December 23, 2007

Elder Kunz and Elder Harris

Elder Harris, Sisters Chidister and Jackson, Me, Sister Clark, Elder Clark and Elder Hammond
December 23, 2007

We invited Elder’s Hammond, Harris, Benson, and Kunz, and Sister’s Chidister and Jackson, and the Clark’s to come to our place for dinner. Elder Kunz has been telling us how he loves to cook, so we said, “great, what if we pay for the food, and you cook it.” So, they arrived with everything we needed and made wonderful burritos; the best part of the deal was, we didn’t have to cook. Sister Chidister even brought brownies. We were very impressed, Elder Kunz even brought Mission Tortilla chips and Salsa that he got in his recent package from home. And to top that off they made a green salad with Ranch Dressing from America. I know that doesn’t sound so exciting to you but we were thrilled. It was like a lobster dinner to us. Elder Kunz was right; he does know how to cook; he even made refried beans from scratch. It was such a treat they wouldn’t even let us clean up. It was a lot of fun and we had a chance to visit and get to know each other better.
Sister Clark had been given the assignment of making Sugar Cookies (about 150 of them) for our Zone Conference the next day. Zone Conference is when all the missionaries come in from the various surrounding cities for a Mission Conference. Sister Clark brought the cookies over to be decorated. Our bedroom had cookies everywhere. We had so much fun decorating snowmen, gingerbread men, and Christmas trees. Some of the snowmen even ended up with ties. We could tell as the evening progressed that the Missionaries were beginning to get a little homesick. We were thankful we could spend this special night with them.These are the same Missionaries we went Christmas Caroling with a few nights earlier. It was so nice to get to spend this time with them. Elder Kunz is going home in a week. Elder Benson and he were companions in the MTC and served as companions when they first arrived in Ukraine. They are just delighted that they are companions once again just before Elder Kunz goes home. Elder Benson will go home in February as will Sister Jackson. Elder Kunz is from Utah and so is Sister Jackson. Elder Benson grew up on a farm. He is really funny. The night we were Christmas Caroling he just kept saying how he was so embarrassed. He said he wasn’t going to sing on the bus, and couldn’t believe we were singing in Lenin Square. Elder Hammond told me he hates to sing and probably sang more that night than he had in his whole life. It’s amazing how a mission forces you to stretch in ways you never would have imagined.
The above picture is everyone bundled up and ready to return to their domes. Nobody has a car, so they either walk or ride Public Transportation. This isn’t everyone who spent the evening with us, Elder’s Kunz and Benson had to leave after dinner to go to an appointment to teach. I was impressed by how obedient they were. I’m sure they would have preferred to stay with us but they went out into the cold night to do what they were sent here to do. They were great examples to all of us.
Thenext day we attended the Zone Conference, it was our first. I was so impressed to listen to the wonderfully inspiring words of these young missionaries. It was also Christmas Eve. It was fun to be in the office when the Missionaries were arriving from all over Donetsk. They are serving in little cities all around Donetsk Central and some of them only see each other during Conference or on Transfer Day. Some of these missionaries spent 13 weeks together in the MTC and when they arrived in Ukraine were sent to various cities here in the Donetsk Mission. So when they greeted each other it was with huge hugs and smiles and , “I love you’s, or I miss you’s.” It was really tender. I told Bruce that I knew this was a hard time for them many of them missing mom and dad and brothers and sisters. I was noticing Elder Hammond seemed a little quiet. I told Bruce, “I think Elder Hammond needs a hug”. Well I guess he did, because later in the day Elder Hammond found Bruce and gave him a great big bear hug. It was also exciting because some of the Missionaries had packages from home waiting for them and they had just sat down on the office floor and tore them open. They were gathered around looking at each others treasures from home. Most of them munching on some very coveted American candy of one sort or another. After the Conference we had our delicious Sugar Cookies. As all good things must come to an end we were done by 4pm and everyone went their separate ways. Bruce and I just came back to our apartment. Needless to say, it was a very long evening.

