Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sister Shaughnessy is on her way to Ukraine

Just got off the phone with Sister Shaughnessy.  She called this morning from the Salt Lake Airport and talked with her brother and sisters.  They were all very excited to get to talk to her and hear her speak in Ukrainian.  We had phone issues so we did not get to talk long, but it was good to hear her voice. She flew to Washington DC and called mom again.  I got to talk to her for a hour and half and it was so much fun.  She told me all about the MTC and things that she had learned, but she also told me how excited she is to get to Ukraine and start to learn more about their culture and start to meet and teach people about the gospel.  Hearing her voice made me realize how much I miss her, but it made me feel so much better about her leaving the country when I heard in her voice how excited she is to get there.  She feels like they have learned all they can in the MTC with the language, so getting there and hearing it daily is what she is ready for.  She will arrive around noon in Ukraine and they put them to work quickly.  They will go to the Mission home get their trainer companions and off they go to contact.  Contact is where they go out in the public, like a park, and just go up to people and introduce who they are.  She did that over the phone in the Ukrainian language and I would say she sounds pretty awesome. 

She will serve in Kyiv until July 1st and then she will go to her new area Lviv.

The easiest way to get a letter to Sister Shaughnessy will be through email.  Her address is karissa.shaughnessy@myldsmail.net.  They say the next three months will be the hardest for her, so please let her know of your support and love by writing her.

She has so appreciated all the letters and treats she received from family and friends while in the MTC.  She sends her love and encourages all to read the scriptures.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Last Letter from MTC

The time is finally here! Missionaries really do actually leave the MTC, I thought that it was just a rumor I had heard around campus! I am so excited to be leaving and kind of sad at the same time. The MTC has been great, and I love my teachers and especially my District, we have gotten really close! We got our travel plans last week and it was so exciting!! I really wish I could see the look on your faces, especially Grandma's, when I tell you where we are flying.
This past week has been really great, and just has flown bye! This week will go fast as well, I am sure. Last Wednesday we had the opportunity to host, and it was really fun! Brought me back to the day when I first came to the MTC (*tear), I got to host 3 girls. They now let the sister missionaries host from the curb, which is really fun, but hard. We have to watch and help as they all say good bye to their families, it was still a fun experience though. I hosted one girl, got everything in order and walked her to class. She was so sweet, but in tears, she didn't want me to leave her. I felt so bad, the poor thing! I am pretty sure that she is doing great now. We get to host this week as well, so I will keep my eyes out for Trevan Cottle, I will see if I get a glimpse of him while he is here.
The weeks are all starting to blend together, so if I share a repeat of stories, I am very sorry! Sunday was a really good day, our branch has gotten so big that we have added a new counselor in the Branch Presidency. They are so great! I love them both, and Brother Adamson gave me my final MTC interview and throughout the course I found out that he is in Caitlin Bengtzen's home ward, her dad and brother are actually their home teachers!!! I was so excited when they said that, I told them that they need to tell the Bengtzen's, especially Caitlin that I want to hear from them. After the interview Elder Peterson and I were looking online at our genealogy charts and stuff, for some reason the Elder's are on this "Spirit of Elijah" kick, and they have found some really cool things out about their ancestory. Anyway, he and I were on the computer looking at my chart and Brother Adamson walked in and we got to talking. He apparently knows grandpa. I guess that he lived on the same street that grandma and grandpa live on now. How cool is that? I don't know if you will remember them or if they will, but I just thought that it was cool that we had that connection.
We are starting to have our last lessons, which is kind of sad. Yesterday was our last lesson with Svetlana, and it was a challenge, but it went SO well! All 6 of us had to teach together, which at first was a bit rocky. We pulled it together, with the help of the Spirit. Our teacher, or rather "Svitlana" said that she was super impressed with us and felt the Spirit really strongly. She started crying because she thought that we did so well AND felt like we really addressed the needs of Svetlana at that time. It was a really cool experience. On Friday Sister Garrett said that she will tell us her story and everything about Svitlana, I am really excited to hear the full story because up until this point we have only gotten bits and pieces of the story. We teach our last lesson on Saturday, because tomorrow we are hosting again, then TRC and on Friday we have "In Field Orientation" all day. It is so weird to think that this time next week I will be on a plane flying to a foreign country for 18 months.... No big deal!
The time here at the MTC has been great, but I am really excited to get out and teach real people. Yesterday our teachers were telling us that they feel so great about sending us off and that they don't really feel needed anymore, it was really comforting to hear because I feel as though I know nothing. The Lord is on my side though and I will just rely on him. We have been playing a lot of teaching games in class and going over some little grammar tweaks here and there, a lot of the time is just for us to study more and more. I never thought there would be a time in my life that I would be disappointed when scripture study had to end, but it has come to that point. I am thoroughly enjoying the time I have to read over scriptures, talks, especially Jefferey R. Holland, him and I are like BFF's now, pretty much, and getting able to read Jesus the Christ. It has just been a great time!
Now that I have kept you waiting long enough, we leave the MTC on the 28th at 4 in the morning. We head to Salt Lake and our plane departs at 7:50 a.m. and lands in Washington D.C. at 2:00 p.m., so keep your phones on you that day, I can call at any point after we have found our gates for departing flights. From Washinton D.C. we fly to.... Vienna, Austria! No joke! I am like freaking out over it! How cool is that?! And I have to say it, just for Uncle Colby, that is where the Sound of Music was filmed, pretty sure when I read that it was one of the best moments of my life! Just saying... Then from Vienna we fly into Kiev!
It is so weird to look at these plans, the pictures from our teachers and hear the stories of the people and then to think that I will be there... in like a week! It is so crazy, and I am so excited! P.S. the easiest way to communicate after I leave is going to be through email, and just send things to this email!
I love you all and I get to talk to you soon! :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

