Monday, October 28, 2013

I thought I was going to die

Hello family, what another crazy wonderful week it has been here in good old Lutsk. We have had the craziest time ever, but enjoyed it all! Last Monday night we had the wonderful opportunity to have family night with a family in our branch. It was the greatest! The Vfamily have 3 kids, Elijah turned 8 on Monday, Leah is 5 and Mark is 2, I think. It was so much fun! They are just the best people ever!
We decided to teach the Plan of Salvation with sugar cookies in the shapes of all the stages in the Plan. They got to decorate the cookies and have fun as we taught. I really enjoyed it! The kids had fun as well and hopefully learned something. Brother V and his wife are just amazing! He is the counselor in the Branch Presidency, has been Branch President before, they are sealed, just really great people! It was so fun to get to be in their home. We also got to celebrate Elijah's birthday with him, that was a blast! He is now 8 and will be getting baptized sometime soon, I am excited for that, he is just the cutest!
After we left the V Sister Rudolphi and I took what you could call the scenic route home, aka, we got totally lost! We had to go down the scariest Legend of Sleepy Hollow type street I have ever been on in my life, but we survived! We found a bus stop and took one home, it took us all the way to the other side of town and around before we got home, but we made it home, and all was well. It was just so funny, I was laughing the entire time. It would be my luck!
On Thursday we had english and it was Elder Robinett's birthday, so of course we have to do something! We made him a card and over 68 cream puffs (because I may or may not have quadroupled the recipe on accident when reading measurement conversions) it was insane! There was SO much food! We hid it from him until English, then had everyone sing him "Happy Birthday" at the end, it was so great! He was so happy, and everyone ate all the cream puffs, thank goodness.
This week we didn't have many appointments unfortunately, everyone was too busy to meet with us. Our little branch has 6 missionaries that try to meet with them, that is quite a few. Our two 16 year old investigators, Sasha and Anya are kind of not very interested and Oksana our other told us the other day that she just has no desire to even know if this is all true. So we hit the streets a lot this week.
Miraculously we met Ala on the street and talked with her. We pretty much gave her the first lesson, by the time we had walked her to the store she was going to, and she already has a Book of Mormon. It was so great, she was the nicest and really loves her grandaughter, but wasn't interested in meeting with us further, sadly.
OH! By the way, the Elders are teaching a hairdresser, his name is Sergy and I love him! Oh my goodness, he noticed that I colored my hair and asked me what I used, I gave him what I had done. He didn't know that I did hair, so when he asked who applied it I told him I had done it myself because I do hair. He was beaming when I told him! We had this good long conversation in half ukrainian, half english about hair. Let me tell you, it was a tender mercy of the Lord! He spoke my native language of hair, it was the best thing ever! Sergy asked if I could meet with him from now on instead of the Elders, that would be great, but I don't think we would talk too much about the gospel.
On Sunday we had another great miracle, when this lady just showed up for church. She wanted a Book of Mormon, she was contacted by some Elders 3 or so months ago and was curious. We talked with her, the Voytooks were SO great at friendshipping her, but she doesn't want to meet until after she comes to church next week.
Patience. We just need to hit the streets and talk to people, which we have been doing a lot of lately. It has been crazy, just walking and talking to people. Hopefully soon we will find some elect and ready to hear the message.
And here is the funny story of the week, I thought that I was going to die. This was Monday night to Tuesday morning. We go to bed Monday night at 10:30, normal. I fall asleep fine, no big deal. At about midnight we hear gunshots going off outside of our window. We can see the light flashing and hear the sound, I thought I was going to die. I rolled over to get the phone to call the elders and I see fireworks. We live in an area surrounded by concrete buildings, and come to find out, when you set off fireworks near there it sounds like gunshots, and you think that you are going to die. Then we hear these very drunk men singing Happy Birthday. It was absolutely crazy! I still laugh about it! That was our miracle for the week at District Meeting, that we didn't die and that the elders didn't have to come and save us! It was wonderful! My life is never normal!
I played the piano at church, again. I am getting just so good at it! Maybe one day I will enjoy it and laugh at myself when I mess up!
Well, it has been another wonderful week here in Ukraine. The people are wonderful and the Lord is truely looking out for his children here! LOVE YOU ALL!!!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Love having kids at church

