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!
Украинская Донецкая Миссия