If you read this blog, Chris has a request for you!

July 27, 2015

(Depending on my schedule next week, I plan on writing another email. I just don’t know if I will be able to as of yet.)

 

Serving here in Odessa has brought some interesting lessons to learn.

 

I have been able to develop a new view about the importance of attitude and missionary work, specifically with regard to contacting. While I was serving in Svytoshinsky, there was one companionship in my zone which I observed for a while. One of the elders set a goal to give out three copies of the Book of Mormon every single day and the other elder was fine with that. He had an attitude that he was not going to do anything to prevent the first from doing it, but he was not necessarily going to go out of his way to support him toward that goal. They struggled a lot to find people who would want to take the book, and very frequently came home at the end of the day without giving out any.

 

I was on an exchange with the elder who had set the goal in the first place and we were talking about it. We decided as we were talking about our plans for the next day that we would give out six copies and receive just as many numbers from people. When we set out to work the following morning, both of us were pretty focused on our goal. We put forth work that represented our desires well, and by the end of the day I think we had given out seven books and received five phone numbers. The people walking the streets were the same. The things we said did not change. We just were both focused and confident that the desired result would be achieved, and it was.

 

What I realized looking back on the day, is that not being opposed to someone doing a good thing does not make you a supporter by default. Even though one of them was focused on the goal and the other was not, even though he did not give resistance, it was still not enough for the first to reach the goal. You cannot just sit idle on the sidelines and expect that you’re still a part of the effort.

 

This has been a bit of a challenge which I have faced this last week. The area which I came to in Odessa has really been struggling for the past while. We were able to teach only one lesson this week, and the rest of the time was spent contacting, except for a day where we went to do service. The companion that I had really does not like contacting and frequently would lose his drive to do it, leaving me to approach people. I am not trying to say that he is a bad missionary. Far from it actually, which I will explain in the next section.

 

Getting people to talk to us this week has been very difficult. The moments when we were working together brought many more good conversations than those moments where one of us would talk to people while the other would be dragged along. My companion has been saying that it is just because this is a difficult area. Personally I don’t think that is true. The attitude is not in the people living here, but in the missionary. If you think that you will not have success, your effort and demeanor will reflect that, and the results will as well. To be successful, you need both people to have the right attitude. When one person is willing to pull and the other isn’t, no work will get done. I think this is an important principle to apply to anything when working in groups, whether it be marriage, teams or whatever.

 

Now my companion. Serving with him has actually been very enjoyable. Stressful at times, but overall good. To understand him and his ways, you really just need to understand his background.

 

He is a convert to the church from Ukraine and has lived a bit of a wild life. Between fourteen and twenty years old he was a part of a “football firm” in Billa Tserkva which is a group of people who follows the progress of a specific soccer team. Different firms will plan on showing up at gatherings where they will fight each other with bricks, bats, fists and whatever they can find. The goal is not to kill anyone but to beat the heck out of other people and gain respect for your own group.

 

To compare these guys to gangs is not the right attitude. They do however get very violent. He told me one story of a friend of his whom during a fight, beat up another person really bad. It turned out that this person’s father was some well-known bandit. The next day they picked up my comp’s friend and took him out into the forest forty kilometers away from the city. There they beat him up very bad and pulled out his teeth with pliers leaving him to walk back alone. My comp was not involved in this culture up to this point, but he still had heavy ties to these kinds of people.

 

After serving in the army, he gave up the fighting life style and went to party instead. All the time meeting different people with like minds and living life hard. With time, he started dating a member of the church who convinced him to start meeting with missionaries. He was baptized, and after two and a half years, left to serve a mission. There are still a lot of things with regard to rules that he could do better. A part of me has wanted to rip my hair out in some moments, but I just have to remember where he has come from and the progress he has made. It is very inspiring to me to see in what ways he had changed and I honestly consider myself very lucky to serve with him.

 

Overall, Odessa has been all right. Anyone with whom I developed a friendship from two years ago has either moved or disappeared entirely, so it has more or less been a siteseeing trip for me. Now begins the last eight days of my mission.

 

In closing, I do have one request. I noticed on my blog that I have 425 followers. Honestly, I cannot think of where so many people would get my info. I am curious to know how many do actually read these letters. If you do would you mind sending an email to the following address?

