Monday, December 7, 2015

To sum this up....

I've been abandoned at the office by the assitants to be companions with the senior couple.
So... I've got a little extra time this week to write.  Good, because this is the last one.  Next week, I won't send out a general email because I won't have much time, though I will answer on maybe a few personal ones.

Let's start!
This week was great!

So far, I've gotten the opportunities to listen to a General Authority speak 4 times, and got to be involved in several different interviews and interactions with members of the church.  This has been a great week for training, learning, and growing!
Gotta love Mission Conference Weeks.

The only downside is that they tear us out of our area for awhile....
I was pulled out of my area for a little bit longer, because President Rizley wanted me to help out with some of the workload on the assistant's shoulders.  Elder Kacher of the seventy came to visit, and it was a real big to-do.  So... I've been back in L'viv since wednesday, and I'm going home (to Khmelnitsky) tomorrow on a train.  By myself.  Weird.

That being said, I've had the chance to stop by two part member families that I worked with while I was serving here just a month ago.  It was really great to get to see Brother's Stankevich and Haleta, and their mothers.  Sister Stankevich was going to be baptized last saturday, but due to medical issues, she won't be able to be baptized soon.  Keep her in your prayers.  She sure could use it.  Also pray for Brother Haleta.  He's having a hard time as well.

I feel like my whole mission has been teaching me about how to minister.  No matter who you are in the church, we are called as ministers.  We seek out those in need, we strive to serve and to lift, and it's our privelage and blessing.  I've come to better understand the words of King Benjamin who said, "... I tell you these things that ye may learnwisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the serviceof your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."
​I'm not sure if it sounds cliche... but I really learned, in a deep and personal way, what it means to feel the Saviors love for me.  I discovered that love as I've been given these opportunities to serve the people who are around me in various ways.  I have seen that God loves them.  I in turn, can see that He loves me.
Perhaps I was never the best missionary.  Maybe I never learned Ukrainian the best out of all the other american missionaries... it's certain that I've had many struggles and doubts in my own capacaties.  I've learned that our self-confidence actually comes from confidence in our Master and in His work.  As I feel I have been on the Lord's errand, I have felt peace beyond what I've ever felt before.  I feel as though I finally recognize who I really am.  I'm a son of God.  He loves me.  He loves all of His children, and whats the best for them.

Our God, our Heavenly Father, has prepared a perfect plan for us, and His Perfect Son has prepared the way for us to accomplish our part of his plan.  We will find the most joy on this path, and on no other.  I will stay on this path that I've started.  I am excited to see where it takes me in this life, and to whom it will lead me.  It starts with going back to Khmelnitsky and working hard this next week, and it will end with an embrace from my Savior, and from my Heavenly father.  It will end in the warm arms of loved ones who have gone ahead.  

I can't wait to hear the words, 
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful..."

I thank you for your support for me during these 2 years.  
I love you.
I care for you.
All of you.

​Many of you, I'll see next week.

​Until we meet.

Elder LeBaron


Jonathan LeBaron

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Highlights and interesting moments of the week before I get into the joy of thanksgiving:
1) I got called from Hitish!  He wanted to be baptized... but his family says they'll disown him if he does.  I should get to see him in L'viv during our mission conference this week though, and I can't wait to see him!!!!
2) Edik came to english practice!  I hadn't seen him for a long time... like, since my first two transfers of my mission.  He's changed a lot... but he still likes the church.  He's just going through a pretty gnarly teenager stage.
3) We spent more time with Elder Hubbert.  I like him.  He's funny.

Phew. okay.

I'm so thankful for thanksgiving.

And turkey.
and pie.

This year is especially great though -- because we planned to prepare and have a thanksgiving dinner with our member friends, our english friends, our investigators, and our potential investigators.  It's going to be our family night tonight.  

I made the make-shift Kool-aid.
12 liters of it.

Stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls... you know, and a MILLION PIES.

For my email this week, I'm going to share with you the spiritual thought that we are going to share tonight at our thanksgiving dinner.  I hope you enjoy it.

As you know, the family of Lehi traveled for a long time in the wilderness, because the Lord led them out of Jerusalem to save them from destruction.  They had many interesting and inspiring things happen to them during the course of their travels.

