Monday, December 8, 2014


Well, it's about time.
The temperature in L'viv has been hanging in that uncomfortable zone where it's not really cold, but the wind cuts you right down to the bone, and it's not quite chilly enough for snow, so it rains.  And today.... miracle.  Tender mercy, you might even venture to say;
Well, it feels warmer, even though the temperature dropped!  Funny how that works out.
This past week has been mostly uneventful.  We did a bit of work in our Area Book, and we have been running back and forth, from and to the office.  
Nothing crazy like another fencing tournament.
It's been a nice week though overall.  We've had a few miracle with people wanting to meet with us and talk.  It's kind of tough to street contact with frigid wind blowing everyone to-and-fro, but it's not impossible.  Everyone seems pretty pumped about this He is the Gift project, and our mission president has advised us to focus as much as we can on starting conversations about Christ, using the fact that God gave the real first present of Christmas;  His Son.   It sounds like fun to me, and I've already heard of missionaries using it in a lot of fun and effective ways.  In L'viv, we've invited every member to invite a friend over to their home, have dinner and watch some Christmas Films, and then have the missionaries share a Christmas centered spiritual thought!  Pretty exciting :)
Thanks for all of the support and love!
I'd just like to share my spiritual thought with you this week about "Taking upon us the name of Christ".
Captain Moroni tore off a piece of his garment, and wrote upon it --

In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children

What do you have written all over your "garment"?
We are commanded to wash our garments in his atoning blood.  Bright red is not an easy color to hide...  in fact, many people might ask you about why you do things a certain way.  Why not smoke or drink?  Why live a chaste and virtuous life? Why not listen to this kind of music?  Wouldn't it just be easier to do it the way everyone else does?

 -- "And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land, which was possessed by the Nephites; and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites."
God, through his prophets, has planted the standard of liberty.  It's the example of Christ.  When we are baptized, we promise to follow that example, and make use of His Atoning Sacrifice.  Our garments are washed by His blood.  We become Disciples of Christ.  We take upon us HIS name.  And we must ALWAYS remember him, and keep his commandments, which he has given us.  We show it to the whole world, and we shouldn't be afraid.
So, this season is the best time of the year to get back to focusing on Christ.  Wherever our minds may be, or whatever may be our greatest concern at the moment, we ought to lay aside the cares of this worlds and focus on our Savior.  Share some of his love with everyone you can!  I'll try my best too ;)
I love you all very much.
I will keep you in my prayers, and I hope to see many miracles happen between the lot of us.  It's going to be a great Christmas Season!

Elder LeBaron

New Adventures

Hello everyone!

I'm doing great out here in Ukraine. 
I just got transfered to my new area in L'viv.  We live in an apartment in the back right corner, on the top floor, in a building that is about 30 minutes away from the center of the city (by bus).  We live far away.  This makes things kind of complicated for the Office Elders, considering that we spend a lot of time commuting to get our work done, but nothing really seems to be getting in our way so far.  It's been pretty interesting.  Needless to say, we stay busy.
We have one progressing investigator named Misha, who was actually found by our Zone Leaders on a bus ride from L'viv to Ivano Frankivsk (FRANKIVSK! YEAH BUDDY!)  I have no idea what he's like, because he's been in Ivano for the past few days that I've been here, but from what I hear, we're just meeting with him to pick a date for baptism.  He already has friends in the branch, and things are looking pretty bright.
Today, for P-day, we went with a less-active member to a Fencing tournament.  Apparently, it's some big deal in fencing...I didn't really get it.  But it was really cool to see people stabbing eachother with swords.  I think Brother Chewy (ha.... chewy...) really enjoyed it.  
L'viv is a big city.  I'm not used to big cities.  This is gonna take some time.  I feel lost on a constant basis, because every street is another architectural wonderland that gets me all distracted... Keep focused... keep focused...
We talked to some cool students from Nigeria on the Tramvay a few hours ago.  They were pretty cool, and then we talked to a man whospeaks english and works at the university as an economics and finance teacher.  Pretty cool.  I didn't even walk more than 2 feet.  Contacting in L'viv = a lot less walking aparantly.  
The Zone leaders are coming down tomorrow to start exchanges with us, and that should be pretty fun.  I'm hoping to build up a good list of potential investigators and get some people to work with.  This area is a tough one in our mission, but it doesn't have to stay that way.  The Lord will provide.

Well, I would just like to share something from my personal study--

Being selfish is no fun.

If you only care about yourself, then you will always find something to complain about.

Numbers Chapter 22--
I read the story of Balaam and his talking donkey... and I found some pretty interesting things about the story.  Mostly, in our reactions towards those who "get in our way".  I'd suggest that you all take some time to read that story, and pay special attention to the 3 different times that he beats his poor donkey for just trying to help him out.

Be patient with your fellow man, and seek to help others.  Selflessness = Happiness.

I love you all a lot!

Have a great week!

Exchanges and A FACE FULL OF SNOW

I've decided that one of the greatest challenges of missionary work is this;  The Lord understandsthat moment of you falling absolutely in love with your area -- the members and your investigators and the city -- and then he says "GREAT!  You figured it out!  On to the next place!"  PHHHHFFFFTTTT.  Okay okay..  I'm done... *I'll go were you want me to go....*

I'm being transfered.


*shouts and screams*

And guess what else?
I'm an office elder.

What does that mean?  That means that I'm a normal missionary who works on the computer every once in a while.. basically.  I'm not sure what that really entails, but I'm sure I'll get trained on it.  I'm hoping that means that I'll get the chance to still be out and doing missionary work a lot.

The problem with this is that my trainee is just such a good missionary, that they are having him train now... and be the District Leader in Rivne...