 

elderhancockblogcounter@gmail.com

 

You don’t have to say anything. The sentence, “I read your emails.” is more than enough.

 

I also want to give appreciation to my Aunt Carol for taking the time to manage the blog in the first place. It is quite cool of her.

 

Anyway, I hope to write one more next week.

 

Best,

 

Elder Hancock

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The Closest a Missionary Gets to a Vacation

July 20, 2015

My two transfers before this one were full of big events which kept every single week interesting. This transfer has been very mellow and I expected to finish my mission as such. Elder H even commented on how easy going things are and how odd it is. This week sped up the current, moving toward the end of my mission though as a very unexpected and large rock popped up in the stream.

 

To explain, I need to start with our investigator. Teaching Africans has been one of the most unexpected experiences of my mission. Not because I am in Ukraine and they are from Africa. Rather, I expected to find many here. The big thing comes in how different they are in culture from the West. I figured that they, for the most part, speak English and as such, the differences really could not go that deep. I was completely wrong. As far as I can see, Africa and America may as well be located on two different worlds. I would say that we speak the same language, but the Nigerians and others that I have met put so many of their own spins on things that I feel like it is completely different.

 

Well, one of our investigators, E, is from Cameroon, which means that not only is he African, but he also speaks French as his native language. Tack on the fact that he neither speaks Russian nor English well. Teaching him has been a real adventure. Of the two languages, he knows Russian better, and we have been able to talk by taking out all the grammar and using seemingly archaic word usage. In our lessons we have been using a mixture of Google Translate, French church pamphlets which we had to print out because the mission office does not have any, and a Prezi presentation which I made to illustrate the Plan of Salvation. It is an adventure as we move through the presentation. The progression is something like the following.

 

His responses as we cover the material:

 

Point one: “I agree.”

Point two: “Agree.”

Point three: “WHAT!?!? How is that even possible? I don’t understand!”

 

Trying to communicate in these moments becomes very difficult, as speaking in Russian without understanding grammar principles is about as useful as picking up objects and using hand signals to describe them.

 

It came to a point that Elder H and I decided that we just cannot teach him on our own. There are two people in our mission who speak French. One is from Switzerland but not the French speaking part, so when we had them talk over the phone, E said that he is barely understandable. The other option is one missionary, Elder Ev, who himself is from Africa and speaks French well. The challenge is that he is a recent convert who found the church while studying in Donetsk before the war broke out there. As such, his doctrinal understanding of the church still needs a lot of work, and Elder H and I don’t feel too comfortable letting him go free on a lesson without us being able to understand what they are talking about.

 

After talking for some time, we decided the best option would be to find some missionary working in a visitor’s center somewhere that speaks French and can teach him through Skype. When we called President Packer to ask for permission to set up something like this, he did not entirely agree with our views and insisted that we just have Elder Ev teach. We decided to just go with it and see what happens.

 

While we were trying to get a hold of both E and Elder Ev to Skype later that day, another phone call came in from President Packer. This call brought a tweak to what he suggested earlier. Elder Evalde has to come up from Odessa to Kiev for a week for immunizations. President Packer decided that the easiest thing to do was to just have him stay in our area and teach E face to face. Now, this is where I have been greatly affected by this whole thing. With him coming up to Odessa, there is left an empty space where he served and an extra space in my area. This means that as he is coming up, I am going down.

 

Yes, this morning at 4:30 a.m., we woke up to catch our bus to the sea side city which will be my living place for the next week to a week and a half. It is a very unexpected surprise which I am more than happy to receive. While waiting for my transfer information last transfer, I said that my number one choice would be to end my mission back in Odessa with Elder R and that the worst option would be to go to Brovary. Well I am kind of getting them both (except for the Elder R part, though I did see him today). At this time, I am writing my emails at the internet club which I used at the beginning of my mission. It is interesting to contrast how much I knew then with how much I know now. Mostly with the number of Russian swear words which are used in abundance by the twelve year olds playing the game “World of Tanks”.

 

My next week will be spent in an area of Odessa called Cheremushki with a native from Billa Tserkva with whom I became friends while serving there. This is basically the closest a missionary gets to a vacation except for visa trips. Meanwhile, Elder H has the opportunity to sit in on many gospel conversations in French, just hoping that they are being taught correctly.

