Monday, June 24, 2013

2 More 2 Go!

Hey privet family! Thanks so much for the emails, love, support, and prayers. They mean so much to me. This past week was full of more ups and downs, just another roller coaster haha. It is very weird to be at the end. I'm still going strong, don't worry, but it's just hard to describe my feelings. I've been reflecting a lot about my mission every day and just striving to get down on paper everything going through my head. Here's some highlights from the week.

We met with three investigators - Raad, Tolu, and a new one, Leonid. Raad is still the same. We're probably going to stop meeting him just because there's no progress happening. We will try to meet once more with Akbar on the lesson and go from there. He's super nice, just very rooted in the Muslim faith. Tolu is still very busy with school so we met on the street and read a verse from the Book of Mormon. He wants to invite us over this week to play us some songs on piano since he's a music major so hopefully this works out. Many people here are just super busy with school which is understandable. And Leonid is the husband of an inactive sister. The sisters ran into him on the street and passed him to us. We dropped by last night and got to know him a little bit. He answered the door with his shirt off (pretty common here lol) and invited us in. He's in his sixties and his wife actually started going back to Provoslavni church and was at their dacha. He was very nice and well, Ukrainian. Grew up atheist, went to church like one time to get his kids baptized by the priest there, and that's about it. Mostly we just talked about our lives and what we do as missionaries. We talked a little about prayer as well. He said we could come back again in September because he's going to their dacha until then next week so we'll write a record for him for the future missionaries. Unfortunately Anton has been super busy and Natasha has been as well. So our work seems slow right now. However, yesterday we were going through our area book and calling former investigators and I called one who seems very promising who wants to meet again Tuesday so we're really hoping this will be good. This last Monday we had Family Home Evening at the Arnesons and took Anton with us. He seemed to like it and talked to the Arnesons quite a bit. It was also Paddy's birthday, so several brothers came as well. Anton was supposed to come to church yesterday but something came up and he couldn't anymore so we really hope he can make it this week. 

Saturday we had final interviews with President. It wasn't my real exit interview but basically was in a way. It was a great conversation with President one on one. He asked me if I was happy and then the question, "How was your mission?" 'It's been a dream,' I said. 'The best two years for my life.' We talked about some experiences I've had, trials I've faced, and then he told me "Elder Keown, I consider you one of the best missionaries in this mission. You have grown so much since the start and it is evident in who you are today. I love you." I didn't expect these words but am very humbled by them. President is one of the biggest role models in my life. He and Sister Campero came to Alekseevka yesterday for their final Sunday in Ukraine. Sister Campero bore her testimony and President talked. It was actually a miracle because tons of youth and less-actives came to see them speak. President encouraged everyone to get their kids to Youth Conference in September, which will be in Western Ukraine. Seminary, Institute, and Youth Conference prepare the youth for missions, marriages, and leadership in the church. And then this morning we watched the worldwide broadcast as a zone called "The Work of Salvation." President and Sister Campero came in at the end and gave final hugs to us before they left for Donetsk. It was sad to see them go, they love this mission, these people, and us with all their hearts. I felt like a part of me left with them. But all will be well with them in their future, they have done so much good for so many people. The new Mission President and wife will be here a week from today, and then next week we'll have another Zone Conference with them and President Malm from the Area Presidency. Should be awesome!

You all should watch that broadcast called "The Work of Salvation" by the way. Brynn told me she watched it but you guys should too. You can find it on With a whole new wave of missionaries come new ways and responsibilities to do the work. They placed a big emphasis on member-missionary work and don't want missionaries to be finding as much anymore. I really liked the broadcast but honestly it was hard to relate to because I haven't done a lot of member work on my mission. Members have helped on lessons and baptisms which has been awesome but I've never received a referral or invitation to teach someone's friend or family member with that person present as shown in the broadcast. But the mission is taking a huge turn towards members. The new president is coming and President Campero has prepared the mission to make the change. It's hard to explain so just wait until I get back.

I love you all so much! Everything you have done and do means the world to me. Know that you're in my prayers and I think about you every day. Have a great week and I'll talk to you next time!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, June 17, 2013

Down to Donetsk, Back to Kharkov!

Privet my family! I'm not sure about yours, but my past week FLEW by. And I don't have too much time to write but here's some highlights for you.

