Monday, May 25, 2015

Good Week.

Yes.  It was.

Last week, my email was all about how I have no clue how missionary work actually is supposed to work.

Well, fair enough to say that I am even more confused than I have ever been in my entire life.  I'm also happier now than ever before!

I'll explain.

Volodymyr came back!  The man who was supposed to get baptized by disappeared?  Yeah, he just had an accident at work.  Actually, he fell 3 stories and broke a couple of ribs.  Crazy.  We're amazed he's alive. That's why we lost track of him.  He came back, and we reset his baptismal date for... well, 2 days ago.  Now everything is going well, and he is a member of the church!  He's been to the hospital, and hopefully everything will be happy and healthy soon.
He told me, "Finally.  This is the 4th time I've set a baptismal date with missionaries.... and it's finally going to work out".  Proof that satan works very hard to try and stop good things from happening.  Luckily, if you do your best, everything works out!

Also, Hittish (the indian fellow)  is on date, but he's been having some problem with getting to church.  As in, he stays up all night, and then even when we stop by and call and do everything we can to get him to come to church, he still doesn't come.  Other than that, he still meets for lessons, and still wants to get baptized.  We've just got to get him to church!  He wants to come!  He just likes sleeping more right now!!  Addiction recovery for sleep may be necessary here.

Then, we've got a new friend;  Kolya.  He's 15, and his friend Sasha brought him to church.  Sasha is 17, and he's a member here who is one of our only active young men.  He's stellar!  He was less-active when I first got here, but he's friends with my companion (they met at some youth conference before the mission), and now really cool miracles are happening!  Kolya came to church on sunday, and asked us if we could help him get ready to be baptized!  June 20th!  It's just great!  God loves this branch SO MUCH!

And so many other miracles that I just don't have time to explain all of them.

We had service opportunities! (I'll send pictures next week.  Forgot my camera at home)
Learned how to cut grass and weeds like a real Ukrainian.

I'm super excited for the upcoming zone conference in L'viv on Thursday!
Not super excited for the 8 1/2 hour bus ride... but we'll get the chance to talk with some cool people!

We're going to keep working hard this week!
I love you all so much! I hope you have a great week too!

Elder LeBaron

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It took met this long...

Somewhere in the next two weeks, I'm allegedly finishing my "sister" mission.  18 months already??
And you all want to know something -- it took me this long to finally understand


Of course, there's those basic principles where you work hard, and good things happen.  But the thing is, on my mission so far, I've figured out a few things that make me realize that I know very little about how the Lord gets his work done.  Allow me to explain my week, and maybe you can join in with me as we stare "in awesome wonder"....

We had a baptism scheduled for saturday.  This man is a very good man.  His name is Volodymyr.  He's been investigating for the past 3 years -- had 2 other baptismal dates that fell through because of different issues... and he was SO EXCITED ABOUT HIS BAPTISM!  It was invigorating to see someone with a real desire to follow Christ, and enough drive to get something done.   He would show up to the Church almost every day to have a discussion with us, and we worked hard with him to get prepared.
And then.... Poof.  He's gone.  
He stopped showing up to our meetings a few days before his baptism... didn't set a time with us to get his interview... and when the other Elder's saw him on the street last night, he ran off in an attempt to avoid them.

So that was hard.  Mostly because he was so excited... and now we're not sure what's wrong.  Stop bys have been unsuccesful, and he didn't show up to sacrament meeting like he has been for the past 4 or 5 weeks.

Lo, and behold, the night that we skyped home to our families, a guy from india walked right into the church and asked if he could start lessons again.  He is a really cool kid, with a pretty hard situation.  Due to certain circumstances in his life, he felt like he needed to come to our church and see if someone here could help him to feel peace, and understand what Christ might be able to do to help him.
And saturday evening... after a lesson about Christ's atonement and the power of forgiveness, he accepted an invitation to be baptized on June 20th.

This was the evening of the saturday that we were supposed to have a baptism.  God's work seems to work like this -- at least in my brain-- :

Whatever God wants to happen, will happen, despite you.
You just get to choose if you're going to stick along for the ride, or bail out.

"And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

I'm pretty sure that I'm supposed to be learning what it means to "fit" into the kingdom of God.
It's not a very comfortable or easily understood experience going into it.  I'm hoping that along the way, I understand it a bit more....

This whole week has been just a bit overwhelming, honestly.

