June 9, 2014
The construction of our branch president’s house took some steps forward during this past week, as he contracted the help of the Elder’s Quorum from the branch. Each of the missionaries participated, with a couple of recent converts and two elderly gentlemen. As we drove up to the building site out in the countryside, everything seemed like it was going to go well. The temperature was good, everyone who said they could come had made it on time, and nothing seemingly bad had occurred. It was after trying to organize ourselves for five minutes that President K received a phone call saying that the building materials for the fence would not arrive for another hour and a half. Personally, this did not seem like a terrible thing to me. It meant that we would be able to sit around for a while and talk to one another. It was shortly after the phone call ended though, that the weather turned against us. In about ten minutes it began to rain very severely and all of us took refuge in the nearby grove of trees. As I took a couple steps in, right in my path was a patch of poison ivy, which made good contact up and down my legs. It was not to be considered an enjoyable experience. The rain continued for a whole hour and even the trees could not prevent us from becoming soaked. Through the trials of the morning though, everyone emerged happy and ready to work once the weather turned to our favor.
Our opportunity to help build the fence around President K’s future house gave me a better glimpse into the attitude of Ukrainians toward modesty. We split off into teams of two or three and set out installing concrete posts. The holes were already dug, so all that needed to be done was to place the post, straighten it, and then fill in the surroundings with rocks and dirt. Overall, it is not a horribly difficult process. The two older members, V and N, worked together. For no apparent reason except that it must have been more comfortable, N stripped down all of his clothes except for his tight fitting underwear and proceeded to work in that style. It was shortly thereafter that V followed suit, and though he was wearing thermals for underwear which did not show as much skin. Overall, it was very entertaining watching these two mostly naked old men install these posts. They worked with about the third of the efficiency of the rest of us and refused our modern level. Instead, they tied a measuring tape to a string and would let it hand down using gravity to make the string straight, and then eye-ball it to the post. The two of them spent a lot of time arguing over how it needed to be done and I really enjoyed watching the work the whole time. In the time that it took us to place ten posts, they were able to do three themselves.
At one point, we decided to continue working with the referral which we received from President K a week ago, T. He is the guy with whom we had a long discussion about different militaries from around the world. We decided that the best thing to do would be to build a better friendship and slowly bring up the missionary lessons. To see our goals reached, we talked with a member who told us about a military war museum located not far from the church. From that point, with was a quick phone call to T, everything was set up. Overall, it was a fun experience. He would go on explaining how each of the guns worked in Russian and because neither I nor my companion had any of the vocabulary, we just smiled and nodded our heads. As bad as it was, I just cannot see how he expected me to know words and phrases like, “compressive blast” or “lower receiver”. All I could do was to watch hand movements and pull from previous knowledge about firearms to reason what he was saying. In the end, T was very happy that we called and said that he wants to keep meeting with us. I am optimistic for a good outcome with him.
Sunday night brought a surprise lesson from one of our investigators who we have been considering dropping. It was very last minute and our mission has made a new rule in which we cannot have a lesson without a member present, unless we receive permission from one of the zone leaders. With such little time and the pressure to get someone, I had to settle with both my and my companion’s last choice. This member has a tendency to laugh at people in a sarcastic manner when they do not perfectly understand something or make a small mistake. To say the least, our lesson did not go well. It spun out with a lot of arguing between the investigator and our member. Trying to moderate between the two was next to impossible. They were both out for blood. At one point, the investigator wanted to make fun of the member for telling him to pray, so he started looking at the ceiling while screaming God’s name and demanding to be shown a sign. As we walked out, both Elder A and I agreed that we should not be meeting with him anymore, because this is just not the right timing in his life. Still, an interesting experience.
That about sums up the highlights from my week. Unfortunately, we have been left with a lot of contacting to do, so there are not too many interesting stories that come from these. Overall, I enjoyed this last week.