Monday, January 28, 2013

5 Months Down!

Kyle wasn't able to send a long update on his past week, but I just wanted to post a few excerpts of things he was able to send. 

You'll be happy to know that it was much less eventful this week! As for the youth in our ward, we have 0 girls from age 11-26. Quite a gap, haha. I know for things like seminary, the young men in our ward come in and do stuff at the church by themselves for a bit and then go home, but it's only once or twice a week cuz some of them live so far away. It's really amazing to see how strong the members are here. 

You will be happy to know that Elder Smith and I are easily the most obedient missionaries I've seen in the mission so far. It's definitely paid off too. I have never felt safer. Members ask us to call them when we get home so they know we made it home safely, but like I said, because of the Spirit I've never felt safer. It's a pretty amazing thing.

Referring to last week's knife incident:
I love looking back and laughing at it! You can probably imagine me sort of laughing like "What are you doing, man?" As he's threatening to kill us. Sometimes I think I might be a little too positive, haha :)

It amazes me how positive Kyle is despite all the challenges, living conditions, and people he is faced with. It reminds me of the scripture, 
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven" -Matthew 5:16
I have never seen the light of Christ shine so profoundly out of Kyle. He is loving every minute of his mission and is continuing to makes us all proud! 

If you get a chance send him a letter: 
Elder Kyle Litzenberger
Ukraine Donetsk Mission
Prospekt Bogdana Khmelnitskogo 67A
Donetsk, 83087 Ukraine

Until Next Week,

Look at that smile!
"A member here--Valerie Boika. The lighting is weird, but I just had to take a picture of him with his "Freedom" Shirt. I love that guy."

Shoveling snow outside the church! I don't know if you can tell, but it easily went up to my knees. It was insane trying to walk there in the morning. I felt like a pioneer, haha.

One of the many large carrots we found in the grocery store. 

Me being myself!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week 10: Museum, Knives, Locked Out, & Numbers

Week: So last Monday we went and stopped by the Gorlovka history museum. For being such a small, run down town it was AWESOME! They had so much stuff there! In short, it talked about how it started off and still is a mining town, and how there was a huge revolt here, and how it was occupied by fascists during world war two. They had a ton of memorabilia. I was going to take pictures, but the lady got mad at me. They had one room of "ancient Ukrainian lifestyle", like clothes and stuff from the 1500's. As far as I could concern, almost every single thing I saw in there I've seen in people's apartments today. I felt like I just walked into someone's house. I didn't know that it was part of the museum, haha. Later that day as we were walking, some crazy guy came up to us and got super upset that we were missionaries. He demanded to know why we were getting paid, and when we said that we weren't getting paid a penny to be here, he got even more mad. We started to walk off and he ran to us, grabbed Smith and hit him in the stomach. We kept walking, and he grabbed him again and hit him again. Of course at this point I want to hit the guy in the face, but since I"m a missionary we have to be representatives of Christ, and I can't picture Jesus hitting people in the face. So as he grabs Smith's coat (I towered over this guy, so he was picking on Smith), he pulls out a knife and says he'll kill us if we try to leave again. Some people are walking by, and we ask "Hey, can you help us? This guy is..." But they just put their heads down and walked by. It was getting ridiculous. Even if we did something to this guy, we would probably be thrown in some dank prison. So anyways, Smith  has about had it and says, rather loudly "We're here to preach to people the word of God, and you come here and try to kill us? We are representatives of Jesus Christ, and our only purpose for being here is to serve others!" The guy just let go and walked away, and we continued on. I forgot to mention we had a member that was contacting with us, but when he saw the situtation he walked off on his phone. Haha. Ahhh, I love Ukraine. The next day, as we were trying to get into our apartment (it was nighttime), we found the first door to be locked. The apartments here are arranged so that we have to get into the first door, and it opens a little room that leads to our neighbor's door and our door. SO yeah, that door was locked, and we didn't have a key. We called our landlord and well...yeah. Long, long story short he didn't come. He didn't want to help. We ended up having to go all the way across the city to stay thenight at Elder Porter and Moss's place. The door remained locked all through the next day, and finally one of our investigators used his shoe repair tools to help us get into our apartment. So yeah. Although it might not sound that crazy in retrospect, it was. I don't want to go into too many details, but you get the idea.  

In other news, our mission is no longer the lowest baptising in the world! Before, it would average .8x-.9x baptism per missionary per year, but this last year it hit 1. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a numbers guy at all, it's just cool to see that the work is progressing. 

Oh, Elder Moss and I also came up with a really, really cool rendition of Nearer my God to thee. I'll try to get it onto audio and send him home somehow. It's super cool.

Random: "Cossack" means "first" or Freeman. Pretty cool. Courtesy of the Gorlovka Museum ;)

Scripture: This week I thought I'd share one of the lyrics to my second favorite hymn, lead kindly light. I think it speaks for itself.

