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

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