Monday, April 29, 2013

Week 24: Service Projects!

This week was really rushed. But, we still had some cool opportunities to do service. The first one was with a babushka named Lyudmilla Shootko. It was pretty morbid though. We went to the graveyard and helped clean off her parents, brother's, and husband's grave. Then, we helped clean off her future one. Wasn't the most fun thing for her I would imagine. 

Then, like you saw in the pictures we had an opportunity to do service for some members out of Gorlovka in a little village. It was really fun! Well, really fun except for the ride home. In short, this is what happened. He took the other 4 elders of our district to the busstop down the road, and Gittins and I waited for him. Then, he came and got us and took us. Turns out the bus already left with the other elders, so we sat there and waiting. The bus is supposed to come everyhalf hour, but the guy for some reason just flagged down the next bus he saw (Maybe 5 minutes later), told us to get on, and drove away. As soon as I sat down I was thinking "Well, with our luck this isn't going to Gorlovka and he just wanted to get rid of us". Sure enough, I was right. Well, somewhat. The bus went to Gorlovka, but it went straight through it. I asked the busdriver to stop on the Kvartal where we live (As we were driving through it), but he said since I didn't have a ticket that he wasn't going to stop until the final destination. So, we sat on this bus going through several ukrainian villages and towns for a little over an hour. Then, the guy dropped us off at some random spot in a random city and charged us 40 Grieven. So, at that point we were down to 35, our phone was about to die, and we didn't have any money. With a big grin on my face we started to walk around the city. "Think of this elder Gittins! We are lost in a city in the middle of nowhere with no way home. What an adventure!" hahah. It was great. We managed to hop on a trolley bus, and made it to the bus station. I went to the front and asked when the next bus leaving to Gorlovka was, and the lady told me it was outside. We got on the bus, and I was like "We made it! Woohoo!". So I ask the people siotting behind me "can we pay on the bus or do we need a ticket". They said that we could pay on the bus, so all is well, right? nope. The driver calls us off the bus, and I try to pay him there but he says we "need a ticket". He promises to wait there. As I get to the ticket window, the lady says "you don't need a ticket for that" and we see the bus drive by outside. So yeah. At that point I was just shaking my head as we walked outside. I watched some Ukrainian kids try to BMX (they were awful), and decided to sit down on a bench outside. Then, a random un-numbered bus came up and we found out they were going through Gorlovka! Woohoo! We got on, and about halfway through the trip the bus broke down. Then, the bus driver said "don't worry, another bus is coming!" Whew. Well, 10 minutes later he said "nevermind, it's not". So, once again, we just sat there waiting for something to happen. THen, this awesome old guy I was talking witht he whole time hopped under the bus and somehow hit the axel with a piece of metal, or something ridiculous like that and it fixed itself. So, alas, after a long day and with 2 grieven (about 25 cents) we made it home. Just another day as Kyle Litzenberger. I'm pretty sure this stuff only happens to me. I'm cursed, haha. On the bright side, we had a ton of lessons this week and everyone is doing awesome! Our zone is killing it here, I love every single one of the missionaries here. They are fantastic! The best of the best.

Oh, also. I forgot to mention that when I wear my glasses outside, people no longer think I'm American, and instead of getting "HELLO AMERICA MY FRIEND" or "GO HOME YANKEE" I get "SPRECHEN SIE DEUTSCH" and "DEUTSCHLAND UBER ALLES". 

I love you all! Hope all is well back on the homefront. Keep kicking it.

