Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Seev Cave

Privet family!

Sorry this e-mail is one day late. Yesterday we were pretty busy and didn't get to internet at all. We helped Elders Moss and Kumferman move into President Alosha's super nice American house. It is like the house I lived in when I was a greenie but 100X nicer - heated flooring, all new furniture and appliances, a plasma tv, an attic, and a grill for barbecuing. (We had a BBQ yesterday - it was pretty sweet.) So again, sorry I didn't write we were busy all day helping them move. 

My first week back in Kharkov has been good. Elder Jones and I had 9 lessons, the most I've had in a long time. Here are some of the investigators we're teaching right now and their progress.

Maksim and Oleg - So Maksim is 18 and has been meeting with missionaries for a while. He knows the church is true but doesn't want to get baptized until he goes to America for work. He brought his friend Oleg and he seems to be religious and interested a little bit in the Book of Mormon. They both know English and we had a pretty cool experience teaching them. Maksim asked a question about some anti-Mormon crap he read (basically that Joseph Smith thought up everything, was crazy, needed money, blah blah) and he asked us our opinion about Joseph Smith. I asked him where he's reading right now in the Book of Mormon and he's in Moroni 7. So I said, 'Let's read there and see if we find an answer.' So we started reading and we only read to verse 18 because he answered his own question from reading the verses about "an evil man can't do good...a dirty fountain can't bring forth clean water". We asked him what he thought about this (if Joseph Smith was an evil man why would he 'write' a book inviting all to come unto Christ) and he said he answered his own question that Joseph Smith didn't think up the religion himself. It was pretty cool to just read and see the power of the Book of Mormon in action. 

Aleksander - He is about 60 years old and used to be atheist. Elder Jones and Rooney worked with him and taught him a lot, even helping him pray for the first time. He's heard all the lessons now, but he can't come to church because he works at his dacha on the weekends. Jones and I are gonna try and go help him sometime and see if just one time he can come to church. He's very nice and knows ok English.

Vadim 1 - This guy is an eternal investigator. Not really sure about him yet. He's in his fifties and we went over the baptismal questions with him. He doesn't think there needed to be a restoration and asked us some basic questions. I'm not sure if he really understands our purpose here, even though we explained everything to him. I just wonder sometimes when people have met on and off with missionaries for like 5 years and ask questions like "So why are you on a mission? Why is the Book of Mormon important?" We'll see about him.

Vadim 2 - He is a special guy, also meeting with missionaries several years. He has schizophrenia so this is a challenge to work with. In meeting with him though I've been really trying to love and be patient with him. He's heard everything, comes to family home evening and church each week, but is really scared of baptism. He has made a pro and con list of baptism. We started working out with him a few days this week in the mornings and then reading the Book of Mormon with him in English. He has great English. He also has a history of drinking. I think the best thing for him is just to continue to be his friend and help him feel the Spirit.

Sasha - This guy is also eternal, meeting with missionaries for year and half. He is a Baptist and also doesn't understand the restoration, mainly authority for baptism and saving ordinances. Apparently Jones and Rooney stressed authority with him a ton but he still doesn't get it. He asked me what is needed for salvation which I guess he asks all missionaries, maybe looking for some different answer than baptism and receiving Holy Ghost by proper authority. We'll see what happens with him.

There're tons of people to meet with, I really hope we can find some people that are ready for baptism soon! 

Here's some highlights of this past week as well for you - Tuesday we had Zone Meeting. I didn't really learn a lot of new things, just reminders of small things to improve in. Elder Moss bore his final mission testimony. It was awesome to hear, we've both grown so much and have had the privilege of serving around each other on and off during the mission. That night he and Elder Kumferman dropped their keys down a hole haha so they came and lived with us for two days. This was a tender mercy getting to spend time with both of these elders. Our district is awesome. Elder Jones and I have also been working with a less-active girl named Anya. She is pretty much active now and sat on many of our lessons. She is getting ready to go to the temple next week with the mission so it's awesome to see her active again. I don't know her super well because I haven't been in Alekseevka that long but she's a pretty solid youth from what I can see. We also went and helped President Alosha on Friday do some service. When the Burrs were here they organized a program where there is a big community church garden and you come and work in the garden and can get your own vegetables and stuff. We're getting that going now so we did stuff like shoveling holes for a fence, planting, and painting. I have pictures but my thing isn't working today so maybe next time. Ukraine is really a beautiful place, it was cool to just be working out in a nice big garden and seeing meadows and stuff in the distance. 