Lead Kindly Light 
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast tr
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

I love you all! I hope you have a fantastic week! Thanks for the constant support! 

With Love,

People ice fishing on the lake in Donetsk

Jamming out on my keyboard accordian thing ;) I'll try to send audio home soon

**Sorry pictures are scarce, I'm getting a haircut this week so I'll be more willing to take them!**

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Week 9: Mormon alarms, Pianist, & The Anti-Christ

This week has been an interesting one, we had a lot of weird experiences.

Blessings: Alright, so this is probably one of the biggest things that happened this week. We were out tracting one night in a big dom (the generic concrete towers all over Ukraine that people live in). We start from the top to the bottom, and so about halfway down we knock on a door and say our usual greeting. "Hey, we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ." We usually tell them we have a message about Jesus Christ and a free calender, and people either don't answer the door or take the calender and close it. We knockedon this one door, and as a lady was talking through the door we heard her husband come up and start yelling. We left with "have a good day", and went down the stairwell. Since there are so many apartments, we usually don't waste time. We knock one door after the other, without thinking about it. So we get down the stairs (there are 3 doors per level, sometimes 4) and after knocking 2 doors we just sit there staring at the last one on the floor. At the time, I don't know if we were just waiting for the other person to knock or what, but it was a noticable pause. Then, we heard the door directly above us slam open, and this guy that yelled at us screamed at the top of his lungs "WHERE'S THE MORMON CHURCH". I really wanted to shout back" Za D.K Kechegarka!" which is the location of our church. But, alas, I didn't. I got a good smile out of it though. The guy was screaming at the top of his lungs sitting there, and we were directly below him. There's no doubt that the guy would have come down to beat us to death if he heard us talking. It was the wierdest thing. Some guy was within 15 feet of us, wanting to kill us and we sat there smiling. Instead of running away the second we heard him, we waiting until we heard his door slam again. We looked at each other and said "Wow, we really pissed that guy off" and left the stairwell. We went to the next stairwell in the same building, and about halfway down we could hear that guy yelling. He was so loud that we could hear him through 2 apartments and tons of concrete. At about that time, some person set off an alarm to warn people the Mormons were there. That's when we were like "This is just ridiculous". We left the rest of the doors unknocked, and washed our hands of that building. So yeah, the biggest blessing this week was safety. There's no doubt that guy wouldn't have hesitated to do the worst do us. He just sounded evil! Weird sounding voice, and it didn't help that it was in deep russian too. At the time, we weren't afraid at all. It's really cool to see how the Spirit works to comfort people who are out doing the Lord's work.

Week: Alright, since I wrote that novel I don't have much time, but I somehow ended up becoming the branch pianist. Since the Southams left, our branch has been singing without a piano and it was uh...we needed a piano. Smith made me get up there and play, so I guess that's my job from now on. Shoutout to Nana, Mom, Christina, and Aunt Lois for encouraging me to play the piano. I guess it payed off. This week I bought an accordian piano. It's like a piano that has a hose you blow air into. A more convenient accordian. It sounds the same as one too, it's way awesome. I've taken the liberty of playing the USA Anthem every morning on it. Good buy. I'll try to send some audio or pictures next week. And yes, I've gotten way, way more patriotic since I've been here. You can't believe how pro-america I am now. I guess out of anywhere in the world, Ukraine would do that to you the most. It's ironic I say this, because this week we've had more people than ever yell American slurs at us, and tell us to go back to america to preach. I must confess, I smile and nod when I get called  a yankee. That's us, America baby! I'll expound on this more later. Oh, this week we also met an Anti-Christ. This guy was everything the Book of Mormon makes Nehor out to be. The guy was pretty creepy, and we met him outside our apartment, so I'm wondering what the chances are we'll see him again. Probably pretty high.

Scripture: Psalms 118:24
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Nothing feels better than to be an optimist. When we are out in the snow, all wet and no one will talk to us, you HAVE to be an optimist! Always look on the brightside! No matter what happens, something could be worse! The Lord works in mysterious ways, and everything happens for a reason. I'm a firm believer in that. No matter how awful life gets at any one point, we must always remember that it will always get better. "now" is a gift, that's why it's called the present. When one door closes, 2 more open, we just have to keep our eyes open for them! 

Sasha Teleuc, a member we reactivated.
Soo Russian, haha. Reminds me of a harsher Opa.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Week 8: Caroling, New Years, & Bus Rides!

Blessings: It's been warm! SOoooo warm! Well, relatively. High 20s low 30s F. Most of my blessigns are people just stopping to talk to me, and in some cases drunk people not stopping to talk to us. 