With love,
Last monday after Basketball we went home to find the tree outside our building just randomly fell over. I had to take a picture on it.
Yeah, that pair of mismatched socks has finally hit the trash. I've done a lot of walking here, haha.
Just a picture of some of the food here, I know some of you might want to know what it's like. Lots of soups, breads, potatoes. In the words of elder Gittins, "This is what I imagine a rug tasting like"
I found a ridiculously huge Ukrainian lighter. I call it my torch.
Little Tanya and her daisy head thing. Love her family!
Finally getting green outside, just like good 'ol Washington :)
Part of the mine by the graveyard. That huge tower is where the lift goes down into the mine. The only reason ukraine even has "hills", if you can call them that is because the mine pushes the dirt up. It's super flat here!
Spring graveyard flame tree.
An overlook of part of the graveyard where we did service. It was the biggest graveyard I've ever seen in my life.
More green! Woohoo!
Our apartment building is the one on the left. Concrete Jungle.
Beautiful Ukraine!
We did service in a little village this last week, and they had a legit well! It was so cool! 
We caught a lizard during the service project.
Trying to look tough with a sickle and "broom", but I was trying my hardest not to laugh. I don't think I would make a very good intimating person, haha. 
Me on a Dacha! (Ukrainian farm cottage)
District eating at the service.
With easter around the corner, I decided to buy everyone in the family +Christina Traditional Easter eggs.  If anyone else back home wants one, let me know! They're hand painted, and some of them say "Christ is Risen" in Russian. 
In just one week my garden has already taken off!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Week 23!

This week Kyle said, he started a garden outside his little apartment, and got a record high amount of lessons. 23 to be exact with 2 people on date to be baptized!
"Starting a garden! Radishes and carrots here I come!"

"We found a 48 star American flag here, so we've been celebrating the continental US. I took the liberty of hanging it on the desk for the day, now it is hanging above my bed."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Week 22: Captain America, Window Preaching, & The Mafia

So, honestly there has been a lot that happened this week that I will leave out. Like I said, it's been a..well, long week. However, here are some things that I feel like are worth sharing!

Captain america guy: Yesterday while walking down the street, I hear someone yelling the Imperial march from star wars. I look around, and don't see anything. Then, he keeps yelling it. I look up, and there is some guy leaning out of his window on the 9th floor of his building with a captain america shield looking at us while yelling the song. I think it was supposed to be a slap at us for being american, but I couldn't help but to die laughing. Then, he changed the song to a happy one and pulled out a russian flag and waved it out the window. It was pretty funny. I'm glad our harrassments have gone from bottles to captain america shields, it's a lot better that way ;)

Windows!: Speaking of windows, a couple days ago we were walking down the street when some crazy babushka started yelling at us from a window. She too was up there, probably on the 6th floor. It was a warm day, so lots of windows were open. I started talking to her from the ground, explaining why we are here. As I was explaining, she was like "No one is interested!" Then a guy opened his window and said "I am". Then, as I kept talking to her like 6 more people poked their heads out the window and listened. I felt like some old school soap box preacher guy. It was pretty cool, haha. Woohoo for window preaching.

General Conference: Gen. Conf was AWESOME. We watched it both in English and Russian, so yeah. A lot of time was spent watching it, haha. It was super cool though. I loved Porter's talk about Optimism, and Hollands about faith. Kopischke had a really good one about being accepted by the Lord. They were all super awesome. One of my favorite quotes was the one by Monson from last conference that someone quoted "Look at men not as they are, but as what they can become". It doesn't matter where you've been, it onlymatters where you end up. Just like Pres. Monson said a while ago, it's not your destination, but your direction that matters when your time has come. There's hope for everyone. Always has been and always will be.
One of the highlights was the awesome meat cooking want to be ukrainian bbq we had! It was delicious! Like I said in the pictures, Elder Gittins and I have been getting in the habit of doing it at home. Soooo good, haha.

