December 16, 2013
Transfer week has been a ride, to say the least. The overnight train ride up to Kiev was much easier this time than the last, but still not ideal. To start off, the mission purchased first class tickets for the missionaries, which mean that there were only two people per compartment instead of four. The ride itself was extremely bumpy, and I probably woke up twenty-five to thirty times during the night. To say the least, I was relieved to pull into the station in the morning.
From the Vagzal we took a taxi to the mission office where I met my new district and companion. We then took a taxi back to the Vagzal, because it was there that we catch the bus going to Billa Tserkva. It did not leave for an additional two hours after we arrived, so to kill the time, we took turns watching luggage and going to McDonalds. It was a treat, to say the least. The bus ride took about an hour and a half and was extremely cramped inside.
What happened when we got off the bus is the part that sucked. My companion did not know the address of our new apartment, so we could not call a taxi to take us the rest of the way. Rather, we had to walk all the way, with all of my bags. If it had been during the summer, it would have been all right, but there was snow all over the ground which made it more like dragging bags instead of pulling. After about a half hour of this, we finally made it to my new home.
My new companion is Elder B, and as my last email stated, he is only in his second transfer now. It is difficult to do missionary work at the moment. He and I are both lacking the language skills to work effectively here. Interestingly enough though, some people have been interested in talking, and even gave us their contact information to meet. Being bad at the language here is a bit of a weakness turned into a strength. People are curious as to why some American who barely speaks Russian is trying to talk to them about Jesus Christ, and I think that this has given us some success.
Church on Sunday was a great time. The sisters in the district have an investigator that wanted to be baptized, but they thought that if the service was on Saturday, no one would show up. So their solution was to hold it on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. when church starts at 11:00. This situation was made even more interesting because the font is in the same room as Sacrament Meeting, behind the podium. There is a metal garage door that is cranked up to reveal the font for baptismal services. So about half way through the baptism, people began to show up for Sacrament. There were some who did not know what was going on and thought that we had started early. The baptism ended up going some time over, so less than a minute after finishing the closing hymn, we began Sacrament Meeting.
The Gospel Principles class was likely the highlight for the day. Because in Billa Tserkva, the Ukrainian language very widely spoken. The class would start out in Russian so that the missionaries could understand, but as soon as someone would read a verse in Ukrainian or make a comment, all of the members would switch languages without realizing it and we could suddenly not understand a word. There were two points where we had to stop the lesson and ask them to start speaking Russian again. From talking to the other missionaries, this is not uncommon at all.
On Sunday evening we had a meeting set up with an investigator that Elder B and his previous companion have been working with. This investigator likes to go off on random topics, and can be a little difficult to keep focused when teaching. We had no choice but to have a member present for the lesson.
The normal people who join missionaries for lessons were not available so we had to ask our branch president for help. He is very busy with family, work and his calling, so getting assistance from him is tough and should not be an unproductive use of his time. To our disappointment, our investigator did not show up. Five minutes after the lesson should have started, we tried calling him, but his phone was off.
Fortunately though, nothing short of a miracle occurred, and a random person walked in off the streets wanting to find out more about the Mormons. With the branch president there, he and this man talked for the whole time, with us missionaries occasionally making a comment or two. As with the Gospel Principles lesson, they would speak in Russian, switch to Ukrainian, and then back to Russian. It was very difficult to understand what it was that they were talking about for a lot of the time. But in the end, the man accepted a Book of Mormon and agreed to meet with us again.
As I stated in my last email, this is going to be a tough transfer, and these first couple of days have reaffirmed this to me. But through this difficult time, I will be able to grow both temporally and spiritually. Should be an interesting time.