November 17, 2014
A growing problem in the Kiev Ukraine Mission is how few people are being called to serve here. Currently, the majority of missionaries are over a year serving in country, and considering half of those are sisters, there are only a few more months until our numbers decrease drastically. For the past eleven months, our mission has not received a single new missionary from the United States. In total, there are five new missionaries called from other Ukraine missions which arrived here in the past three or four months, but that does not come close to offsetting how many we are losing. The number of missionaries over the last half of a year is as follows:
May: 220 (The Doneskt Mission was evacuated to ours)
June: 105 (Doneskt missionaries reassigned to the U.S. and any missionaries with three months on their mission sent home)
February 2015: 70 (In this month a large group of elders are going to be going home, along with the rest of the sisters from America)
At this point, there are two missionaries with mission calls from the United States who are due to arrive here in March. As it stands, there is a yearlong gap between old and young missionaries. When my group goes home, there will be maybe thirty missionaries, most of which are natives, unless we start receiving many new ones from the United States.
As a result, with the growing deficiency of numbers among missionaries, several apartments from around the mission are closing down in the next couple of weeks. With Elder Y’s unexpected departure, we received a phone call on Monday saying that my apartment had been selected as one of the unlucky dammed. Both Tuesday and Wednesday were spent moving between planned appointments and our apartment to clean and pack up everything from past missionaries. It was amazing how much stuff we had to throw away, as years of occupants had left old garments, coats, and letters. There was a debate as to whether or not we should throw away Mormon Tabernacle CDs, which quickly became resolved with the realization that just about every missionary has their own MP3 player and will probably never touch them. These are the days were the compact disc has reached the useless status of the old 8-track cassettes. We deep cleaned the apartment so well that our landlords were in shock when they came. It was a little tough to say bye to them, because they were very easy people with whom to work.
Fortunately, with having lost two days to housekeeping items, we were still able to get something done with regard to actual missionary work. A man named A, who has been coming to our English practices, agreed to meet for a lesson scheduled for Thursday. We talked about the Restoration, and for whatever reason, it was very difficult for him to understand the concept of priesthood. He understood it more as an organization and life choice similar to monks.
Finally, I gave him a very crude explanation, comparing it to wizards and magic. Much to my surprise, this one seemed to work, although it has an unintended effect of giving the impression that we could do anything with it. It did not take to much more talking to fix that misunderstanding. It was appropriate timing because on Monday I had an interview with President Packer, in which he told me the relationship between missionaries, the investigator, and Preach My Gospel. He talked a lot about the importance of using Preach My Gospel as an outline, but to never be afraid to deviate from the written material. Preach My Gospel was written to fit the needs of the broadest audience, and to never forget that we are teaching people.
English brought us another surprise that might be a first among the missionaries in our mission. There is one person who works at a local television station which broadcasts a weekly talk show. They decided to do a short segment about the world wide condition of “gingers”, or red headedness. He asked that one of my companions, Elder A, who himself is red haired and freckled, come on the show to talk about what gingers are. We agreed, and met with this person on Thursday outside McDonalds from which point he directed us to his studio.
Their production is a government sponsored program, which means that their budget is naturally low, especially in these times with the financial burden of a war looming over people’s heads. Much to my surprise, they had a complete studio, albeit small.
Elder A was able to do a very good job on camera and answered their questions well. In the beginning of the interview, the young female host asked him whether or not his is married and seemed overly interested in him during the segment. They did not tell him what the questions would be beforehand, so there was some degree of uncertainty among us as to whether or not they would agree with his vocabulary.
Fortunately, there were only a few odd words and phrases which took him by surprise and the people hosting the show were very impressed with him. In the end, the host who inquired about marriage asked to do a camera selfie with us and rather shamelessly pushed herself up into the chest of Elder A. It was a very funny moment.
This morning marked a fun event in which the members of our district woke up at three in the morning to go have an early camp fire in the forest. Last night it seemed like a great idea, but upon waking up, all of the benefits washed away. We forced ourselves out of bed though and just went with it anyway. It was good because it turned out to be a really fun morning. Even one of the members of the church was able to join us, though she immediately fell asleep as soon as we arrived at the camp space at four thirty. A fire was built with some difficulty and we took turns sharing different stories. It was also very cold.
This week and transfer has gone by extremely fast. A lot has happened including but not limited to… Going to Latvia. Elder Y leaving with little notice. Closing down an apartment. And serving in a tri-companionship with two pretty cool elders. It is going to over way too fast.
P.S. It just so happens that our next transfers fall on Thanksgiving Day, so the mission president’s wife worked painstakingly to convince President Packer to have a Mission Conference/Thanksgiving celebration. If not for that, it would be a normal day and maybe we would do some kind of a dinner.