November 11, 2013
The branch president here in Center Odessa is a really cool guy. Two nights ago Elder K and I received a phone call. The call went as follows between Elder K (in italics) and the caller.
“How long is your church going to be in Odessa?”
“Can you repeat that?”
“Your church, I want to destroy it. How long is it going to be in Odessa?”
“Well probably to the end of the world to be honest.”
“That’s not good. I am going to do all I can to get you out.”
“Why do you want us to leave?”
“Because I just don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
“Well I’m going to tell you right now that we are Mormons.”
“Well I’m going to destroy you too, then.”
At this point the person started laughing and admitted that he was actually our branch president, President A. He was trying to call the other elders serving in Center and when he realized we were the wrong people, decided to have some fun with it. It was really unexpected and cheered up our evening.
President A also gave us an assignment this week to go to houses of members who the ward has no information on. It was a great project for the week because it allowed the missionaries to have direction. We would walk from one house to the next and talk with people along the way. One of the houses was a good hour and a half walk from the church. I was able to see parts of the city that are new to me, and when we arrived at the house, we were greeted by a Jehovah’s Witness. She pulled out her Bible and began to have a conversation with us. It is pretty difficult to use logic with them because they have the New World Translation of the Bible, so what they read can be much different than the King James Version. We had a nice conversation that ended with us trying to convert one another and went nowhere. But it did give me a huge respect for Jehovah’s Witness people in how bold and ready they are to talk about their faith.
On Sunday we held district conference. Instead of having local speakers, there was a general broadcast to the whole Eastern Europe area. It was interesting to see how the church handles these, because of how busy the apostles can be. Instead of having Elder Russell M. Nelson come fly out and do a live broadcast, they filmed it in a studio in Salt Lake and sent a video file to the different areas to be played at their convenience. It worked well for us missionaries because there was an English translation available this way. Elder Nelson speaks Russian so all of us were excited to hear him, but to our disappointment, he spoke in English. Probably better that way because we could then understand what he had to say. The focus of his talk was missionary work and how to distinguish the LDS church from other religions.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have found a lot of success throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. Much more than the LDS Church has. The big reason for this is how bold and ready their members are to share the gospel with people. I see them pretty frequently, and say “Hi” when I can. They are pretty inspiring in how much they are dedicated.
My first transfer is ending this week and my companion and I have only had one investigator who we have not been able to meet with for the last three weeks. It has been discouraging, but that is what missionary work is. I asked my comp about his experience, and he went his first five weeks in the country without teaching a single lesson. It is good though, and helps me become a more patient person. I am hopeful the next seven days will bring good success in my efforts.