Monday, March 25, 2013

Week 19: Training, Teaching, & The Gift of Tongues

Wow, what a crazy week! ( I think "wow" is the most common start to all of my journal entries, ha.) So we went to transfer meeting, and I found that I"ll be staying in Gorlovka as ZL while training an Elder Gittins from Utah! If all goes according to plan, that means that we will finish training at the end of my 5th transfer in Gorlovka. That's over 7 months in one city! 

So like I said, training started this week. We had an awesome start. Yesterday (Sunday), while sitting in church we got a call from the assisstants saying that a snow storm was coming down, and that we shouldn't go outside unless we have lessons. Well, we just so happened to have 4 lessons. Turns out that none of them cancelled! Talk about a blessing. Anyways, the lessons were super cool. One was with a new investigator named Lydia. She is probably in her mid 50s, and we met her on the street. At the time, she wasn't interested but we gave her a pamphlet with our number on it, and she called us back later in the week asking us to come over. So we did, and it was awesome. Turns out that she got a book of mormon from her neighbor, and had read all the way to second nephi. We talked about the BOM and reread the first chapter together and discussed it. It was cool to see an person that was not a member of the church to be bearing testimony of a book that she had received just earlier. Before we left, we invited her to be baptized, and she said she would prepare for it on the 14th of April. Right before we headed out, I gave her a "Liahona", the church magazine that they get over here and told her that if she had time she should read the first presidency message. Not even 10 minutes after leaving her apartment I got a call from her telling me how it had been an answer to her prayers, and she can't wait to come to church on Sunday. Talk about a miracle story! It seems almost too good to be true. I will keep you updated with how things are going with her.

As for upcoming news, I'm super stoked for General conference. I don't think I've ever been this pumped in my entire life for conference, hahaha. The bummer is that we will be watching it a week after you, because that is about how long it takes to get the translations perfected and so on. Either way, it will be great. I've also found a lot of joy in reading church magazines as of late. Part of it is probably because it's one of the only things we can read, but as i've spent time reading them I've really enjoyed the lessons and values taught in them. Super cool. First presidency message each months rocks. Everyone should read it! And home teachers that are reading this, you need to go teach the families it! 

One cool thing I've noticed while training (even though it's only been a couple days) is the gift of tongues. I'm not saying I can say anything I want to, but I can definitely understand more and speak more than I think I'm capable of. It is really cool to see how the Lord qualifies those that he calls. I have a hugeee testimony of that already. I'm pretty sure that if I wasn't blessed and I couldn't speak Russian, we would both be dead already. Haha.

Anyways, I hope you all have a great week! I love you! 

"Me wearing the most ridiculous fur hat I've ever seen in my life. Yeah, that's a tail sticking out of my head!"
"Gang graffiti, it looks pretty cool. That symbol above the other is the Ukrainian crest. Go go Gorlovka Ultras."
"A sunset pic I took as I was headed into the church"

"Elder Groothuyzen and I on our last day together! I miss that kid so much!"
"This is just as proof that I'm not getting fat here. haha"
"Our new district! TOP : Efoshkin (Moscow), Gittins (Utah), Goloshokov (St. Petersburg/Canada) Bottom : Nuzman (Utah), myself, and Johnson (Washington)"
"Me and the coolest guy on this side of the world!"
"This week marks my first 7 months of being out on my mission!"

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Week 18: Leaks, Rugs, & Sauna Hats!

This week. Well, it's been a long one. A looong one. It started off with our ceiling leaking. Yeah. So last tuesday we were sitting in our living room doing studies, and I hear rain drops coming from the kitchen. I go in and look up, and lo and behold water is dripping out. As I"m watching it, the water spreads in a line, and more starts coming down. We pulled out every pot, pan, and dish we had to try and catch the water. The worst part is the the water dripping down was a nasty yellow color. Once we did all we could, we called our landlord, and went back to resume studies. All we needed was good food and the sound of birds chirping and our apartment would have been like Rainforest Cafe.

This week during our district meeting we took some pictures to give to the branch president. You'll find them attached in a separate email.

Oh! One of the highlights of this week was beating our rug. I don't know if you've seen in pictures, but outside all of the Dome's (apartment buildlings) are big metal things either used for gymnastics, or beating rugs. Ours was looking pretty dirty, so we took it outside, hung it up, and beat the crap out of it. I have a video of it that I wish I could send, but all you really see is me hitting it and the camera gets blurred because of how much dirt is coming out of it. 

