January 6, 2014
Before I came into Billa, my companion and his previous one began teaching this older man named D. He was contacted on the streets by two other elders and then began coming to church. His second Sunday attending was when the missionaries invited him to hear the lessons. By the time I showed up in the city, he had only received the first lesson, which meant that all of the teaching was up to myself and my companion, only in his second transfer.
Teaching the lessons has been tough, to say the least. Not only is the language a big barrier, but D likes to go off on tangents, so we end up using a lot of time trying to figure out if he is talking about something important or his trip to Kiev the other day. Fortunately though, I figured out pretty quick that if we teach out of the missionary pamphlets, not only does understanding the language become a lot easier, but it also gives a clear outline that allows us to refocus when its needed. By some miracle, we have been able to teach him everything up to this point except for tithing, which will be a topic later today. The really cool thing is that he has been more than willing to give up any habits and accept everything we say. At the end of one lesson as he prayed, he mentioned how grateful he was to find a church of such truth and one that is so correct.
We have scheduled for Dema to be baptized this coming Saturday, and at this point I am inclined to think that it is more likely to happen than not. My fingers are still crossed, although. There are plenty of people who look as solid as can be, but back out in the eleventh hour for a personal reason. It would be incredibly cool to see Dema to the end, but we won’t know what happens until January 11.
New Year’s here was quite an interesting experience. I mentioned in my last email that this is the big holiday of the year here. Well in past years, the Area Presidency has had concerns about missionary safety on this day, and told them to be home by 5:00 P.M. on New Year’s Eve, and spend all of New Year’s Day inside. This year however, they changed their policy and simply set it so that everyone needs to be in at 8:00 P.M. New Year’s Eve. I was very excited about this because I expected the streets to be full of drunk, belligerent, and rowdy people. Sadly though, this did not come to pass.
It turns out that people prefer to be with their families on this holiday, so the streets were empty. My companion could not set up any meetings with any members, neither could any other missionaries, so we just contacted for three hours. In that whole time, there was barely anyone with which to speak. The couple of people that were out were just plastered beyond belief, and one guy kept hugging us and kissing our hand with gratitude for our service as missionaries. One person on a bench could not even form one word, and just put out his hand with a gesture asking for money as he swayed back and forth.
Missionary work on New Year’s Day was just as difficult. All the members were at home with their loved ones, so they were not too inclined to have us over. Instead, we had everyone in the district bake brownies and go together to members’ homes with them. This led to an experience that I have wanted to check off my mission bucket list. In one of the large domes, all six of us boarded the elevator in order to ascend only three flights of stairs. The doors closed, Elder C hit the button, and nothing happened. It immediately dawned on me exactly what our situation was. The sisters told him to try another one, and after pressing every button, the elevator remained stationary. To put it simply, we were trapped.
To better frame this, I will do my best to explain what these Ukrainian dome elevators are like. First off, there is not an emergency hatch at the top. So if someone does get stuck, they are at the mercy of the outside world to free them. Second, they are old and as such, have developed this very bad stale smell over the years. Finally and most importantly, they are very small, only about two feet wide and maybe three feet deep. So having six people cramped inside made this the ideal situation.
We called the member who lives on the third floor and she came out to help us. With some difficulty we were able to find the maintenance number, and the member called it for us. All in all, we were only stuck there for a little over a half hour, but having six people in that small space, each breathing the same air as one another, made it an experience to remember. The first time I walked into one of those elevators, I thought to myself how awful it would be to get stuck in one. And now I can mark that one off my list.
This week has been a decent one and I hope my email today makes up for the short excuse that was last week’s.
One of the photos attached is from when we had to change one of our water filters. Just a small bonus.