Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

What a week! I never know where to begin these emails because so much has happened that it is just too hard to start...
First off, my favorite thing to do in the mission, okay not favorite, however I really actually enjoy tracting. I think that it is so fun! Don't ask me why, but I truely LOVE it, and this week we have met some of the greatest people while taking on that adventure.
Just so you know, most Ukrainians live in apartment buildings, and if you have ever seen a Ukrainian elevator... Let me just say, I prefer to walk up to the top of a 10 floor building before I take one of those things. So we did some tracting this week, our investigator pool is running a little low at the moment, and we met some of the greatest people ever! At first we went to this building to stop by a lady that we had found in the area book and had been taught a while ago, but only had an address. So, we wanted to stop by her and see how she was doing and if there was interest again, however we had time, so we decided to tract the whole building as well. We ended up talking to this one old man and for the life of me I could not hear what his name was, I didn't understand what he was saying to me when he said it, but I love him. He was just the sweetest, old, Ukrainian man I had ever talked to in my life! He had just had 3 surgeries and just begged us to pray for him everyday, and we said we could pray with him right then, he didn't want that, but we have been praying for him everyday, and just happened to write down his address and give it to the Elders as well. We went by later in the week to see how he was feeling and bring him brownies, the Elders offered him a blessing as well. He was literally the cutest thing ever and he loved us. He kept saying that he didn't have talk time or strength to talk to us, however he talked with us for a good half hour outside his apartement door.
While tracting as well we found Nina. A very believing older lady. She let us in and gave her some brownies, we had extra and when you say american treat everyone wants some. We talked with her for almost an hour, she cried as she talked about Christ. Also, found out that she had met with missionaries before, but is not interested at this time. She allowed us to come in and share a message though, so we read from the Book of Mormon about Christ coming to the America's and how he blessed the children. She loved it, but sady still wouldn't agree to meet again. Apparently she can't believe in the church because Joseph Smith didn't keep the 4th commandment? I really enjoyed meeting with her, and we will try to keep in contact. She was wonderful!
We also teach english two nights a week, and this week we decided to teach them tongue twisters, because we were teaching the advanced class. That was really funny! However, they all laughed at me because I couldn't say them at all! I would trip over my words quite badly every time, they could say them better than I could. Then they decided to then teach me Ukrainian tongue twisters, those were even worse! It was so funny though!
Also, we got a stellar new MCL, or Missionary Coordinating Leader. Brat Voytook! I am so excited we had our first meeting with him and it was so amazing! He is just the best and it will be awesome to start working with him to get things going here in Lutsk. We are on the brink of something great happening here, I know it.
I also got to speak in church on Sunday. It had been a while. I spoke for 20 minutes even, that was a miracle and proof that the gift of tongues really is legitamit. I spoke on gratitude (that was challenge remembering that word in english) if you would like to know what it is in Ukrainian vdyachneest or вдячність.
Also, sad news. My companion, Sister Rudolphi is being transferred down to Chernivsti this week. We found out this week from our landlord, then called the Assistants to figure out what was going on. A sister needs to finish her mission in the states and because we are a threesome they decided to send Sister Rudolphi down there. It has been really hard on her, she is leaving her first area and we were not waiting for this to happen. So we will be going into L'viv on Thursday to take her there and then Sister Edwards and I will be returning to Lutsk that night. We won't be in L'viv for very long... just long enough to take her to the mission office and Elder Ward and Elder Robinett heard I was coming into L'viv so they called to see "how things were going" AKA, asking for banana bread. Silly little Elders.
AND, just so you know, our sink broke in our kitchen. We were just baking some brownies, Sister Edwards was getting excess water off of the sink area and all the sudden half of the sink like falls! So we try to fix it and counter weight it to get it to stay up (pictures to come) and trying to get pictures as well. Right at that moment, Elder Peterson and Elder Lippert decide to call to ask a question, so they get volunteered to come fix it for us. Apparently, it was being held up by tape before, so now that they have fixed it it is being help up by tape and a jar sitting on the back part under the counter.