Another funny part of this week has to do with some sauna hats we bought. Long story short, an investigator showed us theirs, and we really wanted to buy some for ourselves. These hats are used when they go into sauna's to protect their hair. Groot bought one that said king, and I bought one with a Ukrainian guy giving a thumbs up that says "Kym". (Godfather).  Good stuff. Needless to say, I enjoy wearing it around the apartment sporadically

This week as I study the life of Christ, I have started the Beatitudes. Right after Christ promises all of the blessings, he turns and says " You are the salt of the earth". It is interesting to note that salt can only be used if it is purified. When I went into the salt mines, we were surrounded my salt on all sides. BUT! The only salt that they would use is the clear, clean, pure salt. I picked some up off the ground, and was able to get some pure salt while I was there and it is interesting to see the difference. The pure salt is clear, and seethrough. The other salt, unfit to be used, is white, and although it still tastes like salt is not like the clear salt. How do you define the taste of salt? I can't think of how to do it other than "salty". It's unique, just like we're unique. It needs to be pure, just like we need to be. As our souls get cleaner through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we become fit to be used by  him to do his will, just like the salt becomes fit to be used. Salt is used as a preservative, something that helps save something. I know that we have the power and ability to help save other people. Maybe not in a physical sense, but I know that every single person has at least one person in the world that looks up to them. It is our responsibility to be the "pure salt" that Christ asked us to be so He can use us to help preserve and purify other people.

I don't know if that really makes sense, but it's a cool analogy if you can decipher what I"m saying, haha.

Love you all! Hope you have a great week! Shoutout to Oscar, James, and Sebastian. I've been thinking about my brothers from different mothers! But yeah. I hope you all have an awesome week. Make sure to make the most of it! Make a difference!


Pictures from Zone Leaders Conference!

Pictures taken throughout the past week!
"Beating the rug"
"As you can tell, my smolder has been failing miserably"
"Late night pizza while waiting for transfer calls. Thizzzzzzin" 
"As you can tell, I feel cool wearing that hat" 
"Godfather" and "King"
"Yes, I had blast with the mopping!"
"Our stuff in the kitchen trying to catch the water"
"We used every dish on the drying rack to catch water as it rained in our apartment. We even had more than that drying on the counter!"
"This road sums up why it is IMPOSSIBLE to have clean shoes in Gorlovka. No matter how hard you try!"
"Every missionary needs a railroad picture"
"Ira Gordeeva, Jean Gerard, Myself, and Sergei Agarkov (coolest Branch President on this side of the Hemisphere!)"
"Danil is a recent convert who is one of the coolest cats around. I love this kid"
"This is my favorite little girl (Katya) in Ukraine! She's like a little sister to me!"
"Elder Moss and I as we do our "Dazed and Confused" faces while composing a song. Ha"
"Our District! Top: Elder Moss, Elder Lubeck, Elder Groothuyzen  Bottom: Elder Nuzman, Elder Packard, and myself."
"Just outside of the Kvartal where I'm at"
"There's always light at the end of the tunnel!"
"An old abandoned night club from the 50s or 60s that has some cool graffiti on it"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Week 17: Donetsk, Miracles, & Lots of Picture

K, so this week has been pretty cool, but VERY busy! I have only been in my area 3 days this week. So Tuesday morning I went on a split with Elder Lubeck (one transfer younger than me) to Donetsk to sign some registration paperwork. We got there at ten, found the notary, and were free until 5PM, which is when we were supposed to meet up with the Donetsk ZL's for splits. Needless to say, we had an awesome day of exploration. Attached to the following emails after this are some of the pictures we took around the city. We stopped and ate at a little bakery, and as we were sitting there I was thinking about how a mission in general is a once in a lifetime opportunity. One year ago, I never would have imagined myself sitting in a bakery looking out into the city of Donetsk, Ukraine. Crazy how the Lord guides us in the directions that he wants us to go. The following day, we had ZLC with President Podvodov presiding since Pres. Campero is in the U.S.A. As I mentioned before, it was all in Russian. I was honestly surprised that I could follow the conversation as I did. It was totally a divine gift of understanding, haha. 

This week we saw a miracle as well. We met some older lady on the street this last week, and she didn't want to meet with us but wanted a Book of Mormon and the meeting time of the branch here. We parted ways, thinking we would never see her again, and lo and behold, she came this last sunday. We will be stopping by today to talk with her a little bit.