 

In other news, on Sunday I gave a talk in church that actually went very well. I focused on missionary work; specifically that no effort is ever wasted. To do this, I shared an example from the Book of Mormon and one from my own mission. The Book of Mormon example was about Abinadi, who after much diligent work of preaching to people was put to death by fire. Just before the end, he was able to see one convert, Alma, who was then run out of town for trying to defend him. I focused on what he may have been thinking in that moment. Many years of work come to an end with your own death, and the only bit of success was last seen running into a forest being chased by a bunch of soldiers. Personally, I would be discouraged in that moment. But in the end of things, that one person went on to continue his work, and the church saw incalculable growth in the end. Abinadi did not live to see the results of his work, just as many of us will not see the real depth of our own.

 

Other than that, everything is good. Two more weeks to go and I will be sitting in my closing interview with President Packer.

 

Best,

 

Elder Hancock

Little Miracles

July 6, 2015

Well things worked out very well for President Packer and his family to be able to attend the funeral of Elder Packer. First off, the church is not really keen on allowing mission presidents to leave mission boundaries. President Packer’s uncle was serving as a mission president and had two sons who were married during his service. The church denied him permission to attend the weddings and instead his wife flew home alone, and was there for both, which happened in the window of one week. So it is almost certain that the church would have denied permission to travel to the U.S. for him to attend the funeral, even though it is for one of its great leaders. But as things turned out, President Packer and his family are currently in America and have been for the last week and a half.

 

How did this turn out? Well about a month ago, Sister Packer went to Germany for an operation to have a kidney stone removed. Everything went well and she was back in Ukraine in a short time. Since that point though, her health became worse and worse, leading to the point that she had to fly to America for medical treatment. It was so bad that the missionary department made the decision to allow the entire family to go together.

 

As there seems to be no coincidence when it comes to church matters, this whole medical fiasco put them right in Salt Lake City with their schedules lining up perfectly for President Packer to see his grandpa the Tuesday before he passed, and then they will just make it for the funeral before they leave. Needless to say, this has been very good for them and their family. I am personally excited for their return because my mission kind of feels like a boat adrift at sea with no direction. Everyone is of course still working hard, it just feels like no one is at the head and if any real matters were to come up, they would not be easily solved.

 

Other than our mission moving forward with no one at the helm, this week was actually a good one. In the end we were able to teach eight lessons which might be the most of my entire mission, and several good people have come up.

 

One evening we were at the church because our plans had dropped out, and decided to print off some talks which Elder H needed for something. We walked out with an hour left in the day and then started our way on home. About two minutes after leaving the church, we contacted a guy who looked at us and happily shook our hands. He said that many times he has walked or traveled past us and wanted to know what we are all about. The times where missionaries had actually approached him, he was always busy. This night however worked out, and he then suggested that we just take time to sit down and talk right there. We walked back to the church and sat down for a lesson.

 

It turned out to be one of the best lessons that I have taught of my time in Ukraine. We started out by talking about his beliefs and he explained that he is a Baptist. About six years ago, one of his friends invited him to church and ever since that point he has actively been involved there. We gave him a Book of Mormon and then he made a comment that I have heard many, many times. “Really, the important thing is that you worship Christ, which is what all good churches do. It does not really matter where you go, so long as it is focused on Christ.” He then talked about how the Bible contains everything that we need to know and that he is grateful for the BoM but he really did not see the point.

 

I then told him that there is a point to it and that in order for him to understand, he needs to understand where our church came from. We went on to talk about the life of Christ and how he organized a church during his tenure on earth. Moving on, we related the full story from death of Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith and the creation of the BoM. One thing I noticed the whole time is the expression on his face as we were talking. It was a mix of subtle emotions of surprise, excitement, happiness, and nervousness.

 

When we were done talking, I asked him what he how he had felt, and he said that he had never had a spiritual experience so strong in his life. When he started going to church and studying the scriptures, he would have similar experiences, but to lesser degrees. This time though, it hit him hard and he could not process it. I asked him what it meant to him, and he said that it probably means that what we are saying is true. Something like that has happened only a small handful of times during my mission, and for him to be able to understand everything so well is another thing on its own. He agreed that we should keep meeting, and we exchanged information.