OH, the joys of mission life! I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, I know that I will. Ukraine is the best! Love you all!

Crazy Week

What a crazy week this has been! Let me just tell you all, I feel like I have lived a lifetime since last P-day with everything that has happened, and I don't even really know what has actually transpired since last P-day!
On Tuesday we did our last District Meeting with Elder Robinett, so sad that he has left us! Afterward we did our District Picture... Let me tell you about District pictures. So, obviously with every District you have you want to do a picture just to remember that time you had together, well we were trying to come up with a goofey something to do for it and the Elders asked what defined our District, Elder Peterson says, "Baked good from Sister Shaughnessy." So! They decide to do a District photo of them with plates infront of them and Sister Rudolphi and I pretending to serve them food, no joke. It was ridiculous, I felt so dumb, but it is a great picture!
Wednesday we went into L'viv. Poor Elder Peterson and Elder Robinett get car sick, our two big football playing Elders looked SO sick, the poor things. I felt so bad for them both. It is a four hour bus ride from Lutsk to L'viv, so great, it is on the worst road known to man! It truely is just aweful! Elder Peterson and Sister Rudolphi slept, I sat and talked to Elder Robinett, he is a funny kid! I don't know how they slept on that road, it is horrid.
L'viv was so great! Just the usual stuff, we had fun with the Sisters in L'viv. I was so happy to see them all. I had to help Sister Wallace pack, she got transferred out to Kmelnitsky. So this is her first time leaving an area, so that was crazy to help her with all of that fun stuff!
AND.... I got my new little trainey! Her name is Sister Edwards. She is 19 and from America, kind of. She has lived in Thailand and Equador for a lot of years, which is so cool! So the foreign thing is not that odd to her at all, thankfully! She is so cute and fun, it is definately different to have a threesome though, we will see how it all works out!
When we went to leave after the training meeting I decided to be brave and get us to the bus station, buy the tickets and all without Elders. That was a crazy decision on my part! We got on the bus, the driver was not too happy about all the luggage, then they kept asking where we were going, but I was on the phone with Elder Jolstead, our district leader, he is speaking Ukrainian to me, asking when we will be home, my two little trainees are like "Sister Shaughnessy, I don't know what the driver is saying" and the driver is yelling at us in Ukrainian. I finally got it figured out, but poor Elder Jolstead, he is probably thinking that I am just crazy or that I am loosing my mind! It is normal!
We made it home though!
On Saturday we had a BAPTISM! Illya Voytook, a young boy in our little branch got baptized! It was SO great! He was SO happy and his dad got to baptize him. It was awesome! The baptism was just great! We had members and one of the Elders investigator's there and he was so interested in it all. It was awesome! Illya was SO EXCITED! He bore his testimony at the end and I cried, it was just the sweetest thing ever! He is such a good little boy! I love that kid so much!
Sunday he was confirmed in church. The Branch President confirmed him and it was great! All the Elders got to participate, it was so special and just really amazing! It was something that this branch really just needed. Some big things are about to happen here in Lutsk, I can feel it!
Sunday was also so great, I now have all the children in the branch come and try to sit next to me. I bring coloring books and it has won all there little hearts. There were 6 of us crammed on 3 seats, it was so great! I got up after the meeting was over and got complimented on being the best mom, good think I am a missionary, that was awkward. These kids are the cutest things you have ever seen though, so I will claim them.
We only stayed for Sacrement, because we had a request to go out and see Sister Matsoha in the celo a couple of ours away. It was her birthday and she was SO excited that we came out to her, she cried. She fed us SO much food again and sang for us, this time we came prepared as well and brought hymns to sing for her. Luckily, Sister Edwards can sing, because I can't and Sister Rudolphi is not much of a singer as well. She cried, she loved it and was just so happy! She wants us to come out as much as we can, and I just want to be out there with her all the time, she is so wonderful! Her grandson, his wife and their daughter were there as well, eating and talking with us, that was really fun! They were not members, but stayed for the spiritual thought and loved our singing as well. It was really a great experience to be with them.
