Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"I Love You Forever and Always"

Dear Family and Friends,
What a week.
Our investigator, the photographer who we met in the hospital (the miracle guy)  AGAIN showed up to the Church miraculously, after we lost him for the 2nd time (the guy really needs to pay his phone bill...)
We taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he agreed to be baptized again, this time by someone holding the proper priesthood authority, when he recieves an answer about the Book of Mormon being the word of God.  He's stellar, but now he's out of town for a long time, looking for a new job in the eastern part of Ukraine.
We have a lot of finding to do!  Luckily, we're in a big ol' city filled with God's children!  Woo! We're gonna see if we can't get some new investigators hopping about the learning train :)
This, of course, will mean trying every concievable method of talking with people, and praying our guts out.  I really am getting more hopeful as the days go by that something awesome is going to happen soon.  You can only have so many tough days before BLAM you have to have a contrast ;)
So, something incredible is on it's way, for sure.
Yesterday was one such day in which we were out on the streets, attempting to contact people.  With a destination in mind, we set out on the streets!  We were out to find anyone and everyone who was willing to talk with us. 
This is usually when we meet the most interesting people.
So first of all, walking along, we run into this nice fellow.  He was of a cheery disposition, and quite obviously had something to tell us, which I deduced by looking at the glimmer of light that shone from his eyes when he saw the two american boys walking down the street.
There is a common communication which I have become familiar with, which usually indicates intoxication by the means of alchohol...
"Are you americans?"
"Yes, we are!"
"I would like to speak with you!"
Bam.  He was off to the races.  You think a drunk trying to speak his OWN LANGUAGE can be nonsensical?  Try understanding to the blurb that we ended up listening to.  He was trying to use english words... I think.  Elder P kindly asked him to speak in Ukrainian, because we actually understand it...
Then the words stopped, he smiled, and just manage to sputter out (in actually understandable english), through his jagged brown and yellow teeth--
"I love you guys! Forever and always!"
So... yeah.  That's how finding went yesterday. 
I also had a man try to purchase a bible from me.  He would not take the free copy of the Book of Mormon though...
  *Insert downcast head shake here*
It hasn't been easy...
Finding the people who God has prepared is pretty tough.  But, there never was a good thing that I ever got without having to work hard for it. 
I feel like I can't even describe my feelings for conference. Mostly because I didn't understand any of it. I may not have understand a word of it, but I got to watch it in both Ukrainian, and a little bit in GERMAN!  What?  The other Elder's here in Lutsk have an investigator who speaks German, a little english, and a messy blurr of russian.  Usually, he speaks all three together.  It's incomprehensible.... as was my experience with conference.  Only about 7 people from the branch showed up to watch it at the church building, which was a bit dissapointing... but we're going to keep working hard, keeping inviting, and keep showing them how much we love them! 
It's tough when the most steady church attending families get sick on conference weekend.  Oh well, they watched it online!  GO TECHNOLOGY!
Luckily, I have a disc with Conference in english on it.  I hope I will have time to watch it soon!  P-day time will be spent in the pleasurable experience that is General Conference.
Well, that's it from this part of the world.
Much love
and prayers.
Elder LeBaron

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Might Miracle, and A Whole Lot of Endurance