 

To close off the week, Elder H and I spent this morning helping a family move out all of their possessions from their home, as they are moving to America tomorrow. The dad is an American and they have a total of nine children. For the past year they have been trying to get visas for everyone to move, but there has just been complication after complication.

 

Finally, two weeks ago, all of the paperwork went though, and the mom was tasked at finding the earliest flight possible. The airline took it seriously and scheduled them to fly out only a week after buying them. As such, it gave a very small amount of time to get the whole family packed and the house ready to close up. When we arrived this morning, it looked like nothing had been done and I thought to myself that there is just no way. About ten church members came and room by room we were able to get a lot cleaned up and hauled out to neighbors or a moving truck. After four hours of work, it was all just about done. I am actually pretty amazed at how well it went. They still have enough to do to keep them busy until ten P.M. tonight but what we were able to do was a real push.

 

That is more or less all I have to say about the week. It was good.

 

Best,

 

Elder Hancock

Interesting Teaching Experiences

June 29, 2015

Brovary has so far been an enjoyable experience. My new companion is Elder H from Massachusetts. It has been very good to serve with him for the past five days because even though he is in my same transfer and we will be killing each other, he is very focused and we have had a lot of success in our short time together.

 

Over the past eight months, I have cycled through different levels of thinking about home, ranging from dreams of me walking through the airport, to just wondering what should be the first food to eat. These past five days though have more or less been devoid of such thoughts. For the first time in a long time I honestly don’t feel like the end is coming soon. More or less just that I am here and it is where I should be. It has been very refreshing and I think that my last transfer is going to go very well.

 

Our ward mission leader here has impressed me more than any member I have met here. He has been a member for many years and knows the teachings of the church incredibly well. Except for returned missionaries, I tend to get nervous when members start talking a lot in lessons. Many understand the principles of the church well, but don’t get the concept that others are not as familiar with them as they are. It is kind of like talking to an English major about engineering. All of the jargon that comes with the subject just makes it difficult to understand. This member, however, just understands the principles of teaching and the examples which he uses with each person are perfect. He is probably the only person who I trust to have in a lesson where I will say a couple of sentences in the beginning, and then he will take over for the next forty minutes, going back and forth between him and the investigator. He just understands how things need to be done so well. He has also done very well financially by taking the principles that govern the church and applying them to some kind of online business.

 

The ward mission leader was in one lesson which went about as perfect as I could have wanted. While preparing for the lesson that morning, we had a whole plan to talk about a certain subject. We agreed and said that is what we would do and moved on. During our conversation, we came back to the investigator and had an idea to address a concern which he has right now. I role played it to Elder H, and it seemed like the better route to go.

 

So instead of teaching what we had originally planned, we threw out everything and went with the completely different topic devised through our role play. Just as I had expected, I told a short story to introduce the lesson and then our MCL did his magic. My companion and I said nothing for about forty-five minutes as they talked. I was blown away at just how well everything the MCL said tied into the investigator’s main concern. He was bold where he needed to be bold, and pulled back when appropriate. It was honestly like watching a master conduct a symphony. I was just thinking to myself, “I can only hope that I become this talented one day.” By the end of the lesson, this person had verbally acknowledged that he believes that the church is true and wants to become a member. He just needs some more time to become a little more comfortable and take care of some personal issues. For him it is now not a matter of if, but when. A large portion of this is all thanks to our MCL.

 

Another interesting experience happened this week as Elder H and I were walking around a neighborhood ringing doorbells. I want to say one thing about neighborhoods here which contrasts greatly to the U.S. Because of the varying wages here and city planning, sub developments of identical houses which dot the landscape of the outskirts of major cities do not exist. Rather people will find some land and slowly build a house over many years. They start usually with a big fence and over years will add a little here or there. Walking down the streets is way different because you cannot just walk into anyone’s yard. There are big fences and behind most of them large dogs. So all we can do is hope that some of them will have someone working out in the yard, or have a doorbell (one feature that many do not have).

 

While walking along, we met this very old woman who is a Seventh Day Adventist, and invited us to come to church with her because it was Saturday. She was a very strong religious person and had no interest in us at all, rather trying to proselyte for her own church. We asked if there is anyone who we could teach, and she said her son, without thinking about it much. She asked what we would teach him and we said it would be about our church, to which she replied that he should just go to church with her.