Well, I don't know where this week went! All I can say is that I love kids! Yesterday we had Sacrement meeting this 10 year old girl we have been trying to meet with, her older brother, who raises her, is inactive and she has a less active sister, came to church! It was so awesome! She is the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life! She sat next to us, we had 2 kids sitting in front of us and the V family with their 7 year old son were sitting behind us. It was crazy! We had kids going in between all three benches and coloring and all sorts of things, it was really fun! I am sure that people were just thinking "What is going on in that corner?!" But hey, we had kids to entertain! 
B is the sweetest, at one point I grabbed my journal and started writing in Ukrainian, she would correct my grammar and spelling, then make me practice it. I am doing language study with children from now on, they are ruthless! She even started grading my "papers" or the assignments she gave me. It was tough, college finals all over again by the means of a 10 year old. It was so fun to have her there with us! Her brother is letting us teach her on weekends now, so hopefully this continues. I, the V family son, who is 7 is really good at taking her to primary. So she stayed through second hour before she got called home. It was really good.... and tonight we have family home even ing with the V family, I am so excited for that! It is I birthday, but he still wants us to come over.
Yesterday, Sunday, as well Sister Rudolphi and I set out on a endeavor to make home made vereneki(?) for dinner. That was an adventure! It tasted pretty good for our first time. Don't worry when I get home I will be making you some. It is kind of like a ravioli, but not. That is the best way that I can explain it. I was quite impressed with our skills, I will be Ukrainian yet!
We are still running pretty low on investigators right now, so we did a lot of contacting activities. There is one lady  who we have a meeting with, she was really nice and took a Book of Mormon on the street. Hopefully we will begin teaching her soon. Lutsk is also really full of history, I have found this week. We got lost several, several, several, several times walking around the city talking to people. A couple of times we ended up in areas that had monuments or plaques on the buildings, especially in the older part of Lutsk, by the castle and such. I have a picture of one that I will send. It is memory of the people who were killed during a Hitler bombing on the city in 1944.
Sister Rudolphi and I both enjoy history, so as we saw the plaques we would walk up and read them if no one was around. It made me very reflective and gave me a better understanding of just how real that was for these people. The effects of the war are something that are still being felt today in this country. It wasn't just a war fought on the other side of the world for these people, it was in their backyard. They saw it, they felt it. It was very real.
We also met or tried to meet with a few less acitives this week, we stopped by this older couple in the Branch, they didn't answer the door, but luckily the baboosya who was helping us get into the building, well find the building, then get into it happened to be their neighbor/friend. She was able to pass the cookies and note over to them. The husband was out of the house and the wife is bedridden. They called later that night, and they were the sweetest things ever! I LOVE THEM! I haven't even met them, but I hung up afterward and I just love them, they were so nice and they felt so bad that they didn't open the door for us.
A few of the other less actives we tried to meet with didn't want anyting to do with us, sadly. Don't worry, we are having a Halloween Party so I have to hand deliver all the invitations, of course, so I will see them again. Luckily the weather here has not been too bad, just getting colder. I have become an avid fruit tea drinker here and have really just loved every second!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Harvesting beets