2nd to Last letter from the MTC

This is Sister's Shaughnessy's last week in America, so please write her and wish her well.  She is leaving for the Ukraine next Tuesday, May 28th.

Here again on another P-day and I don't know how it happened! The days are so long, we accomplish so much, but the weeks just fly by like nothing. This is our last week on the normal schedule, then we switch to final week, field prep schedule! I can't believe it! Today is also our last "English Day," the rest of the MTC we are doing SYL everyday. It is so daunting, but our language is improving. I understand a lot more that I can speak. Also, as we were talking about it, this really is our last english day for like 18-24 months. After the MTC we are on our way to Ukraine and I doubt my english will get me very far. We get our travel plans on Friday and our Syrillic name tags probably tomorrow. I can't believe it! And P.S. our last name in syrillic is 7 letters.... SO MUCH NICER!!!
We went to the temple today and did initiatories, and it was so great! I haven't done any other than my own, so it was really nice to go in and hear those blessings that I have been promised.
Yesterday was my companions birthday, thank you mom for sending those cupcakes! They were so great, and she carried her little balloon around for the evening after we got it! Her family sent her this ridiculous package that just had everything in it, it was so great! She was so happy, I really think she enjoyed her MTC birthday!
Our investigators are progressing along nicely, none have committed to baptism yet, but they are progressing, which is really great. We taught the Plan of Salvation yesterday and I realized that I need to focus my vocab on that lesson for a bit, because trying to explain the Spirit World in a round about way was probably very confusing to our investigator. Oh well, I felt the Spirit and that is all that matters. We left her with a pamplet, that will explain it a lot better than I could. I can't wait to get to Ukraine and be able to teach real people. Only a couple weeks left!
My dear friends that were in the group that came in two weeks before us, going to Russia, they left yesterday! I can't believe it, it was so sad, but I am so happy for them! They will do great things! On Sunday we took pictures with the Ukrainian flag at the temple and then had our District Farewell picture with our Branch Presidency as well. The MTC is such a great place, but I am excited to get to Ukraine. This week we have had a lot of culture lessons and gotten stories from our teachers about some odd things that happen in Ukraine. What I have learned thus far is: don't whistle inside, they think that you are wishing distruction upon the house and people, bread is the best in the world over there, but you never want to throw it away. Even if it is moldy or dry and hard you don't throw it away, you take it outside and leave it for the birds, or take it to a duck pond or something. Our teacher that is from Ukraine says that she still even does that now because bread is that sacred to her culture. The public restrooms over there are toilets that are cemented into the ground, with no doors or stalls...yay! I can just see the look on everyone's faces as you read that, especially Aunt Jamie's. Books are also very sacred and you NEVER put them on the ground. Ever. Especially your scriptures.
On Sunday we had the coolest experience ever and I am so grateful to be a part of it! Janice Kapp Perry came and talked to us on Mother's Day. She has written several songs for the church including, "A Child's Prayer" and "I Love to See the Temple," and "Army of Helaman," she also wrote the music to "As Sisters in Zion." She talked to us a little about missionary work, but the best part of it all was when we sang. She had us sing a medley of all her primary songs, which was just so great and it really brought the Spirit. They all are just so simple and plain, but a powerful testimony of why we are all missionaries. At the end of her talk she told us how she has rewritten lyrics to "As Sisters in Zion" for all of us sister missionaries. She calls it "The Sisters of Zion," and had us be the first ones ever to sing it. --- It was so powerful, I am getting teary just telling you about it in an email. It was ment for us as sister missionaries, and the power that came as we sang it.... INCREDIBLE! I think all of us were crying! I really felt like I was part of something so much bigger than myself as we sang that song! It was a testimony to me that we really are on the Lord's errand and this is His work and His glory, and I get to be part of bringing it to pass. I can't remember the lyrics, but I remember some things like we are enlisted along with the army of helaman, angels will be walking beside us and all other amazing, amazing things! It really was just so great! She is producing a new CD just for sister missionaries, and it will be on there. Please look it up and read the lyrics and listen to it! It really is just so powerful to all of us women!
Every week I am just so grateful for life here and all that I am learning! Everyday is just the best and I don't know how they keep topping each other! There are so many tender mercies of the Lord everywhere and I can feel His awareness of me continually! This church is true, and I am grateful for the opportunity I have to be part of the work at this time!
I love you all so much!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

