September 1, 2014
This week I had the opportunity to serve on exchanges with a native missionary from Russia. Elder Y is twenty-six years old and is probably one of the most effective working missionaries from our whole mission. He is very good at understanding people and his maturity grants him much respect among the members. I have been able to learn a lot serving around him and we were able to share one experience this week that was quite interesting.
While finishing exchanges, we waited at the church for the other companionship of Elders to finish up a lesson. It was almost nine o’clock so we were a little anxious to get going. We decided to walk outside while we waited and talked with a young woman who was passing by. She obliged us and seemed interested in what we were doing. Shortly into our conversation she asked a question that shocked me a bit, “What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about committing suicide?” It became clear how important our conversation was and we sat on a nearby bench and talked for the next hour. She agreed to meet with us again and we were very late getting home, but it was needed in that moment.
At the beginning of this last transfer, I had a meeting with our old branch president before he was released, to get an idea of what he wants us to work on. He gave the missionaries an assignment to hold some kind of party once a week to which we can invite investigators. He gave us a budget of ten dollars a week which is very easy to use even in Ukraine, and said go for it. Our first week together we planned eight activities to keep us focused for the next while. One of these activities was a fiesta, which I found out needs a lot more work and money to be fully realized.
In our last district meeting, we spent some time at the end to talk about what things still needed to be completed before Friday. Through the course of our discussion it became apparent that the final price tag associated with this activity would be well above the ten dollars allotted to us by the branch, and the amount of preparation time involved would be much more than I had wanted to give. At this point though, we had committed ourselves as the invitations have been sent and many had expressed interest in coming. I made a phone call to our office senior couple who agreed to help us financially, which took off a large weight from our shoulders. It then became a challenge of preparing all of the food and decorations in a couple of days. Usually we like to assign work to the members so we as missionaries are able to focus on other matters, but very few people in Ukraine understand how to make Mexican food, with none of our members being one of these.
The next several days were spent making sure everything would be ready for the party. Elder H himself made one hundred and thirty tortillas, while I worked on sixteen pounds of chicken breast and salsa. We made a background for a photo booth and printed out a large picture of a donkey for the common game in which a person tries to complete the donkey’s existence by adding a tail. Overall, we spent way too much time on this, and I felt like a really useless missionary by the time everything was finished.
The party turned out to be a great success. Over half of the people which came were non-members and good times were had by all. It started out with all of the food being laid out on tables for everyone to pick at, like a buffet. We had enchiladas, taquitos, burritos, horchata, and all sorts of Mexican goodness. I had to sacrifice seven packets of taco seasoning to satisfy the demands of the chicken, which might as well be spilling one’s own blood, as taco seasoning is very difficult to find here in Ukraine.
Toward the end of everyone eating, we invited one of the youth from the branch to speak in front of everyone about her thoughts about the church. It was brief but seemed to touch the people, to which it needed. Then we moved the tables and played a large game of Limbo with everyone who came. I was shocked at how low some of the people were able to go. During one of my attempts, I pulled back too far and ended up hurting my lower back pretty hard. The next three days were full of subsiding pain from the accident.
This party resulted in us being able to meet a lot of new people, and the branch members involved really enjoyed themselves. It was a large pain for which to prepare, but came out with some great steps forward in the areas of each of the missionaries.
Overall, this week has been interesting and I am curious to see what will come of our efforts.
Best, Elder Hancock