This week started out with President K putting together a last minute mission conference on Monday to help orient the missionaries who came in from Doneskt to our mission culture. In the beginning of the conference he took some time to inform everyone about the current situation in regard to our missionary work. What he said is that the Doneskt missionaries have officially been transferred and are serving as Kiev Ukraine missionaries, not as guests. From the tone of his speech, it seems as though they are going to be here for the next several months, not just a couple weeks.
Another way in which President K is helping to merge the two cultures will take effect this coming transfer in two weeks. He is going to make it so that every companionship will be comprised of one missionary from each group. This trend staying consistent with any leadership positions as well. The rest of the conference was filled with two doctrinal portions. The first about the organization of the Quorum of the Seventy, and the second about the blood of Israel. They were very enjoyable gave some deep insight into the history of the church and the challenges of missionary work. Everyone who attended received a lot.
Having a large number of missionaries has proved to be challenging. To help frame the situation, I will reiterate President K’s analysis. A while ago he decided that seventy six missionaries would be more than enough to successfully and efficiently run the mission. Any more than this would be “overkill”. The lowering of the age change for missionary service left no choice but to increase the number of calls to serve in the Kiev Ukraine Mission. This led to there being a total of one-hundred and ten elders and sisters here by the time my second transfer began.
From that point, it was President K’s goal to figure out how to decrease his numbers, because he already began to see instances of people climbing over one another in order to meet and work with members. So the phrase which President K uttered to himself when he was informed that they were going to bring an additional eighty-five people to his mission was understandable. “Shoot me.” This is the current situation here. We have two and a half times more missionaries than we reasonably should, and it seems like it is going to be for the long haul. I also came to know that in this week, an additional companionship of missionaries is going to be assigned to Billa Tserkva placing our number at twelve. It will be an adventure to coordinate this many people successfully.
Easter over the weekend was a great opportunity to see the differences between traditions. The first and more interesting to me is the greeting which they use to one another. People in the U.S. will say “Happy Easter” in place of a hello. Here their choice is to say, “Христос воскрес!”, or “Christ is risen!”; to which the appropriate response is, “Воистину воскрес!” or “indeed He is risen!”. It is an interesting tradition because it focuses on the original reason for the holiday, rather than the changed meaning which has been adopted in the U.S. Even people who identify themselves as atheists here will reply saying that Christ is risen. Another custom which they have is similar to America’s, but different in many ways; painting eggs. People here do not paint designs onto the eggs, rather, every egg is made to be one solid color. It is uncommon to see any that might have a blue top and a red bottom. Then instead of hiding the eggs for the children to find, they have developed a tradition which I think is a lot more fun. Two people each take a colored egg. One holds theirs still with the top exposed. The other than takes theirs so that the bottom is open, and slams it down onto the other person’s while yelling out, “Christ is risen.” The other person then gives the reply, “Indeed he is risen.” The goal is to have the egg of the other person break, while yours in intact. Sister L who is from Ukraine, won four times in a row with the same egg. As simple as the game was, it was incredibly frustrating to lose, and left me with the desire to keep playing. Easter in Ukraine is very fun.
We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ by driving out to a village with a member so that we could teach her mother. We were treated to a very Ukrainian meal of various types of meat, bread, salad (which here is a mix of egg, mayonnaise, and whatever else they want to use.), and one of the most notorious of dishes, holodets. I was excited when I saw it sitting on the table because it has been a bullet which I have avoided up to this point on my mission. And with the prospect of being evacuated out of the country on the horizon, I was nervous that I would never be able to try it. The dish put simply, is meat flavored Jell-O. To prepare it, someone will take a large amount of gelatin and then mix into it other types of meat, ground bone, fat and whatever else they feel. The dish I tried did not taste bad, but the texture gave it a very high score of the measure of weird. It was a good experience.
After dinner we stayed together and taught the first lesson. It was without a doubt the highlight of the week for all present. Everyone took turns going around and sharing their testimonies and we watched the Restoration film. The investigator, N, expressed her desire to be baptized, but has reservations because she lives so far away from the church, and does not think she can come often. We are going to continue to work with her, but it seems very likely at this point that she will choose to be baptized. It is a question of when, though.
In other news, I found out that the person who was assigned to be my mission president will not come to fulfill the calling due to some changes in his career. Instead, Kenneth Boyd Packer has been called to succeed President K in a couple of months. He is the grandson of Elder Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve. It is a surprising change and one for which I am still processing emotions because I was excited at the prospect of President M. Hopefully it will be for the best.
That sums up everything.