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!
Украинская Донецкая Миссия