Hey family and friends!
This week has not brought a whole lot to report, unfortunately.
We've been trying to implement the techniques that we learned at Zone Conference about contacting and working with members.  We have found little success.  I think this may have been one of the hardest weeks so far, but I'm not down and out yet!  It can be tough when everyone you try to talk with wants nothing to do with you.  The trick, however, is to remember what exactly you are trying to share with your Brothers and Sisters out there!
We've got the message of salvation, and we've been so blessed because of it!  We're out here to share, and that's exactly what I intend to do!  So, with that, there is a whole new week ahead of us, and I'm seeing a lot of potential!  We've got some great members in the Branch here, and we've got plans to help them get their friends and family all involved with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  
Our recent convert, the 13 year old boy, is going to receive the Priesthood soon, and we showed him  He's stellar!
Then, our other recent convert, the older man who was baptized when I first got here to Lutsk, has been called as a Sunday school teacher!  He's phenomenal.  For his lesson on the Organization of the Priesthood, he looked up the lineage and biographical facts about Melckezidek (if I spelled that wrong, nobody judge me.  It's hard).  He probably even knows how to spell that word right.  I love him, and he's been a huge example to me of what kind of member I want to be some day myself!  What a guy!
So, we've started teaching this man who is a sports photographer for a big soccer team in eastern Ukraine.  He was the man we found out of the miracle at the Hospital.  Well, long story short, his cell phone doesn't work anymore, and we couldn't get a hold of him to remind him when we were meeting.  He didn't show up, and we didn't know when the next time we could see him would be!  FAAAAAAST FORWARD A FEW DAYS.  Elder Peterson and I were at the church, trying to plan out what to do next (because of the fact that we're having a hard time finding people to teach), when who walks in but BAM our miracle investigator!  We hastily, and rather unexpectedly, taught him the Plan of Salvation.  He told us about times he thinks he has been led by the Holy Ghost, which were some pretty awesome experiences.  He asked about Baptism, and we are pretty certain that the next time we meet, we can get him to have a settled date for when he wants to be baptized himself!  
So, yeah,
Lutsk is great, and I have a lot of hope for this place!
Just gotta keep our heads up, and keep our feet moving.
Being a missionary is great!

I love you all,
Elder LeBaron

Exchanges lead to Miracles, Great Food, and Baptisms!

Wow.  Where does the time go?  I feel like the family just dropped me off at the MTC!
I'll probably send a confused statement about the time moving fast home like, every week.  Everyone who's ever been a missionary will understand.
So, this past week, we had some serious worries about our investigators,  our potentials, and about some of the less-active members of the branch.  Elder Peterson and I weren't sure how to go about reviving our near dead pool of people to teach.  People were bailing on appointments, we couldn't set up times to meet with a lot of people, and for SOME reason, everyone is getting sick and going to the hospital (more about that later).
BAM.  The Zone-leaders came to the rescue.  They had anticipated to come up to Lutsk to do the Baptismal interview with our 13 year old investigator, but were dissapointed when he got SICK and we had to push the interview with the Branch President a day later... which ended up causing them to come only for Exchanges, and not to actually do their interview, which they had planned in the first place.
This meant that we had a lot of great time to go finding, visiting less-actives, and calling up old potentials who had stopped coming because of various reasons.  Elder Vernon and Elder Jolstead had both served in Lutsk before this time, and so they had a connection with just about everyone!  
Elder Jolstead and I visited an Elderly Woman in our branch who is WAY over the top awesome.  A lot of missionaries are a little hesitant to visit her, because she can be a bit over-bearing.  She has at least 1 picture of EVERY MISSIONARY WHO HAS EVER SERVED IN THIS CITY SINCE SHE WAS BAPTIZED!  She's incredibly friendly though.  She ended up coming to church on sunday! 
Elder Vernon and I went to this resturaunt near the Castle here in Lutsk.  I ATE RED BORSCSH for my very first time.  It was amazing.  If I could eat that stuff every day of my life until I die, I would be a happy man.  A VERY happy man.  I also had this really funny drink called Oozvar.  It's basically smoked fruit water.  They smoke fruit, and then boil it.  Then you drink that water.  It's oddly delicious.
Elder Vernon also makes friends every where he goes... and thus, called up all of the people with whom he was associated with in Lutsk.  We had a lot of awesome people to talk to that day, and re-established contact with all of them!  We've got people coming back to english practice now, back to church, and investigators from the stranges places...

