on the same page. Yesterday at church she really enjoyed sacrament and was feeling the spirit strongly. I sat next to her and she turned to me afterward and said "Sorry I cry all the time when I come to church, I just can't keep the tears back." I told her that people just feel the spirit differently and that she shouldn't be sorry haha. She talked to Elder Sanger about her baptism and invited us to come over for a lesson tonight. We really hope we can put her on a baptismal date again and baptize her soon. We will also be talking about temples/family history work.

Denis - I don't remember what I've told you about Denis but he's a very humble guy who is handicapped due to years of hard drug usage. Elder Sanger and I weren't sure how much he understands because he's just really slow in answering and moving but from our two lessons this week we both know now that he is definitely able to get baptized and understands the lessons we teach. I've been doing a little study on D&C 20:37 and the requirements of baptism and as long as they can repent and make the needed changes to their lives and are humble enough then they can be baptized. We both prayed about Denis and like I said from teaching him we both feel that he understands and has the capacity to repent, he's just very slow. He has read the entire Bible and is currently reading (as of Friday) Jacob 5. He wants to get baptized but now there are a few other problems we need to overcome - 1) He needs to come to church. For this to happen we'll need to get a taxi or use a member's car to drive him to church and then use his wheelchair because he can't move on his own. Also, his mom doesn't want him going to church while it's cold outside.. And 2) His mom needs to get on board with us. She doesn't sit on lessons, she's just home every 4 days from work to open the door for us to come in and teach him. We told her he has a desire to be baptized and she said "Well he's already been baptized, why do you want to baptize him again? We tried to explain it a few different ways without offending her and finally Ruslan (recent convert that comes with us on lessons) said that 'He wants to be a member of our church and to do that needs to get baptized.' She seemed to understand kind of and said she'll think about. We invited her to sit on the next lesson but she doesn't really want to. She's a super nice lady though. But somehow things will work out, they always do. We'll be teaching him tithing and fasting this week and then he just needs to hear a few basic commandments that he probably already keeps and he's heard everything. His date is March 16 but we might move it back based on things.

We also found another investigator, Lilia. She is Ruslan's mom and has met with missionaries before, last summer. She's a member of the Charismastic church, (not really sure what that even is haha) and they do things such as read the Bible, have Holy Ghost, and speak in tongues. We listened to her talk for a very long time and then we got in a little bit about how the Bible teaches WHAT Christ did and the Book of Mormon teaches WHY. She seemed to like this and committed to read Alma 32 about faith. It would be extremely difficult being a recent convert in Ukraine, I'm not gonna lie. Ruslan is 22 and investigated for a year and got baptized in December. He's now a branch missionary and comes with us a lot. But his mom isn't on the same page as him. She's glad that he found God through the Mormon church but that's as far as that goes. The biggest concern that everyone has here is that "Bog adin" or "there's only one God and it doesn't matter which path you take to get to him. He gives everyone a different way and loves all His children. God is in your heart." We suggested that maybe they can read together. We'll see how she's doing this week.

Now for some comments/tidbits. Yesterday for the first time on my mission we went to a Ukrainian concert! A member in the branch, Nadezhda, sings with a choir and the sister's investigator, Natsha, conducts the choir and they announced it and invited everyone to come. We went with Nina and a less-active on Left Bank, as well as Ruslan and our district and the Gooshins. It was pretty cool, they had a small orchestra pit and played traditional Ukrainian music, as well as Spanish and French songs. It made me miss playing at home! Don't get too worried but President Campero is in SLC right now at a hospital doing some health stuff. He'll be there for three weeks and will hopefully return back. What he needs done can't be done here. Keep him in your prayers. I will tell the Gooshins that you say thanks, they are awesome members. Mom, you probably won't believe the things I like now hahaha. I basically eat everything, I've found a liking to many things I used to hate. "Fell outta the club" is a missionary phrase here in Donetsk. I will tell you what that means after I get home :) I just talked to the elders in Daky today and found out a few things - Lera, the 15 year old we taught is getting baptized this Saturday! And one of the Africans I taught with Efoshkin is getting baptized this Saturday as well, plus the sisters investigator there. Makeevka is doing good! And final thing, you talked about wanting some good souvenirs for the family. Mariupol branch has a sister who paints beautiful wooden eggs with whatever you want on it. They cost $50. I am thinking of getting one for us but need your suggestions. My idea is a Salt Lake Temple with our picture on the back with "Together Forever" in Russian. Tell me what you think, the sister can do pretty much anything.