I also had a pretty cool contacting experience I'd like to share with you. Saturday night on the way to our lesson we were talking with people and talked to a guy from Sedan. He knew English and so we got his number for English classes. We kept walking and for some reason it seemed like all the people we passed were just staring at us and judging us for who we were, kind of like the feeling you get when you are walking and you know people are just staring at you. So we kept walking and then all of a sudden this guy on a bike came up behind us and said in perfect English, "Hey guys, you don't know me and I don't know you, but I just want to say thank you for all that you do. Not that many people understand what you do here, but I do and really appreciate it. Keep up the work." We talked briefly and he has met with missionaries and come to English but is just super busy right now with life to be religious. This was for sure a tender mercy, totally made my week. That night after the lesson we were walking home and we passed a group of older guys drinking. They were making fun of us and saying dumb stuff but before I knew it I had stopped them and started talking with them. They were super surprised (as are a lot of people) when we talked back to them in Russian and told them who we were and what we do. I pretty much talked the whole time with this guy named Denis. He kept on telling me all this ridiculous stuff like "You're wasting your time, go back home and get back to normal life. Church is just a big business and you're getting worked. Find a girl here and go back to America where you came from. You can't see your success here, you're doing nothing. You can't bless someone through this message, it's a bunch of crap." This is the edited version :) So pretty much we just bore our testimonies to him that in due time he'll come to see the Church's truthfulness and the future of Ukraine changed and that it's his choice to believe this way. There was a lot more I wanted to tell him but he was getting drunk and so it's probably better I kept my mouth shut. It was just pretty crazy to see day and night in people, someone who really appreciated the missionaries and someone who could care less. Experiences like this just strengthen my testimony even more that the church is true. Why do so many people fight against the truth instead of accept it? Because Satan has a deep control on their heart. I've been reading Doctrine & Covenants lately and have been impressed by the doctrine of light, that everyone has the Light of Christ and light grows as we are obedient to commandments. But the absence of light is darkness (or absence of Christ in someone's life) and Satan has a hold on these hearts who are kept from the truth because they know not where to find it. Therefore our service and work here is of utmost importance.

I love you all very much and hope you have an awesome week. Know that you're in my prayers and that God lives and loves you very much! Talk to you next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back to the Future

Privet family! How are you doing? Sounds like everyone is keeping busy which is good. Well, life is pretty good here on the mission. I will fill you in on things since my last email!

Transfer meeting was Thursday and I honestly didn't expect to hear where I've been assigned - I'm back in Kharkov to finish my mission, serving with Elder Jones in the Alekseevka Branch!! I never thought I'd make it back up to Kharkov, I haven't been here for almost a year. It's pretty weird being back here but I'm happy. The Branch President of Alekseevka (maybe you remember) is Alosha Miroshnichenko, my landlord from Cold Mountain who lived above me. It was crazy seeing him again since the last time he saw me I was a greenie. He's happy to have me in his branch. I've also seen a few other faces I knew when I was a greenie. It's weird talking to them, they all remember me but now I can actually talk Russian with them so it's cool. And my comp is pretty sweet, Elder Jones. He is from West Jordan and got to Ukraine in November. Side note/small world - His dad Mark Jones graduated from Cottonwood and his grandparents live just beyond the Sinclair on 9th East, across from the elementary school dad went to. He is pretty young on the mission (transfer 5) and is still 19 years old but we get along great. And Elder Harris was his trainer so Harris talked about him a lot so I knew a little about him already. He'll keep me in line as I finish my mission. He is District Leader and senior comp so unless something changes I'll finish my mission as a normal missionary, no leadership or anything! Freedom!! I just get to work hard everyday and not worry about call-ins and meetings and all that stuff. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at! And my district is great - myself, Elder Jones, Elder Moss (yes, The Elder Moss, MTC companion, he's going home at the end of May one transfer early), Elder Kumferman, and Sisters Helsten and Bull. Don't really know the sisters that well but they seem pretty cool. 

