March 3, 2014
This week started off on a bit of an interesting note. Monday night after P-day officially ended, Elder D and I had a lesson scheduled with a family of investigators whom we have been teaching for a while. They are from Moldavia and lived as Gypsies for a while before they gave up that lifestyle and sought a more modern way of living. Their adjustment to normal society has been gradual and they are making progress, but it is still not perfect. They attend a charismatic church, where people dance around and cast out evil spirits.
When we arrived at their house, we met their aunt for the first time. She is a woman likely in her fifties and had her two year old daughter with her. We wanted to become acquainted and started off going through basic “get to know you” questions. About five minutes into talking, the aunt started breast feeding her daughter right in front of us. The whole time talking casually as though she was not doing anything. Everyone else in the room stayed engaged in our conversation and things went on as usual. Elder D and I exchanged a look for a moment which said to one another that this weird, but then kept talking as though nothing changed. After her child was done eating, the aunt began to preach to us from her experience as a Christian. She admitted that she does not know how to read, but that the power of God has helped her move past this obstacle, rather than reading the Bible to learn the word of God. She explained that He reveals everything to her through revelation and that everything that she said to us was her acting as the Almighty’s mouthpiece. As we walked out of the apartment, both Elder D and I agreed that it was one of the more odd experiences we have had in Ukraine.
On Thursday, all four elders in the district went out to one of the villages around Billa in order to do service for the American, S, and one of his neighbors. There was not enough room in the cab, so Elder L and I had to ride in the bed of the truck. On normal roads this wouldn’t have been much of a big deal, but the only road leading to S’s house is one that he built himself by driving over the ground time and time again. The soil here also has a high water content, so it deforms easily which causes the road to be more comparable to mudding. The whole time Elder L and I were rolling around in the back and no matter how hard we tried, we could not make ourselves stable. It was one of the most uncomfortable car rides in my life to date. But fortunately, we were able to make it without any serious bruises or injuries from the ax that was rolling around with us.
While at S’s house, we did a variety of work. It started off by splitting wood. This has developed itself to be a very relaxing activity to me. It is honestly one thing that I look forward to the most throughout my week. Just hitting a large stump with an ax and watching it fall into two pieces is calming. Not sure why, it just is. Elder L and I worked on that task for a little over an hour, until S asked that we focus on another assignment. The trail of mud that he drives on to his house has a lot of standing water in which his truck frequently gets stuck. So he had us haul extra pieces of old dry wall and spread them out over the areas where there were the largest puddles. The ground was so wet and soft that at one point my foot popped out of my shoe as it became sucked into the earth. Fortunately, I was able to balance on one leg while I fished it back out and my sock stayed relatively clean. We managed to successfully lay all of the dry wall, which in the end made a negligible difference. It was all okay, because S fed us some dinner as a thank you.
After making it back to Billa from the village, we were on our way to the church for an activity when a phone call came in. The person calling was our zone leader who informed us that all the missionaries needed to make it home immediately. During the day, Russia had sent many soldiers to Crimea on what they called, “training exercises”. The real aim of this is to capture Crimea because of its strategic value in defending the Motherland. Russia also has plans to send troops to Odessa. Ukraine has responded by instating a draft for all young men. It aims to strengthen their armed forces in the event that they do need to declare war against Russia. At this point it is very difficult to say how these events will unfold. More and more Russian troops are being sent to Crimea, and even more than that are positioning themselves on the border. The commentary of natives who I have talked with show mixed opinions about the outcome. Some are confident that a war will come, while others show a relaxed tone over the whole situation. The next couple of days should be a good way to tell toward the outcome of events.
To pass the time inside, we continued to play Ping-Pong and read the materials we have available. We spent Thursday evening and all of Friday indoors. They let us go out on Saturday, but toward the end of the night, we received another call saying to go inside. Fortunately, Sunday and today we are allowed to be on the street. The unpredictability of our schedules makes it difficult to set up meetings with people because there is a strong chance that we will need to return to our homes at a moment’s notice. I am safe, though.
This next week will be a decisive one. Should be a fun time.