Member Book work! So, just like you saw in the picture, we totally owned our member books. Member books are books that have records and pictures of everyone in our given branch that is a member. It's pretty sad how outdated they are. So, we sat down one day and just made complete new ones. I'm happy to say that they are probably some of the best in the mission! Gorlovka does work ;)

Vova Yadekon: This guy totally made my day. Sooo long story short we've had some run ins with the mafia this last week, but all have left on a good note. Good thing I'm a smooth talker, right? Well last night we had another one. This guy was SUPER chill. Turns out he's the head of the mob here. Was slow to admit it, but yeah. The best part is that we got talking about why we were here, and turned it into a gospel discussion, haha. Way tight. I gave him a book, and asked for his number but he was like "Yeah uh..I have a lot of uh..I'll call you". I started punching my hand and was like "Vova, if you dont call me there's gonna be some trouble".  They died laughing. The people here are awesome, even the mafia. You just have to know how to be a people person and get along with them. I told him that we were going to meet with him again and teach him about the restoration, and that "if he knew what was good for him he'd read the book". He promised to read it, and as we were about to leave he jumped out of his car and said "Wait, I want a photo with my new american friends!" So, that is the picture that I sent home. The guy is way awesome. Also, every encounter we've had with the mafia was outside the store that they were sitting at. I'm 99% sure it's a money laundering place. Only time will tell, right? So don't worry! He told us if we ever had a problem to get ahold of him and tell the people we are buddies with Vova Yadekon. If we ever needed anything, just to get ahold of him. So, last night our heat went out in our apartment complex. I'm pretty sure if it doesn't come on again soon that's something that I'm going to talk to him about ;) Oh yeah. Last time we met with some guys of his kind they bought us a ton of orange juice. "We can get you all the orange juice you want. Just give us a call man" What a promise right? Woohoo orange juice! :P I forgot to mention that later we had a lesson with an investigator, and we apologized for being late because we ran into some mafia. The guy was like "Oh really? Oh man. Who?" "Vova Yadekon" "Oh..yeah..he runs this place". Hahah. Networking skills to the max, I guess. 

I love you all! I hope your week was as good as mine! Take care and stay solid! 

Love from Ukraine,
Hurray for Ukrainian lighters! 
Long story short, I bought a grill thing for super cheap, and bbq meat at home. Yeahhh ;) I've become a marinating KING! 
Top: Johnson, Efoshkin, Sasha
Bottom: Goloschokov (no idea how to spell it in english), myself, Nuzman, Gittins
Woohoo for member book work! 
MEAT. (I've been eating a lot lately. Need the protein!) 
A quick picture from our Ukrainian BBQ we had in between General conference sessions! Guest featuring Sasha Goloporov 
Vova Yadekon and I. Hurray for Mafia friends! (Don't worry everyone, Vova Yadekon will keep the missionaries safe for a looooong time)
Me pulling a Samuel and calling Gorlovka to repetence on the wall of the abandoned stadium.
Just another stadium picture

Monday, April 8, 2013

Week 21: Rottweilers, English Classes, & Service Project!

So the highlight of this week was on last monday. Elder Gittins and I were eating dinner, getting ready to go out onto the street. It was 5:40, and we decided that we would always be on the street right at 6. So, as we're getting ready to go, I head the voice of good 'ol Jordan Smith saying "Never forget to bring your camera!" (reference to Patterns of Light Mormon Message by Bednar). I told Gittins to grab his camera, and we were off. We had an hour until our next lesson, so we were going to go visit some less actives. As you have seen from the pictures, we live next to a big field. While we were on the road adjacent to the field, we saw smoke. Lots of it. The smoke was far away, probably a mile and a half or 2 miles out in a Dacha sector (Ukrainian planting fields and cottages). I saw the big fire and thought "Maybe someone there needs help". So, we made our way across the field towards the smoke. As we were going across the field, there was a huge windstorm. If anyone has seen the picture of Dan Jones preaching, they'll appreciate the following picture. Dan Jones was a missionary from back in the day, and there's paintings of him standing on things holding the Book of Mormon up preaching. Well, I thought I would take advantage of the wind to get an awesome picture of me doing a Dan Jones. It will be in the email following this. I'm quite pleased with it ;) Anyways, we make our way to Dacha field, and start winding our way through the little roads of cottages. As we get near, we hit a dead end. But, the flames are visible. I wanted a picture. I wanted a picture of me standing by the fire more than anything, and I don't know why. I looked at my watch, and we had 5 minutes before we had to turn around and head back. So, I started running to a different road. Dead end. I kept running, and found a third path. Dead end. It was eating at me. I needed to see this! We hit the dead end, and it was a fence leading out of the Dacha sector to the open field. I don't know why I came to this conclusion, but I decided that we needed to jump the fence (It was probably 7 feet high). Elder Gittins probably thought I was crazy, but we jumped it. Then, we were in the not so glorious field of flames. The flames were huge, and a ways off. Getting a little excited, I start jogging up to the fire to see what caused it.  In order to explain the following, I'll have to draw a diagram.