December 19, 2007

CHRISTMAS IN UKRAINE

Lenin Square



This was a very special night. Elder Kinghorn and I were invited to go Christmas Caroling with the missionaries. We started in one neighborhood with big homes. Nobody would open the doors for us. Elder Kunz tried to tell them we only wanted to sing to them but nobody would listen. We all gathered in the middle of the street and said a very humble prayer and when we were done we found this sweet lady walking down the street. She stopped a moment and sang “Silent Night” with us. When we were done she said, “I know about you, you’re the Mormons. We wished her a Merry Christmas and were on our way. I thought about that moment and wondered what brought her out on this very cold night all alone. As we walked away I felt, somehow the Lord had used us to touch this lonely woman, to send her the message that she is not alone. We spent the rest of the night singing, on the bus, (much to Elder Benson’s) embarrassment, and later at Lenin Square. Most people just walked right by, but the few that lingered I will not soon forget.

December 12, 2007

CITY TOUR WITH TANYA AND TANYA






Early in December we had the opportunity to have a tour of the city. Two young ladies from the English Class that the missionaries teach are studying Tourism at the University and offered to take us on the tour of the city. It was interesting. It was a first for me. I don’t think I’ve ever walked around a city so cold and tried to enjoy the sights most of which were covered in snow. We were practically dancing to stay warm when we stopped to listen to our guides. The sister Missionaries were teasing that they couldn't feel their lips when they smiled. One of them asked me if I knew the first symptoms of frostbite. December 14, 2007
We were invited to celebrate Elder Lyman’s birthday with the missionaries at Tequila Boom, a local Mexican restaurant. There were probably 20 of us and when it got time to pay we didn’t have enough money so Elder Clark and Elder Kinghorn stepped in, first Elder Clark (the Financial Clerk) took over, we waited about 5 minutes for him to count and recount the money and Elder Kinghorn, just patiently waited to see if he could just cover the shortage. Meanwhile I found out it was the Sisters P day (day off) so we quickly made plans to go shop for new boots for Sister Jackson. I learned that they never stop being missionaries. We talked to people on the bus, on the streets and at the Reenick (street market). We even gave away a Book of Mormon.

