February 16, 2015
Monday evening started off with Elder W and me traveling to a city twenty minutes North of Kiev called Brovary. The assignment came to travel to the city so that I could conduct a baptismal interview with the investigators of the Elders serving in that area. The person to be baptized is named S and has been meeting with missionaries since last summer, and only just a week and a half ago told the elders that he wants to be baptized.
During the interview I asked him why he suddenly changed his mind. Only two weeks earlier I was on exchanges with Elder L and taught S a lesson in which he said that he was just not ready to be baptized. He explained to me that the missionaries who originally worked with him talked a lot about receiving baptism to become a member of the church. The feeling that came to him during the process was one of more like pulling rather than inviting. He was never offended, but knew that if he had agreed, it would have been for the wrong reasons, and as such turned down every offer.
He explained to me that the difference came in that during the course of the past weeks, he began to wonder to what goal he was meeting with the missionaries. After eight months, why was he still doing it? He thought about all of the changes that he made as a result of attending church. He stopped drinking, felt a more constant desire to be kind to other people, and noticed how he always just seemed to be a little bit happier than usual. These thoughts, combined with frequent prayer, led him to saying during a lesson with Elders L and K that he is ready. On Monday I felt that he was ready as well, and approved him to continue forward. He was then baptized that following Saturday, and my companion and I had the opportunity to be there for it.
Thinking about S and his progression has brought comfort to my mind about another situation that came up this week. When I came into Voskresensky three months ago, we started teaching an inactive member’s wife the lessons. The names of these two people are B and G. When beginning to get to know them, I noticed that something sounded familiar about their story. It was shortly after the first lesson that I made the connection.
Over a year ago while serving in Billa Tserkva, I came to Kiev on business and saw my MTC companion Elder Y there. He was serving in a different ward than Voskresensky and said that they had found a new investigator who had really great potential to be baptized. It was a man who wanted to come out of inactivity and started by getting in contact with the missionaries. His wife was not a member and the missionaries began to teach her. That was as much as I had heard at the time and just assumed that it had worked out for them. What ended up happening was that this man suddenly had to move into a different area, and contact with the church was lost. Later, the companion with whom Elder Y was serving, Elder S, was transferred into Voskresensky, and by some miracle found this man’s information and again made contact.
Elder S was able to teach them a lesson before I came into the area. By many miracles, they have been able to make big steps toward her becoming a member of the church. Their financial situation is very difficult and money for wedding rings was just was not there. But money did come and they were able to have enough for the rings and all of the needed paper work.
Our baptismal date was set for the 28th of this month and everything seemed like it was going to work out. A year of two people falling off the radar of missionaries and then back on, to us teaching them, and all of the small problems seeming to be fixed, was coming to a climax. Fate, though, sent them a different direction this last week as they again had to move apartments. They had to find the least expensive place possible, and settled in a suburb ten minutes outside of the edge of Kiev.
The closest church to them is over an hour and it will be difficult to travel and maintain contact with the church with their eighteen month old child. In the eleventh hour they again fell from the path and it is not at all clear when we will be able to get them back on. At first I was very upset about the situation. Why with only a week and a half left would this happen? After so many things fell into place. To what goal? Thinking about Sergei taught me though, that everyone has their own progression in life. I don’t have any say where they go or what they should do. I now do not worry excessively about the situation. If it means that they wait another year, then so be it. I know that at some point they will find their way back.
Also in this week, I had the unexpected chance to take part in a funeral. A member of the church in this ward passed away and we received a call that the procession would be held on Thursday. As such, my companion and I were asked to help out with carrying the coffin.
Ukrainian funerals are conducted the following way: A room is reserved for a service, in which several talks are given and songs are sung. At the front, just before the podium, sits the open casket, which is available for people to bring flowers and lay them on the body of the deceased while saying their goodbyes.
The conductor stands up and then says that it will be time to close the casket. I thought that I was asked to take part in this two man job, but much to my embarrassment, was not, and did realize it until after I had walked to the front of the room, noticing that two other people had already grabbed it. I just put my hands behind my back and acted as though I was there as some kind of support, but everyone seemed to know that I screwed up. It was awkward.
The service finished by us moving the body to a bus located outside. Everyone together traveled to the cemetery and there the casket is opened one more time to say goodbyes again and remove the flowers to put on top of the grave. It is then placed in the ground and everyone takes turns walking up and throwing three handfuls of dirt on top of it. I have no idea why three.
The people did a very fast job of throwing the dirt back in with shovels, which was followed with the bishop dedicating the site. Everyone from that point traveled to a restaurant with a long table at the head of which sat a photo of the deceased, a glass of water capped off by a piece of bread, and a burning candle. Again, I do not know that the significance of the bread and water are. During the dinner, people are invited to stand and give talks, and everything is finished when the last course is served. It overall was very similar to the United States from my memory, and had a nice tone to everything.
Though a trying week, this brought forth some interesting thoughts and experiences. Attached is a photo from my window at 6:30 A.M.