      Y                   z z
                Dacha/Ukrianian farm house 
      x  }
              } <- where we jumped the fence

Okay, as you can see from my beautiful diagram, this is the scenario. Elder Gittins is the X, and I am the Y. The Z's are two Rottweilers, all muscle rabid looking dogs that were around the corner. I failed to see them. As they saw me, they booked it towards me, probably with the hopes of tearing me apart and eating Americans for dinner. So I ran. Fast. Faster than I have ever ran! Elder Gittins was ahead of me, and as I looked behind me, I saw the dogs gaining on me. (We were running down where we initially hopped the fence). They were going to get me. In my head I thought of what would happen if I got rabies. Oh man, what a hassle. Too much paperwork!  So, I needed a way out. There just so happened to be a bench along the fence that would be my way out. I was going to jump. I was going to be the coolest missionary ever and actually get away from these dogs. So the time came. Remember how I said I thought I got super into basketball for some reason regarding my mission? I thought it would be so I could play with people. Oh, how I was wrong. I'm pretty sure it was so it would help me with my vertical jump at this moment. Stepped on the bench and jumped over the fence. Well, sort of. I was in the process of clearing it when one of the dogs jumped as well, trying to get me. He bit my shoe, and brought my foot down in between the picket fence, catching it up top. All this was in slow motion to me by the way. Then, my foot caught, broke the top of the fence, and I tumbled 7 or so feet down onto my face, which happened to land on a rock. As I laid on the ground, I pictured Elder Gittins getting torn apart by the other rabid dog. But alas, he was safe! The dogs were sitting on the other end of the fence. I had lived! All was well! Until we heard someone yelling in Russian. The dogs ran off, Gittins helped me over the fence, and I started talking to this guy who came up. The first thing I heard was "The Americans! They came!" I was pretty confused, beaten and battered, but followed him. While following him I called the guy were were supposed to meet and his kid was sick, so he couldn't make it anyways. Talk about good luck.  Aleksandr (the guy) was sitting near where the dogs started with his friends. It turns out that they recieved a Book of Mormon from missionaries 7 or 8 months ago on the street, but weren't interested at the time. They were just sitting around and read the whole thing, and then lost it one day. He said they remembered a lot about prayer, so they prayed that they would see missionaries again. He agreed to be baptized after meeting with us more.
So yeah, it was a miracle. I got some pretty rough battle wounds too. The best part is that people asked during Zone conference what happened to my face, and rather than explaining the story I just said "Gorlovka is a dangerous place". (Sorry to burst your bubble mom, but I'm pretty sure this is the worst place in the mission, and my area is the worst place in gorlovka. Don't worry though! I'll be blessed with protection ;) ) In short, it was awesome. 

I've taken a ton of time writing this, so I don't have much else to say other than one last thing. As you know, we've been doing English here for a while, and this last week was the last week of the program. It was awesome to see how everyone had progressed in not only English, but their relationship with Christ. One older lady started off refusing to talk about religion, but by the end of the program wanted to talk to us more. Now she is reading the Book of Mormon, and she has a new light in her eyes. It's cool to see how much happier she is, and how much she has changed. She wants to be baptized as well, but isn't sure of what date yet. We're going to try and sort it out this week when we talk with her. She's awesome. Everyone here is awesome. We have too many investigators for our own good. Everyone we meet with is awesome, and we've been incredibly busy trying to talk with everyone. I'm loving it here. Also, the weather has been crazy. 2 days ago it was in the 80s with 98 or 99 percent humidity, now it's in the 30s and raining. Bleh. Everytime I say winter is over, it comes back to bite me. Too bad I can't jump over a fence to avoid it, right? Ha. 