December 9, 2007

LIVING IN UKRAINE

It's been a few weeks and I think I can safely say we are adjusting. We are learning many lessons. The first lesson we have learned is patience. It took 2 weeks to get our computer hooked up. I don't know what we were thinking but we haven't found an assistant/interpreter yet. We were told this would be our first priority and I think we assumed we would find someone within a few days. We have to be very thoughtful about who we hire. It is a great job, but we have to be careful about our decision. We will be spending a lot of time with this person and we will need to trust that they will be good representatives of the Church as well as a competent employee. In the past returned missionaries are often used for this position but we haven't found one yet. We have a few names we have given to the Mission President for him to consider and give us some insights about the person but we haven't made any decisions yet. We have started to venture out on our own. We walk to the bus stop, ride the bus to the mission office and then walk a short distance to the office. We have even gone to the grocery store on our own. We can even ask for "2 BAGS" IN RUSSIAN when we get to the checkout stand. It's funny sometimes people will ask you for directions in the store because we have name tags on I guess we look like we work there. I think we stick out a bit on the streets. We are both dressed in our Sunday clothes, which for me is a skirt and sweater or blouse and vest and for Bruce is a suit or slacks and a tie. He bought a nice thick Leather coat and I have a down parka that I wear. You don't often see women in dresses unless they are pretty short skirts and knee high boots. My boots look like after ski boots compared to the women in their high heel boots. They have told us that it is good for the local people to see us together because the divorce rate is very high here. You very seldom see a couple walking hand in hand unless they are young and courting. Even at church there are a lot of single women with their children. Some of the Branches here (congregations) only have 30 or so active members, mostly woman and children. So, I think we stick out for several reasons, not just the way we are dressed, but that we are a couple, walking hand in hand, we are American, speaking English and we are happy. It was cute today at church I went to a class with 14 year old girls and the Sister Missionary was translating for me. When one of the girls was called on she said, "Oh sorry I was listening to the English". They are fascinated by us, as I am with them. I only wish I could speak to them without an interpreter. I will work on this. I am proud of Bruce I have a cold and we had to go to a Pharmacy alone. He used our dictionary and figured out how to ask for the cold medicine on his own, she even understood what he wanted. Russian Language studies are coming slow for us. We have been so busy getting our home office set up and trying to find our way around we haven't studied the Language much. We are going to start attending a English as a second language class that the sister Missionaries teach on Tuesday evenings. They also invited me to go with them once a week when they go spend time at a School for Special Needs children. We are starting to get project request from institutions that need assistance however, we can't make visits until we get our interpreter. So I may go with the Sisters until we get busier. I was invited to join them on a visit to a members home Saturday night. It was a wonderful experience. They were a sweet family and told us a beautiful story of how the husband and wife met, and how they came to be members of the church. The mother and her two daughters are members but not the husband. However, he joined us for our entire visit and is a very nice man. The oldest daughter served a mission in Russia. I love the members of the Church here. They are so happy to see us when we enter the building the women kiss our cheek and hug us. We sometimes have a missionary sit behind us in Church and interpret so we know what is being said. It helps so much. We have attended a few different branches and each time we visit a new place we are asked to bear our testimonies. We have met so many wonderful young missionaries here. They interpret for us whenever we are at church.This is a very difficult mission for them. It is very cold out. It gets dark very early and people get mad at them when they knock on the doors in the evening. There is a large anti-Mormon push here in the Provoslavic Church. The Mission President said the missionaries will find people to teach who make a decision to be baptized and then are influenced by family or friends to not do it. It can be discouraging, but these young missionaries are so strong in their faith and have such positive attitudes. I am so grateful to be here and see their examples. Yesterday we attended a Baptism of a woman whose son is leaving on a mission in a few days. It was a beautiful experience he got to Baptize his mother 3 days before going into the mission field. She shared her conversion story with me it was very powerful. Some of the missionaries here gathered money to buy him a suit and shirts and a few ties for his mission because his family is very poor. They are taking him shopping tomorrow, it's a surprise, but they are so excited to do this for him. Some of the missionaries are going home soon. It's fun to hear how excited they are to go home and "sleep in their own beds". The beds they sleep in are twin beds and they are very narrow and short. Some boys are so tall they have to put their mattresses on the floor because their legs hit the foot board. When packages arrive from home it's not just exciting to get a package but they are so excited about the food that comes from America that we don't have here. The Russian ties are very thick and all our young missionaries wear these very thick ties. It's quite funny looking. Well, I better go for now. Next time I'll write more about the projects we are working on. I almost forgot we did a service project last weekend in a Branch with the ladies. We had 18 quilts from a Stake ****(several congregations) in America. Several woman had gotten together to do a service project and made quilts. Then they sent them here. We all got together, missionaries, and the ladies in the Branch,a few husbands as well and tied the quilts. We are going to take them to an orphanage. ****I am realizing for our friends who aren't members of our Church that sometimes we use terms not everyone understands. We almost need a glossary. Just so you know, when we attend church in America our congregation is called a Ward. People attend wards that are in their neighborhood. many Wards make up a Stake. In Ukraine there are not enough members for a ward or a Stake so members attend a Branch. Which means they come along way to the Church building. In Utah there are so many wards that your building that you attend church is usually a block or so from your house and there are several buildings in a neighborhood. More Mormon definitions later. WE HOPE THIS LETTER FINDS YOU ALL WELL AND HAPPY.WE MISS YOU BUT ARE BEGINNING TO SEE THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR PRESENCE HERE.

December 7, 2007

VISITING THE HOMES OF MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH


This was our first visit to a members home. It was humble, but we felt so comfortable there.
This is Masha in the back, her mom, Larissa, little sister Olya, Sister Chidister, Sister Clark and Sister Jackson.
As soon as we got to their house I was admiring a few family photos on the wall of the girls and Larissa was just like any other proud mom, she ran and got a small, obviously treasured box, of pictures of the two daughters when they were little. There were just a few tattered photos but obviously held a lot of special memories for Larissa. They were all so sweet and we were treated like honored guest. When Larissa asked us to introduce ourselves it was so wonderful Sister Clark had learned how to introduce herself in Russian she even said her husband’s name and how many children they had. I think the family was really touched by this. It was so sweet at one point their whole family left and went into the kitchen and came out carrying the kitchen table into the living room all set with glasses and juice and desserts. Sister Chidister had made pineapple cake, and Masha served ice cream with a delicious berry topping. She told us she tried to bake a cake but she couldn't’t read the directions, I can’t remember what Language the mix was written in but it wasn’t Russian or English. This was a very special night .