First off, investigator progress. We met with three investigators last week, Raad, Aleksander, and a new one, Anton. 
Raad is a practicing Muslim and we met him with a member from Pakistan here named Joshua. It was hard to teach him because he just wanted to talk about who Jesus Christ was, not why we need Him. Every time we tried to say something he just cut us off and "corrected" us because he doesn't believe Christ to be anything more than a prophet. He is different than Akbar because Akbar wanted to change religions and knew who Christ was. This week we will try to get Akbar with us on the lesson. Joshua says we're just wasting time because we need to read the Koran in order to understand Raad's view. 
Aleksander read from the Book of Mormon, but asked many basic questions like "Why is your church different from the rest? I think that all churches are true." His big problem is that he can't come to church. If he came to church then he'd really know why we do the things we do. We might be going to his summer house this Saturday to help him pick cherries so we'll see how things turn out.
And Anton is my new favorite investigator. We ran into him on our way to Raad's lesson Tuesday night. He is about 6' 3", knows awesome English, and is 29. He plays tennis and was actually on his way home from tennis. We gave him an English club invite and then he came Friday night. He liked it a lot and actually translated the story and spiritual thought. And after English he asked "What makes your church different?" So we sat down with him and had a great first lesson in English with a little Russian and found out his history. When he was 6 he started studying English because his Grandpa immigrated to America and wanted his family to come as well. Life went on and Anton's parents got divorced, then his mom and step-dad actually decided to move to Italy for work. They are very smart scientists and apparently do pretty well. So Anton got left in Ukraine and his parents set him up to become a Computer Engineer in University. But he hated this and decided to try his luck gambling. He turned out to be a pretty dang good gambler and started making $15,000 a month (this comes out to be a Ukrainian millionaire after 1 year.) He bought a car, house, and toys, but always felt something was missing. He kept gambling and eventually ended up losing everything in a huge bet. He said that God must have had different plans for him. So he sold his house, car, and now lives in his mom's apartment as a translator for English and German. Our topic for English club was The Apostasy, and during our lesson he said that he just felt lost. It seems that everything has led up to him meeting us. He accepted a Book of Mormon and said something that most Ukrainians don't: "I don't care whether its Mormons, Catholics, Pravoslavnies, you show me their fruits and I'll decide from there." So many times people here the word Mormons and automatically decide. Anton is special. And on Saturday he invited us to come play tennis with him, so we spent a little time with him and got to know him better. Elder Kumferman played tennis all throughout high school so loved it. I'm not that good haha but it was a sweet experience. And Anton is coming to Family Night tonight at the Arnesens, so we're hoping he can make some good friendships there. New investigators are good!

This past week we also had a zone meeting about member missionary work, and I didn't know this would be the last one but bore my final testimony! It was very weird because I've seen so many other missionaries do so who always say 'yeah, the time comes fast' and never believed them until now. There was a great spirit at the meeting though.

Saturday we got to go to a WWII Museum with the branch and did a picnic afterwards. This was probably one of the coolest experiences of my mission. I had no idea that Kharkov was such a historic city. The stuff I saw in the museum was unreal. I took tons of pictures and videos to better remember it. I have plans after mission to really understand the history of Ukraine and former Soviet Union better. This was a great starting point to that. 

And yesterday was Mission Conference in Donetsk. We left on a bus at 4 AM from Kharkov with all the missionaries, arrived in Donetsk at 9, 10-12 was the Donetsk District Conference so I got to see all my favorite members from Donetsk, Makeekva, and Mariupol, then 2-4 was Mission Conference. The speakers were President and Sister Campero, President and Sister Bennett (Europe East Presidency) and President and Sister Soares (Presidency of the Seventy). Conference was very different than a year ago, but in a good way. The mission has grown a lot and so focus on member work is being pushed. The main topic from President Soares though was to cast out all fear. We all made covenants with God to serve in Donetsk in the pre-mortal life and renewed these covenants by writing Thomas S. Monson back that we'd do it. He talked a lot about having a good attitude for the new Mission President as well because it won't be an easy change. There's a lot more but I just don't have time to say everything. Yesterday was awesome though. Probably the best news was to hear that Brat Vladimir Vovk (convert with Elder Harrison in Donetsk) got the Melchizedek Priesthood! He's definitely the strongest out of all the converts. 

Now for some comments/tidbits. Happy Father's Day Dad! I love you so much! And in case you didn't hear, Elder Nelson organized the first Stake this past week in Armenia. He came over with President Bennett and Elder Soares and talked with the Camperos personally. It's so cool to see the work moving forward in this area of the world and to see/hear of the lives of the Prophet, Twelve and Seventy. 

This work is true, I know it with all my heart. Have an awesome week and I'll talk to you later!

