June 30, 2014
This week took a bit of an odd turn, which forced me out of my apartment for three nights. Namely, my companion and one of the elders in the other companionship decided to both fall sick. It was on Monday that Elder A began to comment about the state of his body. I counseled him to call the mission doctor, who then said that he had contracted a blood virus. That night we stayed inside and I used it as an opportunity to get our apartment clean and take care of other housekeeping items. The very next morning the other elders graced us with an unexpected visit and informed us that I would be going with Elder H1 because his companion, Elder H2, had conveniently also fallen ill. We left the two lifeless bags of meat in the apartment while Elder H1 and I set out to go find people.
It was during our exchanges that I became better acquainted with Ukrainian’s obsession with remedies and other New Aged ways of staying healthy. My personal favorite example started Tuesday night when I mentioned to someone who came to our English practice that I was tired. She started going off about this amazing product she called “Living Water”. By her description this stuff is incredible. A couple drops in your eyes every day will gradually fight off diseases such as cataracts, applying it to the face will moisturize skin better than any other cream, and swishing it around your mouth kills all bacteria and strengthens teeth like none other. She works for a doctor in Belarus who swears by the healing effects of “Living Water”. I agreed to meet up with her the next day to try it out, because of how persistent she was.
As we met, I was able to take a good look at this miracle product. She had a plain and used water bottle which had been refilled with water from a ground well. Sitting in the bottom was a black rock which looked like obsidian with a duller luster. Apparently, the process of making “Living Water” is simple. Take any reservoir of regular water, lay one of these rocks in it with a closed lid, and then in three days the chemistry will change, yielding the product. She placed a couple of drops in my eyes to help with my vision problems and then made me drink it. I tried to explain that I have a rather large filter system at home, but in her view the living water was much more pure than the so called filters could ever make it. Throughout this whole experience, I just asked myself how this kind of stuff happens.
Friday night came with a nice change as Elders A and H2 decided that their health had returned to them, and I could return to the quarantine zone which was my apartment. I changed out of my three day old clothes and then Elder A and I went out to go finding. We walked around for a little over two hours and not a single person was even willing to give us the time of day. I was very discouraged because over the course of this past week, all of the success we were seeing in our area came to an abrupt halt. More or less leading us to start over from scratch. At one point, Elder A made the comment that we weren’t really trying to look for the counsel of the Spirit. Rather, just walking around while hoping that someone we encounter would be willing to talk. We took a minute to stop at the next intersection and took a good two minutes to think about what direction we should go. We each thought about it and then individually decided on the same direction, one which we had never walked before. After only one hundred yards, we talked to an old man who was watching his grandsons climb a tree. He was happy to talk with us from the get go and told about his life. As we invited him to meet and talk about the gospel, his response took a different tone, as opposed to what we have become acquainted with in our time here. Instead of saying that he is not interested, he said that at this point in his life he is just not ready to hear what we had to say, but there will be a point when he is. It was a little disappointing as we walked away, but both of us knew that we were meant to speak with him.
About five minutes after our first encounter, the second reason why we were to walk that direction happened. There is an inactive member in the branch with whom we have been trying really hard to meet. Every time we have gone over to his house, he has not been home and has never answered his phone number. It came to point that we were ready to give up on him. We were in a hurry to get home because it was already after nine o’clock, so we did not have any plans to stop anyone.
But Elder A decided to stop this reasonably well-dressed man in his thirties along the way. It became clear after one minute that the person with whom we were talking was the very same person that we had been trying to meet with for the past two months. We finally came in contact by some chance encounter on the street, while on a path which we had never walked before. This was a clear example of the importance of following the counsel of the Spirit.
This week has been good, overall. I am also twenty-one years old today. All that means in Ukraine is that I can now buy hard liquor. The age for beer and wine here is sixteen. 😉