December 9, 2013
So far on my mission, the most successful times, in terms of obvious success, are when I am on exchanges with other missionaries who have only been in for a transfer or two. I had an exchange like this last Wednesday. Elder K, who was one of the missionaries in my MTC district, came up from Taieativa, while my companion, Elder K, went down.
That night we decided to go do a drop by at an inactive member’s house. Along the way, we saw a building that had been bombed during World War II and never repaired. So we stopped to take a picture. A woman and her son looked like they wanted to talk to us, so I asked her if she needed help with anything. She told us she is an inactive member of the church and wanted a copy of the Liahona. Unfortunately, we did not have one on us at the time, but we were able to swap contact information and the sister missionaries are now meeting with her.
It really did show me that people who need help are put in your path. Odessa has a population of about 1,000,000 people and there are maybe six hundred members among the five branches here. We could have been walking anywhere in the city doing contacting, but we decided to try a stop by, and along the way met one person who really did need help. The exchange was a good experience overall, and helped me be more confident in my ability to speak Russian.
This last Saturday, our branch held a pancake night to invite non-members to the church. This meant that Elder K and I spent our whole day making one hundred pancakes in a small pan and doing whatever other preparations were needed. The actual evening ended up going incredibly well. The branch president stood up in the beginning and showed a couple of “I’m a Mormon” videos and then gave a spiritual thought. There were many people there who come to our English class, so I spent most to the time talking with them. The timing was great because just before the activity, a separate branch held a baptism in our building, so people were able see that and then come eat.
Sunday night was without a doubt the highlight of my week. While at church, the mother from the N family talked to us and said the sister missionaries were joining them that evening, and they wanted us to come as well. We, of course, said yes and joined in on their plans. When we showed up, it went like a normal visit to a member’s house, except there were four missionaries instead of two.
We showed each other photos, which was then followed by a spiritual thought. At that point, the family brought out an obscene amount of treats so we ate cake, chocolates, croissants, and drank compote (Ukrainian drink where you boil fruit in water and then let it sit for a couple of days).
The real kicker of the evening came after dinner. One of the members started to bring out boxes that had ornaments in them. The mom then told us that she want the missionaries to decorate her Christmas tree this year. The sister missionaries screamed at that one and looked like they were going to cry. They played some American Christmas music while we decorated the house, which really made it seem like being back at home. Once the tree was finished, they brought out an elf hat, Santa hair, and a Santa hat for us to wear. I dressed up as Santa while Elder K was the elf. We took some photos around the tree to remember our accomplishment. It was without a doubt one of the best evenings of my mission so far.
This transfer is only four weeks long and therein will be ending on Wednesday. The church has a policy that missionaries can only miss two Christmas’s in a row away from home, so to prevent those leaving from missing a third, they made this transfer four weeks and the next one is going to be eight. I am going to be moving to a new city, Bila Tserkva. It is a smaller city about forty miles away from Kiev. The population is roughly two hundred thousand people.
Elder K served in Bila for four transfers so he is very familiar with the city. His words in describing it are as follows, “Elder Hancock, where you are going is the worst city in the mission. It is by far the most Soviet looking place you can go. There is absolutely nothing to do on P-days except go play ping pong at the church. You can say good bye to learning Russian because people in Bila do not know the difference between speaking Russian and Ukrainian. All they know how to speak is Sergic. (Slang term for a mix of two languages) But it is also one of the greatest places to serve because the members in Bila are as good as they come.”
I have mixed emotions about being transferred there. The real kicker is that I will be finishing up the training of another elder. So it will be me in my third transfer, and him who will only have four weeks in the mission field. The next eight weeks are just going to be tough. Not only do I know absolutely no Ukrainian, but my companion does not either.
This coming week will be interesting to say the least…