So they are also white-washing our area. 

We've been trying to round up all of our investigators so that we can meet with them, say goodbye, and prep them for the next set of missionaries that will be coming and taking our place.  Mark my words, the next Elder's are going to be busy from the moment they get into the city!  BWAHAHAHA! 

We had lost contact with our nice indian friend named John (who I bonded with on the street because of our names), and that was a real downer.  We went to his house, but it was the wrong address.  We tried to call him, but our SATANIC PHONE devoured his number and it was lost to us.

I felt pretty down about having to leave Ivano, and I felt like I hadn't really accomplished everything that the Lord wanted from me... and so I knelt down and said a prayer, just asking him to help me make things right, and to feel okay about leaving. Then, later that night (sunday night), we were walking down the darkest street in the city practicing english a little bit.  (Part of training out here is working with Ukrainian missionaries on their English).  Suddenly, I hear a little foriegn voice shout "JON!  HEY!"  IT WAS OUR INDIAN FRIEND!  I've never seen a bigger smile in the whole world! It lit up the whole street.  HE's so nice. 
He invited us over to his house, and then we had the most awesome Restoration lesson of my life.  And then.... BLAMO!  We set up a baptismal date with him.  He said that one of his new years resolutions was to become closer to God.  I couldn't have found a better way for you to check-mark that box, my good friend :)
"You two are leaving on wednesday?  We could totally meet every day this week before you go!"
*Must force self to blink through the shock*
"Yes. That'd be cool :)"

SO yeah, the Lord answers everyone's prayers.

I love you all!

Take good care of yourselves!
My next email will be one week closer to CHRISTMAS!  AAAAAA CHRISTMAs!

Elder LeBaron

Clever Title.

Okay, So this week has been pretty much super rainy and boring and I don't have a whole lot of stories to relate to you all....

Basically, we've been having the usual problem with finding new people to teach, so I've finally just started tearing through every surviving suggestion that exists for finding.   What have I fallen across?  BEHOLD!  FAMILY HISTORY!  You know, I've always loved family history, but I've never really thought of using it in Missionary work.  Luckily, I've got some chances now to try and share it with the people all around me.  How have I started?

I plowed through (it's funny, because most of them were farmers)  all of the stories that Grandpa LeBaron gave me about my great grandparents!  It was probably the most enjoyable study time that I've had on my mission.  Well, one of the most enjoyable.  Anywho, I read them all, and then I pulled out lessons that can be learned from each of their lives.  I'm learning a lot.  And I'm memorizing critical stories that changed them for the better.  I plan on using these stories to tell people and get them interested in finding out about their own family members!
I gave a talk yesterday in the branch where I just went on a 15 minute rant about HOW AWESOME IT IS TO READ ABOUT

YOUR FAMILY!  I encouraged all of the members to get to work on these awesome little family history work books that the church has produced for the members, which helps them get real stories about their ancestors all the way back to at least 4 generations.
I'm trying to invite ALL THE PEOPLES to learn about  Everyone should be a part of this jazz.

Well, that's about all I've got.

Brush your teeth, and don't too much greek food in that little pavilion in L'viv.
Does bad things to you.

Love you all a whole lot!

Elder LeBaron

Monday, November 10, 2014

L'viv and Back -- A Missionary's Tale

The title is a lot more interesting than my week was,

HA! sorry.

We just went to L'viv for another mission conference.  I swear we have those once every month now.  President just reemphisized the 19 points of missionary work that we are focusing on in our mission, and we had a great time learning and discussing methods for finding more families to teach in each of our respective cities, and work with the members who are already here.

Ivano is a great city!  I love this place THIIIIIS MUCH! *Arms extended wide*. 
I wish that I had a whole lot of interesting stories to let you in on for our week, but we didn't have a whole lot happen here.  It's been cold, and it's been humid.... like always.

One EXCELLENT highlight of our week... with a bittersweet sting -- Orest Rubitsky left for his mission yesterday!  It's so cool to see young men like him head off on the coolest adventure every.  He was so excited.  Many members from the Branch went to the train station to bid him off as he departed to L'viv, where he will serve for a few days, and then  be shipped of to Madrid for training.   He'll be an incredible missionary.
The bittersweet sting comes from knowing that Orest was one of our most helpful members in planning and running activities... 
Take good care of him Kiev.  He's golden.

Cool little miracle for you all --
Last night, we planned to meet with an african man who we had contacted who wanted a Book of Mormon in english. We dug through the library, found the book --- but he didn't pick up his phone... so after we had done most of our things there, we set out onto the street to get home, packing the Book in our bag.  Street contacting after dark is very difficult, since Ivano is so poorly lit.  Most people think that I'm CIA as it is, and when you have two figures dressed in big black coats approach you in the night, it tends to make you a little less inclined to have a friendly conversation with them about Jesus.
As we walked up to a small cross-walk area, we found ourselves under one of the few street lights to be found.  Suddenly, a small -- clearly not ukrainian -- man came into the light as well.  I blurted out one of the biggest "Hello"'s of my life.  Not sure where it came from.  The man stopped and greeted us like we were old friends.  He told us his name was John, and that he was from India.  He's here for medical school, and that he is a Christian.  We instantly pulled out one of the most christian books we had on us... and the only book we had with us in english -- BOOK OF MORMON!  It was the craziest coincidence.
We're planning on going over to his house tonight to teach him the first lesson. 

God's pretty much the coolest.  He makes lots of good things happen, even from where you don't expect them.... like from India, on a dark poorly lit street in Ukraine.

You all keep doing what you need to do!
Be good, wash your faces, and brush your teeth.

