January 26, 2015
Two weeks from Wednesday marks the point one year ago when I started serving with Elder D in Billa Tserkva. Since leaving last March, I had only been able to see him occasionally at meetings, transfers or the odd chance of us being at the mission office at the same time. This week brought the opportunity for us to serve together on exchanges after not having any real time to talk for almost nine months.
It was interesting to see in what ways he has changed as a missionary and in what other ways he is more the same than ever. He is still very focused and diligent in moving forward and being honest with himself, but his expectations of the results from missionary work have become a lot more manageable.
We talked about how there really seems to be no understandable formula for missionary work. During the time in the MTC and throughout the mission field we are told constantly that exact obedience to rules will bring the most success. In practice though, it seems to be different. Some missionaries who struggle the most with obedience have seen the most number of recent converts, and frequently the most obedient missionaries do not see much themselves. There are some obedient missionaries who have had notable successes, but the overall look of the mission demographics does not fit this idea at all. We talked about how the importance of obedience is not found in the direct results of your labors, but rather the person whom you become in result of your efforts. In this is found the real fruits. I personally was relieved to find that Elder D has developed the same ideas which I have.
Overall, the twenty-four hours together were full of a lot of contacting around the center of Kiev, and we approached just about every single person by whom we passed. By the end of the day, we were able to give out six copies of the Book of Mormon to people and have some interesting stories.
One person was an Orthodox priest who found interest in the fact that we are Americans. When we told him that we are Mormons he said that he has does much reading about the Mormon Church, and in the course of studies was not able to find a single thing Christlike about the entire system. At first I did not think that I understood what he said, but when he repeated himself it turned out that I heard it as it was. I then asked him if he ever read the Book of Mormon, considering that just every single page mentions Christ’s name in one form or another. He replied no.
I boldly then said that you have not learned It made no effect on him and he then went on to preach to us his own religion. I personally was frustrated by it and was determined that he was going to walk away with our book. My response was simple. I placed a business card in 2 Nephi 31 and stopped him as he was walking away, saying very firmly that he is going to not only take the book but that he is also going to read the chapter that I marked. Much to my surprise he agreed, grabbed what I handed to him and walked away. During the course of my mission, on several occasion I have found myself in conversations with Orthodox priests and never before has one even entertained the idea of taking even a business card. By some miracle though, this man took the most important piece of literature that we as missionaries hand out. Both Elder D and I were in shock after the matter.
The beginning of the week brought forth another unexpected push forward in our work. At the beginning of the transfer, our district set a goal to have a combined number of 10 baptismal dates, reactivated less active members, and baptisms by the end of the six weeks. One inactive member who has not been at church for a number of years finally answered his phone when we called him last Sunday, and invited us over for Wednesday. When we came into his apartment, he met us with a smile and invited us to sit down. He is an older man with a lot of energy left in him so it turned out that he did about ninety percent of all of the talking for the hour and we just listened. He explained to us all of the doctrine of the church, pulling many stories from the Book of Mormon from memory, the whole time explaining to us how true he considers it all to be. Apparently, this man still has a great understanding of everything which the church teaches and just has been not going to church for health reasons. We agreed to come back on Sunday and give him the Sacrament. It is about as much of a freebie as I can imagine, but none the less counts towards our goal. I am done now complaining about it and just taking it for what it is.
I have come to a point that serving in Voskresensky will bring with it very few adventures, as there really is just nothing to do here except for contacting. There are no cool opportunities to go into the countryside for service, the ward here functions so well that they do not need missionaries to keep things moving, and the city itself is all residential, so there are relatively few people regularly walking the streets.
All of this makes writing emails on Monday kind of difficult because for the most part, there are very few new things about which to talk. By some miracle though, I have been able to come up with something each time. My hopes are that the following week will bring forth some more interesting events.