We've had several conference calls, skype calls, and follow up calls for the mission leadership.  Just this week.  We have a temporary president until our new mission president gets into country on July 15th.  It means that we have an inspired man trying to teach us everything he possibly can... in the space of 1 transfer.  It's like trying to learn how to juggle, while simultaneously trying to tame a lion and jumping through every flaming hoop that's ever been successful in missionary work from the BEGINNING OF TIME.  It's mentally challenging, and emotionally - it's taken a toll.  I've recognized my need to turn to God through prayer more now than ever.  Inadequacy is probably the most common feeling amongst all people who have ever been called to this great work.  Fate would have it though, that Joy is the most common feeling amongst those who accept and perform the work they're given.

This mission has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life.  It's required every ounce of hope and positivity that I have... even in the face of ALMOST total defeat.  It's not been easy at all.  Do I love it?  Of course!  I wouldn't trade this time that I have left for anything.  In fact, I would be willing to trade a lot of things to get a bit more time out in the field!!

So, all of this is going through my mind... right?  And then, during companionship study, my little NOT TRAINEE anymore companion, whips this bad boy out as part of his personal study (I haven't even told him what I've been feeling):

"It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth."

Missionary work, in reality, is really simple. 
We have our part to do: Obedience, learning, repenting, searching, and teaching with the Holy Ghost.
And then God DOES EVERYTHING ELSE.  In His way, or course.

And now, my mind is already a bit more peaceful.

It's comforting to know that there is our Father in Heaven who as planned all of this out.  It is comforting to know that there is a Savior, even Jesus Christ, who has paid the price for us -- and that we can go through this mortal experience in order to grow and accomplish something.  I'm grateful for the simple truths of the Gospel. 

Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee....

I know that this is God's work.  I know that He will provide for his Children every needful thing.  I know he loves each and every one of us.

Let us all press on!
For an unseen pow'r will aid me and you...

Elder LeBaron

I don't even know.

I can't remember what happened this last week right now...

Because I Skyped with my family, and my brain melted into goo.  
It was awesome, and I love my family a whole lot, but it takes me a while to readjust my mind to be focused on missionary work.  I'll be back into it by the time we're out on the streets later today, I'm sure. 

We were working pretty hard this past week, with a lot of administrative responsibilities here in the branch.  One of those was our crazy adventure where a member called us to inform us that he was dying of asthma, and needed our help to by an inhaler before he died.  After stopping by 3 different pharmacies at a rapid pace, we met him at the bustop.  He LITERALLY looked like he was going to die.  Nuts... 
We stood there awkwardly with him for a good 5 minutes after he took a little feeble huff of the inhaler, and he breathes out finally,
"It.... takes.... a second...."

Crazy nonsense.  Not to mention that literally 20 minutes before this, we had a not totally sound member come in and start hysterically ranting about a million different unrelated things....  and finally, amongst all of the hubbub and after 15 minutes of straight ranting, we finally just ask "What do you need?" --- "Oh, I was wondering if you could say a prayer with me and give me a blessing".   

Erhm... okay, great. Done.

Leaving us 5 minutes to find an inhaler and BOOK IT to the bus station.  President Hawkins may be almost 70, but the guy can move.  Keep yourselves in good shape kids.

Oh, and we also went up to Ivano Frankivsk for zone training on Thursday.... so... one more day of training in another city....
Meaning one more train...
Woo hoo!

We had an awesome experience just before I skyped home, where an Indian student here came into the church and asked if he could start having lessons again.  Uh.  Yes.  Definitely, yes.  He had been in India for the past year with his family, and just returned to Ukraine this past little bit.  He was walking down the street, and felt impressed to walk into the building.  Our building is actually being remodeled externally, and so it looks like the building is closed.  He said that he thought again, and decided that maybe he should just keep walking, but he felt so strongly to come in, that he ignored the scaffolding and mess and just got all the way to the door.  We're going to have a lesson with him tonight.

Also, walking down the street today to stop by the bank to drop off tithing, we met a man not far from the branch building.  We invited him in, and we took a tour with us.  His name is Roman, and he's stoked to learn a few more things.  He said that he wants to come on sunday and see how the meetings are run here. As you wish, my good sir.

Then, we have Volodymyr,  who is getting baptized on SATURDAY!!! AW YEAH!  He's a great man.  He's very humble, understanding, and tries his best to do what is right.  Exactly the kind of priesthood holders that we are looking for in this branch.  He's been investigating for a long time, and he's finally going to get baptized.  He's just way excited.   
We tried so hard to convince him to pick a member to baptize him.... but he picked a missionary instead.  Luckily, he picked members to take a big role in his baptism, and he's on the path to becoming a vital part of this branch.  I love this guy!

