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!
Украинская Донецкая Миссия