I love you all, I hope you have a fantastic week. I miss every single one of you, and I think about you all the time! Keep it cool back home, and don't forget about me! (As easy as that might be!)


Throwing a tree into a fire, no big deal!
Elder Goloshokov (No idea how to spell this in English) doing work during our helping hands clean up day!
Maks, one of my friends here in Ukraine who saw us and came over to talk to us!
All the Elders helping with the service project
Fire burning
Everyone who came to help
Anyone that knows the cyrillic alphabet will really appreciate these two Фагот pictures. Haha.
I'm too tall for Ukrainian Taxis
The King is back!!!! (Campero!)
Knocking on doors in Gorlovka 
Dead cat in the middle of Donetsk, it looked and smelled like it had been there for several weeks.
Me basking in my 2 packages from Christina and one from the family I got this week :D
The result of the fence to my face and hand
Probably the coolest picture I've taken on my mission!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Week 20: Blessings, Zone Conference, & Mosquitoes!

 First off, we gave 2 blessings this week. This was pretty cool because usually I just annoint the oil, and recite that part. Not this time. Now that I'm the senior companion I was in charge of giving the blessing. Yeah, pretty big step up for me! It was really cool, and both people really appreciated it. Elder Gittins had a funny greenie moment that I could really appreciate. Do you remember when I was trying to console that lady, and I said "Life can be spoon?" Yeah, it is something like that. While annointing the oil, instead of saying "Oil", he said "Meat", which are pretty similar words in Russian. To those that are familiar with blessings, they can imagine how comical this could be. The best part is that the lady didn't even realize! The only person that did was Jared, who was with us. Haha, so yeah. I'm glad he finally had his first language slip up, makes for a good story ;P. 

As I said, Zone conference will be this next Friday. I am really excited because President Campero will be there. It's been a while since I've seen him, and it's always refreshing to be around him. The Conference will be all in Russian, so that will be interesting to see how it turns out. I'm excited, I think it will be really fun.

I can't believe that it is already April. You know what's weird? One year ago, I recieved my mission call in the mail at BYU this week. That's super weird to think about. So yeah, last year around this time I was convinced I would be serving in Minneapolis, haha. 

Lastly, this week we have been fighting with a mosquito infection that has been rampant in our apartment. As you know, I don't do too well with mosquitos. So long story short, we've had mosquitos in our apartment for the last two months. How they didn't die in the winter is beyond me, but I've had it! I have over 19 bites just on my right arm alone. I went and bought a laundry hamper net thing, and I sleep with it over my face as a mosquito net, while wearing long sleeves. I also sprayed anti-bug stuff everywhere. If I still get bit, I'm going to be furious! Did I tell you the straw that broke the camels back? I woke up one day and my ear hurt, so turns out I have mosquito bites IN MY EAR! Yeah. It's war.

Anyways, I hope you all have a great week. Thanks to Chuck Baxter for the letter, it meant a ton and I sent one in the mail to him today ;P 
I actually wrote a lot of letters, so if any of you are reading this, expect one: Annie, Chuck, Austin Eldridge, and the Schuler family. Also, I promise that if anyone handwrites me a letter, I will write them one back! I love you all! Spring is finally here, enjoy it!

With love,
Anyone that has served in Gorlovka will appreciate these pictures, and understand how hard it is to CLEANLY traverse the streets here! 

Soccer runs deep here. Go Shakhtar!
A picture of just a few of the wild dogs that run the city..
Nothing like some good old rubble! 
Rubble again!
Ukraine is just awesome. I love taking pictures like this. History, history.

This creepy looking building is what I like to call the "Great and spacious building", that lies adjacent to the church building. 
So yeah, this is my mosquito gear. Don't worry mom, I won't suffocate. Even if I do, it would be a less painful death than by the hands of mosquitos.