Because of all of the uncertainty of my future in Ukraine. My companion, Elder A, and I have made a goal to learn how to make as many Ukrainian food dishes as possible in the coming weeks, as a precautionary measure for the event that we receive a phone call saying that we need to be at Borispyl Airport the very next day. The first occurence in seeing this vision materialized happened this last week with one of the elderly women in the branch, Sister L. Last Sunday we told her of our plans and she was more than thrilled to teach us how to make golubtsy. This dish is similar to a dumpling, but instead of using a dough for the shell, boiled cabbage is what holds everything together. The construction is simple. Cook onions and rice, then mix them with raw ground beef to make the filling. Boil a head of cabbage until the leaves are soft, then pull it apart to form small shells. Place a scoop of filling in one of the cabbage shells and the wrap it into a cylinder. The next step is to place each roll into a large pot so that they line the bottom, and the a second layer on top. Fry some shredded carrot with seasoning and then pour over the top with two or three cups of broth and 400 grams of sour cream. Let sit over heat for an hour all resulting in a very delicious dish. The whole time while cooking, Sister L told us about her history in Chernigov and how she became acquainted with the church. While the golubtsy was cooking, we sat down together and she then showed us all of her photos. Apparently, Ukraine did not have color printing until the mid 80’s because every photo she showed to us looked like it was from the 40’s due to the poor print quality. It was hard to believe when the picture was taken, but on each one the date was clearly marked so I could not argue anything. This has been the same case with every elderly woman who has shown me photos. Overall it was a good visit and was clearly enjoyed by both parties.
Each of the areas I have served in have both has baptismal fonts constructed by the church. Unfortunately, Chernigov does not yet have the privilege of access to one of these. The solution rather is to rent out a bath house and use a pool. Such was the case with the two investigators of the sister missionaries who were baptized on Sunday. The two investigators did not have much of a problem using a pool, only so long as the water was warm. As such, both the sisters and branch president worked diligently to find a place which had a hot tub. Their search brought forth fruit and all was looking well. But only an hour and a half before the service, the business called to inform us that something in their building had broken and the facilities were not available. So everyone in the branch presidency immediately started calling around and found a different bath house in which to host the service in only a half hour. The problem though was that the water fell many degrees short of the only requirement given and was near freezing. As the Elders Quorum president walked into the water, he tried to make it seem like it was not so bad, but his rapid shaking told a different story. The first person to be baptized went in quick and was out just as fast. The second person was very hesitant and sat on the verge of postponing it until another day. Fortunately though, the encouragement from those around her was enough promotion to go under water. Afterward all of us sat in a kitchen area and sang songs while the two dried themselves off. It was an interesting experience to see how baptismal services were likely held before the days of meetinghouses.
Concerning my companionship’s progress in missionary work, we have been able to see a lot of good success this week. The first comes through two people who we found two weeks ago, F and S, The two people from Sri-Lanka. They are currently living in Ukraine for work while their wives are still in their native country. Neither of them speak any Russian and F knows some English. We thought at first that it would be enough, but very quickly we realized that he could not understand anything. The solution to our problem came through the help of Google and its gradual takeover of the world. Surprisingly, the Tamil language was one of the options on Google Translate, so instead of trying to teach in English. We just sat down and typed out everything we would have otherwise said. Overall it worked very well and the two of them enjoyed it a lot.
The second bit of success if found in one person with whom we have been working, V. I contacted him on the street and he was interested in talking with us some more so we set up a meeting. But the actual lesson did not go well, as he demanded to see proof that God exists and would not budge on his position of atheism. The next time I called him, I just asked if he would be interested in playing ping-pong. We met up a couple of times to play without talking about the gospel and slowly built a friendship. Then a couple of days ago V called up the other elders in our district by accident. He pulled the number from the business card I handed to him which has a phone number listed for each companionship of missionaries. Mine is the second. So the other elders met up with him thinking that some random person just called them, wanting to meet. As they sat down, they started to read out of the Book of Mormon together and V mentioned how he just feels at peace when he is around us. It is a small first step down a long path and I do not know what the outcome will be. But it is good to see that some of my efforts are bringing forth good.
On Sunday, Elder Abbot and I had quite a bit of extra time so we filled out schedule with trying to talk with people on the streets. One person was sitting by himself so I walked up and asked how he was doing. His immediate response was to be sceptical of why we were talking to him, but as soon as I mentioned that we are from America, his demeanor changed and he told us to take a seat. We talked about the different cities around Ukraine and a little bit about why we are here. It was going well, but at some point two very drunk girls who looked to be about eighteen years old came and stood right in front of us. I did my best to ignore them, though they did not realize themselves. Instead, one of them thought that I was talking to her as I was giving answers to the man at which I was looking. She did not clue in that I was not interested in her and after the man and I were done talking, I just walked away. In the beginning of my time here I was happy to talk with drunk people. But as experience has set in, it has shown me more and more how it is just not worth the effort to talk to them.
Overall, things have been nice this week. The weather here has been full of very sudden and violent rain showers. Fortunately though, these have happened during times in which other activities have been planned. Also, the situation in the East has slowed down, though it shows no sign of ending soon.