And study the scriptures ALWAYS!
They're the word of God, people.


Elder LeBaron​

-- Старійшина ЛеБерон

Taking a Bite of The Apple.

I'm very excited to be writing you all, my friends and family!

We've had one of the most blessed, exciting, and enlightening weeks of my mission.  It's going to be fun to talk about all of this, so hang on tight as I go on a long blabbering rant about how awesome life as a missionary has been.  I'll start from little miracles and move up :)

Our week this week started off like a lot of them do...
Lot's of area book work -- lots of contacting.
We worked hard, and in light of the "Missionary/Member work night" we have on Thursdays, we set up what seemed to be 4 solid meetings to go on splits with the members to over the course of 2 hours.  It's a great experience to do work with the members, and I was ECSTATIC to go out to work!
But... as unfortuantely sometimes happens, all 4 of the appointments fell through.  I was feeling pretty down about it.  
Then, something awesome happened;
I got a call as we were doing some service for the branch president (carrying new childrens clothes to his house [members donated them because they just adopted 3 children from Donetsk] and dropping them off)  When I get a call from one of the youth in our branch, Ivan Rubitsky -- 
"Elder LeBaron! Guess what?"
"What's up Ivan?"
"All my classes got canceled today, and I'm bored.  I could play dumb games on my phone all day... or I could come hang out with you guys and go preaching and stuff.  Do you have any time that I could come do that??"
"Uh... I... yes.  Very yes."

It was like a little ball of happiness that just fell out of the dark and stormy sky.

Next, we had the Branch Halloween party.  Halloween is a really weird thing in Ukraine.  Most of the old people think it's for Satanists and Pagans.  A lot of young people think that as well... and celebrate it "accorrdingly"  *shivers*.  Creepy days.  So you can imagine what people are thinking as a whole when they hear that our branch is throwing a "Halloween Party!"  
Well, it turned out AWESOME.
This was probably the most effective activity of my mission so far. THE MAJORITY of people who came were non or less active members.  Everyone had a BLAST.  All the Elders were wrapped up as mummies with toilet paper.  Bobbing for apples was a blast! The scare room that I designed and all the elder set up and ran was the favorite attraction of the night. 
We set it up like this - A bowl full of macaroni hidden inside a black garbage bag was "brains", a bowl full of olives was "eyeballs", and well... there was a bowl of hearts.  I literally just bought 13 грн. of chicken hearts... so... it really was hearts.  HA!  And then... we set up a false box, with a hole that actually led to under the table, where Elder Salamatin was sitting, ready to grab and yank the unsuspecting hands of anyone who put their hands into "The black hole".  The room was almost pitch black, so nobody could see a thing.  I was given the honor of ushering people into the door.   The screams were hilarious.  My favorite was when the sister missionaries asked "Can we go in?"  "SURE!" :D  Sister Rudolphi is tough as nails, and didn't budge an inch... which is more than I can say for her companion.  She scores an 11 on a scale of 1-10 for loudest screams. 
Best part of this whole thing -- we had a couple of people just show up to church and stay for sacrament meeting as a concequence of how much they loved to spend time with the member and missionaries.  A young man named Maksim asked if he could get texts about our english program and come to more things!  Great activity.

Okay... and now... drum roll!
We met with a man from the Area book named Serhiy (not the bus driver, this one kind of reminds me of Santa Claus without a beard).  He's SUPER friendly, and loves to talk with us.  We had a nice meeting, talked all about the Book of Mormon.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear the baptismal commitment blurp it's way out of my mouth.  He said yes.  December 13th, 2014.  
We have a baptismal date.
Heavenly Father is so cool.  
It's awesome how he can talk to his children, and work with them through us if the spirit is there.  I really didn't even do anything, and now I get to witness a whole lot of awesome things about to come!

I love being a missionary!

Well, keep on working, and loving, and praying.
The Lord is on our side, when we choose to be on his.

Elder LeBaron

Monday, October 27, 2014

What season is this?

I honestly haven't got the slightest clue as to what time of the year this is.  It was fall one day... and then there was a foot of snow... and today it all melted, and the sun is shining... but someone was saying that it's going to be freezing again in two days.
In other news, a bird has flown into the internet club, and the woman in charge has opened a window and the front door to try and chase it out.  Though her chants and jeers are wildly entertaining, my poor little fingers are starting to make cracking sounds because of the frigidness of the room.

We just got a call from a man who neither of us were sure was speaking Ukrainian, Russian, English, or Polish.  I guess he's going to give us a call tomorrow to set up a meeting?  We passed the phone back and forth twice, tried saying hi to him in a couple different languages.... and just looked at eachother dumbfounded.  Huh. I will let you all know if that turns out to be a miracle or just some crazy situation. 
Amidst all of this confusion, We're doing GREAT!  We've been seeing a lot more success in the work, having a lot more fun, making great friends with the members, and eating very well (It's important to every missionary).

Cool story -- At our Branch council yesterday, President Bantsov handed out the church leadership handbooks and told everyone to study up.  He wants this branch to get moving, because there hasn't been a single baptism here this year.   Lots of good things are in store -- one of which is Stauss's Baptism.

Stauss is an adopted son of the Bantsov family who is 9 years old.  He is the funniest little guy I have ever met.  A couple weeks ago, at sports day, he was playing basketball with us, and everytime someone made a basket, he would cheer for them.  Everytime anyone missed, he would face palm and say "Ay ay ay....".  Funny little patsan.  He'll be getting baptized near the end of November, and everyone is very excited for him.