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия

Monday, June 10, 2013

One Down, Four To Go!!

Privetchik family!

WOW thanks for your emails, I'm pretty trunky right now, not gonna lie haha. I'm SO glad to hear you got to go to Moss's homecoming. That punk didn't write me yet and then I saw on President Alyosha's iPad yesterday that Moss posted the time and date on facebook so I thought there was no way you'd make it there but everything worked out perfectly I guess!
This past week has been a great start to my final transfer here. It seemed like it was super long but every day was filled with great experiences. Elder Kumferman and I are keeping pretty busy with everything since we're the only Elders in Alekseevka. President Alyosha doesn't have counselors so it feels like he just relies on us a ton to do stuff, mostly translate/help with the brothers but we do more than that. We told him he needs counselors but he disagrees haha. So we're pretty involved in the branch, which is good. It's keeping me busy. At the end of this month the brothers will be taking a Temple trip, June 27. Hopefully there will be 9 brothers going. But they need to figure out money and tickets pretty quick here so we had a meeting after church yesterday. It ended in them just arguing in pidgeon with each other (pidgeon is brother English) and was kind of dramatic but hopefully things will be in order by Wednesday. Kumferman and I also are dealing with three apartments in Alekseevka (his old one, mine, and the Seev Cave) so this past week we had to deal with an angry landlady since that apartment got closed. We gave her the money and stuff for the final rent but it wasn't pretty. I'm really not sure if we as missionaries should even be dealing with closing apartments and stuff but it's whatever. Just add it to the list of crazy things I've done. The mission at this time is putting a focus more on meeting with members than getting contacts. Maybe I already talked about this, don't remember, but it needed to happen. We met with a solid member family last night, Sasha and Irina Gorski. Sasha's dad has been Branch President twice and was one of the first members in Kharkov. However, Sasha didn't join the church until 10 years ago when he was like 21. His parents fasted EVERY SUNDAY that he would join the church and after seven years he finally joined! Crazy huh? We had a great visit with them, just got to know them, showed our pictures, saw their pictures, heard their conversion stories, and then we almost forgot we hadn't left a spiritual thought because they gave us cake and compote haha. They want us to come over again, which is just what we want. President Campero wants the missionaries to push for referrals and helping members share the Gospel. This upcoming week we are hoping to work with more members. However, despite contacts not really counting anymore, we got 9 this week which is the most I've got in a long time, one of which seems super promising, Sasha. He randomly came to English thanks to an invite from his friends, really liked meeting us, and even stayed for the spiritual thought (no one ever stays, its sad!) He reminds me a lot of Artour. He's 21, knows ok English, was impressed by the church and our temples, and wants to meet this week. We can for sure see him being baptized if he can come to church. 

As far as investigators, this past week we met with three - Kingsly, Aleksander, and Tolu. Kingsly is from Cameroon and first met with sisters. He is pretty cool, just doesn't have time to read Book of Mormon. He believes in the Bible but doesn't see the importance of Book of Mormon so we talked a little about the importance and asked him what his favorite verse was from the Bible. He said John 1:1. We talked about that and then the thought came to me to show how the Book of Mormon teaches the same principles. So we jumped to 3 Nephi 9:15-22 and this really brought the Spirit into the lesson. We left him with 3 Nephi 11 and hope that he can read that. Aleksander is the man that Elder Jones and I met with. Used to be atheist, but progresses a little bit each time. He has heard all the lessons now but goes to his cottage each weekend and has never been to church. This week we'll hope to talk about baptism with him and the importance. And Tolu is from Nigeria. He is here as a music major and plays piano. He is very close to God and believes that all churches are good, doesn't matter which one you go to, all lead to God. So we talked a little about church organization (Ephesians 4:11-14) and the importance of authority. He too doesn't have time to read the Book of Mormon, but if he did and prayed he would for sure get an answer. We didn't make progress with Natasha this week but are hoping to meet at the end of the week. She could potentially be baptized before I go home if we can get her on a date.