So Alekseevka Branch is pretty awesome. There are tons of brothers in this branch, and by brothers I mean African brothas here for school. They come here because it's cheaper or easier to get education and lots of them have joined the church here. There are about 10 members and several of their friends come. We haven't met with any investigators yet but Jones tells me that we are teaching 6 brothas right now named Michael, Edmond, Luke, Theddy, Toosin (Cash), and Jay. I met Edmond and Luke yesterday at church, they're pretty cool. Apparently they almost got baptized but they never come to church on time and miss Sacrament Meeting. So we're hoping to get them baptized. We have several other Ukrainian investigators as well but just need to meet with them it sounds like. The past missionaries in this area got tons of contacts and first lessons so we're going to focus on meeting with these people who only know about the Restoration and get them to church. This area has tons of potential, I'm pretty excited to be working here. Jones says we have a lot of lessons in English so it's gonna be weird teaching in English again. And my first Sunday yesterday I had to give a talk! The missionary that got transferred was supposed to do it but passed it to me. Such is my luck. My topic was "How reading the Book of Mormon helps us share the gospel". I pretty much used Preach My Gospel Chapter 5, I think it went well. I don't write out my talks anymore so I can't really send you a copy. Sorry! 

Upon getting to Kharkov I called Akbar and told him I was back. He wanted to meet the next day so we met Friday night. It was great seeing him again! But honestly he's not doing so hot. He can't find a job anywhere and the church hasn't been able to help him he says to get citizenship here (there is a new Ukrainian law just passed that foreigners can't be given jobs) so he thinks he'll go back to Iran pretty soon. He's going to hide the fact he changed religions and maybe go to Armenia or somewhere he can find work. I felt impressed to talk about patriarchal blessings with him. It went pretty good I thought and he wants to receive one. The only problem is that the patriarch is coming here in August so he doesn't think he'll be here anymore. He wants to get one though so I hope very soon this works out. He's going to play a huge role in getting the church into Iran.

Now for some comments/tidbits. Elder Harrison (the one who I trained) is now my Zone Leader. This is pretty weird for me but I always knew he'd be ZL pretty early on in his mission when we were together. We're going on a split this Wednesday, I'll catch up with him a bit. 

I love you all so much! Have an awesome week and keep on keeping on! D&C 84:85.
с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Last Week in the Promised Land

Privet family-

Well, I will start off by telling you about last night. We got a transfer call at 9:00 from President Campero (which is weird because the APs always do calls) and he said, "Are you home?" 'Yeah.' "Good. I called to say that you're BOTH GETTING TRANSFERRED. But don't worry, it's a good thing, you'll understand later." Then he hung up the phone...This isn't what we expected at all!!!! Elder Harris has been here a total of 4 weeks and next transfer is his last one. He wasn't happy at all to get this news. The APs even told us when they came down for Denis' baptism that he was staying and I probably was too. But things have changed. I really wanted to stay and keep working Left Bank and see more miracles here but I have learned on my mission that whenever transfers come it's always something better, even if we don't think that way. Our thoughts are not the Lord's. So today will be spent finishing packing, cleaning, writing whitewash notes for whoever is coming to our area now, saying goodbye to people if we even have time, then tomorrow morning at 8:30 the transfer bus comes to our apartment, transfer meeting is at 1, and I'll probably be assigned to my final area. It's crazy being a missionary, so much moving and goodbyes, but I know the Lord's hand is in it all. My guesses for transfers are as follows - either Elder Harris and I stay together and go to a new area, I train one of the three new greenies coming in, or go somewhere else. Only time will tell! 
Last Tuesday we had Zone Leader's Council. It wasn't as spiritually uplifting as I expected, but it was good though, we talked about lots of topics and where the mission is going at this time. Our focus is the family - families can be together forever, teach families - investigator families or part-members, emphasizing the family proclamation. And this was the last ZLC with all elders. There has been a new guideline made for all missions around the world that there will now be sister coordinators (basically sister APs) because of all the sister missionaries serving now so all the meetings will be "Mission Council". But this probably doesn't concern me anymore haha, just thought you might be interested about that announcement. I'm very grateful for the time I've spent down here in Mariupol. The people I've met have changed my life forever. The branch is very special, I have experienced true love between the members and missionaries. And I have grown so much spiritually as well as in leadership skills. I was blessed with awesome missionaries to work around. I will miss Mariupol but I'm excited to see what is in store for me to end. 