And today, earlier, because all who know me are going to die when I tell them..... BUT I got my hair cut today. By a Ukrainian, yeah, I know, big deal. Just thought I would throw that out there!

Monday, November 11, 2013

I was needed in Lutsk

Oh my crazy week! It was just wonderful! I don't even know where to begin... Let us start with Tuesday. I cannot believe how amazing that day was, it was just perfectly crazy and wonderful, such a blessing in disguise. So during language we get a call from District Leader, Elder Robinett, he informed me that if we didn't have our winter stuff we needed to get it this week because next week it is supposed to be in the negatives. Well, I hadn't bought my coat yet, I didn't want to, but if it is going to get that cold that soon, it was needed. So, we had to adjust plans to go to the reenok, is what it is in Ukrainian, I guess you could call it a Farmers Market type thing in english, I don't know. Got what we needed from there; I now own the craziest coat you have ever seen in your life. I look like an eskemo when I wear it, pictures will come.
After then we had to run to the church to drop off the Elders pans that we washed for them from Halloween, they happened to be there, and were elated to find that they got the pans back, or maybe it was because I baked them brownies in their pan to return it? Don't know. Talked with them for a minute before heading out.
We wanted to do a stop by to a couple in our Branch. The wife is ill and has been bedridden for many years and her husband is ill as well, this has left them unable to attend church and the wife unable to accept baptism because of their health.
We decided to bring them brownies and just do a simple stop by to see how they were doing. We got to their building and the door was not opened and no one would let us up. I turned to my companion and said "We are sitting on this bench for 5 minutes, someone is going to let us in." It happened. We get to the door and the husband let us in, he was so sweet and so happy that we had come. His wife was in the main room, laying on a hospital bed, she can't even sit up. Her eyes told the story of someone who had had a lot of trials and was ill. She whispered a word, I didn't understand her, but then her husband started talking to us.
He had us sit at the table in the center of the room. He was so happy when he had found that I had served in Uzh, he had lived there several years before. We got to talk about the town and how much we both loved it, wonderful. He has a Book of Mormon he wrote our names in and several other little things we were able to help him out with. The whole time his wife laid in bed, staring at me. I thought it was weird, she is sick, I didn't know what to do, I would talk to her, but she never replied.
At the close we shared a scripture about how the Lord is always with us, and we need to remember that no matter our trial he will be there. We prayed, but before we left he said that he needed to show us a photo. The husband found the picture then pulled out a mirror. He asked me to look in the mirror and tell him who I saw; myself. He then showed the photograph to me. It was black and white, well worn and loved. He asked me if I knew this woman, I said no I didn't know who she was, I am sorry. She was around my age, and beautiful, but I didn't know her, never had I seen her before. He again asked me to look in the mirror and then again at the photo. I asked the name of the girl; Alla. He explained they could never have any children because of his wife's health condition, it is a sensitive subject for them. However, they did have the opportunity to have a friend's daughter live with them for several years after her mother had passed away; they had finished raising her, I am sure a great blessing to them. The picture he showed me was of her, Alla.
Then the wife started speaking, crying as well. She said that I looked just like her. My eyes, hair color, smile, voice, everything was just like her. When I had walked in the room she had said her name, "Alla" thinking that it was her that had come to visit. I saw the love that she had for that young girl in her eyes as she looked at me, she was so happy that I had come, that I had reminded her of "Her Alla." She said that she was just thinking of the missionaries, wondering when we would come again, we always brighten her day she said, and then we came, but even better Alla had come.
After leaving the home, we walked out the door and found an investigator of the elders walking his dog. He showed us where he lived and we talked for a minute on the street; the elders have been trying to find where he lives for a long time. We narrowed down the the apartment in 3 minutes. We left him, needing to be on our way to english.
I had to stop and have a good cry first. It was all just too perfect. I am supposed to be in Lutsk.
That was just the begining to a great week! I don't know how it could have gotten better, but it did!