2/3 Done at the MTC

I can't believe that it is P-day again, I don't know where the time goes! I have been loving every second and have felt my testimony grow greater every day! Our time here is getting closer to being over! Next Monday 2 districts leave, and after that my district will become the oldest in the branch!!! Scary, huh? And we get our travel plans as well!!!! I am so excited, but so sad! I can't imagine my mission without those in my District, I love them all so much! I seriously consider them my brothers and sisters. Just an FYI, I won't be calling from the MTC on Mother's day, however we can call from the airport. And I had my last fast sunday in America for the next 17 months.
I am trying to think of everything that has happened this week, the days are so long, but they fly by faster than I know how to deal with. We are now down to only 2 days a week speaking in english. It is almost weird when I can speak in english! It isn't as hard as I thought speaking Ukrainian all the time, I feel like we can communicate rather effectively with our broken words and round about sayings. I have gotten really proficient at speaking with my hands and gestering with actions to get my point across.
The time with our investigators has been so good this week! Aptem is baptized, so we are no longer teaching him. I miss him, but it is all good. Vasil, our inactive member is probably my favorite to teach. This week we had two lessons with him and one that completely changed me. It helped me really understand the power of a testimony and that I am sent to Ukraine for a specific reason. I know that he is just our teacher, technically but they are acting out real people and their experiences.
Our first lesson we made these notes for him from the boys that we asked him to teach basketball to on wednesday nights. Then, we told him that the boys just loved him and they want him to teach them and all this stuff. Well one of the notes didn't have a name on it, so he asked who the note was from and Cectpa Wallace said it was from Brat Juke's son. So, he is like wait, who is that? So we descrive this lanky, uncoordinated child and ask him if he remembered the Juke family, he said yes. Well, Brat Juke died. Is what we told him, we needed Vasil to now teach the boys Sunday school class because this man had died. It was SO funny! Our teacher broke character because he was laughing at us!! All of this is just role playing, so he has to go with what we are telling him. Anyway, so we had printed off the lesson for the week and the talk that went along with it by Jefferey R. Holland. He said he wan't prepared to return to church, and we said well, we weren't prepared to plan a funeral, but here we are doing it anyway. It was so funny! He ended up not coming to church, which is fine. He will keep teaching the boys, and we are going to have the Elders play "futbol" with him on Saturday. He did agree to read the talk that went with the lesson though.
We gave him the talk by Jefferey R. Holland, given in conference in April, "Lord, I Believe, " read it if you get the chance. It was just amazing! Anyway, there is a part in there where he says that he doesn't want us to claim faith that we don't have, but to hold true to the faith that we do have! It was something really powerful that hit me, after I pointed that part of the talk out to him I shared my testimony with Vasil about a time when going to church wasn't my priority and I didn't really have a testimony, that all I had was a belief in Joseph Smith and that was all. Then I explained that it didn't matter because that was enough. I explained that now I am on a mission. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that I know that the Book of Mormon is true, that this church is true. It all started with a desire, and we read Alma 32 with him, talking about just a desire is enough. Cectpa Wallace shared her testimony as well about not being prepared to serve a mission. It was really powerful, then he confided with us that he doesn't feel worthy to attend church, so we asked him if he would let us help him become worthy. He said yes, it was really great!!!