Elder Harris and I have been doing lots of contacting/tracting chastni doms (private houses= normal size houses put together like neighborhoods). You walk up to the fence and if there's a doorbell you can ring it, if not you can yell for them to come out or just move on to the next house. It's a pretty wild experience. And there are always huge dogs that can easily jump the fence just barking and drooling everywhere the whole time you wait for the person to come out. We had a few people say we could come back but then it didn't work out (example - a lady in a really nice house said we could come back. We went back two days later and walked up to the gate and a really sketchy guy sitting in a parked car told us we had better get lost or else some bad things were gonna happen). We think it was a mafia house. But anyway, moving on, there continue to be tons of miracles happening in Mariupol right now!!! The sisters finally got Natasha on date for May 4! I don't know if I've talked about her, she is a member referral, about 30 yrs old with a son named Vlad, 12 yrs old. She directs the choir that the member sings in (we went to their concert a few months ago). She is basically a member already, comes to church each week plus FHE, and it's just super awesome she is getting baptized. She wants Vlad to get baptized as well and serve a mission. The sisters are also working with a great family that President Gushin referred, a mom and two sons. They have committed to baptism, just no date yet. And Elder Bolingbroke and Fife two weeks ago were walking out of their apartment and a lady came running up to them asking if they were Mormon missionaries. They talked with her, turns out she lived in America with a friend and heard about the church there but just didn't have time to find out more. She knows English, came to conference, and is on date now for May 4. AND Elder Harris and I got a mormon.org referral, FIRST OF MY MISSION. He's way awesome, his name is Georgi and is a good family man. He saw the Kiev Temple recently and looked the church up. He's already into 1 Nephi 17, maybe further, and we were going to meet him tonight but have passed him to the elders since we're getting transferred. He also came to conference, only saw a little bit but seemed to like it a lot. He'll for sure get baptized soon. We also taught a lesson to a man named Sergei. He is the husband of a lady we contacted a few weeks ago. It turns out the wife gave him the Book of Mormon we gave her and he read the whole thing and had tons of questions for us! So we met after conference. He is an atheist, but the lesson was really good though. His thought process at the end seemed to be that "If I believed in God, this would be the only true church, it's the most logical". Perhaps he'll get baptized sometime in the future as well. 

I'm running out of time so sorry if this is rushed. Conference was awesome. We watched it in Russian with the members and then in English. I received many answers to questions, mainly about what to do as a returned missionary. The answers were simple - keep sharing the gospel and my experiences with everyone, especially family members; marriage should be a top priority :D; my education is important to God; don't forget the basics - church, prayers, scripture study, temple; and President Monson's formula of success - 1) Study the scriptures diligently 2) Plan life with a purpose 3) Teach with testimony 4) Serve the Lord with love. It was an excellent conference, just what I needed. It really impressed me that President Monson talked about missionary work and obedience as well.

I'm out of time! I love you all so much!!!! Have a great week and know that you are always in my prayers. God lives. Jesus is the Christ. Thomas S. Monson is our prophet today. The Book of Mormon is true. Talk to you all on Monday again!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, April 8, 2013

Another Week of Miracles on Left Bank

Privet family!