I love you all and wish you an awesome week! Know that you are in my prayers and that I think about you all often. Talk to you next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, February 18, 2013

Yep, I Fell Outta the Club

Privet family!
Wow, I can't believe my first week has come and gone already. It was definitely not what either of us expected/would wish on anybody. Beginning of the week was fine, we did get pizza with James and Shelly (they invited us again tonight for the final time, they're leaving tomorrow and everything's in order with their adoption). And then Tuesday is where things got bad.. for breakfast I had a banana that we bought at the store but it turned out to be unripe, still green. I didn't think it was that green but I shouldnt've eaten it. I felt progressively worse throughout the whole day but was still going fine though. We had a lesson with an investigator named Denis, then a recent convert lesson with Ruslan and family night with President Gushin's family. By famiy night though I was in a bad way, like chills and headache and stomach pain. At the end of the FHE branch president's dad asked me if I was alright and I said I had a headache and then everyone just started going crazy and worrying and all of a sudden he got out a blood pressure thing and was taking my reading!! He said that I had a really bad reading because my heart was beating super fast and then asked me what I had been eating. They found out about the banana and said I shouldn't ever eat the bananas here in Mariupol because they're death! So it was probably the most interesting FHE I've ever been to haha. But we came home, I felt like crap, then slept. In the middle of the night I felt awful and couldn't sleep and threw up, but that felt good though. So now it was Wednesday and I woke up feeling like a train ran over me. Basically Wednesday I slept on and off and when I wasn't sleeping I was in the bathroom, it was bad! And I wanted to study but had a bad headache all day so it was miserable. And then Thursday Elder Sanger started having the same symptoms as me and we were both going in and out of the bathroom. Even worse! Thursday I felt better though because my headache went away. And Friday we planned on getting back to normal but Sanger started throwing up Friday morning so Friday was out as well. We called the doctor in Kiev and he had us drink a concoction of water, salt, sugar, and baking soda. It was nasty but helped us stay hydrated. And then Saturday we basically got back to normal for the most part, had district meeting and talked to people again on the streets. Through this all though Elder Sanger and I did some great bonding though, maybe the best bonding at the start of any of my companionships haha. But please don't worry about us, we're back to normal now except for Sanger still being on crutches. He still has 4 more weeks of that. The branch has been SUPER HELPFUL especially President Gushin and his family, they bought things for us and made sure we were fine. But yeah, not anything I would wish on anyone. I think the banana started it but I really had the flu though because I passed it to Sanger. Fun times.
Not regarding this though, we had progress with investigators and building the relationship with the branch.
Nina - She is beyond ready for baptism BUT she doesn't want to get baptized until her family understands her decision. This means Saturday isn't going to happen. She said it will be soon and wants some time. She'll make it :)
Denis - He is an invalid that the sisters found through contacting his mom on the street. He is 35 and did some hardcore drug usage in his life and is now a vegetable. He can't move on his own and sits at home all day. It's so sad. We weren't sure about his level of understanding because he wants to get baptized but one of the requirements of this of course is repentance so we prayed and studied about this topic and his situation and met with him again last night. We both felt that he has good enough understanding to repent sincerely and follow Jesus Christ. We set a baptismal date for him for March 16! We will need to get him to church somehow, probably carry him into a car and then get a wheelchair, but we're faithful this can work out. He's super humble and enjoys our meetings. I hope he can get baptized!
Now for some comments/tidbits. The Mariupol branch is gung ho about missionary work, it's amazing. The members absolutely love missionaries and are willing and ready to help. We are getting to know a recent convert named Ruslan very well. He got baptized 2 months ago, is now a branch missionary as of yesterday and came on 2 lessons with us after church. He's 22 and wants to go on a mission. Awesome! We're very grateful for the members of this branch, I hope we can do a ton of work and help several people come to the waters of baptism. Mom, tomorrow I'm starting my D&C Countdown. Start at the official letter #2 and read a section everyday backwards. It's scary I've only got the D&C left for time. I'm doing my best everyday to use time wisely and learn the things of importance. That's crazy about the meteor in Russia! I did not hear about this, first time.
I love you all so very much! Thank you for your love, prayers, and support. Have an excellent week and I'll talk to you later!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия
(from Mariupol) with love,
Elder Keown
Ukraine Donetsk Mission

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hello from Left Bank, MARIUPOL!!

