Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Transfers are here.....

What a great and crazy time it has been here in Lutsk this week! We had the sisters from Rivne come in and do an exchange with us. They are in a threesome right now, Sister Kelley, one of my sisters from the MTC, Sister Razhabova, she is a native, well kind of, she is from Russia. In fact if you watch the Kiev Temple dedication video she is in it, and Sister Wind, she is from P.G. and got into the country with Sister Edwards. It was so fun having them here, and the Zone Leaders from Rivne as well Elder Ream and Elder Pockrus, he is from A.F.
It was crazy having so many missionaries in the city and the five of us sisters in our apartment. We had so much fun and learned so much from each one of them. It was really amazing to be with Sister Razhabova, the people treat her so differently because she is a native. It is really neat to watch the way that she is with the people and how they respond to her, and she is SUPER helpful because Ukrainian comes very easily to her and Russian is her native language. I didn't know how much I really didn't understand until I served with her for a day, now I know.
We had such an amazing week though, for real! Oh, my goodness. Lutsk is just on fire with people who are ready for this Gospel. We have so many potentials and phonenumbers that we get to call, I am excited for the work here! Sister Edwards and I were talking this week and before this transfer we were all talking and all 6 of us in our District were sure that something big was going to happen this transfer here in Lutsk and I don't think I can say that their was one HUGE event that just happened that was life changing for the work here. We didn't have baptisms like crazy, nor did this monumental event happened that revolutionized the work going on here, however SO much happened and SO many great and wonderful things happened here for the missionary work, for the branch and for the people here and for the missionaries. I know that I learned so much about myself in this last transfer and these people here... I couldn't have done it without any of them, members and missionaries alike. There are so many amazing things happening here!
I am so sad that I won't get to be here to continue the work here in Lutsk. I am now being transferred to...... Khmelnitsky, I think that is how you spell it in english. Elder Jolstead is being transferred to be Zone Leader in Rivne and Elder Lippert is also being transferred, he will be Zone Leader in Ivanofrankivsk. So half of our beloved District is leaving. We are all so sad, we have spent 2 transfers together and I think that we had great unity because of certain events that have happened. I love these missionaries and members here SO MUCH! My heart is going to break having to leave.
Sunday was the best day of my entire mission, I also don't think that I have shed that many tears and that is saying a lot, I was crying quite a bit in those hospitals. It was fast Sunday yesterday, testimony meeting. There are so many families here in Lutsk that are just amazing, two of them being our Branch President's family, and the Voytook family. The Krokovsky's, our Branch Presidents family, have 4 kids, three daughters, Darinka is the olderst, 6, Olya, 4 and Nadia, 2, and there son Petro, 3 months. The oldest one is my best friend and shadow. Darinka follows me around the church and I just love her. Nadia, the 2 year old.... OH MY GOODNESS! She gets into my bag now and finds my lotion, perfume, and lip gloss and puts it all on then smiles as I tell her that she is a very beautiful girl. All three of them sit next to me during church, I now bring a coloring folder for them with pencils and all. I swear the hardest rule not to break on my mission is not being able to pick up or hold children!
Quick side note, Elder Lippert was making fun of me for saying that not being able to hold children is the hardest part of my mission. He is like, so when people say "Wow, you served in Eastern Europe and spent most of your time tracting and street contacting," you will say, what?! "Yeah, but even worse was that I couldn't pick up any children!" Funny person he is! However, that is probably very true, I don't know missionary work to be any different, but I really want to hold those cute little kids so badly!
Then, you also have to Voytook family. They are just living proof that the gospel blesses families. Oh my gosh! There son Illya, I was here for his baptism, he is 8, then their daughter Leah, 6 and Mark, 3, and Mark is a wild child! They are so great though! Brat Voytook is the MCL right now and is just wonderful. That family is wonderful...
So back to the full purpose of this story, yesterday was fast and testimony meeting. The Branch Presidency asked all three missionaries that were leaving to come and bear there testimony. I am already crying at this point as I sit next to these 4 little girls in church for the last time. They kept asking why I was crying and I would just smile and say that all was okay. I got up and bore a very quick and simple testimony, as I cried. Elder Lippert gets up and his testimony was great, as was Elder Jolsteads.
Then, Illya Voytook gets up to bear his testimony...
He says, "I know this church is true, I am grateful that my family can be together forever, and ......" He just starts tearing up and says, "I am grateful for the missionaries and all they do for us." Then he just starts bawling, and finishes his little testimony and runs down to his dad just sobbing because we are leaving.
Elder Lippert was on the stand, he is 1st counsleor, and he is just crying opening after that, I am bawling like a two year old, Sister Edwards is crying, I look back and Elder Jolstead is getting teary and same with Elder Peterson. It was the most powerful testimony I have ever heard in my life and I will never forget it, I am crying right now as I remember it.
It is all worth it. Everything that I have had to go through this transfer, everything that all of us 6 missionaries have had to do, all the disappointments, the cold, the contacting, the rejection, the crazy midnight hospital runs, the everything else that has happened this transfer... I would do it again, I know that all 6 of us would, if it ment that we could hear that testimony again. We are only in an area for a short amount of time, missionaries are only missionaries for a short amount of time, but that time is precious.
We find, teach and baptize so that little boys like that can have this gospel and know that their families can be together forever. It was powerful!
Another example of children being great examples, right after church we had a lesson with Zhenya, our lady with a baptismal date. We met with her on Saturday and it was wonderful. She has given us two referrals of people that she wants us to teach as well. She came to church yesterday, sadly, just at the tail end of sacrament, but stayed for the rest of the time. We wanted to watch the Restoration film with her and talk about her baptism.
We wanted to have a member on the lesson, but that didn't work out, however, my little shadow wanted to come with us, Darinka. We told her that she could come if she would like, but she had to sit and watch it. She sat through the whole movie and was so excited to point out Joseph Smith to Zhenya. Right after the movie ended Darinka left to go play with her sisters. As we talked to Zhenya about her thoughts on the movie, she said that she knows that it is true. She said that it was just a testimony for her to watch Darinka sit and watch this movie, knowing who Joseph Smith is and being excited about him. Zhenya has talked to the Krokovsky's and said that she can just feel the blessings that have come to them from this church and why would she not want to join!?!
I just want all of you to know how amazing this gospel really is and how much it really blesses families. Kids are such a great gift! They are so innocent, they trust so easily and laugh so freely, they are really our examples.
I love this work so much! I love that I can help people come closer to Christ through this Gospel, I love being able to tell people that they can be with their families forever! That is the biggest blessing! Lutsk is just on fire and they people here are being blessed by this gospel and prepared to receive it!
See you all next week, I will be in Khmelnitsky!
 Sister Shaughnessy

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