April 28, 2014
There is an elderly woman in the ward who is an invalid, and bound to a wheel chair. She lives alone in her apartment and relies on help from the members to help her in bathing, cooking and other necessities of living. She is completely deaf in one ear, and the other does not work as well as it could. Her ability to pronunciate words is very impaired and this, mixed with her near deafness, causes her to almost be screaming at people. Being able to understand her is difficult, even for a native speaker. On Saturday we were asked to go to her apartment with the sisters and help her go to the cemetery.
There is a tradition in Ukraine the following weekend after Easter. People walk around the cemeteries and place a mix of candy and flowers on the graves with the emphasis of honoring the dead. We were asked to take the invalid sister to the cemetery and walk her around for a couple of hours. As we showed up to the apartment, we received a phone call from the branch president saying that we were not to take her. He himself had gone before and her goal in going was not to visit the graves of loved ones, but instead to beg people for money and candy. In this moment, the sisters had finished dressing her and were ready to bring her down.
Elder D and I walked up to where she lives and explained the situation. The elderly woman became a little impatient with the fact that we were not leaving and began to ask us why. With the way she spoke, it almost seemed like she was on the verge of crying or extreme anger at us. It was difficult to talk to the sisters and the woman about what we should do, but with work, we made a compromise in which we would just walk her around outside for a while. Being in her apartment while this old woman with loud unintelligible speech tried to convince us to help her beg was one of the more trying points of my mission so far.
A week ago, Elder D and I were walking down one of the main streets and we noticed a younger guy walking around with an American football in his arm. This is uncommon here to say the least, so we took the opportunity we were given and started talking with him. He told us his name is Jim, which we later found out is actually B, and he is a fanatic for American football. He said that there is a group of about ten people with whom he meets up and plays games. We said that we would be interested in joining him, to which his response was very enthusiastic. We agreed to meet and play Saturday night.
The game was very fun. Jim brought six of his friends and so we played a game of Americans vs. Ukrainians. To our surprise, they had a decent amount of skill and actually knew how the general rules of the game move. Their understanding was not perfect and some correction at points was more than necessary, but overall they could hold their own. In the end we won, because two of the elders on our team had played football throughout their high school careers, and that was more than enough to beat them, but it was fun for all parties involved. We met six new people, all of whom want to meet with us again. With time, we will be able to bring up why we are in Ukraine as missionaries and hopefully begin teaching them.
Unfortunately, I am running short on time today and will not be able to go into as much detail as my previous letters have contained. In additional news, I am being transferred this week to the most north area of the country, Chernigov. It is east of Chernobyl, so there may be a chance that I can convince the next mission president to allow me to have a day trip there. It would be quite the opportunity. With luck, it will work out.
Chernigov (aka Chernihiv)