June 23, 2014
Quite a bit happened over the last week, but the events of yesterday were so unexpected that I am having trouble thinking about anything else. So the course of this letter will start off with the beginning and gradually make its way to Monday.
There is a family here in Chernigov who decided to join the church a little over a year ago. Since then, they have made it their business to have the missionaries over at their house at least once a week, and it has developed into a bit of a tradition for Sunday evenings. Yesterday was mine and Elder A’s turn to eat with them, and to my luck they decided to make my favorite Ukrainian food, vareniki. It is a dough shell that is filled with whatever you want. The most common is potato, which is what we did. When we arrived they were mid-way through forming each of the dumplings and offered to teach me how it is done. After demonstrating one, I tried my own hand and showed some promise. Their twenty-five year old daughter Y saw my first one and said, “HANCOCK! Are you serious? That vareniki is even more beautiful that the ones I make.” She then gave up and made me do the rest. It was funny as she continued to comment on how I shouldn’t be able to do it. It was a very fun dinner and above all was extremely delicious.
So that sums up the good part of Sunday. Everything else that occurred made me look at myself and say I cannot believe all that happened in twenty four hours. It started out with a phone call from our investigator F at four in the morning. In his very broken English he demanded that I meet up at that time and give him $200 USD. After I replied that it was too early and that I did not have the money, in even more bad English he said that if I did not get the money he would not be baptized, and for us to never disturb him again. My first thought was that he was drunk, but when I called him back twelve hours later, the exact same conversation repeated itself, so at this point I don’t think he will be going in the water. Another investigator who we met with during the day seemed to be very close to choosing to be baptized. But as the lesson continued, it became more and more clear as to how disinterested he really was. These two events dashed the hopeful image I had about the missionary work in our area.
The biggest thing which came forth yesterday was in regard to a recent convert, V, which Elder A taught and baptized himself. He has expressed his intent to serve a mission and everything seemed to be the start of a very solid membership within the church. But about a month ago, he left Chernigov to go to Lyviv at which point our only contact with him was weekly phone calls. He made his way back to Chernigov about a week ago and since then we tried to meet up, but something kept getting in the way on his end and he could not. So yesterday I sent him a text to say hello. It started our normal with your typical set of small talk. “How’s life? What’s new? Is work going ok?” Then at one point I thought it would be funny to scare Elder by telling him that V had found a boyfriend. He knew that I was not being serious from the get go and took no humor in the comment. As my conversation with V continued, he kept mentioning this new guy which he had met. As more things were said, my dumb comment to Elder A turned from a joke to an unintentional premonition. It turned out that V has met someone in Lyviv and did in fact start a gay relationship with him. He then expressed his lack of interest in coming to church on Sundays and the reality of the situation became very clear.
Overall, Sunday ended in my investigators going down the tank and a strong recent convert making a hard hundred and eight degree turn in his direction. But at the end of all this, I managed to eat some very tasty vareniki. So that was good.
Other events from this week include my final mission conference under the direction of President Klebingat. It was a great experience because all the missionaries from every corner of the mission came together in Kiev for it. I was able to see Elder B for the first time since he left Billa Tserkva, which I have been waiting a long time for; my trainer Elder K was able to come up from Odessa, which was a great opportunity because he will be going home this next transfer; and my entire MTC district was together for the first time since we came into country.
The entire conference took a different tone that the typical training that President Klebingat has given us in the past. As missionaries finish their missions, he gives each of them a four hour departing devotion in which he offers advice about school, relationships, and just about every other life skill. Considering that he would not be able to do the same for us, he chose to do this for his very last meeting with us. I was able to learn a lot of interesting points from him and his wife. They are some incredibly intelligent people considering they each speak five languages; he is a General Authority and is just incredibly talented in every way. Everyone was able to receive some good advice, which will find some very good application in the future. The only bad thing that came of it was that walking out of there felt like my mission was finished. So in my mind, I was expecting to board a plane the very next day bound for home. It was an odd feeling, to say the least.
The rest of this week was filled with opportunities to offer service to people with weeding and other yard work. It was a good week even though the end came to a bit of a train wreck. Fortunately, there is always vareniki.