Sister Kelley from my MTC District is Sister Training leader, therefore she got to come this week with her companion and do Exchanges! Best 2 days of my life! It was SO much fun getting to serve with her again, actually in the field this time. Her companion, Sister Makey was actually trained by Sister Echols, so that was great being with her for a day and talk about Sister Echols and how wonderful she is!
Sister Kelley and I got to teach a lesson together, that was amazing! Pretty sure we have both grown since the MTC, it was great to just see that happen and really witness it! We had a mini freak out over our halfway mark being this upcoming transfer. I want to cry, Ukraine is just to wonderful and I don't know anything! There is no way! NO WAY!
It is just crazy wonderful! We also got transfo this week, I will be staying in my beloved Lutsk, training again, with Sister Rudolphi and a newby! We are going to have a tri-panionship, that will be interesting, I don't know where she will fit in our apartment, but we will make it work. Our beloved District Leader, Elder Robinett is being transferred out, sadly. I am devastated! He is just the best, I love him so much! He will be in L'viv. We are getting my new little trainey and Elder Lippert, I don't know him, but he will be Elder Peterson's new companion, they served together in his last area. It will be different, but I am excited!
Also, on Saturday we got invited to go to the castle here in Lutsk with the Elders investigator. (Awkard moment when just I was invited and given the number specifically and my companion and a set of Elders comes with us.) It was SO MUCH FUN! Oh my goodness, so much cooler than the one in Mikachevo! Wow, Igor, the investigator took us and he knows so much about history, he is studying it at University. It is awesome! He told us all these random facts, like that they made the cement by putting cows blood into it to make it stronger. It was so awesome!
Then Elders also got to have arrows shot at them by this archer guy, that was quite intense. It was so great though! I have SO many pictures to send.
On Sunday we had a lesson with our 10 year old investigator, Vika, that was a blast. We painted prayer rocks and talked about prayer. She is the cutest thing ever, especially when we get to skip down the hall to show the Elders our painting, and when we loose her because she decides to play hide and seek from the missionaries. The kids in this branch are wonderful! Our branch Presidents daughter came right in and sat right next to me at church and walked around the church with me, holding my hand. AH! I am loving it all!
What a wonderful week!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy Halloween!!!

Oh my goodness, Sister Rudolphi and I are both kind of dying over the fact that it is P-day again! I don't know what happens to our weeks, but this week we get to find out transfer info because the transfer has already flown by!
Let us just start with this week! First off, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! This week was so great! I have just had the most fun ever. So, we went to this less active members house this week, she is the sweetest thing in the whole entire world! She lives about 2 hours out of Lutsk, so Sister Rudolphi and I have to buy bus tickets to get out there, get lost trying to find our bus, call the Elders, find it. Don't worry, we got on the bus and all was good. We get to Sister Matsioha's house and it is beautiful, I love her house. Her son has built it for them and it is just amazing! Her husband is an invalid and can't really do much but smile toothlessly and laugh at everything we say.
She is just the friendliest little soul I don't think she cared that I can barely speak the language, she just wanted someone to talk too! I don't think I said all but 3 words to her the entire time, but I know about her grandkids, (she wants me to marry her grandson), sons, all sorts of people, it was so great! She fed us the most food I have ever eaten in my life! She made all the goodies, but, oh how much food it was! We had soup, holopsey, vereniki, salad, bread, salo (fried pig fat) and all sorts of fruits and veggies. I love her, she is just the best!
Then, as we are eating she sits down and pulls out this book. The book is taped on the spiral, the pages have been well worn. It was a very loved book, you could tell. She opened to one of her favorite pages, you could tell by the way it was creased. It was a song book of the bible. Here in Ukraine they sing in their church sermons, this was her book that she would sing bible stories out of. She sang for us! I have never felt the spirit so strongly as I did at that moment as she was singing to us. I was entranced. The combination of her love of singing and the spirit as she sang the bible verses from Christ's baptism. It was magical. I loved it and never wanted it to end. I was sitting in some obscure village on the edge of Poland and Ukraine, in this little house and it was perfect. I loved it so much!
