March 31, 2014
The recent convert I taught, D, has a small house out in the country side, at which my companion and I were able to do service this week. First off, I want to say that D is a bit of an odd guy. None of the missionaries can quite figure out what his story in life is. Talking to him, it seems like he is a little slower than most people. He has a tough time listening to people and just about everyone we talk to agrees that he is in his own world. But there is a definite glimpse of a savant found within. For example, he is a complete expert at playing the piano. There are hundreds of complex songs which he can play just from memory. He is one of the biggest mysteries to everyone who knows him.
As we would talk to D about helping him do some yard work, he would make up these really weird excuses as to why we could not come out. The first one was that we are always dressed in suits, and that the work was too dirty and that the work we needed to do was a spiritual work, not a physical work. After some time of showing him photos of us doing service at other member’s houses, he finally gave up on that front and started to be more and more desperate. His next tactic was to check our pulses to see if we were healthy enough. With his fingers to Elder D’s wrist, D gave the okay for him to work. But when he came to check mine, he said that my heart beat was irregular and that it would not be safe for me to be out in the country. It was at this point that he came back to the spiritual work argument. Elder D and I decided that he did not actually have a cottage and was just trying to cover his tracks. With some time, we finally convinced him that it was going to be okay and made plans for Thursday.
We decided to meet one another and the bus-station. When D showed up, he himself was wearing a suit. This was the first thing we noticed because it quickly reminded us of his efforts to not ruin our nice clothes. He had some bags on his person full of some of the most random items. Both Elder D and I have come to expect such from him so this did not come as a shock. As we boarded the bus, all of the seats were already full. This was disappointing because the weather has been warmer lately and standing up for an hour on a hot bus was not the most enjoyable thing to do at the time. Once we arrived into the small village, we walked to the equivalent of a grocery shop there, which was a small room about ten feet wide and four feet deep, with some freezers in the center. It took a while for D to decide what to buy, but eventually we did get everything for lunch and started on our way to his cottage.
The Ukrainian country side is very unique looking. The best way to describe it is that things look like the Shire from “The Lord of the Rings”. There are no mountains off in the distance, which causes the sky to look huge, and the topography is made up of rolling hills which are covered with grass. The trees here grow very fast because the soil is very nutrient. This causes them to not be very wide at the base, but instead they grow to be very tall. However, there are not many trees around because they have all been cut down to make way for farm land. Instead, you will see large black fields of soil with a thin line of very tall trees dividing one field from the other. As we were walking along the dirt road, to our right was a large pond divided up into three separate sections. There were a couple of locals out fishing and eating bread along the banks. We stopped occasionally to look back for a photo. D was very particular on the way we took it so that it would capture the best scene, and was more than happy to give us a lesson on how to do it well.
Along the way, D walked us to a small outdoor table with a V shaped roof covering. We walked up not knowing what we were going to do, but he then informed us that it was going to be a picnic. He pulled out some cookies and milk, which we ate while he played a recorder with Elder D on the ukulele. We took a couple photos and passed the time by talking. As we stood up to leave, I was not sure what to do with the plastic cups which we drank from. D walked over and placed his inside of a cinder block off to the side which was surrounded by some other trash. Elder D and I looked and one another and he said, “When in doubt, do as the Ukrainians do.” Regrettably, we both followed after D’s example.
After some time, we finally made it to the small house where he lived. It did in fact exist, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. Very quickly we realized that D has a tendency toward hoarding. For example, on one part of his property was a large stack of windows and doors. There was no apparent reason for this because none of them would have fit anywhere on his home. It seemed like they were there just to have them. The atmosphere inside the house reflected that of the yard. About every cubic inch was filled with one random object or another, so much so that we had to pull several things out just to walk through. He played his guitar for our benefit while inside and then we went out to work.
D showed us everything to do, getting his suit absolutely filthy the whole time. It was a mix of raking leaves and brush into large piles, and then burning them. There was also a little bit of gardening as well. There are no laws against burning trash in Ukraine. So about this time of year, you can always see people on the sides of the streets tending to a large fire. Even in more cityscape areas. To say the least, making large piles of very flammable contents and then burning them was an enjoyable activity.
After working it was time for lunch, which was the highlight of the day. D started out by boiling chicken in water and bouillon cubes. The next step was to roast them over a fire. I gathered some sticks together and started one up. D sat there like a magician moving them toward and away from the heat as the outsides began to sear. He would occasionally tell us to spread mayonnaise and ketchup over the meat which would sear up as it was cooking. We then ate it over bread. Normally this would have been a weird and hard to eat meal, but by this point I had not had much to eat, so anything tasted okay. After lunch, we all packed up and made our way back to the bus stop, catching it just in time.
Kind of an interesting week overall. Not the best, but not terrible at the same time. I hope this next will prove to bring more.