Friday, February 21, 2014

Family and Friends of mine,

I can't even describe the weird awesomeness of this past week.  I'll try to though, from the beginning;

So, the first part of our week wasn't super eventful.  We attempted to visit a couple of area book contacts, and most of them were unsuccessful, if not just altogether uneventful.  We went to one household on Tuesday to try and meet with this older woman, but she wasn't home... or at least, we never got the chance to find out.  Her drunk son actually came out first and started chatting with us.  He was one of those funny, still pretty coherent but not so productive people to talk to.  At least, that's what we thought at first.  He totally gave us a referral.  He gave us the address of his X-wife, told us that she had talked about religion and searching for truth before.  BAM.  So, we'll be contacting her soon.  We know that the family has had contact with the missionaries before, so this is actually a more legitimate lead than just a drunk man's referal.
Next big thing that happened was that I went on exchanges!  On thursday, I was with another Elder in our District named Elder Molinette (I think that's how you spell it).  He's basically the biggest ray of sunshine taken and wrapped up in a human body.  He's amazing.  We chatted with a BAZILLION people.  Most weren't interested, but we had about 6 meaningful conversations throughout the day, and shared a whole lot about the Book of Mormon.  We ended our day with a sketchy meeting with some guy in front of the Tam-Tam (Aka, Ukrainian Walmart).  I hope that his companion and him get a chance to follow up with that one.  The man we met with (whose name evades me because it's a big Ukrainian name that isn't Ihor), was sincerely interested in learning something about our church.
My Next exchange was with Elder Jolstead, and he is a zone leader.  He has been out for a year and six months I believe.  His Ukrainian is really great, and he understands almost everything that's going on, even Russian sometimes.   Which makes this next part actually funny;  We tracted into this apartment with (what we saw from the doorway) a woman and her kid.  She at first said, "NO!" and slammed the door.  So, we just turned and started knocking on her neighbours door... just in time for her to stop us by opening the door and inviting us inside.  We discovered that this was actually a Valentines day pity party that we had stumbled into, between her and her very drunk, very russian friend.   They were both not entirely co-herent.  Elder Jolstead tried to tell them that we don't drink, simply explain the gospel, that, no, we don't drink, we haven't got much time to stay and party, and no... we don't drink... again.  Then the woman who let us in flat out asked him, "Will you marry me right now?".   I was surprised by the quiet dignity of him telling her, "No ma'am... we're missionaries... that's against the rules."  Honestly, I don't remember how we made it out of there.  But we did.  
And then.... YES! We had a baptism in Lutsk! Our investigator, Bohdan, had finally gotten through all the lessons, so he could be baptized after an interview.  He basically would have been baptized on the first lesson if he could.  I think he may have been baptized right on the street if we asked him to.  He's a genius man, and figured out the first principles and ordinances of the gospel by reading the Book of Mormon, not by us telling him.  After he went into the water, he came out and told us all that, "You are all looking at a new man!".  He's just flat out incredible.  We will get the chance to teach his family soon.
We also met a man Named Artur.  not Arthur.  Artur.  He has a serious belief in God, and after explaining the authority of baptism, agreed that he would be baptized again if he knew these things are true, and then he invited us back!  We get to teach the Plan of Salvation! YES!~

Anyway, A lot happened this week, and I wish that I could explain everything that happened, but I haven't got all the time in the world! 

I love you all, and I'm praying for you!

Elder LeBaron

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hey Family and Friends!

So, I'm finally in Ukraine.  This place is amazing.  

