Email received on time from Elder LeBaron:
We just barely got a phone call from someone in the branch who said that "Brother Valerie isn't doing well" and that was it... also that we need to be at the branch building in 30 minutes (We're about a 30 minute walk from the church...) I hope I have time to send a real letter... if not, well, you know what happened.
I am not dead.
I love you!
Email received later from Elder LeBaron:
Dear friends and family...
It's already getting colder.
I'm afraid for the winter already.
And it's August.
In other news, we've had some pretty cool miracles happen here in this last little while, and I wanted to share one of those with you all!
My story is about a man named Vasil. Vasil is a sculptor who spent a long time digging himself into bible study, trying to find where the truth about our purpose here on earth could be found, and he was searching pretty diligently. Out of circumstance, a copy of the Book of Mormon fell into his hands, and he fell in love with it as he read. He decided that this Book could only have been written by someone who had found the true purpose of our lives and the answers he was looking for. He sought out missionaries. He was shortly thereafter baptised, and has been a very active member living in Crimea.
Well, Elder Stout and I had finished our morning routine, and were on our way to the church at about this time, and as we were crossing the street at a busy intersection, we heard someone shout "ELDERS!". We ran into Vasil! We gladly guided him to the church building, and he shared his conversion story with us, and asked us if he could take a couple of copies of the Book of Mormon in Ukrainian to give to some friends in Crimea when he got home. Of course! He also stayed for all 3 hours, and played an active role in the lessons.
On P-day (this is why I am writing now, a day late) -- We got a call from a sister in the branch. She had invited Vasil to stay in the extra room in her house (most members have apartments, so having your own building is a pretty big blessing). She had been feeling under the weather, and asked Vasil to give her a blessing. Vasil said that she ought to invite the Elders to give her a blessing, considering the fact that he had no oil, and it was best done with two priesthood holders. So we left internet, and hurried over to her!
We had an incredible time talking about our favorite prophets, about inspiring books, and of course, Vasil offered one of the most incredible blessings I've ever heard a member give. After that, he asked the sister about things she had to do that day, and she was a bit exasperated at the question. She had a lot of trimming to do on her fruit trees before fall came along, and she just isn't as young as she used to be.
"We can help!" I blurped out. I sat there and smiled, while those two stared at me with awestruck faces. I'm not sure why... but they seemed surprised by our offer.
"And you see, the Lord always provides" Vasil said to the sister. I assume they had some sort of conversation about that earlier, and we had just been in the right place, and the right time to affirm his words.
We trimmed those trees while Vasil gathered up the branches in a bucket, and he helped the sister gather the pears that were still on her pear tree (those suckers grow REALLY high up). We finished this incredible unplanned activity, and we were thanked with a smile and a BIG bag of fruit. That sister is incredibly generous.
I bring this story up, because I've seen so many examples of incredible members here on my mission. I think one of the things that Heavenly Father wants us to ingrain into our hearts is the understanding that we are all brothers and sisters, and that he wants us to treat each other with love and respect by fulfilling our callings with all of our hearts. Not just our church callings, but wherever live may call you. Right now, I'm a missionary in Ukraine, and I'm trying my best to do what needs to be done. Vasil is a member from Crimea who happened to be in Ivano for a little while. Wherever we may be, it doesn't matter; We need to be 100% true to the promise that we made at baptism, and carry the Savior's name in our hearts and show it through our actions. I have some pretty big goals for the kind of member I'd like to be, and I've seen some incredible examples in action here.
Let's all take care of that little part of the garden that our Father in Heaven gives to us.
Love is one of those things that should always be growing and giving us fruit, even if it's cold.
I love you all very much!
I'll be praying for you.