We have a new investigator named Frank!  He's from somewhere in Africa that I can never remember the name of.  He speaks french as a native language.  We contacted him on the street, and as we were talking with him, we asked if he was at all interested in religion, and he said "Yeah... honestly no".  So we promised him that we would look for a Book of Mormon in french just for him.  Digging through the branch library, we found Copies of the Books of Mormon everywhere from Bulgarion to Persian.  After a LONG search, we finally found a french one.  We set up a meeting on saturday, and he totally dogged us.  Then, we called him again sundaynight, and told us that he was on his way home, and was just buying some groceries.  We told him we could swing by the plaza not far from there and give him the book.  He agreed.

We stood there in that chilly parking lot, explaining to him that the Book of Mormon is the reason that we left our homes, and that if he read it and did what the spirit told him to do because of this book, his life could be changed forever.  Then he asked us that faithful question:

"Okay... how much does it cost?"
"Uh... nothing."
"Nothing? I thought I had to give you something!"
"Yeah... no.  It's free."
"You mean you two went looking for a copy of this book in my native language, called  me all those times, and tracked me down here just so that I would read this book?"
"Uh....well... yeah."
"Wow.  That's amazing.  I would love to find out more."

Meeting set up for this thursday. 

God wants to involve us in all of these miracles that He's planning on doing, but we have to work our hardest so that we are worthy to be witnesses.

One thing that I've learned on my mission in Ukraine relates to an important occurance in the ministry of Christ;  The Miracles of Walking on Water.

 26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
 27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
 28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
 32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
Comparable to this real life teaching situation, we see that Peter was able to be a part of an incredlbe work of Christ.  He looked unto Christ, and even asked him " Hey, that is amazing!  Can I try?"  and The Savior tells him, "Sure, give it a shot"  (Paraphrasing Elder LeBaron style).   The thing is, we see that Peter starts out WALKING ON WATER!  That's awesome!  His eyes are focuse on the Savior, the all powerful Christ, and he can walk on water.  But, the minute his eyes glance about, and he fears the storm.  He begins to sink.

Happiness, confidence, and satisfaction in this life come from focusing our eyes upon the Savior, and understanding that all good and miraculous things come from him.  We will never be happy if we constantly look about, fearing the world.  We lose our focus on him... and we sink.  Christ will save the faithful -- God's works cannot be frustrated -- but how can we be a part of the miracles if we do not keep our eyes constantly upon him?

Think about the three baptismal promises that are repeated in the sacrament prayer.  How can we REALLY keep those covenants? What do we need to do to always have his spirit to be with us?

Sure, I haven't seen a lot of baptisms out here.  That's the thing though, God has a plan for his people, and we're lucky to be wherever we are sent, and lucky that God has given us the chance to be a part of his "marvelous work and wonder".

I will be happy to labour out my whole life for my Saviour.  If I bring but one soul unto him, my joy will be great.  The Lord has planned already what he will allow me to be a part of, and I'm grateful for it.  I know that if I work my hardest, he will give me every needful blessing and more. 

I testify that this is true for all of us.  The Lord wants all of us to be a part of the miracles, we just need to submit ourselves to him and say -- "I'll go where you want me to go, say what you want me to say... I'll be what you want me to be."

Love you all!

I'll pray for your success and happiness!
Good luck and health to all!

Elder LeBaron

Ivano-Frankivsk -- No Quit City.

Hey everyone!  I hope you're all doing well!

Another week here in Ivano.  Another chance to work hard, and to find those miracles that the Lord is preparing.   Another great week on the way!

As you probably know already, our mission has gone under the policy of tracting not being effective and therefore a discontinued practice over all in our area.  We do not knock doors here, as it has been found to have a more negative impact on peoples' impressions of the Church than positive in our area.  That being said, that requires us to be better at stopping and talking to people on the streets, using our area books, and working with our members.   The real miracle of our area right now is that the members are very excited to get things rolling here in Ivano.  Our area hasn't had a baptism yet this year.  The last baptism in Ivano-Frankivsk... well, he's gone inactive because of having to work every single day to make ends meet.  I'll talk a little more about him in a bit.  Basically, everyone here understands that the work is suffering.  NOBODY is ready to quit though.

With a new, excited branch president, we're about to see a lot of great things getting in motion here.

We had to be at the church at 9:00am on sunday to talk with him.  He talked to us about all of our investigators, expressed his concern for the lack of progressing investigators that we have, and offered the help of the branch.  It was awesome.  I already am loving President Bantsov.

Our investigator, Serhiy (The big bus driver with the steel cross around his neck), is finally making some progress.  We watched the 20 minute Joseph Smith clip with him, and the spirit was so powerful in the room.  He was touched by the film.  He has a problem right now with mistrusting the idea that there can even be one true church, which is a common problem here.   He has accepted more full-heartedly to read the Book of Mormon and pray about Joseph Smith.  Keep him in your prayers.  It can be difficult for us to find someone as willing as him to listen to us, and to learn about the Gospel.
We finally met with Brother Norchenko!  He was the member who was last baptized, about a year ago.  He has got a rough deal going for him... and essentially is looking for work and taking odd jobs just to make ends meet.  This requires him to be constantly working...  which means he never comes to church.​  I've met with him only once before this because of how much he works.  This is my 3rd transfer in this area!  He's a busy guy.
Keep him and his daughters in your prayers as well!

Overall, we've just been working very hard to try and find new investigators (like always).  You can't find enough people who are interested in the Gospel!  There will never be enough time in the day for finding!  Gotta help people find Christ!

