August 11, 2014
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a man who invited us over to his house and made a dinner for Elder H and myself. This man’s name is N and this week he invited us over again which also ended up being an unexpected visit. As we came to the yard outside his apartment building he beckoned us toward the parking lot and pulled out a set of keys. One thing to understand is that a very small percentage of people here have cars. Wages here are lows so in general people will pinch and save for years just to buy the cheapest, used model. This came as a big shock and we did not know what to expect as we walked past several sedans and vans wondering which one would be his. Finally he clicked the button and the tail lights of a large van used for transporting groups of twenty for more people flashed a couple of times. Elder H and I just stared at each other with an expression of amazement. N said that we would be going to his cottage on the edge of the city. I was not sure how good of an idea it was because it was already seven at night, but we decided to see where the evening would take us and climbed in the car.
As we exited the city, N turned right down a dirt road. Many people working out in their fields turned and stared at our car because a giant van rocking hard back and forth along a very uneven path was probably not what they are used to seeing. We then pulled up to his cottage and I was surprised to see a very well taken care of property with a recent fence. He walked us around the yard which had chickens moving around and many rows of different vegetables. N grabbed a large plastic bag and started filling it with beats, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage. Just walking around casually and pulling stuff out of the ground without really thinking about it. The bag quickly became very full at which point he walked inside and back out holding a large bottle of crushed strawberries and handing it to us said, “This is all to you.” I was way excited because it was a lot of food and all very good quality. On the way back we drove past a large field of sunflowers and I saw an opportunity for Elder H and me to take the most typical Kiev Ukraine mission photo. Standing facing a sunflower field while holding a Book of Mormon in the air. N was more than happy to oblige us and pulled over to the side of the road without complaint. It was good timing too because the sun was setting in the background which I have not yet seen in other missionaries variations of this photo.
Sunday came with a great surprise to everyone. Our current branch president announced that he is going to be leaving to study in America. He is quite literally the glue that holds everything together here because his family just understands everything that they need to. In replacement, President Packer called a recent convert who was baptized in March. This was the biggest surprise because he still has a lot of work ahead and there are many people who have a better doctrinal understanding. President Packer wrote about the experience in his weekly letter to us missionaries and I would like to share his words.
President S in Chernigov called me on Thursday to let me know that he had been accepted to a university in Utah and was leaving with his family in two weeks. We made a quick trip up to Chernigov where we interviewed a few of the worthy priesthood holders to see who the Lord would call to replace this young charismatic Branch President. It was interesting to me to see who the Lord would call. He called a man who was baptized in March of this year. As I struggled with the direction, I questioned it by saying to myself, “but he is only a priest, he doesn’t have doctrinal knowledge, he only comes to church every other week…etc. etc.” Then the Lord gave me all the reasons he should be serving. He has an amazing family who will support him and lift him in this calling (his wife and daughter just went through the temple a few weeks ago), he is humble, he is kind, he loves everyone, he knows he can’t do it on his own, and the missionaries are there in the branch to support him. D&C section 4 came to mind about what qualifies us for the work: “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence. Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.” (D&C 4:5-7)
These qualities were in abundance in this man. He was qualified not because of his experience and knowledge but because of who he was and the potential for who he can become. As we presented him before the branch, there was an overwhelming confirmation to all who were there and would “hear”, that he was the one God had chosen for this calling. We sustained him and ordained him to be an Elder and then we set him apart as the Branch President. I know many missionaries have had a hand in this amazing miracle story of finding and baptizing a family with a righteous husband the Lord had prepared to serve as the next Branch President of the Chernigov Branch. These things are not just isolated to one area, but are happening and can happen all over the Kyiv mission.
Moving forward we have a lot of work ahead of us. In a lesson which we held with our new branch president this past week, I was able to see how much help he is going to need. But I am certain that he is the correct person to keep pushing the people here.
As another change in things, my trainer Elder K finished his mission this week and is not in the United States. He is someone with whom I was able to develop a unique friendship and am sad to see him leave. We had many good experiences serving around each other in Odessa and then again in Billa Tserkva. It was a great opportunity to see him one last time as he came up to Chernigov to say good bye to everyone which him he friendshipped while he served here earlier in his mission.
Over half way done.