March 24, 2014
As I am sitting here in front of this computer screen, I am trying to remember what took place over the past seven days. It is a bit like a flash of light. Over very fast, and difficult to remember what happened the moment it went off. Using this description might give the sense that this week was full of landmark events, but unfortunately, I cannot say this. It was normal over all, not terrible, but not amazing. Just hard to remember.
This last week marked the end of my fourth transfer as a missionary. By this point I have officially outgrown the “greenie” title which follows people for the first six months of their missionary service. Although, I personally think that one title was shaken off when Elder B, in his second transfer, was assigned to be my companion in my third transfer. Still though, it was interesting to wake up on Thursday morning, the day of transfers, and think that this small technicality no longer applies to me.
Our district has basically stayed the same except that one of the sisters, Sister B, left our area. She has been serving in Billa Tserkva for the last ten months of her mission. That only leaves her with six more months to experience the variety here in Ukraine. It has been an ongoing joke among us that she was doomed to spend her entire mission in Billa, the most boring city in which to serve. To her luck though, she has been assigned to the second most beautiful area of the Kiev Ukraine mission, the area where I trained, Center Odessa. She is making a jump from the absolute worst, to one of the best, and it is very appropriate, considering where she has been serving. Because we had a native sister come into our district, the sisters were serving in a companionship of three people for the last week and a half. So for transfer day, they just sent Sister B on her way and the other two stayed to continue the efforts. My companion is the same, as well as the other elders in our district.
On Tuesday night, the missionaries paid their last respects to Sister B by holding a “going away” party. We had a slide show in which she discussed the relationships developed here and had some reminiscing of her time. We then played a couple of games focused on the life of Sister B. The first was a missionary focused Jeopardy game. It ended up being a bit of a flop, because the only people who could effectively answer the questions were those who spent a lot of time around here, which basically limited it to other missionaries. Branch members tried to answer, but not a single one was able to get it right. Even the simple one-hundred point questions were too detailed beyond their knowledge of the life of B.
The next activity ended up being one which almost everyone enjoyed, Pin the Name Tag on the Missionary. We printed off a large print of Sister Barnes on the internet and then photocopied her name tag. It was a fun activity which was enjoyed by most. By the time the party was over, people had said their proper goodbyes with closure. Overall, a nice way to spend the evening.
On Thursday, all of the Elders went to the house of the American, S. He is changing the pipe for his septic system to a larger one, so our job was to dig up the current one. It has been a couple of years since the pipe was installed, which was more than enough time for the surrounding trees to develop an obnoxious root system. The first three meters of trench were not tough at all, but as soon as we dug between the two trees, thing very quickly slowed down. There was a lot of time spent switching between a hatchet and shovel. But eventually, we all made our way through, and finished the trench in time for lunch to be ready. Once inside, we talked about the importance of family history while enjoying eating one of S’s old pigs, Boris. Elder K was especially happy with the situation because he had to clean up several messes which Boris made when he served in Billa a year earlier. The look on his face was one of content.
On Friday night, we set up a meeting with one of the babushkas in the ward. When we knocked on her door, she poked her head out and said “wait”, immediately shutting the door and appearing again a minute later. She walked us down the hall to her neighbor, whose eight-five year old husband is currently bedridden. She asked that we give him a blessing, which we of course went through with.
Afterward, all of us sat down together and Elder D and I were able to teach them the lesson about the Restoration. They were very happy to have us over, though I do not know if they are very interested in having us return any time soon. Still though, it was a very nice opportunity to teach them, and the member who directed us over was extremely happy to have us. Unfortunately though, this turned out to be the only investigator lesson which we taught this week.
On Saturday the whole branch met together for a community service project. We planted trees in a more economically deficient part of town. Afterward, we came together for a small lunch. While eating, I realized how my taste buds are changing more and more with time. Of the food I have eaten so far, one of the more difficult items to eat has been the pickled tomatoes. But yesterday, as a member put one on my plate, I realized that it was slightly enjoyable. In a matter of time, I will be eating raw pig fat, pickled everything, and buckwheat as though it has been a staple of the home cooked meal my entire life.
As Elder D and I boarded the bus back to our apartment, one person sitting in the front just could not stop staring at us. It went beyond the awkward point and we just began to laugh. His response was to raise his middle finger, to which I nodded my head. We got off at the same stop and the guy then smiled and started walking away with a very wavy stride to his step. It wasn’t more than a minute when he turned around and started following us. We rounded a corner and then turned to a full sprint through a maze of sheds. Fortunately, we did not see this fellow again.
There is a member of the branch, N, who lives about a thirty minute bus ride outside of town. Because of this and work, he is not able to make it to church and has been on the inactive list for a while. Elder D and I set a goal to meet with him, and after trying for a couple of weeks, we were finally able to go over on Sunday evening. N met us at the bus stop and we walked to his house together. We sat down, shared photos and talked about the Plan of Salvation with him. It was a very nice meeting.
At one point he asked us our ages. When Elder D told him that he is eighteen years old, N’s eyes widened a bit and said that was very good. He then walked over to a door and invited his daughters in to join us, saying “Nat! Yul! Come here, there is an eighteen year old boy which I want you to meet.” They were both very nice and happy to talk with us. We practiced a little bit of English with them and then the older offered to play the piano with for our benefit, of which she is very talented.
Both Elder D and I got the sense from the situation that N decided to himself that this eighteen year old boy was more than worthy to be a future son-in-law, and was quick to introduce his daughters. He is a very nice person and we will definitely be returning in the future, but that occurrence was very funny.
Looking back, a lot more happened this week than I originally thought. This next one should be nice as well.