I'll just give you the story of the MTC to here.
We got up on Tuesday morning, at 3 AM.  Bleh.  And then we got into a white van that took us to the Airport.  We then flew... and flew....  From Salt Lake to Denver, Denver to D.C, D.C. to Munich, and Munich to L'viv.   We arrived on Wednesday at 12:00pm.   I was basically a zombie by this point.  
Then, it was our job to go through customs (entirely in Ukrainian), find our bags (everything is still in Ukrainian), and go through customs (you guessed it, in Ukrainian).  It was nuts.  
President Lattin was on the other side of this whole fiasco, waiting at the exit to grab us, take a picture, and then throw us into a van filled with Ukrainian members, and two other new missionaries who are actually FROM Ukraine. They had trained in the spain MTC.  One of them spoke English.  That was a nice change of pace.  I, however, was bunking with the one who did not speak english.  He was quiet.... which is kind of expected when you suddenly are trapped in a room with an awkward american boy who knows almost nothing in ukrainian, like myself.
We spent the rest of the day learning a whole lot of technical administrative missionary things, and being introduced to the mission assistants and the mission office people.  That was pretty cool.  They fed us these funny little chocolate stuffed crescant things.  I don't know what they're called.
Well, the next day, they introduced us to our trainers.  My trainer is Elder Peterson, and he is one awesome guy.  He went to American Fork Highschool, he played Football and wrestled, and he's been out for 7 transfers.  So, when I have no idea what is going on (basically all the time), he's got my back... and front... and basically is helping me to learn how to survive here.
My first assigned area is the southern part of a city called Lutsk!  There are 2 sets of Elders here, and one set of sisters.  So... basically, we just split a massive city in half and call that our area boundaries. That's a lot of people, let me tell you!
There's a whole lot that I don't understand.  When people talk to me, I might get like... 3 words of it.  I honestly have no clue what is going on a good 80% of the time. 

So, I have a story about the title of the one;
Elder Peterson and I planned to go and visit one of our investigators, Arkadia.  We thought that it was going to be a great visit where we just talked about his reading and what he thought of the Book of Mormon.  Boy, did we think wrong.  It seemed like it might have been a trap...
We came into his house, and there was a couple of men there.  We were left alone in the room with these two, while Arkadia went off to go get something for us to drink.  The two gentlemen with us (who were speaking russian, so I got 0% of anything), were kind of discussing with us about their beliefs in Christ and how he had helped them in their lives.  Turns out to be a pretty good situation after all, because they listened to what we had to say, and had to leave shortly after we arrived.
So then, we figured it was time to talk to Arkadia... when surprise, again!  Two very religious looking gentlemen came in to greet us as well!  They were actually very nice and respectful... but they weren't very interested in our message.  We ended up explaining the origins of the Book of Mormon, how our church was restored through Joseph Smith by Christ, and how it was required to be baptized by proper authority. 
This kind of set of a couple red flags with them... 
I don't know that phenomenon this actually is, but this is the symptom;  Russians, when upset, start to leave their chairs and move into a sort of squatting position on the floor right in front of their chair.  So, as this man is trying to explain (in a sort of fired up way) how baptism is baptism and once you've done it you're good, he has managed to get himself into the squat like position on the floor... causing us to have to look down to look him in the eye.  All the while, I keep hearing (through is lightning fast jabbering), "Boys, Listen!",  and he would continue on his point.  I probably heard that phrase a good 20 times before he was done.  BOYS, LISTEN!  I had to keep myself from laughing a couple of times.  The whole situation was strange.  
I actually did testify to him that I knew the Book of Mormon was true.  The room was silent as I bore my very simple testimony in broken Ukrainian.  I told them that I knew this book was true because my mom taught me about it, and when she passed away, I needed to know that what she had taught me was true for myself.  I told them that this book was the word of God, and that I knew that because God had told me in my heart that it was.  I tried very hard to contribute and testify of the things that Elder Peterson was saying.
We concluded with a prayer... sort of.  The man says, "Now, we pray!"  and as we go to offer up a prayer, he starts chanting... the other pastor (who we've learned is actually just a very religious taxi cab driver) starts chanting at some other rate, ocassionaly shouting, "AMEAN!", Arkadia is mumbling in the corner... and there we are, two missionaires, just quietly offering up our own little prayers.   So strange.
Afterwards, we were going to be late to our next appointment... and we ended up getting a ride from the "Boys, listen"-man. We found out that his name is Anatoly.  He was very polite, and actually ended up taking a Book of Mormon from us to see what he really thought about it.  He even said that, "If this is all true, and God tells me that it is, I will be baptized."  So cool.

So yeah!  It's been crazy! I'm still adjusting to all the craziness that is Ukraine.  Elder Peterson is so patient with me, which is good.  I feel like I'm learning so slowly around here, and can contribute so very little to our actual missionary work, being as green as I am.  I will just continue to learn and try to understand, and I know the Lord will make up the rest.  He sent me here after all, so I know that he has a plan.

I love you all, and I'm thankful for all of your prayers! I can feel them across the ocean!
I pray for you oft, and hope for your health.
The Church is true no matter where you go, and I know that I'm spreading the true gospel of Christ.  I hope you all are appreciating the blessings of knowing these things!  Thank Heavenly Father often for it!  Know he loves you!

Be good! Be happy! 
Much love,

Elder LeBaron