 12 And it came to pass that we did take our tents and depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman.
 13 And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer.
 14 And it came to pass that we did take our bows and our arrows, and go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families; and after we had slain food for our families we did return again to our families in the wilderness, to the place of Shazer. And we did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea.
 15 And it came to pass that we did travel for the space of many days, slaying food by the way, with our bows and our arrows and our stones and our slings.
So this is how they got their food.  They traveled according to the word of the Lord, and as is written in verse 16, they followed the directions of a compass that was given to them by the Lord, called the Liahona.
 17 And after we had traveled for the space of many days, we did pitch our tents for the space of a time, that we might again rest ourselves and obtain food for our families.
 18 And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of finesteel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.
 19 And it came to pass that we did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food.
 20 And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord.
 21 Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, having been afflicted with my brethren because of the loss of my bow, and their bows having lost their springs, it began to be exceedingly difficult, yea, insomuch that we could obtain no food.
 22 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did speak much unto my brethren, because they had hardened their hearts again, even unto complaining against the Lord their God.
 23 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?
 24 And it came to pass that he did inquire of the Lord, for they had humbled themselves because of my words; for I did say many things unto them in the energy of my soul.
 25 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father; and he was truly chastened because of his murmuring against the Lord, insomuch that he was brought down into the depths of sorrow.
 26 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.
 27 And it came to pass that when my father beheld the things which were written upon the ball, he did fear and tremble exceedingly, and also my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and our wives.
 28 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to thefaith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
 29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give usunderstanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.
 30 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did go forth up into the top of the mountain, according to the directions which were given upon the ball.
 31 And it came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families.
 32 And it came to pass that I did return to our tents, bearing the beasts which I had slain; and now when they beheld that I had obtained food, how great was their joy! And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him.
​What do we learn from this story?
We learn that The Lord loves us very much, and even in hard times, we need to realize that as we follow his commandments, we can be assured that our trials will help to build us.  We can grow by following his paths.  Will we choose to complain and give up when times get hard?  Or will we follow the directions of the Lord, pick ourselves up, and go and do?  God wants us to progress, ​and only when we humber ourselves, and give thanks for what he is trying to do, will we be able to succeed, like Nephi did.

Remember, this Thanksgiving is a time for us to reflect on how much thanks we have given to the Lord for what we have.  Gather with friends and family.  Let's rejoice in the blessings we've been given, and humble ourselves to say, "I'll go where you want me to go!".

I hope you all have a great holiday.
Say your prayers.  Count your blessings.  
Read your scriptures.  Enjoy your church services.

Life is too short to always feel like you don't have enough!  Start thinking about how the Lord has given you more than you can count :)


-- Elder LeBaron

Pictures from English practice and pingpong
Preparing for thanksgiving dinner

Thursday, November 19, 2015

It's that time again!

That's right!
Hello everyone!

We've had a pretty good week.  We found a new investigator named Yevhen. He's pretty darn cool.  An older gentleman who's met with missionaries before, but never really actually heard all the lessons.  He's the head facilitator at some multi-company rental building.... and EVERYONE there knows him.  He only had one concern.... aparantley, apostles don't exist anymore.  Prophets, cool.  Apostles -- no.  That kind of stuff doesn't happen now-a-days. I've never run into that before on my mission.  Weird.
As we finished up the restoration, he looked really intently at us and said, "I need some more of those books.  Can you bring me another one next week in Ukrainian?"  Sir yes sir.  His biggest worry about getting his friends to call us is that we'll run out of money on our phone.  #REFERRALNATION

We also spent a lot of time with our new converts this week.  There were just four baptisms in this city not too long ago, so there's a lot of new convert lessoning to get a movin'.   One of my favorites is a young man named Bohdan.  He's got some sort of learning disability, but he's HILARIOUS.  He explained all of the animal noises he can make for a good 30 minutes while we played chess with him after a lesson.  He's the best.  Also, he keeps Elder Ferbey awake during sunday school by whispering every few seconds, "Hey... don't sleep.  Listen to the bible...."
Gotta love these people.

These week, we also spent a lot of time with Elder Hubbert in our companionship, because Elder Lemons went with Elder Ferbey up to Rivne to do exchanges with the Zone Leaders.  Elder Hubbert's super power is baking pie.  So... we ate a lot of pie this weekend.  We also took some to our new convert, Yeva.  She was very excited about it.

​And... lots of other fun stuff happened this week, but I've forgotten a lot of it.  Things are moving WAY TOO FAST.

Anywho-- I love you all.  
I'm so thankful for all of your support and care.  I wish you all the best of weeks!
Don't forget to do the big things -- Read your scriptures, say your prayers, and go to church!  Your life will be way better for it.

Much Love,

Elder LeBaron​

Do you have ears??

It's been a hilariously wonderful week.  I haven't laughed this hard in a long time.