December 4, 2007

OUR APARTMENT

Kitchen
Bedroom/Office

The view from our balcony
Elder Kinghorn standing in the doorway of our apartment building

Living Room


Our daughter, Karrissa asked if our apartment was "cute" so I thought I’d describe what it is like here. First of all, there isn’t much color. It seems like all the trees have lost their leaves and are just barren, there is nothing green. The sky is quite polluted. Most of the buildings look like tenement buildings. You enter our "dome" (home) through an alley. There is a metal door outside, which you can see above. It feels like you are entering an abandoned building. Once you go through the first door you punch a code into a small box on the next metal door. Then you go up five flights of stairs. Yeah, I love this part. Each flight has 3 doors entering apartments. ( we very seldom see anyone) Each door is a completely different design, some are quite pretty. Outside each door is a box with wires coming out of it, and some burned spots around it on the wall. The walls are a very strange green color on the bottom and a white paint on the upper half that rubs off on you if you lean on it. The missionaries tract in these domes and they think it’s funny not to tell the “greenies” (new missionaries) not to lean on the wall or their coats will be covered with white powder. They were kind and warned us. When you get to our apartment you open one big door and then another door to enter. You walk right into the living room. It has nice wooden floors, and a green couch and two chairs. There is a large cabinet to store nic-nacs. The kitchen is off of that room. It is very small with a gas stove, and a dishwasher, which I am told is a luxury in Ukraine. We have a nice refrigerator too. The bathroom was recently remodeled. We have a huge bathtub which everyone is envious of but we can’t take baths in it because the water pressure is so low that it would take forever to fill the tub and we would probably run out of water before there was even enough to sit in. So when we bathe we sit in a big empty tub with a hand held shower head. We have one bedroom which is fairly big. It is big enough for a bed and large desk. It has peach shears on the windows and a red oriental carpet on the floor. The Living room had a green carpet ; both carpets were covered with dog hair. The bed is just a mattress that sits in a wooden box. I won’t mention the condition of the mattresses. The apartment wan’t very clean when we moved in so I had to spend a few days scrubbing everything. We are the first missionaries to live in this apartment so we had to go buy pots and pans and dishes.
I don’t want you to think I am complaining. It actually is quite cute and you would be surprised how easy it is to make it feel like home. We are amazed at how grateful we are for the simple things, like electricity and warm beds. I am grateful that our apartment came with the luxuries of a dishwasher, and nice new bathroom. Oh, I almost forgot, we have another luxury that the missionaries told us they have only seen in one other apartment and that is the Mission President’s, a clothes dryer. I never use it because it takes about 2 hours to dry a load of wash. Most people have to hang their clothes to dry which is a challenge when it is so cold here. Like I said, there is always something to be grateful for.

We woke up to a blanket of snow covering what looked dreary and depressing yesterday. It reminds me that we have to be patient with the Lord. Sometimes we think he isn’t aware of our pleadings to him. Usually it is after the darkest moment that the dawn comes. We have been reading a book left by the previous Humanitarian Couple (the Meline’s) and I am getting excited about our work here in Donetsk.

December 1, 2007

THE FIRST FEW WEEKS IN UKRAINE




The month started out with a fresh batch of snow which covered all the dirt on the ground. It seemed like overnight the whole city was transformed. The trees had a blanket of snow covering them. Everything just had a whole new feeling. We ventured out on our own today and walkedd to the mission office. When we arrived at the office Elders Burrup and Baker were on their way out to go to the bank. A few minutes after they left they came back and asked us to come outside. This is what we found. It seems they have a new companion. A few days later we went to Obeydenyoni with the Ray's to do a service project with the Relief Society. It was so much fun. We tied quilts. We even got the men involved.

Saints in Ukraine (put music on pause)

My music


click on the photo to see the captions

Armenia Trip

Our last Zone Conference

Some of the faces we will miss

Our trip to Mariupol

March Zone Conference in Donetsk(click on photo to view a larger version)

Missionaries helping the International Relief Development unload a container from America

Health Fair click on the photo to see what is coming up

To listen to this talk you will need to put the music on pause first

Sometimes we forget what divine gifts we have been given. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Thanksgiving

Look at the fun equipment we got to deliver to this internat for Special Needs children

Europe East Area District Meeting

I LOVE THESE MISSIONARIES

OUR APARTMENT (this is not an average missionary apartment)

THIS IS WHAT MISSIONARY APARTMENTS LOOK LIKE ON INSPECTION DAY

CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO SEE A MORE COMPLETE VIEW

LEADERSHIP TRAINING IN THE KALINSKY BUILDING

Click on photo to see more photos of the Open House at the Kalininsky blg