We are working with several recent converts and less actives right now. Last Monday we met with Crazy Lena. She is 60 years old and LOVES missionaries and LOVES pictures, especially with flowers. So we went and helped her get water from the free fountain and then took some pictures with her. She is a great member, just less active because of working on Sundays. She knows Natasha very well (Natasha and her daughter Karina are friends) so if all works out we'll be meeting Natasha with Lena. Ken is a brother from Nigeria, got baptized in December. Out of all the brothers he understands the most but is also super sneaky haha. Like he only meets with us if we make deals (we have to give him candies, or chocolates, or planners lol) He is a punk but pretty solid. And we had an excellent lesson with Apostle 13. He got his nickname from his friends because he's religious and is actually a comedian that gets hired for shows and stuff. He talked about the difference between before baptism and after and its just really cool to see. We helped him choose two friends that are ready to hear the Gospel, so hopefully things go well with them and he can refer them to us. And we also met with Henry, another brother from Nigeria. He messed up his toe and had to get surgery so has been at his house because he can't walk too much on it. We found out it was his birthday on Saturday so we called him up, wished him Happy Birthday and found out he wasn't doing anything for his birthday. That's no way to celebrate! So we went over and brought a cake with us and met. We also gave him each a tie. He was so happy to see us because he didn't want anyone to know about his birthday, but at the same time wanted to celebrate. Hopefully he can come to church this next Sunday, as his toe is doing a lot better. This past week I have really been praying for service opportunities each day and just striving to do something good for someone. So far each day the Lord has given us opportunities and it's been awesome. Sometimes big things, sometimes small, but through helping others in a time of need or just to make their life a little easier is truly the way to happiness.

This upcoming week is gonna be crazy, we already have things planned out for each day, so it's gonna fly by. And this next Sunday, June 16, we're having Mission Conference in Donetsk! So we're leaving Kharkov Sunday morning at 3:30 am, busing down there, then we get to go to the Donetsk District Conference (gonna see all of Donetsk members and Mariupol!) then there will be a lunch with President and Sister Campero, President Bennett, and Elder Ulisses S. Soares from the Quorum of the Seventy. And then we will have our conference with all the missionaries, bus back up to Kharkov, and hopefully get back by 9:30. It's gonna be awesome, can't wait!!

Well, that's about it for this week. Know that you're all in my prayers and that life is good. I miss you all a ton but I'm keeping busy and can't wait to see you all pretty soon! Tell everyone I say hello and pass my love to them! Have a great week and I'll talk to you later! 

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия


CHURCH TRAVEL CWT                          DATE 05JUNE13
TELEPHONE: 801 240-5111                    BORGET/BRANDON RICH 237371-R
FAX      : 801-240-5115                    HODGSON/KYLER KALIL 243632-R
                                           KEOWN/TAYLOR BRENT  219641-R
SERVICE               DATE  FROM           TO             DEPART  ARRIVE
_____________________ _____ ______________ ______________ _______ ______
UKRAINE INTL AIRLINES 09JUL DONETSK        KIEV           710A    820A
Q ECONOMY                                  TERMINAL B
           NON SMOKING                                    NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         1:10 DURATION
                            SEATS 08D/08E/08F NO SMOKING CONFIRMED
DELTA AIR LINES       09JUL KIEV           AMSTERDAM      200P    400P
K ECONOMY                   TERMINAL D
           NON SMOKING      DINNER                        NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         3:00 DURATION
                            SEATS 12D/12E/12F NO SMOKING CONFIRMED
K ECONOMY                                  TERMINAL EM
                            DINNER                        NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         8:15 DURATION
                  AIRCRAFT: BOEING 777-200/300
                            SEATS 48F/50G/50F NO SMOKING CONFIRMED
K ECONOMY                   TERMINAL EM    TERMINAL 2
                                                          NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         3:59 DURATION
                  AIRCRAFT: BOEING (DOUGLAS) MD-90    
                            SEATS 29B/28A/28B NO SMOKING CONFIRMED
     ETKT:PS/566 7241415764
     ETKT:DL/006 7241415772
     ETKT:PS/566 7241415765
     ETKT:DL/006 7241415774
     ETKT:PS/566 7241415766
     ETKT:DL/006 7241415775

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Final Countdown

Privet family! Thank y'all for the letters, it means a lot to hear from you. Sounds like life continues to go on in the Promised Land. Today is day 1 of transfer 16. It's so weird that I'm at this point, I have tons of crazy feelings right now. Super excited to end here with Kumferman in the Seev Cave, we get along great and we've set some good goals but at the same time I'm starting to get trunky and kind of tired of the missionary schedule. I got some emails today from former companions who just got home and their journey back to the promised land was EPIC! Flights getting cancelled that led to them having to stay in Kiev, mix ups with the airports, 4 new sets of flight plans, crazy stuff! But in the end they all made it back to the airport and said it was glorious. I can't wait!!