The best thing about this district of Elders is that everyone here is really funny.  On top of my two hilarious companions,  Elder Ferbey and Elder Hubbert add a unique flavor to this district.  We were standing at a bus-stop waiting to go the Branch President's for family night, and Elder Hubbert is explaining some joke... and my new Ukrainian companion is listening as intently as he can.  Finally, after looking at Elder Hryshanovs confused look of disgust for a good couple of minutes, Elder Hubbert stops his story, and yells (people don't yell in Ukraine unless they're drunk)  "Чи.... у тебе.... ВУХА??". (Do you have ears?)  It went silent on the street, and then EVERYONE bust out laughing.  We had several people come up to us just to talk about they're lives and "meet the funny american".  Not very tactful finding, but it worked.  Well done Elder Hubbert.

We've mostly been trying to work with our awesome group of English students!  We had 3 of them come to church on sunday!  One of them invited me to go work out at the gym with him sometime during the week...  actually, he invited me right after Sacrament meeting, but I told him that we had a great lesson that we were planning on staying for.  Cool guy -- his name is Vadym.

Then, we had a dating couple -- Katya and Kolya.  The class in second hour was pretty much flat lining... Elder Ferby only had 10 minutes to scramble a lesson together, and it was about a couple of chapters in acts.  The members were not really helping us keep the conversation lively... things were looking bleak.  Katya and Kolya were listening very intently the whole time we were talking about Peter taking the gospel to the gentiles, and then out of NOWHERE, Kolya bursts out all of these awesome related verses and explains God's love for all people and.... Katya just stared at him with her jaw on the floor.
"What kind of Militia officer knows the bible?"
"I studied before I joined the militia."
"How come I didn't know?"
"Cause we never talk about that kind of stuff, babe."

Good times.

I'm having a lot of fun, and really loving my time here in Khmelnistky.  It can be frustrating, because I want to do everything in my own time (which I know isn't very long).  I have reminded myself over and over this week that everything is on the Lord's timetable, because He's the ultimate planner, and sees the effects of all things that happen.  Sometimes, we just want to take things into our own hands, but then we forget that our hands are weak and imperfect.  I'm thankful for a Father in Heaven who knows everything, and whom I can trust. 

Everything will work out fine when we're on the Lord's errand, right?  I sure know so.

I hope you all have a great week!
Keep yourselves safe and happy!
Study your scriptures!  They bring peace and happiness!
Say your prayers -- God wants to hear you!
Go to Church!  It's the best!

Love you all!

Elder LeBaron

Pictures -- My companion got Israeli chocolate and coke.
me giving elder Lemons a disapproving look during planning with my kvas.
sharing cooking secrets with the Elders
I found a 5 star hotel.... kinda
We went with our english friend to the MASSIVE bazaar in town.


Woo hoo!
I'm finally in my new area -- Khmelnitsky.

You know, I don't think I could have picked a better last transfer for myself.  President Rizley sure was listening to the spirit.  I've been sent to a nice quiet town in a trio with a missionary who is learning how to be a new district leader, and I'm training a brand new missionary from Crimea!  It's really just the best situation.

Well, I've only been in town for a day and a half, but we have a potential meeting on tuesday with a new fellow, apparantly some potential in our english classes that still has yet to be tapped.  We have english TWICE A WEEK in this city!  How cool is that!?  I've always loved teaching english, because it brings so many people into our meeting places, and gives us a great opportunity to teach them about the gospel in a way that allows us to give them a church tour and everything!

Oh, but here's something straight up awesome about our church building--
It's on the second story of a stairwell in a complex where we have a lot of different businesses... and if you ascend up the stairs, you go to our church... and if you descend down the stairs, you go to a poorly lit bar.  

Ha.  Irony.  I almost cried laughing about that when we showed up on sunday.  The gospel is true, people.

Anywho, I'm having lots of fun with my two companions.  Elder Lemons is an old friend from my Chernivtsi and L'viv districts.  We've always gotten along pretty well.
Elder Hryshanov is a fireball, and has a very sturdy work ethic.  I'm very glad that we've got such a solid team.  There's definitely a whole lot of work that needs to get done in this branch!

Our Branch President is SO solid.  I really like that man.  We're going over to his house tonight for Family Home Evening, and it's going to be great!

I don't have much else to report, besides this;

I LOVE my mission! And I love my Heavenly Father even more.  I'm so glad that the Gospel was restored, and that all these people that I've come to love can be blessed with things of eternal value.  I'm grateful for a beautiful world that was created for all of us.  I know that Jesus Christ is our savior.  He atoned for us, and because he did, we all have the opportunity to break out of the pains that this world can trap us in, and become free and happy.   I know families are forever.  I know that for sure!

Remember.  There's nothing more important than being a good example of the believers.  Let's do everything in our power to bless the lives of those around us.  It's what Christ's people should do. 

 "Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day... And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at thelast day."  -- 3 Nephi 27:5-6

Elder LeBaron

With Elder Tikhomyrov in the sunset
Saying goodbye with the assistants 
All my planners from my mission -1
District from L'viv
Getting into Khmelnitsky late