Oh my goodness what a week! I don't know how this works but somehow whatever you have all been sick with I just got hit with today and I am half way around the world. Way to go for family unity!
It has been a really good week though, we have had so much fun! We have been doing some contacting and things because we still are short on investigators, we got some names of less actives to start working with so I am excited to start doing that. The families that we were given all have younger children, I love kids! So it will be fun to start working with them, if we can get in.
This week we did some service out in the village. It was my first time out in the village, it was really fun. Just imagine what you think that Ukraine looks like, what you thought it looked like before you saw pictures of the cities and things, and that is what a village or "selo" looks like in Ukraine. We went out with the 4 Elders to help the family of the old branch president harvest beets. Seriously, it was so fun!
We took an hour bus ride out there, got off on it was so cool! We had so much fun!
 It is actually relatively simple to harvest beets, they are sticking out of the ground, you just grab them and pull, then throw them on the trailer on the back of the tractor. It took us about 3 hours and two loads of the trailer to get all the beets out of their field. After filling the second load of beats in the trailer we, of course, hop on top of all the beets in the trailor and ride through the village in the trailor being pulled by this old Soviet tractor to their house. It was so cool! How many people can say you have done that in their life... subtracting maybe missionaries who served in Ukraine and Ukrainians.  When we got back to the house we dumped the beats out in a pile. Then you take a knife and you have to cut the tops off of all the beats. That was cool, so we would cut the tops off then throw them into this other pile, literally throw them because their were 10 of us working on the pile that was the size of a shed. The Polyshooks, the family that we were helping, were so nice and they had even brought a non member friend to help, kind of a nice way to get him introduced to the missionaries.
He definately won't forget the missionaries either. I can't remember his name, but he was so nice. He has read the Book of Mormon twice and doesn't believe it. Elder Robinett was trying to get him to come to church and was trying to address his concerns. Sister Rudolphi took the more abrupt approach, by knocking some sense into him! Literally! She threw a beet right into the side of his head, hard enough that it hit him and broke in half. It was so funny! She did it on accident, but it was the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life! You should have seen these beets too, some of them were bigger than my head, so it is not like they were little things that we were throwing around. It was so great! He was such a good sport about it, but I am sure that he had a headache after that, just saying the missionaries we make lasting impressions on people's lives!
P.S. There were all sorts of animals on their farm and the elders caught a baby duck! I got to hold it!
We were in the village all day on Friday. Sister Polyshook made us borsch for lunch, so good! And sandwiches with Ukrianian salad, potatoes and the staple of bread. It was really good! All 6 of us missionaries, the Polyshooks, their friend squished on this little table. Pretty sure I got the awkward spot where I was sitting almost in Elder Peterson's lap we were so squished! It was really fun though, in Ukraine you always need to eat all the food on your plate as well or it is offensive. THEY GIVE YOU SO MUCH FOOD!!!!!! I seriously make myself sick trying to finish it! We had a bowl of borsch, a bowl of potatoes, a sandwich, salad, and you have to have bread. It is a lot of food and they keep piling it on your plate, especially when you sit next to Elder Peterson who piles more food on my plate when I am not looking because he thinks it is funny! The food here is SO good though, I don't know how you are living on that American stuff.
Saturday and Sunday we had conference! That was so great! We watched it in Ukrainian of course, and I was able to understand most of what was being said. I really enjoyed Elder Holland's talk and one other, I can't remember who it was that spoke. We downloaded it onto my iPod in english to listen to this week, so that way I can better understand what was being said exactly. Conference was good, we didn't have the best of turn out from the members and no investigator's came, sadly.
In between sessions we had lunch, borsch, naturally, and we baked some treats as well. It was really good, I had made conference bingo for the kids, but no kids came, sadly. Don't worry, during the last session on Sunday the missionaries played it, and the members thought it was a good idea to keep us awake. 
Saturday night we had sports night again, believe it or not that is the highlight of my week AND I am good at ultimate frisbee. Just so you all know, it is way fun and I am good at it, I am not the last one to be picked for teams! Kind of a big deal if you know anything about my severe lack in coordination. It was a really fun time! And afterward Yeva called me, so I talked with her on the phone for a bit.
The weather here is normal, my rain coat is just fine for the moment, I am buying a bigger coat today. I have gone to the second hand here and bought some more sweaters for super cheap and I have been fine. I will need to buy boots in about a month though, when it starts to snow.
Things have just been plugging along. The Elders found a new investigator who is a hairdresser... seriously considering to have him cut my hair, I still have not colored it. There just has not been the time, maybe today though. We haven't had any snow here.
Yeva has called me 3 times this week, missing me. She is the greatest, I love talking to her. I told her all about the harvesting of the beets, she was just in an uproar laughing at me. It was really such a fun experience, next year mom, when you come to get me, we will come help the Polyshooks again, because you would have loved the experience.
Sister Echols emailed me today, she said that she will try to call you this week or next. She has some gifts for you and just wants to meet you. She is the best! I love her, it will be so fun for you both to just talk all about me!
My Ukrainian has gotten better, Elder Peterson insists that I am better than him, he is crazy becuase that is not true. I was able to understand conference though, that was cool. I didn't understand every word, but I got the overall gist and key things, phrases out of it, that was cool! I got to talk to Elder Tribett on the phone, that was fun! MIss that missionary, he is such a good missionary. I had to call him to find out where to find the game Apples to Apples online. It is such a big hit at english to play, everyone loves it. We played it in Uzh, so I suggested it here, it was great! So many people come to english here! They all loved the game too!
Oh, p.s. I am now a tea drinker! They have fruit teas over here that EVERYONE gives you, and we can drink it as long as it is not black or green. I LOVE IT! I literally drink a couple of glasses a day becuase it is getting colder here.
I think that is about it, nothing to amazing!
(Elder Peterson is from American Fork.  His family comes into the salon all the time)