Bolshoi privet family!
This past week has been insane, I don't even know where to begin. I'll go from this last Tuesday night after Elder Harrison and I received transfer calls. We were both bummed that we got whitewashed (this means both companions transfer out by the way) but feel like we left Daky in good hands. Wednesday (last P-day) was spent packing all day/we went bowling as a district one final time/met with the Heyleaks. They weren't very happy to hear the news but they understood that it's just part of the mission. We taught them about the faith process (Alma 32) and left our testimonies with them. Sergei bought Elder Harrison and I a gift as well- a bottle of Ukrainain cologne! Haha. I really hope that they keep meeting with missionaries, if they come to church they'll know it's true and get baptized. But now seving in Daky are Elders Robison and Newey so we feel that they'll take good care of the investigators and members there. OK so Thursday we had transfer meeting in Donetsk. President announced news in the mission (27 investigators on date!) and then the APs announced transfers- I am now serving in Mariupol with Elder Sanger! He is from Oregon and is going into his 7th transfer. So far we get along great. He was just serving in Kharkov and had some bad luck and slipped on the ice up there and messed up his foot pretty bad though so he's on crutches for this whole transfer. But this isn't stopping him from working though. He's a trooper. It just takes us a lot longer to get around but other than that all is well. So along with my new area came more leadership- I have been called to be Zone Leader! My Zone has 6 missionaries (4 elders and 2 sisters). President has called zone leaders in the outermost cities and then in Donetsk and Kharkov the zones have like 20+ missionaries. So it is very comparable to a district but since we're so far away from everyone we also function as a zone. As part of this calling, I attended Zone Leader's Council at President's apartment Friday morning, so Thursday night I stayed in Donetsk. By the way, the other members of the zone here are Elder Bolingbroke, a mini missionary from Saltovka named Elder Zabutiluk, and Sister's Wagers and Erekson. The mini will only be here one or two more weeks though because then Elder Bolingbroke will train a new missionary who didn't come in on time due to breaking his foot at the MTC. But back to ZLC, it was a great meeting. There are tons of responsibilities being a Zone Leader, I basically oversee the work in Mariupol and conduct training as needed with our weekly meetings (like district meetings). The other big part of Zone Leader's Council was emphasizing the fact that we should make the branch we serve in OUR branch, just as we would at home, and have the kind of relationship with the members as we'd have with our families. The next ZLC is the beginning of March so I just pray I can fulfill this calling to the best of my abilities down here.
Mariupol is an amazing place, it might very well end up being my favorite area (and possibly my last one on my mission). We live about 15 min. from the Azov Sea and the branch is amazing. It is like a huge family. And yesterday I had to give a talk (again) haha. The elder who got transferred from Mariupol passed me the assignment but it was fine though, my talk went better than I thought. I talked about D&C 4:3 and what it means to have desire. The branch welcomed all of us very warmly, it might be the best first day of church I've seen on my mission. The branch president is awesome, his name is President Gooshin. He's 25 and just got back from Novosibirsk mission a year ago. He lives 5 minutes from our apartment and has helped out a ton so far, plus he knows perfect English. I'm sure we'll get to know his family very well. And you might find this interesting, all the snow has melted down here! The sea is still frozen but there is absolutely no snow. It's cold because we're by the sea but that will go away pretty soon probably. This winter has been weak, last winter was 10 times colder. AND one more awesome piece of news-- Elder Sanger and I put an investigator on date last night for February 23!! She's golden, she is a member referral from the Gooshin family and the sisters taught her basically everything except some commandments and then got transferred. Her name is Nina. She is 73 years old, loves church, and has been inviting friends to come each week. So mark the date! And there's one more investigator on date as well in the Center area for next month. The work is progressing down here, that's for sure. They already had 3 baptisms in January. We will keep it up!
Now for some comments/tidbits. Elder Harrison got transferred to Kharkov, the Alekseevka branch and HE IS TRAINING THE RUSSIAN ELDER FROM SAMARA! I'm pretty proud of him, he's going to be a great trainer. I didn't see him doing anything else, he's born to train and lead. They'll do some great work up there. It sounds like Joe's ready to enter the mission field. I can't believe that his time has come now. Tell him good luck for me. Here's a question for you - was I an active child growing up? I told a member here when my birthday is and she said there's some belief that if your date has lots of 1s it means you were an active child. I told her I'd ask haha. And this is also interesting- there is an American LDS couple from South Jordan in Mariupol right now adopting three kids. They've been here for a month now and are leaving next week. They come to church and I met them yesterday because I translated for them. I don't know their last name, perhaps I can find it out. But they invited us to get some pizza with them today so we'll be doing that. It's a small world!
Well, I hope this email has answered some questions for you all. Missionary life is a roller coaster. One moment you are very comfortable with your area and then all of a sudden you end up by the Azov Sea wondering what happened haha. It will be an interesting first week figuring the area out and meeting people but all will be just fine. I love you family! Know that you are in my prayers and thoughts everyday. I hope that all is well with you. Have an excellent week and remember that God lives, Jesus is the Christ, and the Book of Mormon is true. Talk to you next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wait, what?