So, the work is going better suddenly.  I think that this will be another very busy transfer here in Chernivtsi.  We'll just take it one day at a time, and do our very best.  The Lord will make up the rest.  That's what I've seen on my mission most of all -- The Lord supports his sons and daughters who are trying to do right.  OR, as nephi says it,
"...And he loveth those who will have him to be their God."
Having him to be our God just means that we will follow his commandments, do our best, repent when we're wrong, and keep moving forward.
So, it doesn't matter that we're weak.  It doesn't matter that we're small.  God loves every single on of his children who just try their best!  He loves them all!

I love you all, and I'm appreciative of your support of the missionaries!

Keep your eyes on heaven!
Keep your hearts in prayer!
Because God will always listen,
and I know He'll always care!

Have a great week!

Elder LeBaron 

----- Sweet sunset.... next to the orthodox church
----- Sick of trains... Going back to my nap
----- Water made in CHERNIVTSI!

Bitter-sweet in just one week!

This week has been quite the week.

It was on the up for the whole first part!

We did 3 hours of service in a village
We played soccer and I rolled my ankle.  It's already better! :)
I ate so much good food.  So much.

We had exchanges with our wonderful Zone Leaders, Elder Rubliuk and Coumbs (both former companions), and we found a total of 3 new investigators from our efforts together.  That's actually phenomenal as far as numbers go in our mission, even though it might seem small.  It was awesome!
One of them is a man from Holland named Bartman.  Interesting, huh? He's married to a Ukrainian woman named Svitlana, and they even invited us into their home to talk with them.  Svitlana didn't stay long, but Bartman had a whole slew of questions that were wonderfully answered by the beautiful plan of salvation.  What happens to the millions of babies who die without baptism?  What made Jesus Christ the "only way to salvation"?  How can God be fair with all of the suffering that happens in this world?
It was an incredible lesson, with lots of testimonies and impressive thoughts.  All in all, it ended with this; "Ah... so Christianity is like... good.  And Mormonism is like, the best and purist form of Christianity!"  He's a good man, but he has a long way to go.  Luckily, we've got a lot of patience and are excited to be working with him 
Then, my companion had a lesson with a guy named Oleksi, but I haven't met him yet.  Apparently, he's kind of got a lot of fun ideas about reincarnation and prophets and such... but again, we've got lots of patience.
The last one is a man named Volodymyr who has been investigating the church for a long time, and just got back from the war front.  He has a baptismal date for the 19 of May.
And all of that just hopped onto us in the space of 3 days.  What??  Nuts...

And then... we all got a bit sucker punched on Sunday.
Because of problems with his wife's health, President Lattin is going home.  He will be released this weekend, and we'll have a part time president (President Steinagle) for the next transfer... and then they'll call a new one.  It was a huge shock, and I felt like I got punched in the gut.  I love President Lattin like a father, and I respect him a lot.  His wife has acted like a mother for me this past year and a half-ish, and I'm honestly just at a loss knowing that they're leaving... It was devastating for me to learn that they'll be leaving, but I have the determination to be obedient, happy, and work hard no matter what.  It's just a bit sad.
And one of my favorite members of the Church from Lutsk passed away.  It's good and bad... because he was going to go to the temple in the 2nd week of May, but I guess that now he can have the ordinances all done for him.

So, it was kind of hard at the end, but I'm also still excited about all of the work that we have ahead of us to do!

Yup! So lots of stuff has been happening... and we're just trying to figure it all out how to cope with all of it.  Lets get moving I guess!

I love you all very much!
Take care of yourselves!

Love you all!

Elder LeBaron

I got a 2 hour Hair-cut.... it didn't really seem all that different than the 15 minute one I got last time.
The Chernivtsi District
Elderidge knot I wore on sunday.  

Mission Conference...s...

Hello everyone!

Today is going well.  This week was pretty interesting!

We had 2 mission conferences this past week, and we said good-bye to the Lattins, and hello to the Steinagels.  

Also, our "Mission Uncle"  President Klebingat came back and rained down righteous fire on us for a good couple of hours... It was intense.