The Bantsov family has nick-named me "Elder Carey"  after Jim Carey.  I don't see it still.
My companion has opened my eyes to how many times I actually get sworn at each day.  I find that hilarious. 
"HELLO :D! May I talk to you for a second, sir?"
"!@#$!  I'm in a !@# hurry !@#! #!"
"Okay, well, you have a nice day then! :)"
Elder Rubliuk - "Did you understand that?"

Don't fear them, or their looks people.  We've got a work to do.  Set your face like a flint, and mercifully destroy them with kindness :)

I love you all!
Have a great week, and share your testimony with someone this week!
They could use it, I'm sure!

Elder LeBaron

Fall, Conference, and Fajitas

Hi Family!  Hi Friends!

It's a wonderful day!

I love the smell of fall leaves, crisp-- cool air, and bonfires (there's this house on the way to the church from our apartment that is always burning something... hm... *shrug*).  It's a great time for President Lattin to come down and visit us humble folks in Ivano-Frankivsk! 
A great miracle happened in our branch -- President Lattin called a new Branch President (the now President Bantsov).  He's the father of that family that moved here from Donetsk not too long ago, and it's really refreshing, because he's seen a very nice ward being run back home.  He's got some experience in how things need to be run, and has already readjusted some of problems here in the branch.  Things are starting to run a lot more smoothly!  The Lord is showering out blessings on this little city!
Part of the coolness came when we went into the room and were about to set Brother Bantsov apart as president.  President Lattin gave the most amazing setting apart blessing, and I had the privelage of translating it.  It's incredible how much the Lord loves his saints.  I was very impressed with the love and spirit that was present in that room.
President Lattin also stayed to watch general conference in English with me, Elder Asay (one of the zone leaders), and one random member who doesn't know english, but had already watched it in Ukrainian, and thought it would be cool (Brother Fooshtay is a pretty funny guy). 
I got pulled out for an interview with President, and we talked for a little bit about some things that have to do with service, being a missionary, and about my Trainee -- Elder Rubliuk.  It was very enlightening, and I realized that there is a lot of improvement on my part, and a lot more that I could sacrifice.  Most of all, I recieved council on a pretty big question of mine, which was brought up in Conference as well. 
I didn't even get to watch a lot of great talks -- but I loved every second of it!
Oh, and as a special treat, the missionaries all prepared Fajitas for the members to eat inbetween the sunday sessions.  We volunteered to prepare the chicken.  6 1/2 lbs. of just straight up chicken breasts... (Okay, in retrospect is not really a lot, but when you're walking down the street with that bad boy in a bag, it seems a lot bigger!)  It was super tasty though, and everyone did a really good job.   The members loved it, and it really improved our relationships with the members here.  The spirit in this city is starting to change, and MANY big miracles are on the way.  We had a man call us during personal study today to set up a meeting with us tomorrow.  We also called a man last night, and he ended up watching conference because of it.  The work is moving foreward my friends.

I'd just like to give you a thought that has been burning up energy in my mind for a little bit... it's about humility.

In the Book of Mormon, we are given a formula for becoming happier, wiser, more confident before God, and all around better people.  In the book of Mosiah, Chapter 4, verse 11, we read about how we must understand our own nothingness -- we ought to remember that God has given us EVERYTHING, and no matter what we offer up to him, we're still just giving him back something he gave us -- and we are to be humble.  We are given, in verse 12 a promise....

 12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain aremission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of thatwhich is just and true.
Wow.  Fair enough, right?

I love you all, and I'm very grateful for your support and love.  Please pray for the people and saints of Ivano-Frankivsk.  Your prayers really do help!

Much love,
Elder LeBaron
P.S.  I stared into the eyes of President Klebingat once... and lived. ;)
Seriously though, he's an intense guy. Get that fitness plan going folks!​

Monday, October 6, 2014

What happened in 1914...

Hey everybody!  Boy, am I excited to talk about this week!

Okay, so, really, a whole lot of new stuff concerning our having new investigators or baptismal dates or you know, the really important things didn't change.  That's a pretty big bummer.  BUT, they will change soon!  We've gotten some pretty big promises from high up places that big things are on their way, and we've just got to give everything we've got in order to see those blessings.  

The cool things that have been happening -- FIRST!!!  WE'RE GETTING A NEW BRANCH PRESIDENT HERE IN IVANO-FRANKIVSK!!! FINALLY!!!!!  Our last branch president left on call to serve in the Ukrainain Military in the east... so the branch has been really struggling.  President Lattin picked the strongest member in our branch, Brother Bantsov, to be president.  I'm so EXCITED!!! YES!  Order and sanity return to the branch! :D

Next, We've been prepping for some pretty big and exciting changes to come.  The first one is with our English Classes! In the past, our english class worked like this; "Who wants to learn from Americans!  YAY! EVERYBODY!  Okay, and now we're going to have a spiritual thought and a prayer! YAY! Who wants to learn more about this stuff?!" *Crickets*....   
So basically, we're taking a new approach to this:  We're just doing straight up Gospel Discussions in English.  I thought, at first, that this was a TERRIBLE idea.  I was all, "IT'S A TRAP!"  But now, I realize that we're finally just being honest with people about what we're here to do.  We're finally going to be fulfilling our missionary purpose every Friday night at 7:00pm, and I can look forward to that EVERY WEEK.  Hot dog.  Sign me up.  Plus, plenty of people around here want to talk about God -- and plenty of people want to learn English.  We're just giving them both.  BAM

Also, President Lattin has been having us work a lot on improving on a specific 19 categories of missionary work.  We are working to become an entirely consecrated mission.  All of our missionaries have agreed that that's what we need to do if we want to start seeing miracles around here.  I've been trying to pull the "What lack I yet" card on myself for the past couple of weeks.  It's kind of painful to dig out your weaknesses one by one and say, "I'm going to change this... completely.  No matter what it takes, I will [for example] talk to every single person that I possibly can, and never forget to ask them if they know anyone else who might be interested".  Okay, that's a real life example from my work right now.  I'm all for this program that President Lattin is running with us, and the program was inspired by President Klebingat -- so you know it's gonna be bringing us some serious miracles out here.
Whoever said that Eastern European missions don't baptize hasn't read the scriptures well enough, because there isn't a single verse that says "Every man who thrusteth in his sickle -- Except for in Ukraine -- will reap a reward".  BOO ON THAT!  I wanna help people! 
Said more shortly, we're working hard to become consecrated missionaries, and there is even more hard work ahead of us... and that makes me smile!