Monday, October 7, 2013

First week in Lutsk

Well, I would first like to start out by publicly thanking my wonderful mother for paying for 10 years of piano lessons. I never appreciated them until now, so, just so you know it was all worth it and there is a small branch in Lutsk Ukraine that is very grateful for that money spent. If you haven't gathered it by now, I am now the official ward pianist. It was a rough Sunday not having played for about 5 years, but you know, I have permission from President to practice an hour a day, just like I was supposed to be doing all along when I was having lessons, now, I can promise I will be utilizing that hour a day because that is a lot of hymns needing to be played!
This week has been a roller coaster for sure. We spent my last days in Uzh doing deregistration and packing. Yeva had all the missionaries over for a night for dinner on Tuesday, that was fun! She sure does love her missionaries.
Wednesday we hopped on a train to L'viv. It was Sister Garret, Elder Terry, Elder Tribett and I, that was a fun train ride. We got SO much language help and Sister Garrett and I picked their brains for everything missionary related before they are taken from us. We had a few laughs as well, 6 hours on a train... that is a long time! We laughed a lot, and I tried not to think about not coming back to Uzh.
I wasn't in L'viv too long, just over night, I spent the night on a air matteress in the middle of the kitchen with Sister Lewis, that was fun! We woke up the next morning, I got Sister Garrett to the church and said good bye. She will do amazing! I will miss her though, we had SO much fun together in 6 weeks, a lot of laughs.
Sister Rudolphi and I went back to the church about 10 to meet Elder Robinett and Elder Peterson. The Lutsk missionaries take a bus to and from L'viv. That has to be the bumpiest road I have ever been on in my life! I did get my package, by the way! Thank you, the peanut butter is almost gone! You have no idea how good an apple with peanut butter tasted.. good enough to eat a whole jar in like 3 days, not sharing with my dear companion either. The cook book has also been put to use, just not for baking.
We got to Lutsk and it is definately different. It is SO big!!!! Oh my goodness I get so lost all the time! We also have our own church building, which is cool, I have never had that in Ukraine before. I almost don't know how to be a missionary here, we don't have to run the branch/group like we did in Uzh, it is missionary work. We have members to work with, a lot of them, and all kinds of different things. The first few days have felt like my first transfer, but I can understand people when they talk with me. It has been fun though!
Our apartment definately is not as nice, I was living the high life in Uzh. Here the soviet influence is a little heavier. It is still a very beautiful city with a lot of parks, I just get lost whenever we go somewhere. I am excited for this week, to get into the groove of things and start working here. We have two investigators, Sasha and Anya, they are both in school, 11th class and very busy. We meet with them after english and on sports night. Every Saturday here the missionaries have sports night, they invite member and investigators and people from english to come and play sports, like american football and ultimate frisbee, and other sports that require coordination. It was fun on Saturday to play though and meet some of the peole the missionaries have been working with.
On Sunday we had church, President and his wife were here, so that was fun! We also have a primary here! I am so excited for that! I have missed kids, church was great with little kids running around again, I didn't realize how much I missed it! This upcoming week we are having conference. We are a week behind because we need to wait for the translations to come through. So Saturday and Sunday we will be at the church watching conference, in Ukrainian. I am so excited though, I told Sister Rudolphi that we are making conference bingo for the kids in Ukrainian, and I am playing with them!
Sister Rudolphi is awesome! She is very shy, but cool. She has great humor and come into the country with Sister Garrett, so this is only her second transfer. Poor thing, she is the missionary in the area, but she still doesn't really know the huge area that well and I have no idea what I am doing. We rely on the Lord and laugh at all the ridiculous things we do. She is 19 and from Colorado Springs, CO and had studied at BYU for a bit before coming on her mission.
We are going to have a blast tearing up this town!
OH, and they best part of my week, not really, but something really cool! The other Elders in our District, Elder Joelsted and Elder Molinet... Elder Molinet, this is his first area and first transfer, fresh off the plane a couple of days ago. He talks to EVERYONE! It is so great! ... He just doesn't know what is being said to him, it is great to watch him try. You have to admire his zeal and energy talking to everyone.

