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