Well, Elder Harris and I experienced a huge miracle this past week - Tuesday we were talking about the possibility of Denis getting baptized at the end of the week and if it could work out or not. We talked about it for a while and came to the conclusion that if his mom would let him (since the weather's getting nicer now) that we could probably get everything in order for it. We called him and asked what his mom said about the whole thing and he said he could get baptized!! We asked again to make sure we didn't hear wrong, he said yes, and then we planned everything out and met with President Gushin the next morning on Wednesday. We decided who would do what and assigned his home teachers and Brat Ruslan to baptize him, and have the other branch missionary give a talk about baptism and the Holy Ghost. And we planned the service to be Sunday at 9:00 right before church so that he could get baptized and then receive the Holy Ghost during Sacrament meeting. We called President Campero and got permission for all of this as well. And then Saturday, the assistants came down from Donetsk to hold the baptismal interview for him. I went with Elder Coakwell and President Gushin on the lesson and we taught a short spiritual thought about the Holy Ghost/answered his questions and then Elder Coakwell held the interview. He passed with flying colors and then yesterday was his baptism! We went early in the morning and helped him get down the stairs in his wheelchair into brat Kichenko's car (his home teacher). And another miracle - his mom came to the baptism to support him! She's not very religious but knew that it was important. We've been praying for her heart to be softened so that all of this could happen and it did. So they went with Brat Kichenko and we went in a taxi to the church since no buses were coming. We showed up right at 9:00 and TONS of members came to support him even though it was an hour before church started, as well as several investigators. The baptismal service was wonderful, very spiritual and inspiring. Denis was so happy to finally be getting baptized. The time came for his baptism and his home teachers (Brat Valeri and Andrei) plus Ruslan all baptized him because he couldn't stand up. So two of them held him and the other said the prayer and they all helped him go under. He came up looking so clean and free from any troubles at all. You could just tell he understood that his old life was done away and his new one was just starting. He was just beaming with light. We listened to the Sisters give a Restoration lesson while they got him dressed and then sacrament started. He got the gift of the Holy Ghost and during the ordinance the Spirit was very present, maybe the most present I've felt in a while. Everyone sustained him as a new member and then after Sacrament congratulated him then we took him home because he was really tired and worn out. Denis is such a great example of faithfully following Jesus Christ with courage. Regardless of his physical limitations he understood the importance of baptism and chose the right path. I'm very grateful for the small role that I could play in helping him be born again. Now we need to find new investigators, we literally only have one. His name is Zaor from Armenia. I'm pretty sure I've talked about him, we meet on the street because he can't meet anywhere else. He's 60 years old and works gluing up advertisements around the city. He's reading the BOM and is trying to come to church sometime. Other than him we have no one. Back to the streets and working with recent converts now!

Wednesday night we traveled to Donetsk because Thursday was Zone Conference. We were told we were having interviews with President Wednesday and then we got to the office and found out they were actually with President Podvodov, who is the first counselor in the mission presidency and been acting as President while he's been absent. I wasn't super thrilled about this because I wanted President Campero and really didn't want to have my interview in Russian but it went better than I expected. President Podvodov is a good man, just sometimes comes off as really strict and intimidating. He asked me about my family, favorite scripture, Christlike attribute I've acquired the most on my mission, Christlike attribute I think that Ukrainians need, and how Mariupol is doing. I feel like I've developed patience the most out of all the attributes and that Ukrainians need charity. After interviews we made plans to go back to Daky so that Elder Harris could visit a member family there (he served there a year ago) and so that I could visit the Heyleaks again because they haven't been meeting with Elder Robison and Newey. I went on a split with Robison which was awesome to catch up (Cold Mountain was a very long time ago, we've both totally changed) and visited the Heyleaks. They're doing pretty good, but have stopped reading the Book of Mormon unfortunately. They say they don't have time, but I don't know how much they actually want to know if its true. We left a small thought about keeping commandments as this is where our conversation went and they said they'll think about coming to conference next week. It was Sergei and Yaroslav there. Sergei was bummed I was only in Daky for one day, he said "tell your leaders that I say you need a vacation from Mariupol in Makeevka for a week and that your staying with us!" but he was really serious though haha. Actually when I walked in and gave him a hug he said that I've lost some weight being down in Mariupol and doesn't want me returning there. Don't worry Mom, I'm eating more than enough food. He also told me that whenever I come back to Ukraine or whatever that I can stay with them as long as needed and he also wants to see me off at the airport when I go back home. I love this family! 