Privet family!
It's great to finally have P-day, I've got a few things to tell you haha. Well, first off, Elder Harrison and I BOTH received transfer calls last night. We're getting whitewashed! This isn't what I expected, I really wanted to stay one more but the Lord has different plans for us. Elder Groothuyzen and Newey are also whitewashing, but Elder Newey is coming to Daky so I feel good about leaving it in his hands. Hopefully him and his companion can get these people baptized. We love them so much. And Elder Carley got transferred only after one (he's not very happy) and Efoshkin's staying for number 4. Their area is on fire right now. FIVE people on date- Godwill, Dayo, Nastia (9 year old), Denis, and Lubov. I don't have tons of time to talk about them but basically all the African brothers are really catching on to the gospel. And Bonaventure got called to be a ward missionary this last Sunday. And he's applying to BYU-Idaho for next year. I will miss talking to the "brothers" each Sunday and translating for them.
Here's some updates about our investigators in Daky:
Valentina: She got a new job and hasn't been able to meet or come to church. It's rough. She knows everything is true just can't kick the smoking habit. The last I heard the branch will choose some home teachers and teach her and her husband the 12 step program and go from there. She's so close!
Yuri- We met him on Saturday and finished Plan of Salvation. We also talked about what it will take to get baptized, mainly with word of wisdom. He wants to quit drinking and smoking and really wanted to come to church but it didn't work out because of work. However, Elder Newey was with me on a split so he knows him now which will be good. He mainly just needs to get to church and meet other members to really see how the church works. His date will get moved back a little bit as well.
Heyleaks- We taught them last week with Elder and Sister Southam. We reviewed the Plan of Salvation and had everyone there except Dima. Sergei still has tons of questions. Basically he said "I grew up in the Soviet Union so all of this stuff is completely new to me. It's easy for you to say things like 'Yeah before this life we lived with God' because you've already been in the church a while. For me it's hard." BUT he still wants to keep meeting and has a desire to know if it is true. We're actually meeting him tonight for the last time before we leave tomorrow and are planning on sharing Alma 32, the whole faith process. They'll get baptized when they know its true.
We also found a new investigator, Evgenni. He's about 35 and is married with an 8 year old daughter. We met him last night and left a BOM with him. He wants to start reading and is a great guy. Unfortunately I'll never meet him again but I'll let you know the progress with him as I hear it.
I really don't want to leave Daky, it's been a great area and I've learned so much. First training Elder Harrison (I've learned enough from him to last me the rest of my mission haha) and serving as district leader seeing the progress of our district. We have 6 people on date, it's amazing. And we're all really good friends. Not to mention growing spiritually each day. But the main thing I've learned here is that Jesus Christ really is with us in the work, on our left and right. He knows us personally and will comfort us when we need help.
I'm out of time!!! Until next Monday in a new area and with a new companion! Love you all!!!!!!!!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия