Monday, March 31, 2014

One Year Mark

Well, incase you didn't know, I have now been on my mission for a year! Let us talk about a week of emotion as I look back at a year of emotion and life changing!! I am about the luckiest girl in the world, this week has been really incredible! We have had a lot to do here in K-Town and I feel like things are finally starting to get going around here and we are just at the begining of getting this city going and finding people to help this little branch grow.
We have a lot of youth in our branch and I have now just been called as young women president, dream calling! There is no program here at all, so I have spent a lot of time this past week on the computer trying to get binders for the girls going and for the presidency, trying to work with the branch to get activities for the girls and all sorts of things, it has been a lot of work on computers. (and the world knows how much I just LOVE computers *sarcasm*) My companion has been such a help as well, I have no idea what this personal progress program is, but she has her medal and been such a great help. I have really enjoyed learnig and studying about it and it really is such an inspired program and I can't wait to work on it with the girls.
We want to get a mutual activity that the can invite friends to and all that, it will be great, just a matter of time and getting it up and running. Our branch president really is taking his focus towards the youth and it has been fun, just work trying to get the beginings of a program going. 
For our activity this week we had a sports day on Saturday morning. Because we were just wearing work out clothes to the park we had some extra time during the morning when we would normally be getting ready, so we made a good breakfast and watched some saturday morning cartoons, a.k.a Bible Videos. Oh the life of a missionary! It was a lot of fun though, we were laughing at ourselves, but hey, those bible videos, they are good stuff!
The sports day was really great! I couldn't play though, so I sat on the sidelines and tried to avoid the soccer balls that were flying at me. One day, I will not have bronchitis anymore. I have been feeling so much better though, I am still really tired and I cough if I do exert extra energy. I do take at least a nap ever couple of days, but other than that.... I have given up on ever being healthy. The is just trying to teach me patience I guess, and that I can't take on the world, even as much as I want to.
Our sports day though was really great! For a first time we had a fairly good turn out from investigators and the six of us missionaries. I did get a sunburn though!!! Like really, I did nothing and I go home to find the back of my neck completely red! It has been quite fun, honestly, it would only happen to me. Of course I am the one that ends up with a sunburn. Who cares though, it means that summer is in the air!
We also had the AP's here for a couple days. That was a great time seeing both of them, having served with both of them on my missions.
Oh, and I am sure that all of you are wondering how I spent my year mark.... WELL, I spent it the same way I started my mission, with Sister Wallace. She is the Sister Training Leader here in K-Town, and we need to have exchanges once a transfer, and you know it just so happens that we had to have exchanges on our year mark. Imagine how that happened?! It was really great though. I spent Wednesday with Sister Peterson, who was companions with Sister Edwards in the MTC. We spent the day in just a mess of getting things done, but it was really fun. We enjoyed the time together and learning from one another.
Thursday, well, first of all, we had to call everyone who was in our MTC district to wish them a happy year mark! Then we spent the day doing everything in the sun! We ate a lot of food, and talked a lot and it was just perfect. Taught some english and were just out on the streets all day and laughing. Our cute companions bought us flowers in our favorite colors, we got to carry those around with our Books of Mormons all day. It was such a great day and just so fun to be with the person who I kind of really started this journey with. We have both changed and grown so much, have had different experiences and just everything... What a great day it was for the both of us!
All in all, it was such a great week! I have reflected a lot on my mission and how soon it comes to end. I really have changed so much on my mission and I am so eternally grateful for the things that I have learned here. I love this work and the gospel. See you all in a week!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Olya is a member

First of all.... OLYA IS NOW A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS! Kind of a big deal people, I have been so beyond happy all week because she is now a member! That was one of the best experiences of my life and be prepared, it is going to be a long email my friends, you are going to get every detail!
So, we went into L'viv on Wednesday, by train. It is a 6 hour train ride from here to L'viv. I pretty much slept because I tell myself I am healthy, but I really am still just dying, but it is okay. I am better than I was before. When we got into L'viv we were picked up by some Elders and Igor the mission driver, then we went to pick up Sister Edwards and her companion coming in from Lutsk. Sister Edwards didn't want us to pick her up, but I am a high maintainence sister and I don't like to carry my bags and so I pretty much make my district leader arrange it so I don't have to and I wanted to share the great generosity of the Elders with my beloved former companion.
We picked up them, then ran to grab something to eat, then got ready in the church bathroom for the baptism. Yes, you do not wear the some clothes on a train to a baptism. You just don't. Then it was 5:00 and I met Olya at the church to help her get ready. We got the food put out and everything ready for her baptism. She was SO happy, it was wonderful!
I kind of lost my companion, AKA, when Sister Edwards and I are together we kind of forget that we have companions. So we went on splits for the rest of the night. It was just wonderful, President Lattin and his wife came, the Bodells came, the senior couple, and there were so many missionaries that came as well. It was just wonderful! The orginal Uzh group was there, well, those of us who are still left in the country. We all got a picture together. It was perfect! We were all saying how happy we were for her and that we had been waiting for this day for a long time. It was so wonderful!
The room was completely full for the baptism. There were so many people there! It was wonderful, and she needs that support! Elder Hadfield gave a great talk on baptism and told the story of how she was found, since he had found her. We all cried. Then it was time for her baptism. Sister Edwards and I went with her. They have a building with a font in L'viv, which is super nice! We got to watch from the top of the stairs as she was baptized by Elder Ward. 
Funny thing, the ordinance of baptism doesn't take that long, really. It is just a few short seconds and in the span of eternity it is just a blink of an eye. Yet, it is just so important that we are baptized. Those few seconds are truely sacred and in such a short amount of time we really do so much by covenanting with God. It is truely just amazing!
She was baptized and walked up the stairs. I got to hug her first as I put the towel around her. Olya was baptized. We both cried as we hugged. She had done it. It was long wait for her, but she finally did it. She was so happy! 
I was with her as she got dressed and then we dried her hair, then the Branch President came and told us that we were taking too long. Whoops... it was all good though. There was a talk given on the Holy Ghost by a member in the branch then treats afterward.
It was so wonderful! Olya was off the wall, as you see in the pictures she was jumping all over me! We have so many goofy pictures, she was so excited! Sister Edwards and I stayed at the church cleaning up, and cutting her hair in the bathroom of the church and just talking. Olya was running in and out talking to us and talking to the Elders in the other room. 
Elder Terry, Elder Ward and Elder Millard were in the other room, we talked with them for a bit after, Olya was still there as well. We were laughing and talking about the days back in Uzh. I got to tell them my year mark was this month, they all said that it wasn't possible, I am the "baby." It was so fun to have us all together and celebrating Olya's baptism! AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I still am on cloud nine about it all.
I having been talking to Olya almost everday leading up to her baptism and then afterward as well. She was confirmed in sacrament meeting yesterday by Elder Hadfield. It was so wonderful! She called me right after church and told me all about it and how at peace she felt. I am so proud of her and so beyond happy for her. It was such a wonderful blessing in my life to watch her baptism and I am eternally grateful for her! She is just the best!
That was the main highlight of my week, mission, life.... pretty much everything. It was so wonderful! I am so eternally glad that I came on my mission and I can't imagine my life any other way. 
This week has just been wonderful, I have now been called as young women president, yay! So that is fun, we did an activity with them on Saturday, hair make up, pictures, they are all 14-16 and they love taking pictures of themselves. It was fun, we went to the park across from the church and enjoyed the really beautiful weather and took pictures. 
I also have a new companion, Sister Snyder. She is awesome! She is American but graduated high school in Ethiopia (cool, right?). We have had fun together. Sister Snyder has only ever served in L'viv, which is a big branch, so coming here is definately a little different than normal for her, but it is great though! I am excited to see how it goes! She just finished serving with my first little trainey, Sister Garrett. So, it is kind of funny to hear stories or things that Sister Garrett still does that she and I started together.
This week has just been a blast! I ahve been a little reflective because soon (as in like this Thursday), it is my year mark on my mission! WOW, can you believe it? I can't! It is just so crazy to think about, a whole year here and what a year it has been! It has been so hard, literally trying to kill me sometimes, but I would not trade a single second for anything else! This week Sister Wallace, my MTC companion, and I are going to go on exchanges on Thursday, we have to celebrate our missions the way we started them! I'm so excited! I hope that your weeks are awesome!

with love,
 Sister Shaughnessy

Monday, March 17, 2014

Release date has been Given

WOW! Is time just flying or what? All I can say is "WOW!" I was talking to one of the Elders that was in my first District ever here in Ukraine and I told him that my year mark was coming up soon, he didn't believe me and told me that I am still just a baby in the mission. I wish that it was true, but it isn't. I am not in the second oldest set of sisters, that is crazy! I can't believe that it is already that time! Next transfer will be the transfer that my trainer started training me in, that is weird? I always wonder, do I know as much as her? Am I as good of a missionary? It is crazy! President called me with my release date this week, that was a doozey! October 16th, in case you are all wondering! That was one moment that I thought would never come!
This week we had the wonderful opportunity to have a baptism here in the K-town branch! It was such a wonderful experienc! I was so grateful for the opportunity to watch this 15 year old girl be baptized by her uncle and confirmed by her other uncle the following day. It is just an amazing experience everytime to watch the light that comes to the people as they have taken upon them the name of Christ and received the gift of the holy ghost. I am eternally grateful fot the opportunity everytime and I just love being able to witness the spirit really working with these people.
We spent a lot of time this week working with the members and it was really quite fun! We had one member take us to the park and we just went for a walk with her. She took us up to a WWII Memorial. It was a place that held 3 mass graves for Jews that had been killed in this town years ago during the war. It was such a sacred experience to go to one of those places. She cried as she told us the story and we said a prayer together. The spirit was so strong as she talked of the time during the war, she was a young girl a the time. What a humbling experience that was.
It just makes me so grateful to know about the gospel and makes me want to share it more. I want people to feel the peace that comes from knowing who they are and why they are here and that they are not forgotten, God is there and he loves them! Ah, what a wonderful message and knowledge that we have and that we need to share.
Also, in honor of the baptism of Katya I got to put my beauty skills to work. We had a Young Womens activity that included manicures, brownies, make up, popcorn, pictures, you name it, we did it! What a fun time that was! All I can say is 1) I am glad that I haven't lost my touch, it was like riding a bike, all came back to me instantly. 2) My body has definately lost my haircutting muscles that I once had because WOW! That was a killer, I was so tired. I don't know how I did that all day every day. Haircutting muscles replaced by the ones needed to be a missionary.
It was quite funny, our branch president came into the church and then went and hid in his office and said that he wouldn't come out until we had put is all away!
Elder Asay, our district leader stopped by the church to help us clean (aka, eat all the left over brownies). He has 5 older brothers, but you have to give him props for handling a district of 4 sisters really well. Elder Asay walked in though and said, "Alright, let me see your nails and what you did!" Not bad for a guy who hasn't had much experience with girls. We keep telling him that this is just his training for all the daughters that he is going to have.
And, this week... we got transfer information. My beloved companion is going away! I am so sad, but excited to be getting a new companion. We have had so much fun together! I don't know that I have ever laughed so hard about the most random things ever and I am so sad that my chef is going away! But really, it has been a while ride and I have loved it! Transfers are always sad but so exciting!
I did find out that Sister Edwards is leaving Lutsk, she is going to Rivne and will be serving with Elder Jolstead again, lucky her, he was our district leader when all the drama was going on.  Also..... Sister Kelley, one of my sisters from the MTC, is going to Uzh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I screamed! I called all the members to let them know my really good friend is going to serve with them! It was wonderful! I just decided that it is just awesome because, Sister Kelley started in K-town, where I currently am, and I started in Uzh, so our last transfer President just has to switch us! I can go back to my ukrainian home and she can go back to hers! I say it sounds like a solid plan!
I hope that you all have a great week!


Monday, March 10, 2014

International Women's Day

I have decided that the world is missing out on Ukraines most miraculous holiday! On the 8th of March they have what is known as "International Womens Day." It totally beats mother's day, because it is for all women, and it was just wonderful! I love it as well because all day men, random men, would pass us on the train and stuff and they all congradulate (that really is the word they use) us for being women. I loved it so much! It was hysterical as well, we were on the train that day and the little sales man that was selling treats on the train kept bugging Elder Asay to buy all of us Sisters chocolate. We were laughing at him, it was pretty awesome.
On Sunday we were told not to plan anything for right after church, okay...? Elder Asay was trying to keep the Woman's Day activity a secret, it was kind of like a 5 year old keeping a secret, but he tried and it was really cute for him to try. Right after sacrament they gave all the women flowers, it was wonderful! Sister Plewe and I were rocking out the traditional ukrainian clothing as well. I loved it!
Right as we walked out of the relief society room as well the Elders and all of the brethren were standing behind a table full of treats and singing a song for us! IT WAS AWFUL! Ukrainians cannot sing at all, but that is what made it so enduring! I loved it so ver much! I was laughing so hard and just loving it. I tell you, we need to celebrate this holiday in America!
This week was also just a wonderful experience. We spent most of it in L'viv for Zone Conference. It was just what I needed. My bronchitis is still there, but managable, I am not thinking that I am going to die ever time I cough. Thank you for the prayers on that behalf. It was so much fun to go into L'viv and get guidance from our leaders and feel the love and joy that we have for this work and the people here in Ukraine.
I got to see my long lost companions, Sister Garrett and Sister Edwards! Man, I missed those two!
I also got to do some very fun things in L'viv because my companion has actually served in L'viv, so I could go places and not get lost. I found a market that had everything that you could ever want from Ukraine.... I bought about half of it. And there is a Harry Potter Cafe there. Pretty sure that they do not care about copy rite at all, and it was amazing! Pictures to for sure come.
The best part of the entire experience though was being able to see Olya. We met on my first day in Uzh and we have been friends since. She is living in L'viv and going to school right now. I was able to talk with her for a long time, we cried, I bore testimony and then we talked with Elder Ward and President Lattin. She will be baptized on the 19th of March! I am SO excited for her! She has been my rock here and I love her so much! I am so excited for her, she loves this gospel and she is ready for this, I couldn't be happier.
During Zone Conference, right after setting this date and getting things worked out for her, we had a spiritual thought on the Holy Ghost and I just cried. I was so happy for Olya. I love her so much and she now will get this gift. She will have this eternal and perfect gift for the rest of her life! AHH! 
Missionary work is the greatest thing in the world. The Ukrainian people are the most wonderful, how did I get to be so lucky to be here? The war has not hindered the work here, we are missionaries and that is what I will continue to be. We talked a lot about concecrating ourselves more as missionaries at Zone Conference. It was such an amazing experience and I am excited for this work to move forward here, these people deserve the best!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Doozey of a Week

This week has been a doozey! All I can say is that by the time that I come home I am going to MASTER the game two truths and a lie from all the events from my mission. How many people can say that they have lived in a warring country, almost being evacuated, and had an immense amount of medical procedure's done in a short amount of time in a 3rd world hospital and several other things that have happened here. Like honestly, I feel like I am living in a movie, but it is not, it is my life! Like for real, I live this, everyday and I just don't even know where to begin. 
The weirdest part is that all this is going on and I still am just a missionary, I still just talk to people on the street about God, because that is also completely normal; 

"Hi, how are you? Are you from here?" 
"Yes, I am from here, you are not, you have an accent. Are you from Poland?" 
(No joke, people will tell me that I have an accent and they really do think that I am Polish, I don't even know what that means.)
"No, I am from America, far away from home, I know. I have a message about God and Jesus Christ. Do you believe in God?"

That is just how we all start conversations on the street with people. So with all of this going on, it still does not change our missionary work and everything really is just fine. We have a few more restrictions, like no tracting, which, honestly I really love tracting, so I was kind of bummed about that. We also were asked by the Quorum of the 12 to be in our apartments for a full day this week. That was the most extreme of anything that we had to do.
The mission president keeps us updated and we have full confidence in what the church is doing. Honestly, it is just a day by day thing and we are doing what we can to still bring our message of peace to this people, whom I love. I am not worried about myself, I know that the church will keep us safe. God looks out for His missionaries, I am worried for the people here. 
I get to go home, when my mission is over I go home to American and all is just fine. If it gets too dangerous I am taken out and moved to another country to finish my mission safely; they don't get to leave. These people that I love so much, they stay, this is their life and their country. They are the ones that will be suffering and that is what makes this the worst. I love them so much and I want to just know that they will be safe and taken care of more than anything.
Thank you for your prayers for Ukraine and the missionaries here. Everything is going well, we take it a day at a time. If we focus too much on what is happening then we miss out on bringing this message to someone who really needs it. Keep praying, the prayers are being heard. We are all well and I love you all!

Sister Shaughnessy