October 20, 2014
This last week marked the end of my ninth transfer as a missionary and pushed me into the high and holy double digits. Looking forward and looking back really does not seem like there was a beginning, or end to my time here. By this point, cultural norms which shocked me a year ago have become typical of my own practices. The memories of the United States fade more as the days turn into weeks. A new sister who came to Chernigov this last week made a comment that has made me start thinking: “I think there are going to be a lot of things which shock me when I go back.” There are probably many subtle attitudes and habits of Americans which will only become visible after swimming in the current of Eastern Europe. The subtle idiosyncrasies of the culture are understandable, even to the point that they are the correct way to do things in my eyes, as my ability to communicate with them is finally gaining depth. It is disappointing to think that I only have just over nine months left to live among Ukrainians. Time will go much faster than I realize. Overall, I have made a lot of unexpected developments in my character.
Sunday brought an unexpected opportunity to speak during Sacrament Meeting. A couple of weeks ago, the second counselor approached me about speaking in Sacrament on one of the coming Sundays. The following Sunday was to be fast and testimony meeting, and the following Sunday after that was going to be conference, so at some point during this time I forgot that I had received the assignment. On Friday, it dawned on me that it would likely become my turn to speak in front of everyone. As I thought about how to do it, I remembered that three new missionaries arrived here in Chernigov this past week, which meant that they needed to bear their testimonies in Sacrament. I called the second counselor and he said that it would probably be a good substitute instead of me speaking, so I planned on that.
As Sunday came, the three missionaries were in fact given time to bear their testimonies. The only problem was that my name showed up right after theirs on the schedule. During the ten minutes in which they spoke, I tried to get some scriptures together, and somewhat of an idea to say about prophets. The first part of my talk went very well, all of my thoughts were correctly said, and people seemed engaged. Then the small amount of material that I was able to prepare in ten minutes ran out, and I was left speaking in more of a stream of consciousness. At this point, it turned into more of a train wreck, which I tried as best I could to remedy with a testimony at the end, but the damage was done. There was not much continuity to my ideas. Usually, at least someone will come up afterward and mention a comment about your words, but this time no one could find anything useful on which to comment. It was painful.
Later that night, our district met for dinner at the branch president’s house so that all of the new missionaries could become acquainted with the leaders. When we sat down at the table, I realized that every piece of food there was every food which missionaries generally do not enjoy. Including, (sala). It’s common to have at least one of these at the table when eating with members, and the lucky missionaries will get two or three. Never have I seen before all six in one sitting. It was such an unexpected moment that we took a photo together displaying what the roulette wheel of fate had rolled us. They even brought out a giant metal platter of pig fat with which I couldn’t resist but to pose.
Transfers were this last week and my new companion is from some small town around Logan, Utah. His name is Elder B, and is the first person since my trainer who has been older than me in the mission. Things have been good with him so far, and I am excited to see where the next six weeks takes us.