March 16, 2015
Once a week each missionary companionship holds a weekly planning session on either Thursday or Friday morning. A week and a half ago, Elder W and I held one such meeting at the church in order to have less distractions. It has become all too easy sitting at home to pull out a book and diverge onto some unimportant track that, at best, tangentially relates to what we should be discussing, so a couple weeks ago we decided to hold them in the church at a time which no one would be there.
The first week was perfect. The whole time was very focused and it was one of the more effective planning sessions of my mission. The following week, which is the one of interest here, happened to fall on a day in which school was canceled due to “Woman’s Day”, March 8th. Two youth found their way into the church and the room in which we were conducting our planning. They were oblivious to any social cues given that they should leave, so after some time we gave up and involved them in it. Deciding to make it somewhat useful, we asked them if they have any friends who we could teach. The boy replied no, but the girl, M, who is also the bishop’s daughter, thought for a second and said yes. I was kind of speechless because I can count the number of times I have received a member referral on my mission on two hands. She said that she would talk to her dad and her friend about holding a family home evening together and inviting us over for Monday night.
The family home evening went by incredibly well. Because we had not met before, and we were sure this girl did not expect us to teach anything church related, we decided to teach the first missionary lesson to the entire family. The tone was harmless so M’s friend listened very carefully. We had everyone take a piece of paper and write down any questions that came to their minds during the lesson. After that, we asked each of them to make finding answers to their questions the emphasis of their studies over the next week, and said to start in the Book of Mormon. This was a real seamless way to offer the girl a Book of Mormon.
She enjoyed everything and afterward we played some Russian party game where you have to guess certain phrases. Elder W and I were paired together and crashed in a ball of fire as our Russian ability allowed for us to only understand a third of the needed content. There were just a lot of big words used. The whole evening was a great surprise. A moment on Friday in which I felt like bashing my head against the wall because of two youth, turned out to be a great opportunity to teach one of their friends. She is still not an investigator, but it was good to do at least something.
Bruce D. Porter, who is the president of the Europe East Area of the church, came to Kiev this week for a mission tour. As such, we held a three hour conference in Kiev on Thursday for all missionaries serving here and in surrounding areas. The topic of his address was about desire. He said that all of us have the ability to change our desires, which starts with action. We need to focus on who we want to become, and then make the necessary changes to become that person. It does not matter that you will make mistakes along the way. If you are patient with something, the eventual change will come.
He explained how we can completely change who we are and what we want by a small and constant push. The topic then switched to how we as missionaries need to put more focus onto finding and contacting people on the streets. Because of his visit, the mission set a new rule that we are supposed to set aside at least two to four hours a day for contacting. Fortunately for Elder W and me, this new rule makes absolutely no change to our schedules. For the past four months we have had usually three hours a day set aside for contacting, so we just high fived each other when this new rule came out. I was able to learn a lot from the conference and the way that President Porter presents himself. It was a really good experience.
Elder W and I also had an odd contacting experience this week which I will struggle to describe, so I am just going to make a transcript from my point of view. He spoke mostly in clean Ukrainian. Also, all portions which I did not understand will be represented and lines of periods.
Me: Hello we are here as missionaries from the Church of Jes…Interrupted
Him: I know who you are and don’t want anything to do with you. You approached me already three times and twice last week.
Me: Honestly, we talk to a lot of people so I don’t remember even talking to you.
Him: ……………… kill. ………….. thousands of years of Christian history……………….. American………. servants of Putin……………… change me………..kill.
Me: I am sorry but I did not really understand what you said. Will you please speak in Russian?
Him: You come here to Ukraine without speaking Ukrainian? …………..servants of Putin……….call the police………..no documents.
Me: We are here legally and church missionaries.
Him: ……….. thousands of years of Christian history…………
Me: I honestly do not understand what you are saying. You will have to speak Russian.
Him: I don’t know Russian. You came to Ukraine and don’t know Ukrainian. ………….kill……….Putin………..
Me: If you don’t know Russian then we cannot talk. We will walk that direction and you can walk that way. (Points hand to the relative directions)
Him: ………. here illegally………….kill…………..Christian history…..change me….. Did you understand?
Me: No I do not understand Ukrainian. We need to get going.
Him: What I said is that if I see you walking around these streets again I will kill you! Did you understand?
Me: We will still be walking around these streets and will more than likely see each other again. So if you’re going to kill us than so be it.
Him: If I ever see you again I am going to kill you. Go back to America. …………….
Me: We will be seeing each other again. We need to leave now. Have a good night.
Him: ……………. kill…………..
We walked away. More than likely we will see him again, because it was on a road which we frequently walk. I would be fine if we see each other, because being shot or stabbed by a man yelling at us in Ukrainian would be a good story for later. Only time will tell how things will play out with him.