we wondered that too when we first saw the amount of locked doors you had to enter to get into your apartment. We had also been told many stories of people's belongings being stolen. Purses, wallets, cell phones, watches, many times in broad daylight and in public places. So when I first got here I was constantly looking over my shoulder and clutching my purse. Up until this past weekend I could say, we have had no problems. We have gotten quite comfortable here, in fact, we often go out walking at night. However, this weekend we went shopping at the big Reenik and someone lifted my cell phone from my purse. So the lesson there is, you just always have to be cautious when out in public especially in crowds. I can't tell you how many times I was bumped and smashed into the crowd. Which reminds me, nobody stands in line here, that took some time to get us to. If you are waiting for a bus and others arrive after you they may be the first one on if they are more aggressive then you are. Elder Kinghorn is always letting women on before him or offering his seat to older women but they are certainly not use to it. I can not get use to just shoving my way to the front of the line. Sometimes I would get so frustrated at McDonalds, (yes, we have 3 McDonald's in Donetsk, but no other fast food chains) just trying to place an order because everyone kept crowding in front of me. I finally just gave up and left. I am doing better now but it isn't comfortable for me. There is really no middle class here. The average wage is less than $150.00 per month. Even doctors make less then $300.00 per month. Most people do not drive cars here unless they are wealthy. The average person rides a bus, trolley bus or marshrooka. Marshrookas are vans that have a bus route and regular stops. They will pack as many people into the marshrooka as they possibly can. I mean we are talking sardines here. People are sitting and standing. (this is a post for another day) Let's just say, public transportation took some time to get use to. Another question I get asked is what is the church like there? The church is fairly new here in Ukraine. The predominate church is the Provoslavic church. During the Russian occupation churches were discouraged. The Provaslavic Church reemerged after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 90's. We have a few members in our Branch that have been members for 15 or 16 years. There are only branches here in the Donetsk Mission. Our branch is only a 10 to 20 minute bus ride from our apartment. When we move to the new building in 2 weeks it will only be a 10 minute bus ride. We do not have a stake, however Kieve does. I think we have 17 branches. Some of the branches are still relatively small and we have one area where a missionary is the Branch President. I do not mean Senior Missionary. I was amazed at this. Can you imagine any 19 year-old from your ward being the Branch President. It is incredible what can be accomplished when we are on the Lord's errand. He truly does take weak things and make them strong.
Ether 12:27 ....for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
We are experiencing some problems with keeping members active. This is one of the Branch Presidents biggest concerns. We are excited because the Church has published a new Family Home Evening Manual that was translated into Russian and we will be using this with the members. The missionaries are going to offer to go to a member family and teach them how to have Family Home Evening and then ask them to invite another family over for Family Night. The Missionaries will teach a Family Home Evening Lesson with the help of the member family and then present the other family with their own manual. This will open the doors for missionary work as well as help to strengthen families. I could go on and on about what it is like to live here however, this has been a long post so I better close for now. Thank you for your love and support and continued prayers.