We tried to give a spiritual thought, but I thinking her singing taught me more than my spiritual thought taught her. It was wonderful! I love that lady so much, I really hope that we can get permission to visit her again.
Now, this week, as you know was Halloween. They don't have Halloween in Ukraine, but they know of it. So of course, we need an activity! The actual day of Halloween we just had english and didn't do too much with it because the party was on Saturday. However, keeping with my family tradition I did make home made chili on Halloween for Saturday Elder Robinett made donuts. So don't worry, I am on the other side of the world but I just can't break tradition, and just like my family, I made WAY too much and the Elders ended up getting chili as well.
So Halloween was on Thursday, it was a normal day. Friday.... We spent all day in our kitchen making cookies for the Halloween Party and decorating fish for the fishing thing we were going to do. 55 huge sugar cookies later, only being able to cook 4 at a time, we finally got it all finished. My poor kitchen just was a mess!
Saturday, day of activity! We had to have Elder Jolstead and Elder Mollinet come over and take some of our stuff to the church for us just because we had so much stuff to bring. We were at the church about 3 hours before the activity started to set everything up. We had a typical ward activity because that is just how you do it when you are all LDS. So we had the fishing game set up in the corner, Sister Rudolphi was behind it with candy and stickers to give the kids. I made bean bags from one of Elder Robinett's old t-shirts and Elder Robinett and Elder Peterson made Jack-o-lantern bean bag toss out of boxes. They also spent all day making 70 donuts, home made, to play donut on a string, when you eat it without your hands. Then the other Elders set up Mad Scientist, and had all sorts of gross things that you could touch and try to guess what it was, then they are genius' and took it one step further. They had this one that was a black hole, so they put it on the sheet between the two tables, but a hole in the bowl and in the sheet so they would put their hand "through" the table, then Elder Mollinet was hiding under there with a gloved hand and would grab them. It was AWESOME!
I also did face painting. To bring everyone together we also had a mummy wrap and then to finish it off in another room we had cookie decorating. Elder Peterson spent so long putting up streamers and balloons, Sister Rudolphi had colored so many fish, all of it was just so amazing! A lot of people came, I would say around 50-60, including the missionaries. It was so great!
Vika, our ten year old little investigator came, she brought her 3 friends. She came running in and gave me the biggest hug ever! AH, I just love the kids here so much! It was so much fun! People were having so much fun, Elder Robinett ate so many donuts an a string, it was so funny! The kids loved to fish! The Voytook family came, their son Elijah was the best he just ran from activity to activity! Brat Voytook got scared by Elder Mollinet on the Mad Scientist thing so bad, it was great! All of it was just SO MUCH FUN!!!
The mummy wrapping was awesome! I wrapped one of Vika's little friends, Anya, and we just laughed, everyone was having such a great time! Then we took them all into the other room and did some cookie decorating. P.S. They do not have food coloring in Ukraine, so the fact that we accomplished getting different colored frosting is quite the big deal. We had candies that they could use and just all sorts of great things! It was just so fun, kids and adults a like were just having so much fun! So many people from english came, it was just the greatest! The Elders have 2 boys that they are teaching, they brought their mom and sister. All of it was just the best! I LOVE THE KIDS HERE!!!!
After the party we cleaned up and then headed home. Sunday was good, Vika came to church and even brought one of her cute little friends, Anya, the Voytooks came with their 3 kids, our branch president came with his 3 girls and they blessed his little son, Petro. Also, another family from Rivne came with their 4 kids. It was just awesome! We talked about family a lot during the testimony meeting. Sister Krokovska, the Branch Presidents wife, got up and bore her testimony on families, behind her on the stand her husband was holding their 3 week old little son just beaming. She was crying, I started crying, as she talked about her kids and her family. It all was just such a great and beautiful day!
I am so grateful to know that families can be together forever! What a blessing that truely is!
 Sister Shaughnessy