Hope things are great on the homefront!

This is a personal letter she sent me and I thought it was awesome to see how much she has grown.

Ugh, I just have to tell you that leaving my first area was the absolute hardest thing that has ever had to happen, ever! I loved those people SO much and I just didn't want to leave them! I would have served there forever!
Miracle moment...
 On Wednesday Sister Garrett and I went and walked around the river for our last spin around the town before we left. When we got back I saw that Yeva had called. I called her back, she wasn't going to be able to make it to the train that day to say good bye. I talked to her for a while, she told me to take care of myself, that she loved me, reminded me to eat because I am just wasting away. She told me how much she loved me, calling me her little Princess Snow White, I love her so much! She told me that I need to always remember this place and what I learned here and that I will always have a place with my Ukrainian mother, with her in Uzhorod. I was crying by the end of the phone call. I love her so much, she is amazing and has been such a blessing to me.
I told her I would call her when I got settled into my new area, and that I loved her. I was crying by the end of the phone call. After ending the phone call I sat on the couch and cried, I remembered first getting to the area, I was so frustrated because I couldn't say what I wanted to, I didn't understand anything that was being said to me and I wanted to SO badly. I wanted to be able to tell the people that I loved and served how much I loved them. I remember praying and telling Heavenly Father that I couldn't leave Uzzhorod until I could have a conversation with the people that I loved here and be able to tell them how much I loved them, my prayer was answered. I realized after that phone call that my prayer had been answered. That I could leave, it was time to leave. I loved the people, and I had just had a conversation with Yeva and I understood every word, I talked to her. I told her that I loved her and I would always remember her.
It was such an amazing moment to have. It had come full circle. My heart will always be in Uzhhorod with those people, I hope that on my mission I will be able to serve there one day again, but if not it is ok. I will go back someday, and I have now told them how much I love them. My language came along far enough for that, and that was all worth it.
Every mistake I made, or how dumb I felt it was all worth it. That moment made up for all of that insecurity. Mom, I love it here. I love these people so much, they are so amazing! Heavenly Father is just so amazing, this Gospel is so amazing! Heavenly Father hears our prayers, He listens and is so aware of us and our needs and desires of our hearts. He will give us what we seek if they are worthy causes. I am a witness to that.

Doesn't she just look amazing and so happy.