God's kingdom is a kingdom of progress, order, and of course -- JOY!  I'm definitely finding all of these things out here in the field!

Okay -- Now for the title of the email

So, I mentioned how we're trying to talk to every single person -- right?
Well, late one evening, we were walking home, and I saw a man coming down the street.  I decided that I would give him one of our AWESOME pamphlets that talks about families and Jesus.  How could that go wrong?  Well, at first, it worked better than I thought, because it INSTANTLY Stopped him, and he was excited to know who we were, what we were doing here, and where our church was.  Suddenly, things went a little.... not in the direction I was hoping.
"I, myself, am a Jehovah's Witness!"  
"Oh! Great!  So you have a pretty strong faith in God, and in the Bible!  WE actually also have this other book about Christ, call the Book of Mo-"
"I've read the Bible MANY MANY TIMES!  Tell me boys, WHO is Satan!?"
"Uh...  Well, he's a son of God who wanted God's power... [missionary monologue] we was cast out of heaven."
"And where did he go?  Hmmmmm?"
"To earth."
"Exactly.  Now.. when?"
"[Insert long, correct missionary explanation here]"
Um... what?

I still don't know what even caused him to think that.  Aparrantly, if you search really closely though, you can find a verse all about it -- with a specifice date-- in the Bible ;)  Reading challenge of the week folks.  Someone let me know what happened in 1914 please, my history is a bit corrupted since hearing so much about the U.S.S.R......

Well, we're gonna still be out and about making all sorts of new friends!  Who knows, I'll probably have a lot of fun new stories for you next week :)

I love you all a whole lot!  
I hope that you have a great week, and that my lengthy email didn't bore you all too much....
Okay, talk to you next week!

Elder LeBaron

The Week of the Sick

I have a lot of things that I love in this world...

But being sick is far from one of those things.....

Hey Family and Friends! 

So, this week was an interesting enough one.  I have a pretty hefty immune system -- he can handle a lot of abuse.  I eat things that I shouldn't, I play sports in the rain, I even sometimes sleep with a draft because it's too toasty.   I have never gotten sick on my mission... before this week that is.
One thing about Ukrainian culture is that everyone has a HUGE fear of getting sick.  It stems from some historical reasons relating back to the U.S.S.R.  Me, being who I am, and having  native companion, makes this an interesting subject of conversation between us.

"Elder LeBaron, cover your head.  The rain is bad."
"What?  A little rain never hurt any one."
"The rain is different in Ukraine.  Nuclear Energy Plants."
"That's not a real thing *eye roll*"
"I will not be going at your funeral!"

Two days later -- coughing, moaning, sniffling, running a fever, wrapped up in a blanket... and confined to working in the area book. 

I still wouldn't mark myself as one of the believers of this mystical nuclear rain.... but whatever.  I don't want to get sick anymore.
It doesn't help when your companion gets the same bug from you a day later, and glares at you grudgingly, muttering over and over "If you just were to be listening to me... I would not have this sick...."

Well, we're all better now.  It just basically took us off of the streets for 2 days.  Nothing huge.  We still got a lot of good things done.

We got ahold of 2 former investigators finally from the area book, and got them to agree to come to church and meet with us!  We even had a luncheon for the branch set up, and two members were opening mision calls in front of the branch! 

But... those 2 decided to skip out on us.  [Insert loving comment here about peoples moral agency.] BUT HEY! 51 people at sacrament meeting!  Su-WEET!

Our investigator Serhiy is at his mom's birthday party today, so we won't be meeting with him either.  It's been a few weeks since he's been able to meet with us at all, but he said that he's been "Little by little" reading the Book of Mormon.  Woooo!

OH!  One of the young men from the branch here in Ivano-Frankivsk is going to be serving in Kiev next month, and the other is going to Londn England in January.  Pretty cool!  The funny part is that they both are going to have to learn english! HA!

We're going to L'viv again this thursday for a special training for all of the Mission Leadership...  Wooooo!  One more time!  I swear, they don't leave us in our area for more than 2 weeks in a row!  It's okay though, because I have a lot of questions and concerns for the whole finding new investigators and adapting to local circumstances.  You know, with winter coming, and us not being allowed to tract, I'm a little bit concerned there...
We'll just have to wait and see!

I would send you all wonderful pictures of our adventures, but alas, the USB adapter at every internet club in this city seems to be broken....

The search continues -- yet I fear it shall be in vain.   I wouldn't get super excited for any of those bad boys [aka- pictures] for another transfer here... we will see.

I've heard rumors that this next transfer, due to the fact that we are losing LOTS of missionries, almost EVERYONE in the mission will be getting moved around.  Elder Rubiuk may on go halfway through training with me!  Oh buddy!  Fingers crossed that we get left alone :)

Love you all very much!
I hope that you have a great week.
Keep praying, reading, and spending time with your family, and I'm sure that your week will be great by default :)

Elder LeBaron

Conferenced, RIGHT IN THE FACE.