On Sunday we had a devotional given by Chad Lewis. He is a NFL player and it was a really great devotional. He said the same things that we have been hearing for weeks here, but he was just so chill. He acted like a normal person. The thing I took away the most was when he talked about his mission and he said all he did was smile the first month. He just smiled because he couldn't speak chinese, but it worked. So just smile and cry yourself to sleep for a month, then get up and just do it. It was great advice, I thought. Before the devotional we had a great time as a District making up these stories. You just have to know the people to understand how great this really was, but Sister Lewis is UPSESSED with telling stories that she just makes up off the top of her head. All of us love them, even the Elders get into listening so her stories, so we took it one step further. While waiting in line for the devotional, which we actually wait in this computer lab right next to the line that some older Russians, that are now gone told our Elders about. So, we are all waiting in there and Sister Lewis starts this story then hands off the story to Sister Kelley, who then handed off the Elder Peterson, then Elder Vandermark, then Sister Wallace, then me. It was hysterical how each of our personalities went into the element of the story. Us girls would try to turn it into a romance and then Elder Peterson would bring in military tactics..... anyway, it probably sounds so lame, but this is how we entertain ourselved now and we LOVE it!
This week has seriously been the greatest and we have all just grown so much! It is awesome to see how each of us have more fully developed our talents and overcome challenges here. The Spirit here is just he greatest! I can't wait to get into the field though, see how well my Ukrainian actually is, it could be scary! I am starting to think certain things in the language though, which is kind of cool, and weird. Our teachers used to speak in Ukrainian about things they didn't want us to hear, they can't do that anymore, which is kind of cool!
Thank you for the letters and my scissors! I am so happy that they are here, although, I can't cut hair in the MTC. It truely is so sad, cuz the Elders went and got hair cuts the other day.... let me tell you. I don't even want to talk about it, they all know how I feel. I will just have to fix them in the field, cuz they are pretty bad. Elder Petersons....ugh! I just can't even talk about it.
I hope that all is going well, keep up the DearElders and letters! OH! And to clarify, letters and DearElder are the best here at the MTC, in the field, email is the way to go. Letters and DearElders are checked twice a day, but our emails can only be checked once a week. And, if my dear, cute little cousins want to write and draw pictures for us missionaries they would love it! They Elders and Sisters in my District have said they wish that little kids would send some pictures to them, and it just so happens that I know a lot of little kids that can draw great pictures. Their names are Elder Peterson, Elder Vandermark, Sister Kelley, Sister Wallace, Sister Lewis, and they have the same MTC mailbox as me, just put their names on it! Thank you so much!! I love you all!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Starting the downward slope of the MTC