There are a few new things since last Wednesday so here we go. We found a new investigator named Akin. He is a brother here from Maryland studying medicine. And turns out he knows Harold, so small world. He is 21 years old and is going back to America for the summer in a few weeks. He is Catholic. When we first met him on the street we weren't wearing our proselyting clothes because we were coming from exercise. So when we met him the second time in our white shirts and slacks carrying a Book of Mormon he was like "Whoa guys, whatchoo dressed up for? Aww man, and you brought the Mormon Bible too!" Our first little meeting (we sat down at an outdoor restaurant) he said he's not going to convert so don't even try and we basically just talked about a ton of stuff. He can't believe we do everything we do. "Being in Ukraine sucks enough, and on top of that you can't have girlfriends, watch tv, movies, or have fun? And you cook for yourselves? Sounds like prison man!" So we talked a lot about our daily life and why we're here. He respected us for what we're doing but isn't too interested in the Gospel. We found out he plays basketball every weekend so we asked if we could come and play and he said sure. So Saturday we went and played basketball with him/other brothers and Ukrainians in the area on a street court. We were in teams of 4. We won our first game but lost the second, then it started pouring rain so we called it quits. Akin wanted to talk to us again so we went to the same little restaurant place and chatted. This time though he asked us "So what's with the Mormons? Like, how do they live their lives different than mine?" So we explained several main differences, like word of wisdom, law of chastity, tithing, church attendance, and a few other ones. He agreed with all of it. He also asked what will happen after this life according to Mormons, so we talked about a few Plan of Salvation doctrines. Kumferman said jokingly, "So basically Akin, you should become a Mormon" and then he said 'I don't know man, I gotta think about it." It was pretty cool to see his change from the first chat to this one. We haven't set up with him again yet but we want to give him a Book of Mormon this week and try and get something going with Harold. 

Since we are working two areas we have some other investigators that Moss and Kumferman were working with as well. One is Sergei. This guy has been coming to church every week for like 10+ years but doesn't want to meet with missionaries. Funny side note, my first week in Alekseevka I went up and shook his hand and asked how long he'd been a member (looks like a member). He said '20 years' so turns out he's not a member after all lol. Only in Ukraine. So we're gonna try and get him meeting with us. Another investigator is Natasha, she is 23 and friends with a member. She should've got baptized already but the member went on a vacation to Kiev last transfer and so progress stopped. She is probably the closest to baptism out of everyone right now. This transfer we've set a goal of 2 baptisms and to work with as many members as possible since most of them live in our area. Member work is starting to become a greater focus than contacting now, which should've happened a while ago. It should be a great final transfer.

Elder Kumferman is the District Leader and we have the smallest district I've ever been in on my mission. We are the only elders and Sister Bull is training two new sisters, Hopin and Walker. May I just say that I fear very much for the new sisters in the mission! There are 10 new ones and are all just really young. I hope they don't get Ukrained too bad. One of the sisters in our district told us she is the youngest in all of Europe East (turned 19 in the MTC). Hopefully they last and stay strong. I don't think it's a good idea to send such young girls here but God knows all so can't argue with that. Also this last week a missionary from Kharkov serving in Kiev got home. He flew into Donetsk and got released then came up to Kharkov on the transfer bus with all the missionaries coming up. So we waited at the branch building with a ton of members greeting him. It was awesome, I don't know him at all but you can just tell he's an RM. This also made me a little trunky haha.

Friday Elder Kumferman and I went and ate lunch with Elder Bolingbroke and his parents. They flew in to pick him up and are touring the mission. That was pretty weird to be honest. Bolingbroke has changed a lot since I served around him in Mariupol, probably just because he's finished his mission, but also because his parents were there. They seemed to be in culture shock at Ukraine, but said it wasn't as bad as they imagined lol. I'll explain things later when I get home. And Saturday the Alekseevka sisters had a baptism. A brother named Richard got baptized. He's been here 10 years and married a Ukrainian so knows pretty good Russian. Michael, one of the members in the branch, baptized and fellowshipped him and bore his testimony about this yesterday, basically just talking about how member missionary work is the way to go. Good stuff. Richard should be a strong member for the brothers. We found out that if all the brothers baptized here were active they could have their own branch. There are several less actives/brothers that have gone missing so President Alyosha really wants us to work with them to do home teaching/find the missing, especially as the Temple trip is coming up at the end of the month. This will probably be a huge focus this month as well. 

I love you guys so much! I hope your week is awesome and filled with good experiences. Know that you're always in my prayers and that I'm doing good. The Church is true, I know it with all my heart. If I didn't, there's no way I'd be out here!

Talk to you later!Inline image 1

с любовью,
Старейшина Каун
Украинская Донецкая Миссия