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Jenga and Cockroaches

May 26, 2014

Yesterday Ukraine held their elections and the leader who has come forth is the head of the chocolate empire throughout Ukraine. His name is Pyotr Poroshenko. Sadly, I know absolutely nothing about him except that the largest candy organization here, Roshen, is named after him, poRoshenko. From what I have been able to gather from members, most of the candidates who ran had shown particular interest in joining the European Union, therein emphasizing less ties with Russia. However, the majority of people also said that as soon as any of the candidates took office, the caravan of promises which carried them to the big office would be forgotten and replaced by their own agenda. It seems as though very little will be changing from the reign of the former president Yanakovich. Same level of corruption under a new face.

At one point this past week it was a privilege of mine to sit down with a former investigator with whom my companion had worked before my arrival in Chernigov. His name is R and he works as a journalist for a small and independent news agency. We wanted to talk about his experience in reporting on current events in Ukraine. There were two videos which he showed to us from his work. The first was of a day in which he spent time with a tank crew in the Ukrainian military and observed how they have been preparing. It showed many soldiers unloading tank rounds from canisters and into hulls of the tanks. There were several interviews in which the soldiers talked about their preparedness to fight for a free country until the end. It was very interesting.

The second video showed a group of protestors in the Donestk region raiding a police station and taking them hostage. Wages for police are only 200 dollars per month which is difficult to live off of even here, so many of the law enforcement have been accepting money from pro-Russia organizations and letting them do as they will without consequence. So this group attacked the station with hopes stopping the corruption.

R then went on and told us about the problem he is having with news channels in Russia. The people have freedom of speech, but the next problem to face is that all of the news media sources are themselves owned by the government. The majority of people in the north think that the Russian military is here to help the people. A missionary friend of mine is currently in the St. Petersburg mission, where she says that all they have heard about the situation shines brightly on Russia.

One of the nights this week we met with a recent convert whose name is P. We had an idea of basing a lesson off of the verse from Helaman 5:12 about building on a strong foundation. I made a comment as to how it would be cool if we could play Jenga with him for the visit and then talk about how we ourselves need to keep a strong foundation. The problem with this is that this type of game does not exist in Ukraine. Much to my surprise though, Elder A then said that our branch president has a set himself. This shocked me and the next thing I was doing was calling him up. He was happy to give it to us and then we were off to meet Pavel. He was very interested in the game as he himself had never come across it. The first several rounds were good and good times were had by all. But the last round came to us as a surprise. We came to a point in the game where there was no additional move which could be made without taking out a main support from the structure. This was the first time that I personally had ever witnessed this and the three of us triumphantly took a photo together in display of our accomplishment.

Yesterday I had a moment in which I looked at my companion and said quietly, but confidently: “We are going to die right now.” On Friday he and I were out contacting on the street and we ran into a person named N. He was happy to talk and insisted on calling us “lads”. He agreed to hear about the church and gave us his address and phone number. We called and set up for a meeting on Sunday at his apartment. As we walked in, the first thing I saw was a two foot tall doll which had all of its clothes taken off and red marker all over its face. Sitting just above this frightening doll was a loaded crossbow. To the left on the floor was his bed made up of blankets and old fur coats.

We were guided into the kitchen where the three of us sat down. Scattered around were open containers of food which had been rotting for months, a pile of old and partially eaten bread, and many bottles of beer. There were hundreds of small cockroaches crawling around everywhere. The smell from all of the rotting was a challenge within itself. We talked for a little bit and then N went to leave the room. As he walked out I looked over to Elder A and conveyed my thoughts that our host is probably planning on murdering us. The look on his face was one of agreement. As he came back we said that it was time for us to go and fortunately he did not put up any argument. Elder A and I both agreed to not go back.

Sadly, not a whole lot of big events have happened in the last week in regards to my missionary work. The people who we are trying to teach could not meet overall, so a lot of our time was spent doing finding. I think this coming seven days will be better though.

Best,

Elder Hancock

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