My email is coming a day earlier this week because we changed schedules this week. I don't really know how I feel about it yet, yesterday was our first day, but it was a great day! We got to do personal study outside and watch the sun come up over the mountain, yes, I got up early enough for that to happen. It was such a beautiful morning! We had SYL yesterday as well, this week we have 4 days of SYL. We are adding a day a week until we leave. It is crazy and time is passing so fast! I can't believe that we are on the downward slope until we get to leave for Ukraine. I hope that you guys got the Book of Mormon in Ukrainian that I sent, you guys can see what I read now. I can read it fairly well, comprehending is still a challenge. I am getting to the point now that I can at least recognize words and even translate some verses.
Things are going well with our investigators, although we lost one. Kevin is no longer with us, and I will explain why in a bit. Aptem is going to be baptized in a week and half! We are so excited and he just accepts everything without question, it is the greatest! Svetlana is on vacation, so we won't teach her for another week. Michaelo and Kosta are still taking lessons, but we are having a hard time with Michaelo. He doesn't believe in God and won't pay attention to our lessons at all, unless it is to correct our language. I am glad that he is at the least still coming to them, I think that he is listening though. You should have seen our amazing lesson that we had with them on Friday, I think is when it was. We were teaching about the Restoration, and likened it unto a cookie. So we got four cookies and showed them one, saying that the Gospel when Jesus was on the earth was like this cookie and after He and his apostles dies that cookies was broken up. The pieces or truths got scattered to different churches, so they are still good, but you only get a piece of the cookie, but when Joseph Smith came along he was able to restore the full cookie, or the fullness of the Gospel. It was great! We handed them each their own cookie and said that it was done for each of us to have the full truth or "cookie" in our lives. It was actually a really great lesson even though Michaelo didn't want a cookie. Miraculously when the lesson was over though, Elder Peterson did want to cookie.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit a less active, which was great! We are going to start working with him regularly to get him reactivated. It was really interesting how every companionship approached the situation. The Elders had no luck with him at all. He actually got upset with them because the kept telling him he needed to go to church and giving him scriptures to read. The sisters had much of the same result and felt as though he was friendly, but unresponsive. We, on the other hand, got to know him, talked to him about what he liked to do, which is sports. He loves all things sports, so we gave him a calling working with our "youth" in our "ward" as like a coach or something. He accepted the calling willingly! It was really great, both Sister Wallace and I didn't want to treat him as a project and having had my own "church stalkers" as I liked to dub them, I didn't want to give him a negative experience and drive him further away. It went so great though, we are going to watch their "practice" on Wednesday night.
Today was kind of a sad day for our District, especially the Elders. Elder Wilkinson was sent home. He has been having some medical issues that were just not getting better and they gave him an "Honorable Release" until they can figure out what is going on. He told us all yesterday and this morning we had to say good bye. It was really sad. I love him so much, and he is just the sweetest and most genuine person ever. His testimony has been such a strength to me at times. You can see how much he loves his family and the Savior. He will be missed greatly, but we made him promise to write us all. If he can get his medical things cleared he can still go to Ukraine, he hasn't been reassigned, but we don't really know how or if that will happen. He is staying in touch with our teachers and will continue studying. Wherever he goes though, whether on a mission or in life he will do great!
I hope that the Elders survive. They are pretty down today, and I think that Elder Wilkinson was kind of a buffer between Elder Vandermark and Elder Peterson, so we will see how that will work out...?
After saying goodbye we went to the temple. The Elders did Initiatory and as sisters we went to a session. It was actually really great, tender mercies of the Lord are everywhere. We had a deaf sister in our session, so they had screens set up with interpreters on it! Oh my goodness! I LOVED it! I was completely enthrolled watching them sign the session and video. It was really interesting to see how they translated certain things. I was SO happy and actually learned a lot watching it be signed and also being able to read the subtitles. It was a really cool experience.
Oh, and I have to tell you about our Sunday night devotional, because let me tell you.... I was dying! It was the greatest thing ever, and I was laughing SO unbelievably hard! I can't remember the name of the person that spoke, I didn't bring my journal with me to write emails today, but anyway, he was just great! He had us stand up if we had done certain things, felt certain things, had said certain things, it made it super interactive, always cracking a joke afterward. He then also had a group in the overflow stand up and tell us something they had given up to come on a mission. He would then proceed to make it funny! His point was that all of us have done certain things, said certain things or felt certain things and that we are all in this together. All of us have sacrificed to be here. The Savior suffered for us, and we wear his name on our tag, surely we can suffer a little on his behalf. It was really great! Anyway though, this kid got up and said that he had given up his girlfriend to come on his mission, the speaker than said, and I quote, "On behalf of all the returned missionaries out there, I thank you for your donation!" Seriously, all of were on the floor laughing! It was just the greatest and I think everyone needed a good laugh.
For future reference, my P-day is now Tuesday. Bitter sweet, we loved seeing all of the new little missionaries getting ready to come into the MTC and taking their pictures for them as we came back from the temple. However, having P-day on Tuesday means no class, at all. TRC is still Wednesday nights, and Tuesday night we have choir practice and devotional. We can also host on Wednesdays now, which is great! Hosting is when we pick up the new missionaries off the curb and help them around campus on their first day. We are volunteering for it sometime later today, and I am excited! I can't wait to see all the new, cute missionaries coming in.
I hope you are all doing well, thank you for the letters and packages! Nothing beats hearing news from home!
I love you all!