The week: We went caroling yesterday, not very many people cared except a bunch of old people. I'm glad that we could at least give them some of the christmas spirit though! (**Ukraine's Christmas is January 7th**)This week has been full of tracting, and that's where the good stories come in. We tracted into some guy that opened the door in the smallest underwear I've ever seen. I had to turn around for a second to stop myself from laughing.  Also, during new years some Babooshka outside our window was lighting fireworks, and was holding a roman candle like the statue of liberty but her arm got tired, so it started shooting into peoples windows. We were dying. Also, we were at a bus stop and some guy in a bus screeched up and was like "GET ON!" we ran on, and he proceeded to drive 20 miles over the speed limit, running taxis and people off the road on a route that we've never been. It was hilarious. We got to center Gorlovka 15 minutes earlier than we should have, it was awesome.

Random: I found out that our mission has an evacuation plan in case Russia invades Ukraine. Elder Smith and I spent some time talking about our adventures and how we would make it there if that happened. It'd make a good movie.

Lessons we taught: We didn't teach much, because everyone was gone this week or wasted, but the ones we did teach focused on Christ's birth. It's really cool, because sunday here is "Voskresene" no idea how to spell it in english. It's Russian for "Resurrection". It's cool to help people realize their culture has a lot of Christianity entwined in it, that they might not even realize.

Scripture of the week: Mosiah 13:4
..Because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad.

This scripture is Abinidi talking to King Noah and his court, telling them that they should repent and live a Christlike life. That's exactly how I feel here in Ukraine. Some people here think we are crazy for what we are doing, and they aren't afraid to tell us. However, I am trying to be like Abinidi and continue sharing the powerful message that we have even with people who have that mindset.

Anyways, I hope you have a good week! I Love you all! Thanks for the email!

GO seahawks!!!
We ran out of food yesterday (fast ssunday) so we had to go total ukrainian and eat a TON of potatoes!

20 Year old birthday with a cake that Christina sent me the stuff to make! 

Overdramatic birthday wishes ;) Look at that cut jaw line, haha

Baptism! Jean Gerard Leonide (Jared). The guys a boss! Love that kid! So hilarious, I can't stop laughing when I'm with him!

This picture is with a family here that lives in a little city outside of Gorlovka called Zjcherdensk (impossible to spell in english), called the oman's. Bro. Oman is a chernobyl surviver. The family is awesome, and Danil (the kid next to me) served a miny mission, which is just one transfer up in Xarkov.

Pravaslavnie temple by the Oman's

Ukrainian paperwork, where I look like some felon named Igor that got arrested for small arms dealing.

Horse jerkey! Yeah, it's disgusting, don't ever get it. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Week 7: Christmas, Tracting, & Baptism!

We made some cookies this week and went around our big building we lived in trying to drop off a free calender from the church and some food, but the dialogue went something like this "Who's there?!?" "Hi! We're your new neighbors. We have a free gift and some food to wish you happy holidays" "WHO" "Your neighbors" "GO AWAY/DON'T NEED/SCREW YOU" haha. Yeah, not too much christmas cheer here.

The Christmas program went great! We didn't meet our goal, because a lot of people came down with colds (who could have guessed). However, the good news is that we had several investigators show up and, 7/9 recent converts (in the last year). Of the two that didn'tshow up, one was working and one was in Kiev so we're doing pretty good on the RC/LA front. I practiced and practiced, and in the end people said I did a really, really good job. President Campero and his wife came up from Donetsk to see it, and so it was nice to see them there.

Blessings: Yesterday as we were tracting, a drunk guy came out and started yelling at us. He was furious! His cat ran out of his apartment door and he punched the wall, stared at us, and was like "Stay here" and went inside his house. Instead of running away, we just sat there. He came back out surprised to find us there. He said that all the other missionaries just ran away, and we were the only people to stay. As soon as he found out we weren't Jehovah's Witnesses,. he liked us even more! He really had a change of heart, it was really cool. I honestly thought he was going to come back out with a knife or something. He was sooo mad. Our conversation ended with us laughing together and him inviting us over for new years. Interesting guy. So yeah, I guess it was a blessing that 1) he had a change of heart and 2) he didn't try to kill us :P

This week: This week Jared was baptized! Jean Gerard Leonid (Jared) is a WAY cool guy from Nantes, France. He's studying Dental here in Ukraine. He's the first guy I ever met in Gorlovka, I'm super happy for him. Also this week, we tracted into this way cool guy named Andrei and his mom. They were super friendly, and invited us in. We talked for a while,. and when we left they gave us some homemade raspberry jam. It's super good! We've had a lot of cool tracting experiences. 
Random: Ukraine Christmas is on Jan. 7. Soooooo I still get to look forward to another Christmas in a sense, haha. 

Scripture of the week: I don't have it on me, but it's about Lot and his wife leaving Sodom. I think it's in Gen 15? The moral of the story is DON'T LOOK BACK! Don't be like Lot's wife and look back at all the regrets of this past year. Look forward! She probably didn't even consider that the grass was greener on the other side. INstead, she longed for what was already there. Go forward into the new year running. Set goals, and strive to keep them! Look forward with positivity and happiness! Happy new year!