March 30, 2015
Elder W this week had one of his most difficult points of his entire mission. At the end of this month my temple recommend expires. On Tuesday I met up with an elder who had to go to the mission office for an interview with President Packer, so that I could sneak in at the end and receive a new recommend. Upon sitting down in his office, he said to me that he is happy with the work that we have been doing and that I will be leaving Voskresensky on the first of April to serve in a different ward in Kiev, which means that Elder W would be staying.
This is not at all what I had expected. Elder W was already here for four months when I came in, and he is more than happy to be leaving this area after being here for nine months. We had also heard from a reliable source that I would be staying and he leaving. This led him to have cemented in his mind this image of packing his bags and saying goodbye to the area. A part of me knew the truth though, and I was not allowed to say it to anyone, including my companion.
The next couple of days were both entertaining and sad. To every person that Elder W talked to he said that he would be leaving. He talked about how he needed to see certain people before taking off and writing goodbye letters. He talked about how he just felt like his time here feels finished and that that he is ready to go.
I felt like I was watching the poor kid whose father leaves to the store for some groceries but is actually abandoning the family. You stand there knowing the truth and just wish you could say it to him while he sits waiting anxiously for the newly estranged father to return.
It finally came to a point on Thursday morning, when I just sent President Packer a text asking if I could just tell him the truth. He called us immediately and asked to speak with Elder W. The look that came over his face was one I have seen very few people in this world make. The reality of his situation came crashing down, along with every single plan and hope made about moving to a new area. For the next two hours he was in complete depression. Nine months in any place in the mission is a long time, but here in Voskresensky it is particularly difficult because of how plain the area is. The prospect for him of staying for another month and a half almost broke his mind. It ended when President Packer called us back, saying that he had made a mistake and that we are both leaving. We think that he just felt the pain in Elder W’s voice and quickly made a change to get him out.
As bad as it was to see him in such pain, I could not but help to laugh during the whole thing. It was really funny. Also, I am going to be serving in Borshagivsky in Kiev, starting Wednesday with Elder R.
Over the past year and a half the church has made many interesting changes in the way it has approached using media in sharing messages. Many of these are actually of decent quality and have been useful in my work here. One problem, though, is that the audience for which the videos are designed, namely the western world, doesn’t apply as well here in Ukraine. For whatever reason, recent history has brought up a couple examples of this, and I feel like it is interesting to share.
Some time ago we visited a member of the church who works as a surgeon for the Peace Corp. He has traveled to the United States many times for work and speaks English very well. He has been a member of the church for many years and is very strong in his conviction. For the visit we decided to share a video which the church produced about two years ago for the worldwide broadcast, “The Work of Salvation”.
It is short and depicts a family taking part in missionary work through several different means. After watching the video, I turned to the member and asked him what his thoughts were. He said something to the tone of the following: “It is a good video with Americans doing American things. Everyone is wearing a smile as their ideal lives move forward with perceived trials. It is good. But it does not apply well to Ukraine.” He then went into talking about the trials which Ukraine is enduring right now, and we fell flat on our faces in sharing the message.
The other notable example happened this Sunday. There was a combined third hour meeting with the men and women so that the bishopric could teach everyone. The topic of the lesson was the importance of emergency preparedness. They introduced the topic by showing a church produced video about food storage and ideas for where to place it. The woman in the video started off by saying the following: “Many people ask us how we can have a food storage in such a small house. We only live in 1000 square feet…” As soon as that line was said, the entire branch could not stop laughing. A good sized apartment here is around 650 square feet and it is very normal to have six people living in such a space. For the members to hear someone from the U.S. talking about how difficult it is to live with such little room was a complete joke to everyone. The first counselor stood up after the video and took the chance to make another jab at the commentary and then moved on with the lesson.
For the most part, the content that the church is producing is good. Occasionally though, some of it unintentionally has a very focused audience and comes off as somewhat offensive to other cultures. Mostly it is just entertaining to me to see how these kinds of problems come up.
Unfortunately, this week did not have many spiritual things to report on and I was left with these couple of things. I still enjoyed this week though.