July 14, 2014
To put it simply, the course of this last week was a bit of a grind. We had plans to meet with several people, which would have led to a productive time, but not a single one of our plans worked out and instead we were left with many hours walking up and down the streets. This time managed to bring two unexpected surprises that made the effort worth the time.
The first came on Tuesday as we were trying to speak with people. I noticed a larger gentleman a little ways off who walked with a bit of a waddle. I tried to approach him and my mouth was shut as he raised his hand and said with a mild slur, “It’s the Mormons again!” He walked toward us and shook our hands. During the course of our conversation we learned that he met with missionaries many years ago but just did not understand a lot of the things in which we believed. I invited him to meet with us so that we could do our best to help him understand, which he happily accepted.
The next day I called the number the man gave and he answered. Unfortunately, the sound quality was the worst I have come in contact with to date and was comparable to someone speaking through a megaphone while covering the mouthpiece with a large piece of fabric. After talking for ten minutes we finally managed to set up a time for one o’clock. He showed up ten minutes early, which was different from the ten minutes late rule that most people stick by. Because of this, our member was not quite there so we decided to sit down and just talk some more. He had some questions for us about the United States and why we were crazy enough to stay in Ukraine when there is a war going on in the East. When the member showed up, we started with a prayer and asked him about his outlook on God. Our conversation went very well and by the end the man showed some genuine interest in meeting with us again.
The second surprise came as a unique experience as Elder A and I were contacting on Sunday and the weather took a strong turn and started raining very hard. We took cover under a tree nearby in hopes of waiting it out. This had already happened two other times this week so I was fatigued by our work being delayed by the rain. Elder A and I decided together to not allow our situation to stop us and that there was someone that we were going to find. It turned out to be the better decision in the end for two major reasons. The first is that the rain did not stop coming for a full hour and it was much more than a light trickle. We were completely soaked through our clothes within the first fifteen minutes. Together we would approach people who were hiding under shelters at bus stops, outside stores, and any other location we could find them. It seemed that maybe at least one of them would be interested in asking why two well-dressed young men are trying to talk to people about God in that type of weather, but not a single person would give us the time of day.
After a while, we decided to start walking to our appointment which we had scheduled for the evening. This led us to the second and main reason as to why we were supposed to keep contacting. Along the way we went into an underground street crossing. Half way through the crossing the water had pooled up into a deep and large puddle, looking somewhat like a scene from Titanic. We stopped to figure out how we were going to get around it and then this man wearing a white tank top approached Elder A and started to talk with him. He introduced himself as Feodor and told us why he ended up inside the tunnel.
Feodor had met with missionaries a year ago and attended church with them. Sunday morning as he woke up, a feeling came to him that he should go attend the Mormon Church again that day, but he decided it was a little odd and ignored it. As he was walking around last night, out of nowhere a feeling came to him to go into the tunnel and wait for something. It was shortly after that point that the rain started to fall. He stayed inside for thirty minutes as he slowly watched the large puddle form there in the middle of everything. It was at that point that he saw my companion and myself walking through and then stopped before the puddle. He took this as a sign that he needs to start meeting with us again. First, with his impression to attend church that has not happened in over a year, and then with our chance meeting on the street. Our lesson is set up with him for tonight and we are excited to see how it will go.
Last week Elder A and I talked to an acquaintance of ours about different cities around Chernigov. He began to describe a city that was created as a refuge for those forced from their homes as a result of the Chernobyl disaster in the 80’s. He went on to say that many different groups of people moved there from other nations who worked to help clean up things. This resulted in the areas of the city having different themes based on the culture that moved there. As in there being a Polish section of town, German, English and so forth. We developed an image of a town with many different sub communities spread without it. Kind of like Chinatown. So this week Elder A and I talked amongst ourselves and decided to make an excursion to the city for our P-day.
We were both very excited leading up to it and had big expectations. We rode a train for forty minutes and as it pulled into the station there, it quickly became apparent that the city would fall well beneath our expectations. The train station looked like it had not been maintained over the years, and directly behind it was a large unfinished construction project. As we walked around the city, we came to understand what he meant by the different cultures. Instead of many unique areas, there were regular Ukrainian domes, but the design of the outside was based off the culture of a different country. They were mildly entertaining to look at but in no way worth the time to get there. The only train back left four and a half hours after we arrived, so we managed to see everything in an hour and spent the next while walking around and talking to one another. Overall, it was a very boring way to spend our P-day.
I would say that this week was not so bad. There were some slow moments, but overall things were good.