This last Sunday a member walked up to me and asked that Elder H and I give a neighbor of hers a blessing. We agreed to meet the next day, and met outside of her apartment building and walked over together. The two people with whom we met are R and T. R had gone many months without shaving or a haircut and looked like many hard days had taken their toll on him. A year ago he was involved in an accident and both of his shins were broken. They showed us the x-rays from the accident and it showed a bone that was cleanly broken with the two ends pushed back each other somewhat. They needed seven hundred dollars to have the surgery, but because their wages were so low in the first place, they could not afford to do anything. The result is that R has been lying on a bed for the past year, except for the moments when his wife helps him up to use the bathroom.
Our visit was nice and our conversation mostly focused around getting to know one another. T asked several questions about our opinions of Ukraine and why we would ever leave America to come here when there are so many big events occurring. Toward the end, one of us talked about the process of giving priesthood blessings for the healing of the sick and offered to give them one. They agreed, and Elder H did as such. We ended with a prayer and said that we would like to come back some other time. They both showed their interest in talking some more and we agreed for later in the week.
That Friday, Elder H and I returned and brought a Ukrainian form of an apple pie for them. Walking into the room, we were greeted by R who was sitting upright, clean shaven, and a good haircut. He shook my hand with a small shake and invited us to sit. He then went on to say that the day before, for the first time in a year, he stood up on his own and walked into the kitchen. T shared the same excitement and thanked us for coming over. R said that the blessing which we had given him helped greatly, and that the previous several days had been very enjoyable.
We talked some more and learned about how the two of them had met. Apparently, each loved dancing and as such met in a discotheque in the younger parts of their lives. At the end, T asked that we return and tell explain about our church and why only we could give the blessing. It was a very unexpected and pleasant event for both Elder H and me, which are bringing some great developments in our work here.
At one point, Elder H was asked to give a blessing to one of the sister’s investigators, and I will be pulling a piece from his email to describe it.
“First off, my testimony of the priesthood and the power of priesthood blessings was strengthened this week. After English on Tuesday, one of our sisters, with her investigator, came up to me and the investigator asked for a blessing. She is such a cool person. She wants so badly to get baptized, but she wants to get baptized with her husband, who lives in Canada right now, and VISA stuff is complicated and she has had to wait a long time. Truly, as someone holding the priesthood gives a blessing, they speak the words that our Heavenly Father wants us to hear. As this young woman got her first blessing ever, I had the opportunity to hear the potential that she has, and to hear how proud God is of her. After the blessing, as I was sitting and pondering, I came to glimpse the divine truth about how much God loves us. It blows me away how in almost every blessing I have given, and revelations that are recorded in the Doctrine in Covenants, that God tells us that He loves us, and that we are forgiven of our sins. Those are the two truths that we may not understand so fully, that is, to what extent God loves us and wants us to know. He really wants us to know that He loves us, and that He is so ready and willing to forgive us if we will just turn to Him. What great truths that are worth knowing!”
Unfortunately, this week did not pass by with only pleasant experiences. On Tuesday after lunch, I told Elder H that I was not feeling very well. It was nothing big, so we went about our day as normal. English practice and our other plans came and went and before I knew it, the time to return home for the evening had arrived. The feeling from earlier had left and come back and it was to the point that I told myself that I would likely throw up at some point. We boarded a small and crowded bus with the sisters in our district and started our way home.
Ukraine is not known for investing money into maintenance of their road system and as such has many potholes. There were no seats to be had, which left me standing sandwiched between two people. This atmosphere made my upset stomach worsen at a very fast rate. At the second to last stop I knew that I was going to hurl very soon, but thought that I could make it just one more minute to the final stop.
As we left, the driver hit one rather large pot hole that shook my stomach for the worse. It became apparent that waiting was not an option. I walked through the mass of people and told the driver to pull over and that I was sick. He said to wait because we were fifteen seconds away, but fortune did not prove to be on mine or the bus driver’s side this evening. I turned to the door just in time to feel the jolt from deep within my gut as the tacos we had eaten earlier jetted themselves through my esophagus painting all over the door. My reaction was to hold my hand over my mouth in hopes that not much would come out, but this proved to be the wrong strategy. The small gaps between my fingers acted at spray nozzles showering my face, shirt and a woman next to me in the mess.
The driver slammed on the breaks and stopped in sight of the last stop. The door opened and I jumped out, as it was not over. Three more heaves cleaned out my stomach onto the sidewalk. The bus completely cleared out except for four people, two of them being our companionship of sisters. In the moment, I really did not feel embarrassed, rather relieved that I at least made it somewhat out of the bus. The night passed by at a snail’s pace as my body tried to cast out whatever had found its way in. There was much time sitting on the toilet in desperation. The Russian translation for throwing up literally translates as ripping oneself apart, and it is a very appropriate description of what my body was doing. Morning came not a moment too soon, and the next day was spent in recovery.
To give a second view of the events, here are Elder H’s words.
“My companion got epically sick. We were coming home after giving that blessing at English and my companion was by the front of the marshutka (amazing bus thing that America should get. It’s a miracle of public transportation) and I was in the back, and this marty (short English slang form of Marshutka) was the most packed I have ever seen in Chernigov. We were almost to my stop and one of the Sister Missionaries told me “your companion is getting off now”. I assumed we were getting off at this stop halfway to our actual stop in order to swing by the store real quick. I was wrong. As I turned to look towards my companion I heard and then saw that the whole front door of the marty was covered in vomit. It was glorious. He gets points for spray factor and for glory. So yeah, we assume that he ate some bad fish because he threw up 6 more times that night but then felt fine the next morning.”
The other day, Elder H and I were eating dinner at one of the greater contributions to Eastern Europe from the United States, McDonald’s. Locations here do not run off of the franchise business model used in the U.S. so there is a lot more capital invested in making the interior of these locations very nice. Each restaurant has a unique design, as though someone specific was hired to think about the surrounding area and develop an atmosphere which fits in well with the culture. There is one common theme that is present in every location, and even found in other foreign business, a couple of high quality televisions that usually play extreme sports clips from Go Pros or the fashion channel. Occasionally, these will have an advertisement or something else issued from the government.
As I was eating my chicken sandwich, a new clip started playing that caught my attention. It was a cartoon of two kids who find a bomb located near a park and then do not know what to do with it. It then played a few different scenarios of them touching it and then exploding, playing with it, and inviting their friends to come and see. Each time would end with a large warning sign indicating that it was the improper procedure. The last was with the two children finding a police officer and ended with picture of them safely taking away the explosive in a truck. The whole time I was asking myself for what it could possibly be. My first thought is that it was a public service announcement (PSA) for what to do if a child finds an unexploded bomb from the conflict in the East. I thought there was no possible way that could be the case and tried to reason other ideas. To my great surprise, it ended with military and government logos and was in fact made so that children would know what to do in case they stumbled across one.
As the truth of the situation dawned on me, I busted up laughing and my companion followed suit when it dawned on him. In the U.S. they might show a PSA about strangers, fires, or drugs, but the current situation here warrants producing and distributing a video about proper reactions to unexploded warheads. I still cannot get over it.