Well, I'm pretty darn excited to let you all in on what happened this week.  
Hiya Family and Friends!

We, as you may have guessed, had a conference again!  Whooo!  We have mission conference usually not this often... but it turns out that one of the newest members of the First Quorum of Seventy wanted to come down to our mission and have a chat with all of us.  Something special about this man -- He's the former mission president of the Kiev Mission.  The L'viv mission used to be a part of the Kiev mission, but now is operating on it's own under a different president (President Lattin! [whoo!]).  Needless to say, between the handful of missionaries that used to be a part of his mission, and the reputation he has amongst the native missionaries, it was a pretty talked up conference.

This, my friends, is Elder Jorg Kelbingat.

He dropped a solid 3 ton weight on us.  He literally came in, held a leadership counsel with the zone and sister training leaders, and dug out every single weakness there is to be found in our mission.  Once he had that all done, we met with him in L'viv for an 8 hour mission conference.  He had us all sit down, and pulled out 19 factors of our missionary work which he had already discussed on the leader ship counsel.  He has us rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10 in each of them.  Then... it was crazy.
I have never seen the spirit being used in real time like that.  He was discerning thoughts of missionaries, directing conversations and comments, and he said almost every needful thing that there was to be said.  He left no stone unturned.  The Spirit of Truth was in ownership of the room.  
During the course of an 8 hour conference,  I did not once think, "Thank goodness he said that, I know some OTHER missionaries who could use some help with that...".  I was continually being smacked in the face with, "Aw man... that's completely for me... it's like he can read my soul!"

I even got a personal interview with him, which was one of the most interesting experiences in my life.  There's just something about someone who feeds off of truth...  it makes you hunger for more truth.  I'm pretty sure that man hasn't told a lie, accepted an excuse, or justified any unrighteous action for a good portion of his life in the church. It was open, it was clear, and it was direct.  I want nothing more than to be able to communicate in that manner always.  The spirit THRIVES in truth.  I know, because I was there, and I got consumed with spiritual affirmation of the things that he told me. 

He will be speaking in General Conference in October, so keep an eye out for him. 

On top of that, things are going really well here!  

The branch is recovering from some difficulties it was having (Our Branch President leaving to the East on command from the UA Army)

We saw a woman who contacted us the other day once more today, and she wants to come by the Church and learn more about us.  Elder Rubliuk is just so charming, I don't know how we don't have the entire city inviting us over for dinner ;)

I've recovered from some problems I was having with my ankle, and I just totally slaughtered the fever that I had the past couple days with some old world remedies, and the most important of all, a blessing from our awesome Zone Leaders.  Good times!  Also, I don't totally stink at basketball anymore (Playing in the rain sometimes makes sickness come around...)

Well, I love you all very much, and I'm praying for you!
Keep reading, praying, and loving everyone!
Share your favorite verse with someone you love!

D&C 107--
 40 The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.
-- That one's for you, dad!​

Elder LeBaron

Sunday, September 21, 2014

We Get Things Done.

Dear Friends and Family,

This week has been pretty cool.  Have we seen a lot of success?  Well, actually, a WHOLE lot more! 
We got in contact with a potential investigator from our formals -- and here's the best part -- It's a FAMILY!!! I want nothing more than to teach families.  My companion is probably getting sick of me harping on us needed to call and contact families.  We're working our best on it.
Elder Rubliuk and I found a new investigator!  We have been working pretty hard in the Area Book, and we finally got a meeting with a cool guy named Serhiy.  He drives one of the public transport buses in town, and he's way down to earth.  He's your typical crazy buff Ukrainian bus driver with a steel chain cross dangling from his neck... but somethig extra -- He speaks completely in Russian.  Chance would so have it that my new friend Elder Rubliuk actually uses Russian at home.  He not only CAN speak in russian, but it's the language in which he thinks.  So that's pretty cool. It makes Serhiy much more open to talking with us.  Miracles people! I've been working with Elder Rubliuk on all of the material that trainers are supposed to work with trainees on, and I get to see him put it into real time action on lessons. It's actually pretty awesome.  I love this! 
This week, I've come to find that there are SO many chances for us to help those around us.  As we go about our day, we might even miss some of these vital experiences.  Do you realize how critical it is that we are looking to serve every day?  Think of all of the people in this world who could be benifitted if every single latter-day saint got on their knees, and prayed that Heavenly Father would show them every opportunity to serve someone else that day... and then ACTED on it!  The world would be a way better place, and SO MANY people would have great interactions with our church.  A lot of members think that Missionaries are the only ones who go around preaching the gospel every day, but in reality, it's every single member of the church.  Through your actions, you could bring the next person you come in contact to back to Heavenly Father.  That's a big responsibility, and it's an incredible gift!

I don't have a lot of crazy stories to report in this email... sorry.  Just a big thought about how important it is to give 100% effort in everything that we do.  Heavenly Father gave us this life to use it as best as we could.  100% in my mind doesn't mean we do it perfect, is just means that we give it our all.  In order to show our appreciation for what we're given, we ought' to really dig in, and show what we're made of!  I love thinking about the gospel that way.  It's a challenge, and it's an adventure!

I love you all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Search Begins Again!