 

She said his address, but we forgot the street name exactly, only the number. While walking along, I approached a mom and her daughter who were on the street picking cherries and asked them if we could meet. Much to the amazement of both my companion and myself, she said yes and we agreed to stop by sometime this week. Even more so to our amazement is the fact that the address which she told us is the exact street name which the older woman said.

 

The next day we stopped by the woman’s son to talk. He came up to the fence and said he would ask his mom, while inviting us into the yard. Both Elder H’s and my hearts skipped a beat when the same woman walked out because she had forgotten about us entirely, and said that God and sent us for her to teach. I stood and talked with the son while Elder H endured a very long sermon. The conversation I had went well. I talked about our missions and the message which we have to share. He seemed interested and even more so because the way I talked to him about God was a stark contrast to the way by which his mom would approach the subject. He took a Book of Mormon said he would call when he has time.

 

It was overall very unexpected and cool to see how everything worked out. The second person with whom we talked, living on the same street, and I am sure that his biggest plus is that we are just so different from his mom.

 

Overall, this has been a good week.

 

Best,

 

Elder Hancock

The Gospel Changes People

June 22, 2015

As time comes closer to the end, the reality that I will be going home becomes more and more real. This hit a peak yesterday because of one elder who is going home tomorrow. His name is Elder A and I served with him in a tri-companionship for two weeks, along with Elder B just before I left Chernigov to go to Voskresensky. He received permission to go back up to the city for his last Sunday and it became my opportunity to accompany him for the trip.

 

We had planned to leave Sunday morning and come back that night. As it turned out though, we would be traveling to the city the night before. It just so happened that one of the members there, Z, had scheduled to be sealed to his wife on Saturday and Elder A found out about this on the day of. He called me and asked if I would be available to attend the sealing and then travel with them that night back into the city. I of course agreed, and was at the temple only a couple of hours later. Honestly, it is really is a miracle how everything lined up. Elder A had scheduled to go to the temple with his MTC companion several weeks ago. He randomly chose to go at three o’clock. The temple session that he chose was the exact one in which the Chernigov branch had scheduled for Z’s wife to receive her endowment before the sealing. It also just so happened that my schedule worked out perfectly to be interrupted, allowing me to attend.

 

The real thing that surprised me was to see how much Z has changed since he became a member. I remember arriving there ten transfers ago and meeting him for the first time. I thought he was crazy at first sight. Gold teeth, tattoos, and everything else that comes along with a hard lifestyle. He and I developed a good friendship while serving together. In time, I really grew a love for him and it was very difficult to say goodbye in the end.

 

It amazes me to see how much his life has changed since joining the church. Not only in his personal character, but physically as well. He just does not look like the goofy member that I first met. Many health problems that he has had have been healed miraculously. One which required him to take expensive medications for his lungs has gone away entirely. The doctors said that he would have to deal with it to the end of his life. Fast offering money helped him get some extra help and I am sure that it has gone away as a result of him living according to the standards of the Church. He has had his teeth replaced and many of his tattoos removed. I can barely see the person who was there at first, and the love and humbleness with which he carries himself just amazes me.

 

If my mission has the same effect on one other person that has been made in Z’s life, it would all be worth it, even if that is all it would do. It really has given me an appreciation of what the gospel can do for people. Included are two photos showing him from when we first met to now.

 

The actual course of Sunday went well. I was able to see a non-member with whom I had developed a good friendship, and Elder A set up two meetings with some members from his time there. After Sacrament Meeting, we visited with my friend and then went to a family who held the Ukrainian form of a BBQ, in which all of the meat is cooked like shish kabob. Elder A and Elder B did a very good job at friend-shipping this family, which resulted in the mother coming back to church.

 

During Sacrament Meeting, three of the members of the family gave talks and there was just such a noticeable difference in their feelings toward the church than when I left. Those two elders did a really great job in bringing their family together. Afterward, we went to visit the branch president and his family at their house, which brought us to the end of the evening. By the time we boarded the bus back to Kiev it was already 7:30 and we did not leave until 7:40. We knew that we would be getting back pretty late and warned our companions to just stay at one apartment. After arriving in the city and boarding the Metro, we made it home just before 10:30.