Lastly, I was taking a gander in the good 'ol book of Kings. Second Kings to be exact.  2nd Kings 6:8-17. This is the story about the king of Syria trying to kill Elisha. Elisha reveals to the king how to conduct the war with Syria, and the Syrian king gets sick of it so goes out of his way to try and kill Elisha, the prophet.Finally, the syrian king finds out where he is. He surrounds him with horses and chariots, and a "great host". At this point, and normal human being would be freaking out I would imagine. I know I would be. Instead, Elisha wakes up early, looks around, and waits for his servant to freak out. Of course, he does. "Alas my master, how shall we do!" Isn't this how life is? Sometimes, we are like the servent of Elisha. We only see what is surrounding us. We are intimidated. We are alone. So what do we do? We turn to someone. The decision of who we turn to is up to us. Whether it be God, parents,  or friends. I hope that when we are faced with a situtation like this, we turn to someone like Elisha, who will open our eyes at the blessings that are around us, and can offer us a comforting hand regardless as to how miserable the situation may seem. Elisha turned to his young servant, and said " Fear not: For they that be with us are more than they that be with them" "And Elisha prayed, and said "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see" and the Lord opened the yees of the young man, and he saw; and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha". God loves us, and his angels are always around us. Whether those angels be in the form of family, friends, guardian angels, people you meet on the street, does not matter. What matters is that they are there. God always "has our backs", and there will always be more of us then those that are with "them".  Tough times only last so long. Never ever, ever forget that every one of us has our own armies of reinforcements. We just have to ask to see them. We have to be willing to recognize them.

With that being said, I love you all! I hope you all know that I am one of those that is on your side. I will always be here for you, regardless as to where I am in the world.

I love you! Have a fantastic week,

I'm gonna meat and meat and meat and meat and meat until I die.
Donbass Arena (Where Shakhtar Donetsk plays)
I think we're all capable of making a joke to this ourselves..
Generic Titanic joke
They call me wind-rider..
Sadly, the sword in the stone was not meant to be pulled by me..
Ukrainian Temple
It's REALLY big! 
Lounging Russian tank pose
Yet again
This is one of the temples that is in Donetsk, and was on the way to the ZL apartment.
Grooty making some blin

Groothuyzen enjoying Church 
This vent is in our kitchen, and yesterday it decided to drop a bunch of nasty water onto our stove. We had no idea that it looked like that on the inside. Needless to say, we are cleaning it today. Hardcore.

Monday, March 4, 2013

6 Months Down!

Elder Groothuyzen is doing better, but the sickness is going around here. Everyone has seemed to come down with something. We went to give a blessing to my favorite youth in the branch, Danil, the other day. He was baptized a couple months ago, and is 15 years old. When we got there, he had some homemade IV thing hooked up, with tons of medicine everywhere. He has one of the biggest testimonies i've seen, and I'm sure that he will be better in no time.
As for the missionaries here, one thing I have always been stressing is how great every missionary is, and how through faith in Christ, motivation, and obedience we can bring miracles into this land. I think it's true. I went on a split with one companionship last week, and we set really high goals (in comparison to what they were getting), and every chance I'd get I'd say "Pray about it, think about it, do it". My motto here has been "Why not?" Why can't we get a ton of baptisms? Why can't we bring tons of people to Christ? Who cares if it's Ukraine. You can imagine my surprise when last night they called in with their numbers, and every single one tripled. They went from averaging 1-2 lessons to having seven, and from getting 5-8 contacts to getting 22. I am a firm believer that if we have faith, as long as our will is lined up with God's we can do anything. Even teach people in Ukraine. 

Dad will be interested to know that we were confronted by baptists on the street, who went on to try and ridicule our faith by throwing out Bible verses to try and discredit us. Luckily for us, I just happened to have gone to a Baptist elementary school. To put it nicely, they had no idea what hit them. They were pretty embarrassed that a "devil worshipping cultist mormon" knew the Bible better than they did. I left with a smile on my face. Just like Elder McConkie said "We, as mormons, don't bible bash! And if we do...we win!"
As for stories, oh boy. Do I have a lot. Anyways, there are two examples that I have that happened within the last couple of weeks. One: We were walking home from a lesson, and it was dark. Most of our area isn't lit up, and we forgot our flashlights at home. As we were going, a bunch of guys sitting outside of an apartment complex were yelling at us. We kept walking, and they started throwing beer bottles at us, glass ones. the bottles would fly by us, and shatter on the ground around our feet. As much as I wanted to turn around, yell at them, throw something back, or just run away ( 99% sure they would have chased us if we ran), I didn't. I can't even describe how frustrated I was. It was cool to feel like samuel the lamanite though, and be dodging all of these things as we walked by. We definitely felt protected. The other experience would be our many encounters with some of the Pravaslavnie people here. We have had people crossing themselves (like catholics do), praying because they think we are demons, etc etc. Many of these people come up to us, yell at us for nothing, condemn us, threaten us, and leave. It's amazing to see how God has softened my heart, to just laugh at it and shake my head rather than get mad. Before my mission, I most assuredly would have condemned them right back, and had a Jonah "fire and brimstone" attitude towards the people here. Now, I've been blessed with a personality of "Alright man, whatever. ". Occassionally I smart off to them (I can't help it!), but I definitely have gotten a lot better at letting things go. I read Matthew 5:44 during my study of Christ, and it has changed everything.