Hello, to one and all!
It's been a pretty interesting week.
We got to L'viv late on Wednesday night, and I was introduced to our 2 new Elders from Kiev.  Both of them are very impressive young men.  We had very little time in the evening to talk and get to know one another, so we just got ready for bed.  It was good to see a lot of my favorite missionaries there (Which was almost everyone, considering how few Elders we actually have in our mission).  
The next day, we were with our trainees.  We got to the branch building in L'viv, and there had a little training sesson for the 4 of us.  The trainers got taken aside, and we talked long and carefully about our responsibilities and how to help these new missionaries get along. 
It overall is an interesting experience, being with a native companion.  In a lot of ways, I feel like he is training me!  He knows the culture, the people, the language, and even has a good grasp on the Church Culture, being born and raised in the church in Kiev where the church has been for awhile now.  I'm in charge of the hardest part... learning how to live like a missionary.  It's a whole new ball-game people, trying to teach someone about something you struggle yourself with.  It's a great teaching tool that the Lord uses.  It's ironic, and it's effective.
Finding new investigators has been REALLY ROUGH.  I feel like we always come back to this seemingly hopeless search every single transfer.  I think I accidently contacted 8 drunk people the other day with Elder Rubliuk.  In our nightly prayer, he prayed that Heavenly Father would, "Make drunk people stay as far away from us as physically possible".   I had to REALLY try hard to stop myself from laughing out loud.
He prays in English a lot of the time, because I pray in Ukrainian.  His english is pretty darn good, and he's working really hard to learn as much of it as he can from me.  I could definitely learn a lesson about dilligence from him about language study!
I've had an incredible experience this week with casting one's cares upon the Lord.  Obviously, I'm not the most amazing missionary in the world.  I've got a lot to work on.  I already was aware of that.  Now, Heavenly Father gave me a lot more chances to minister, and work for the benefit of my brothers and sisters.  The only problem is, I see my own weaknesses blindingly gleaming as I stumble about trying to get everything done right, and on time.  Many times this past week, I have dropped down on my knees and begged for help with the things that need to get done. I've prayed just to give thanks. I've prayed for miracles.  I've prayed for blessings.  I've prayed for just about everything I could possibly think of.  The only thing that has helped me is putting a smile on my face, and just going out with one thought -- "If the Lord wants it done, He will get it done.  All I have to do is listen and do."
My cares at certain points of the day have completely melted away through giving them up for the sake of just doing what Heavenly Father would want.  
I may not know a whole lot, but I do know one thing;
Heavenly Father loves us, and so doing what He says can only help.
I love you all a lot.
I pray for you often as well, and hope for your success and happiness.
Heavenly Father loves you.
I promise!
Elder LeBaron

(Sorry, pictures next week... I hope....)​

-- Старійшина ЛеБерон

Fun in Frankivs'k!

Hey everybody!

Everything is going just dandy here in Ivano Frankivs'k!  It's your standard week for a Ukrainian missionary -- working your guts out to just set up an appointment.  Luckily, we've still had a pretty productive week, and I'm looking at some pretty hopeful prospects for the future of our area.  I think that there is a whole lot of good about to come on it's way!
As for our investigators, nobody is really progressing right now.... and I think it has to do a lot with how difficult it is to get a meeting with them.  I'd like to tell you a pretty funny story about us finally (sort of...) getting an appointment with our investigator from Nigeria, Alex.
So, Alex's son turned 1 year old this week, and we sort of called to set up an appointment on that day.  My companion, out of the blue, offers for us to bake a cake for him and bring it over.  That means that Elder LeBaron will be baking a cake, and his companion will wash the dishes... Anyway -- cake gets made.  We take said cake across the city to our friend for his sons 1st birthday part.  We get there, and we have both forgotten which apartment number he lives in.  Luckily, his other friend from Nigeria walks up, and gets us inside the door to the stairwell.  We get walking... get to the door.... knock.... and there is Alex's mother in law, staring pretty dumb-founded at the two Missionaries.  Then, in the most hoodlum way a black man can convey in Ukrainian, he says to her, "Naw, they with us".  
Next thing I know, we're just two little american boys sitting in an apartment sitting next to a really cool Muslim guy from... somewhere, a couple of Nigerians,  lots of Ukrainians, and a few Russians... all celebrating a little kids birthday party.  It's another one of those moments where I just kind of looked around and thought, "How... did I get here?" 

That seems to happen a lot on this mission.

I also forgot to mention that this week is Transfers.  I am staying here!  WHOOO!!! Unfortunately, Elder Stout is heading to Uzhorod (Furthest west you can get in our mission).  I was kind of chuckling to myself when he got the call, because Elder Stout is a pretty strict guy with not much slack to spare, and Uzhorod is known for being a bit more lax part of our mission. He's going to be District Leader there!  It'll be good for that part of the mission.  Not considering fully what that meant, Elder Stout then hands me the phone....
"Uh, Hi president!"
"Hello Elder LeBaron!  I've got some things for you to do..."

I'm training a great new elder from Kiev.  I sure hope that he speaks English!  We'll see.
I'm also picking up Elder Stout's job, and I'm district leader here.
Starting Wednesday.

Heavenly Father heard all of those times I said, "Man, I'm glad I'm not in charge of that!  Someone will figure that mess out", and he laughed.  And then he dropped a bucket of cold water on my head to get me up and moving a bit quicker.  Ahhh.... Fatherly Love.  The only kind of love that really helps us grow.

It'll all be good! Heavenly Father runs this work.  I'm sure glad that he does, because it operates entirely on His miracles, and on our faith in Him, and our willingness to get out and work.

I'd like to say that I know that He answers our prayers.  I know that it's true.  I've seen countless silent prayers be answered in the most gentle and clear ways.  I've seen open vocal prayers be answered in ways that only became visible until after I made it through the hardest times.  Prayers work, and Heavenly Father is listening.  I can guarantee it, and you can confirm it with your own experience.  Pray, and put your faith in Him.  He's ready to help and bless us.  I know it!

I love you all very much!
I'm going to be praying for you all!

Elder LeBaron