Honestly, I feel like I'm up to my ears in things that need to get done, things that need to be avoided, and things that I really need to change in myself.   It can be a bit overwhelming, but these pressures are necessary for our growth, and therefore, we'll continue to work hard.  

Our mission is starting to see a lot of incredible miracles, and it's super exciting!  It provides a lot of hope, and I'm glad that we have the opportunity to be here at this time.  

My trainee, Elder Trohkymenko is doing very well. He's just a fireball.  I love him a lot.

We will have one more zone training meeting in Ivano-Frankivsk this week.  I'm really excited to go back up there.  Thursday is going to be fun.

Our investigator Volodymyr is doing excellent.  We had a plan of salvation lesson with him, and he's still on track for baptism on the 19th of may.

I love serving here, and I hope that everything will continue to get better.  The Lord will provide a way for everyone who serves with all of their heart, might, mind and strength!

Have a great week!

Elder LeBaron

Pictures :  Mission President changes
Me with President Klebingat
-- Старійшина ЛеБерон

(Sisters stole my camera...  Sister Bevziuk (Left)  Sister Esaulenko (Right)-- )

Train RIDE!

Consider the Lilies

I feel like I've spent long enough starin' at them... and despite how many times I've seen it all happen... I still have a hard time understanding how it all works.
You know,  no matter how hard we work, no matter what uncomfortable thing we do in order to sacrifice for the work,  I'm always led back to this one fact -- That nothing works out until God decides that he's ready for it.  And He just drops it on us like a gift out of NOWHERE.  

What inspired the thought?  Just yesterday, I was mourning over the fact that we are still going along without any investigators, still battling between all of the different callings and responsibilities, still pushing on through what seems to be never-ending monotony... a routine of it...and yet, suddenly, miracles have literally just burst out of the horizon.  

Conference was a huge inspiration.  I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I'm going to be focusing on how to feel that music.  I planned to dance for the rest of my life, and I'm now more certain than ever that it's only going to be enjoyable once I get on the right signal.  It's a process, but it's an enlightening one.

I've been given the chance to lead the Temple Preparation lessons in the branch.  I LOVE those lessons.  I've done them more times on my mission than, in our companionships, we've had baptisms.  Now, I get to work with some of the most faithful new-converts in helping them make the next step.  I've been happy to say that in some way, as of late,  I've been given a chance to help others come unto Christ.

We went to a member's house last night to give her little son a blessing for his hurt leg.  As I sat, and listened to little 3 year old Misha explain his deep love for vacuum cleaners (interesting little kid), I felt so blessed to have been invited to such a humble home, to give a blessing to such an innocent little child.  When we pulled out the oil canister, he said, "Hey!  They brought their flashlight!"  I'm not sure what he meant by that.  It was something that made his mother smile pretty brightly though.  It made me think about how the gospel principle of restored priesthood is such a bright light in each and every one of our lives.  Elders, Did you leave home with a flashlight today?  :)

We've seen people interested in having us over to give spiritual thoughts in their homes, and many people would like us to come and provide service at their homes as the spring months are in full bloom.  It's excellent!  Things are starting to pick up.

Though it's still a bud,  I'm sure that our service in this city is going to bloom and be just incredible.

So, the lilies will grow.  The Lord will do His work.  We are blessed to be a part of it.

My testimony is this --  That God will take care of us.  We just need to do our best to reach up and catch the Saviors ever extended hand.  I'm a witness of this, and many more miracles.  I wish the same for you.

Have a great week!

Elder LeBaron

​Pictures: When I was in L'viv, our district.  Our district in Chernivtsi last transfer.

-- Старійшина ЛеБерон

Things are going okay.

It's kind of slow going, but things are pleasant here.
It was easter this week!  That basically means that the missionaries get nothing done, because everyone collects together and drinks and well... we don't get a lot of communicating and finding done...

And today, everything is closed, and people have hangovers.  Most of them are pretty grumpy, not sure why~ ha!

You know, I'm surprised by the fact that we've gone this long without a single serious investigator.  It's been about 7 weeks.  Is that hard?  Yeah.  Does that mean that I'm not learning anything?  Nope.  I'm learning lots of things.

Thing 1)  Patience with the Lord's timing means that you KEEP DOING everything that you're supposed to do, even when you don't recieve the blessings that you think ought to occur.

Thing 2)  Miracles only come when God wants them to happen.  Although, we can pray with all of our heard, might, mind and strength, and expect that Heavenly Father always fulfills his promises.