for example --
Going back to the Sick and in the hospital;
We had been working with this man who we nick-named Deep Purple (because he loves the band.)  
He didn't really have an interest in the Book of Mormon, and basically liked to hang out with us because we're americans.  We don't visit him often, but we learned that he was sick and in the hospital.  So, on exchanges, Elder Peterson and Vernon went to go and visit him.  When they got to his room, he was just chattin' away with his roomate, talking about his "American friends" and "the weird book they gave me that I'll probably never read".  Sure enough, his roomate, who had been working in Odessa but had to come back to Lutsk for health reasons, had a Book of Mormon of his own.  He had already BEEN reading it.  We've been meeting with this man now, and have set a tenative baptism date with him, we're just waiting for him to get a testimony through prayer.  He sets up appointments to meet with us, and loves to talk about The Book of Mormon with us!  Things are looking up in Lutsk.
And then, KER-POW!  Our 13 year-old investigator was baptized on Saturday.  He's is absolutely awesome.  He's already invited a friend to his baptism, and to church to see him recieve the Gift of the Holy Ghost.    So great!

 Lutsk, oh how I love you and the people here!
All and all, things are going great here.
Thank you for all of your concern, support, and help!
I love you all!

Elder LeBaron

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hello Family and Friends!
This week has been awesome (like always)!  We've been working hard here, in Lutsk.  I'm just absolutely loving the fact that it's sunny out, and everyone is outside enjoying this fantastic weather!  I'm not even wearing my massive overcoat for once!  WHOO!
A rather dissapointing theme of this week has been the continuation of people agreeing to meet with us... and then never showing up.  This can be a frustrating thing, but at the same time, it's a huge motivator to keep searching for those who are sincerely searching for the Gospel of Christ! 
We have, however, found TONS of small ways to serve those around us!  
As we were walking down the road, I saw this little old man with 3 big bags that he had managed to get up onto the curb.  His last step, was getting himself up onto the curb.  He was just kind of sitting there.... staring at it.  I stopped, and in UKRAINIAN (someone please be proud of me!) Asked him if there was anyway we could help.  I didn't understand his response (Doh.) Elder P. Did though, and he explained to me that we were now going to be helping this man move 3 bags filled with bottles for him.  Now... this is where I really got confused... because he only asked us to move them about 10meters, and then asked us to put them down.  He was REALLY grateful though!  I'm still confused as to what his intention was... since the bottle return was nowhere near where we stopped, but he gratefull shook our hands and bid us "Good health, boys! Thank you!"
We (on this same walk) saw an old woman gathering sticks from the path in the back woods near the river.  We commonly used this path as a shortcut to the church, and generally didn't see a whole lot of people using it.  We stopped, and helped her move all of her branches (which I had assumed would be firewood or for something useful)... to the side of the road... where we dumped them and left them. She was really grateful for this favor(?).  She took a Book of Mormon though, and was so happy that we stopped to help her out, even though we were "dressed so nicely".  She was really sweet.
Since we haven't got a whole lot of investigators who are progressing now, we've been trying to get more people to work with!  ONTO THE STREETS WE GO!
There are a lot of different people in cities like this, and it is SO COOL to be out and talking with the lot of them.  What a great experience this is!  I love being a missionary.
Transfers happened... I get to stay with my trainer, which is cool.  There were 3 missionaries who left though, and I loved each of them, so it was sad to see them go! I loved working with them!  I hope I get the chance to work with them again too!
I've been studying "Jesus the Christ" a lot lately, and trying to learn more about the Savior.  It's nice to have all the information layed out and to understand factual instances and logical patterns of our Savior's incredible role our salvation... but I've found more solace lately in prayer.  Honestly and truly, I feel more personally close to Heavenly Father through those prayers where I just pour out my whole heart.  The scriptures are so incredible, and really contain the words of life!  I love studying the Gospel, and I've found that it's really these primary answers that brings about our continuing conversion to it.
Challenge; Keep up the prayers, and pour out your heart sincerely to your Father in Heaven! He wants to hear you! 
Then, open the scriptures.  Really dig into them, searching for answers, comfort, and direction.  You will find things which you have never known before, and messages that feel like they are meant just for you!
Because asking and knocking is how we open up the windows of Heaven in order to behold the great and marvelous light therein!
I know that this is true, because I've done it for myself.  It's amazing!
Much love,
You are all in my prayers, and I wish you the best,
Elder LeBaron