Thursday was Zone Conference. To be honest it wasn't as spiritually uplifting as I wanted it to be. Mostly everything was in Russian for the first time because President Podvodov planned it and it was just really really long. Everyone gave talks and linked them into the Atonement, like Elder Coleman's was "Finances and Atonement" Elder Southam's was "Word of Wisdom and Atonement". Probably my favorite parts of this conference were having some time to read my patriarchal blessing and reflect on where I'm at in my progress and Elder Robison's final testimony. He just got up and bore powerful testimony of his mission, the Savior, and the Atonement. He's a great man and has changed so much since we served together. He's going home at the end of this month and will be my third companion home. Then next transfer Elder Harrison and Harris are going home, making 5 of my comps at home, and then its my turn. So weird!

Now for some comments/tidbits. Saturday we had "Helping Hands" and cleaned up trash by the sea. We collected 46 garbage bags of trash, it's pretty ridiculous how much trash is everywhere here. It's actually really sad. Tomorrow is Zone Leader's Council so I'm writing you from Donetsk in the office right now. Elder Harris and I are going to Gorlovka tonight because there's another Zone Leader there who is training so Elder Harris will stay with him while we go to Zone Leader's Council tomorrow, plus he wanted to see an old convert so President gave us permission. And conference is this upcoming weekend, Saturday and Sunday. We'll be watching it as a district at the branch, probably in the family history room around the computer. I can't wait, final conference is going to be awesome!!

I love you all so much and hope that you are doing well. Have an excellent week and know that you are in my prayers always. Until next week!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Week of Elevators, Shopki, Drums, and Things

Privet family!

This past week has been crazy, tons of stuff happened every day so I'm just going to do a day-by-day account and see if I can get it all written for you. Here we go!

Monday - Pday. All the normal things like studies and shopping, then we played some ping pong at the branch and went to FHE at Sasha's house. Sasha is a recent convert who is also a branch missoinary. He's awesome, like 28 or 29, pretty well off, and knows great English. He found the church through English. The turnout was really good, Tanya, Elder Bolingbroke and Fife's investigator/Sasha's friend came, as well as Natasha, the sister's investigator. Tanya and Natasha come to everything, they're basically members. But Tanya's husband is against baptism so she can't be baptized yet. And Natasha is just worried what people will think when she joins. They're both Saints though.

Tuesday - We planned on getting two contacts and only had a little more than an hour to do so. We planned to do this before our lesson with Denis. So we got to the area and started looking for apartment buildings with open doors that we could go in and tract because it was freezing cold on the street, like -3. So we finally found a door and went to the top. Every door we knocked if they opened just got slammed back in our face. After several of these Elder Harris was like "Elder, I feel like this is worthless. Let's go on the street." I also felt the same way so we left the podezd and were out on the freezing street again. In the distance I saw a lady walking towards us and I had the thought to stop her and get her contact, no matter what. I talked to her as she walked by and she said she was in a hurry. So I started walking next to her and talking. She asked what church we were and I said the Mormon church. "The Mormons? Wait, really?" Yeah, we're Mormons. "Just last week me and my husband were talking about your church wondering what's with you!" So then we started talking about the Boof of Mormon and whatnot and got her number, plus she referred us to her husband. She said to call in a few weeks. And then after this we still had some time and found another dom with an open podezd. We went to the top and the second door we knocked was a really nice babushka who gladly accepted a Book of Mormon and a return appt. for Friday. Miracles! Then we went to Denis. We talked about the Atonement a little bit and showed that baptism brings a remission of sins, not just repentance alone and that we need to come to church in order to get baptized. His commitment was talking to his mom and sharing his feelings because we feel that she thinks that we just want him to get baptized, not him. It was a good lesson. That night we had another FHE at President Gushins. We gave a spiritual thought and there were like 20 people there, great turnout. We played a fun game where you have to suck m&ms through a straw into your cup and roll dice and stuff. We quite enjoyed this, FHE is always fun. After this like 9 of us hopped into the freight elevator in President's dom. We got to the bottom and IT BROKE!!! We were stuck at the bottom! For over an hour!! It was me, Elders Harris, Bolingbroke, Fife, Tanya, Natasha, Ruslan (recent convert), Zhenya (less active) Alona (RS Pres). It was actually pretty fun haha, we called the operator lady and she could care less about our situation so they were all saying really funny stuff to her and making tons of jokes as we waited. I don't know how to explain it, just not expected. As we waited Brat Oleg the first counselor and Artur a cool kid from English were working on getting us out. Neighbors came out and complained about the noise and made fun of us for being stuck, etc, and then after an hour we were free! For sure something I'll never forget.