 

Other than that, this week has been good. We were able to find three new investigators and teach seven lessons. That might be a record for my mission… I also found out that I am getting transferred for my last time into the city of Brovary. It is very close to Voskresensky and is located about fifteen kilometers outside of Kiev. This makes it so that in my last four transfers I will have served with four different companions in four different areas. I feel slightly accomplished to say that.

 

Best,

 

Elder Hancock

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Unpredictability in People and Numbers

June 15, 2015

 

Missionary work is honestly one of the least understandable things I have encountered in my life. Before coming on my mission, I kind of assumed there would be a formula for the course of things (i.e. you work hard, people become interested, and they progress towards baptism. If you increase the number of missionaries, your numbers should become adjusted likewise.) In all actuality, things do not go as the formula would suggest. The following are my thoughts and experiences of the last week:

 

Teaching our investigator D has been an example of the unpredictability of the work. As I wrote in an email some weeks ago, the first time I saw the kid, I decided immediately that there was not potential and that the lesson which we were going to have would turn out terribly. As it turned out though, he did have a sincere interest and the next couple of lessons went well.

 

The unexpected came this Friday and we went over to our MCL’s house to talk about our investigators. He told us that only one hour before us coming over, he had a call with the mother of D’s girlfriend, who explained that things were not going well at all. What he told us is that about a week ago, D moved into their house because he had nowhere else to live in Center Kiev. In the span of seven days  the relationship between him and the parents grew from tense to overstrained. Apparently, he has been a lazy student in University by not going to his classes and also does not shower or clean his clothes. Even when he was asked by the mom to wash up, he still did not do what was needed.

 

In a short amount of time, any hopes that I had for the kid were dashed, and my image of him quickly returned to the young punk that was at first sight. The next day we held a lesson which again started out confirming everything that we had heard the day before. He had not fulfilled any of his assignments for reading and seemingly obtained nothing from our previous visits. During the lesson, I took a more of a hard stance and told him straight forward what we expected and what benefit it would be to him if he were to do what we ask him to do. Something along the way hit him, and he then recommitted himself to read and get back on track. The next day he showed up at church and to our surprise, had actually read what we asked and then some. In this roller coaster of changing views he keeps jumping between two extremes of very interested and not interested at all. I just wish he would pick a side so we know how to move forward.

 

Similarly, Elder J and I have been working very hard and have given out about 110 copies of the Book of Mormon and received many numbers. All at the same time though, those with whom we are working are either slow to progress or dropping off the map entirely.  Another unexpected trend in missionary work is the comparison to missionary numbers with the rates of baptisms. I will focus on this from a worldwide scale first then break it down to a local one. Before the church lowered the age for missionary service, the number of active missionaries was around 58,000 and the number of convert baptisms 270,000 by the end of the year. At the end of 2013, the number of full time missionaries moved up to 83,000 which would make you expect for the number of convert baptisms to see a comparable increase. It is just logical. As it turned out though, the numbers only grew by 10,000 with a total of 280,000 closing out the year.

 

With the large swings of missionary numbers that has taken place in my mission over my time here, it has been interesting to see how missionaries-to-baptisms compares on a much smaller level. Since my time here, the numbers of missionaries started out around 120 and then spiked to 220 when the Donetsk mission was evacuated to us. Since that time, we have been gradually losing more and more missionaries, putting our current numbers at sixty. Interestingly, even though there were these wide swings, the amount of baptisms in our mission has stayed relatively level. The average over the last three years being around 110 with a standard deviation of 10. (I am guessing on those numbers from what I remember.)

 

Again, it is something where you would assume that if you increase the number of workers, then the number of output would increase as well. In practice, this just does not seem to be the case. These are just two examples and I could keep talking about this till the end of the day. I think my thoughts are presented though.

 

This week was more or less uneventful and just filled with a lot more of walking the streets.

 

Best,

 

Elder Hancock

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Building a Greenhouse and some Interesting Meetings

June 8, 2015

My exchanges this week brought me to the city of Vinnitsya. Honestly, it is probably my favorite city that I have seen in Ukraine up to this date. The reason is the following: it is the happy medium between a large, fancy city and a small quiet one. It is big enough to have two McDonalds locations, but not too big that getting to any location in the city becomes a real pain to arrive at. For example, a distance that should take forty-five minutes to travel takes at least an hour and a half, due to switching transports. The president of Ukraine is also originally from Vinnitsya, and has used much of the profits from his domination over the candy empire to develop many parts of the city. One of these is some fountains which are supposedly bigger and more expensive than those outside of the Bellagio Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. Also, because of the age of the city, many of the buildings in the center have an old European style and have actually been taken care of very well.

