February 23, 2015
As the number of missionaries serving in the Kiev Ukraine Mission and others in this country declines, the inevitable task of closing apartments peeks up its head. The hammer fell down on Elder W and me this last week with transfers and news that sister missionaries will no longer be serving in our branch. Thus came forth the task of packing up all of our belongings, both personal and mission property, and moving them to the newly vacated domicile of the sister missionaries. Fortunately, after experiencing this process once already in Chernigov, I was able to anticipate some of the challenges, and the whole task went by without much pain.
Much of Monday was spent packing things into bags. I was surprised by how much stuff accumulates over the course of a year and a half. One of my bags was so full that I had to sit on the top to press everything down while Elder W zipped the sides closed. I was certain that it was going to break and pop open at some point. Fortunately, that has not happened.
We stayed up until midnight on Monday cleaning every corner of the apartment so that our landlord would be satisfied with the state of things after our stay. One problem that came up though was from former missionaries taping conference articles or various pictures to the wall. Very few people in Ukraine use paint to decorate the interior of apartments, rather settling for wallpaper. As such, the wallpaper had a higher affinity to the tape on the wall, making some rather large holes when we pulled it off. We talked and negotiated to pay 2,300 grivnas to fix the damages.
When our registration clerk came to check our apartment, he showed me a list of all the missionaries’ schedules to come in and leave the mission through August 4th. With some easy counting, I found out that through that date, forty five missionaries will be home bound, with only fifteen coming in. Fourteen of those are sisters. By the time my group leaves, President Packer will be having an interesting challenge in keeping at least one companionship of missionaries per branch.
Because of two main factors, Voskresensky is a residential jungle of concrete buildings. Because it is winter, in the course of my three months here, we have only had the opportunity to do service two times. This week, however, spun us the wild card with my third chance of service which I have never done before. There is a member here who fits into the category of a hippy more than any other. Lining the walls of her apartment are pictures of Buddha others showing the way to inner peace nestled among those of Jesus Christ and temples.
Tuesday surprised us with a phone call from her asking that we come over and help translate a video into Russian which she needed to use for her students. Upon arriving at her place, I learned that helping to translate meant sitting down and doing the entire video on my own. I am incredibly grateful for the advent of Google Translate, as this video focused on the destruction of coral reefs around the world and included much scientific jargon. My method of translating was simply to listen and transcribe the script of the video, then run it through Google translate and fix the mistakes from there. Much to my surprise, Google did a pretty good job. There were some things that were butchered, but the overall idea of each part was well maintained.
Elder W sat and learned the path to enlightenment by lining up one’s own chakras through meditation as he sat and talked with the member behind me. The whole thing took an hour and a half, but in the end, it worked out pretty well. The member was very grateful for the help and gave us each two apples as we left.
Concerned about the progress of our investigator who moved outside of Kiev, we called President Packer and received permission to travel with the Elders in that area to conduct a lesson. Leading up I had a lot of doubts as to how it was going to go. Does she still want to be baptized? Will they be able to build a relationship with the new missionaries? Do they live too far away? These questions have been running through my mind a lot lately.
When we arrived in the city though, and I saw G walking toward us, all of those doubts went away. She directed us to their apartment which turned out to be much nicer and cheaper than that in which they were living in Kiev. The building was built only two years later so everything inside is in good condition. B, the husband and member, told us how everything came together in the very last minute. It came time to vacate their other living quarters and nothing still had come up. But G saw the ad in a paper, and when she called, the landlord answered the phone with a cheery voice. They saw the place and decided immediately it was for them. This honestly brought me the most comfort as their old place was small and just would not have worked for them. The new one is larger and feels much more peaceful.
When we started talking, we went straight to the question of how she still feels about joining the church to which she replied very sincerely, “I still want to.” The question became a matter of “when”, and collectively we agreed on March 7th. The lesson we conducted went very well and she agreed without any complaints to live by the laws of tithing and fast offerings. She has no problems with the idea of a living prophet today and believes that Thomas S. Monson is the only one. They clicked well with the new elders who will be teaching them the rest of the way, except for one lesson in which we will be joining them. Overall, this was one of the most rewarding visits of my mission to date and has given me a lot of hope toward the future.
I am going to include part of my companion’s email to illustrate the events of Friday.
“We also spent the ENTIRE DAY on Friday jumping from hospital to hospital translating for a member who doesn’t speak Russian or Ukrainian. Thursday night, he got hit in the head by a drunk man, because he doesn’t speak Russian. (A lesson to you all. If you’re going to live in a country, at least learn the dominant language so you can outwit the drunk people. It’s not hard (to outwit drunk people, that is).)
Anyway, we went to one hospital, and they said he had to go to another (and didn’t give him any pain medication), and at the other hospital, they took two x-rays, told us his jaw wasn’t broken, and told us to go see a doctor for his ear. The doctor for his ear said to go get another x-ray. We went to go get it, and the people in the x-ray department said that they didn’t have the equipment, and we’d have to go to ANOTHER hospital to get that one, and come back. Well, it was already 7:30 by this point, and we were all tired, so we decided to do it the next day. The next day, we found out that that hospital is a private one, and therefore super expensive (Ukraine has socialized health care, we paid less for those x-rays than we did to travel to and from the hospital), so we passed the whole matter on to the bishop.”
I also want to make a comment about how the hospital billing works here. Because it is socialized medicine, all of the labor and machine operating is already covered through taxes. What isn’t covered is the materials used, which made for an odd way of acquiring medical care. For the x-rays, we walked into the center where the machine is located and took them like normal. The woman than gave me a piece of paper with something written on it and said to take it to the pharmacy to buy slides to replace those used by us. When we come back with new slides, she would give us the x-ray to take to the doctor. Likewise, we had to buy from the pharmacy gloves and little booties to place over our shoes. The whole thing only cost three dollars, but dealing with the small details became a huge pain.
This was an incredibly busy week with many different activities.