Wednesday - We started a split with the other Elders. Elder Bolingbroke came to me on Left Bank and we went and played soccer with President and some youth in the branch because school got cancelled this whole week due to snow. So we played indoor, it was pretty fun. I'm really out of shape though! We also held English class for the last time. I gave a spiritual thought about Pray to know the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. There were about 20 people that stayed for the thought and President Gushin translated for me (the thought is in English and translated into Russian) I felt the Spirit testify to me of the truthfulness of the restoration as I spoke. I just hope that the people there were able to feel it and want to know more. English is over now for four weeks as we find new people and then we'll start the 8 week course again on May 1. After English we had a lesson with Tanya. It started off great and she was opening up about her husband and how we can help him not be angry about the church and let her be baptized. But then Ruslan came in (recent convert) and was offended we hadn't invited him on the lesson so Tanya invited him to stay and we ended up talking about forgiving others and love. Ruslan seems to be offended at everyone in the branch for really silly reasons, and at us for not inviting him on all lessons, blah blah. He's in our area and we need to meet with him and explain his role as a branch missionary and that he can't act like that and ruin lessons. The branch is having a lot of problems right now, you don't need to know but basically just people getting upset over little things. We're doing what we can as a district to just maintain good relationships because everyone likes the missionaries. President Gushin is a stud, only 25 and the branch president dealing with a lot. He gets along very well with us and helps a ton. He's a great guy.

Thursday - Woke up to yet another blizzard. Elder Bolingbroke and I didn't want to go outside and talk to people at all, but we decided to anyway. As we were walking down the street we stopped an older guy maybe like 60 yrs. old and I was like "Good morning!" and he says 'haha, you have to talk to people about religion, no one cares about you' and so we're like "well, we like being here and there are people ready to hear" and then I tried to change the subject a little with "how are you doing today?" and then he grins/sneers through his gold teeth and says 'Better than you my lads!' and just walks off in the snow with his cane and shopka hahaha. I thought this was hilarious, it's so Ukrainian/Russian culture, just really bold, tell you what's on my mind response. We kept going and stopped another older man named Gennady. He said he believed in Christ and recently had a hole in his lung 17 mm but after he started believing it shrunk to only 8 mm. He took a Book of Mormon and then said he has tuberculosis! So we're not sure if we can meet with him or not, still not sure what to do about this situation. We ended the split at district meeting and set some good goals. Oh, fyi, the sisters are back in the district now. So we set the following goals for our short transfer (it ends April 18) As a district, 1 baptism, 5 on date, 5 at church every week, 100 contacts, 10 new investigators. We feel that we can achieve these and are on our way to doing so. I had a great split with Bolingbroke, we get along really well and are planning on keeping in touch after the mission.