Thing 3)  You've just got to love what you're doing and keep yourself looking at the bright-side of things.  

​Thing 4)  Personal progress in this life ​doesn't stop because you're not seeing "success".  In fact, the progress you gain when you struggle through something might actually just be the success that you need!

Thing 5)  The Lord's ways are higher;  and that's okay.  Just trust him and love him and everyone else.  Enjoy life.

I love my mission!  It's exactly what I need.

Weird stuff of the week?
We're animal-sitting our landlady's freaky bald cat.  It's pretty sweet.  Obviously, we can't have the thing in our apartment, but she gave us the keys to hers, and we're supposed to stop by at the beginning and end of each day.  Kinda weird, but interesting stuff.
Talked with a guy with only one leg yesterday.  He was kind of grim, and I decided that if I ever lose my leg, I'm going to try and be happier about it.  

Well, I think that we'll just keep on plugging along here.

I love you all!
Have a great week!

Elder LeBaron

Me and some ukrainian ribbon.  It's a sweet ribbon.

Paska -- Special easter bread that your only supposed to eat after a priest has blessed it.  So... we just kinda said a prayer and went for it.

Miraculous Peace

And then.... everything went still.

That's a good conclusion to the last week, honestly.
We've had the craziest of weeks, and it was honestly just over my head nuts.  I always think "this has got to be the strangest thing that I've ever done", and then lo and behold; We're running across a busy street in suits (it's freezing, and we should be in coats), carrying a big wooden table, while our favorite taxi driver is using our role of skotch tape to fix the massive hole that he just busted in his window.
Let's just say this -- we found the Elders another apartment, and it was all because of Heavenly Father.

In the morning, last monday, before we left to go write emails, we said a prayer asking Heavenly Father to help us get everything figured out so that we didn't have lots of big legal problems and two extra elders living in our little apartment with us.  
Shortly after finishing email, I got a text saying that I should call a realator.  Called her.  Bam, there was an appointment that evening to look at some apartments.  Then, of course, one of them in right in the center of the city, not far from the Elders last place (prime location), and when we ask about the price, it's way cheap.  Excellent.... but the burning question -- "Can you do registration for international attendees?"

"I don't see why not."

My jaw dropped to the floor.  It all worked out GOLDEN.
So we spent the rest of the week running around, filling our paperwork, paying out money, resolving concerns with the old apartment (still not all resolved, but it's now not my problem, so...)  And moving ALL OF THE OTHER EARTHLY POSSESIONS of the other elders, that got left behind in our apartment, to the other side of town.  

Funniest part of all of this? That's where Valeriy comes in.  Valeriy is our favorite taxi Driver.  He's always on call whenever we need help.  He's got a big taxi with lots of room.... so he became our moving crew.  It was actually pretty sweet.  The problem is that he only speaks russian, so understanding him is hit and miss.  As we were loading one of the desks into the back of his van, he's looking at it and saying "IT FITS, IT FITS!  JUST CLOSE THE DOOR!"  and we're saying "NO! It needs to be moved around a bit!"
So, in his impatience, he grabs the back door, and slams it shut.  KERPLOW!! He busts a MASSIVE hole in the middle of his back window.  He picked a few select words in russian. and then, "Yeah, we should probably move that around a bit."

But everything worked out with that!

Problem; Our investigator put us on hold until after easter.... (That's next sunday in this country).  So our only investigator is out of the game for a week.

The 4 people who promised to come to church independant of our investigator were all no-shows.... again, bummer.

BUT --- that just means that we'll do the same thing this week that we did last week -  Work hard, pray and seek out miracles.

I just want to testify really quick about the power of fasting.  I've had a lot of weaknesses become very evident to me recently.  It's always hard to feel weak, but Heavenly Father intends for these times to be moments of decisions for us; to become stronger.  (Ether 12:27).  So, I fasted.  And what happened?  No.  I didn't just become perfect.  No, all of my problems didn't dissapear.  What happened was that I recieved an incredibly peaceful spirit, and an assurance that everything would be alright.  I felt happy and excited to work.  I felt renewed.  That is one of the many powers of the fast.  
People were fasted for.  Goals were fasted for.  Inspiriation was sought through fast.  I feel so blessed that we have such a great teaching and gift in our church.  Fasting is Rejoicing! (D&C 59:14).

I love you all very much!

Have a grand week!

Elder LeBaron

(Our crazy house for 3 days...  the Chernivtsi Crew)