Our exchange breaks up into two days. For the first day I was with Elder H from Utah and we spent the majority of our time contacting. The second day was spent laboring out in the hot sun as we worked to put up the framework for a green house.

Our contacting went pretty well. We rode a train leaving from Kiev at 7:00 A.M., which took about two and a half hours. We made our way from the station to the elders’ apartment, at which point Elder H and I left to contact for an hour and a half until district meeting was to start at the home of the senior couple. This was one of the more successful hours of contacting that I have had on my mission. We were able to get four numbers from people and give out two copies of the Book of Mormon. One of the numbers turned into a lesson for the next day, although the guy was crazy and the lesson more or less a disaster. Our efforts were rewarded by a delicious lunch of Mexican food made by the senior couple from America. This is one of the small handful of opportunities for tasty Mexican food that I have enjoyed on my mission, so it was a tender moment.

Day two brought forth what may have been the most unique service project in which I have participated. Around five years ago, the church started projects around the Europe East Area to build small communal farms to make groups of members more self-sustainable. One of these projects was started for the branch in Vinnitsya, and land was purchased along with all of the materials for a green house. One family who lives at the edge of a village thirty minutes outside of the city was chosen to have the farm located on and around their property. Some men came in and turned the raw steel into the framework needed for the green house, including a boiler, but the project never went much further than that. For the last four years all of the parts have been sitting in a yard and growing rusty until President Packer became aware of it and made it part of the senior couple’s responsibility to complete the unfinished farm. It just so happened that the day on which they had planned to travel out there coincided perfectly with our exchange and we were able to help out.

Building the green house was an interesting process. It consisted of several pre-constructed arcs, which were welded together, that we would one by one cut apart and weld to anchors concreted six feet into the ground. The process was to first put up the two end pieces and then run a string from the highest points of each one. The next pieces were put in place one after the other. We would anchor in one side of the arc and then raise and lower the other side so that it was in line with the string hanging above. The process was very similar to the fence that I built while serving in Chernigov. I was impressed overall at how simple it all was, and that in the end the two sides matched up without there being a whole lot of deviation in the different parts. Attached are some photos of the whole process. I am not included in the final group photo because I was the one taking the picture.

On Monday we held a lesson with the kid whom we taught last week. It turned out to be one of the most awkward times of my mission. This boy is dating the bishop’s daughter and we had originally planned to meet at our church building. About a half an hour before our meeting, our bishop called us and asked if we could meet at their house instead. Immediately an alarm went off in my head, but we decided to go for it anyway. Upon arriving at their home, I quickly came to understand why it would have been better at the church. The first time the bishop had met the kid dating his daughter was only a couple hours earlier. The amount of tension in the air was so high I could have died. The lesson turned out being more of an interrogation of the poor kid than teaching the doctrines of the church. We would get the attention but it would not be long before the bishop would take it back and go into some over detailed explanation of the topic along with prying questions. Elder J, toward the end, just decided to testify about what we were talking about, which did leave it on a good note. Other than that, it was a painful hour for the kid.

After the lesson we had an experience, which for me at least gave some light as to why it was better to have it at the bishop’s house. Walking down into the Metro we noticed a girl who was probably fourteen years old and just smiling. It was not an overly anxious smile, but a quiet and humble one that caught the attention of my companion and me. I mentioned to Elder J that we should talk to her, but neither of us knew how. It generally is not good to talk to minors about the church, and those of the opposite sex no less.

Elder J was able bite the bullet though, and asked her if she knows English. She said no and they carried a short conversation that ended with Elder J giving her a Book of Mormon. No sooner had we walked away than a crazy old man came up to her and started going on about how we worship Satan. He followed her into the train car next to ours and we watched through the window for five minutes as this guy tried to convince her to throw away the book, even trying to take it out of her hands in the process. I don’t know what will happen with the book or her but I do think that we were directed to talk to her.

Another note from the week was that we had a zone conference that was actually conducted by President Packer, which was probably one of my favorites from my mission.

That is more or less everything note worthy.

Best,

Elder Hancock

6-8-2015-1 Chris Hancock