Friday - Elder Harris and I were able to set up a lesson with Oleg, a former investigator from about 2 years ago. His nickname from Elder Mironchenko who found him is 'Oleg the Gentle Giant.' He reminds me a lot of Santa Claus. He almost got baptized but couldn't stop drinking black tea and also stopped coming to church. So we met him on the street and were basically like "Why aren't you baptized?" And he admitted his problems are church attendance and black tea still. He wants to get baptized though, it's interesting. We think he's scared of commitment. But we're thinking of making him a calendar with things to do each day building up to his baptism and he seemed to like this idea. Now we need to meet with him and get him to church, see if he's serious or not. In the evening we set up with the nice babushka from Tuesday. Her name is Nelya. We showed up though and she had her son come to the door saying she was sick and wanted to return the BOM, and wasn't interested anymore. Bummer! But we left it with him and told him to read it or give it to someone else. Our goal was 2 contacts again and we had said in our prayer that we would stay out until we got them. So we tracted the rest of that building and the second to last door on the bottom another nice babushka opened up who was Russian Catholic but wanted to know more about us. She took a Liahona and said we can come back soon! Then we went out on the street and felt like we should walk towards a grocery store. We felt that we'd find someone before we got there and then celebrate by buying some doughnuts inside (we heard from other missionaries they sell doughnuts) So we went walking there and sure enough, as we got by the store, we walked by a lady and I felt I should talk to her. It was almost the exact same as Tuesday. She didn't want to talk to me, but I kept pushing and just talking about the Book of Mormon and she finally wanted to read it and give her number. It's amazing to see how people change during conversations, how they are touched by the spirit. We went into the store and bought those doughnuts but they turned out to be really dry and not very good haha. But hey we got our goal and maybe some potential investigators.

Saturday - So Tanya has a friend named Vova who is a studio drummer! Ever since she found out I play she's been trying to hook us up and so she called and said we could come and jam on his drums! So me, Elder Harris, and Tanya went to the outskirts of town past some coal factories to this really sketchy building and met him there. He pulled up in his Jaguar and introduced himself, then showed us his studio. He had an electric kit and an acoustic kit (just normal drums). It was really weird playing again! My mind wanted to play certain things but my hands didn't cooperate. This was kind of depressing haha but I'm faithful I'll get back into music after the mission. Just need to practice again. Vova said it's really bad we haven't played so long and was also Atheist and said something like "yeah, it's a shame you gave up your talent for some business all the way in Ukraine. Why would you even come here? What a waste" So the best we could do was testify but as far as teaching him the gospel probably need to wait a little. If we go back though I want to talk to him more, we didn't have too much time. BUT I GOT TO PLAY THE DRUMS! After this, we had a lesson with Rustam (the one whose picture I sent) about seeing others as who they can become. It was a good lesson. We also found out during this that daylight savings time was tomorrow so we had to run to get home. I still despise daylight savings if your wondering haha. But there is better news though - PRESIDENT CAMPERO CAME BACK! All his tests went well and he is feeling good. We're very happy to hear that he's back.

Sunday - Church was good, Elder Harris had to give a talk (I dodged that one) and as a disrict we had 8 investigators at church! New record! Afterwards we had branch council, then later on had another lesson with Denis. This one we just filled him in on what he missed from church (families, atonement) and asked what his mom said. When it gets warmer, she'll let him come and he can be baptized. So now we're just waiting for the weather. We walked around tonight and talked with people, for the weather is very nice now. The snow is practically melted and people were more willing to talk.

So this is my week. Lots of stuff happened and we are seeing success bit by bit, miracle by miracle. I know that God lives and is with us in our daily lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. He loves each and every one of us. And the Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by Joseph Smith, His prophet. I read D&C 100 yesterday and was reminded that as I serve, you are all taken care of. I know that Heavenly Father watches after each of you as well. I hope you all have a great week. Know that I love you so much and pray for you often. I can't believe it's April. Basically three months now! Just gotta live each day like its the last and don't look back. Thanks so much for your love and those Easter pics. I tried to send some pics today but it didn't work. Maybe next week. But I'm out of time. Love you all and talk to you later!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия