April 20, 2015
This week brought forth both unexpected and expected events.
Elder R and I traveled to the north of Kiev to an area called Obolon for exchanges. For twenty-four hours I served with Elder F, who is a farm boy from Utah. As best as I can say it, Elder F is a simple man with simple desires. He understands a lot of the things where he struggles, and wants to fix them. Maybe he isn’t the best at being able to do this, but he is still gradually making progress. He wants to repent and likewise acts in this manner. There are a lot of areas in which he still needs to improve, which is a result of him spending the majority of his mission in a non-proselyting area where he just did farm work day in and out for about fourteen months.
For the majority of the exchange we walked around and talked about farm work. I learned a lot of the ins and outs of bee keeping and how to kill pigs by dipping them in boiling water. It was an interesting time, which I enjoyed quite well. Toward the end of the night while walking home, we saw a hedgehog running across the sidewalk and decided to chase it down.
One Thursday after our meeting with our ward mission leader, the sisters asked us to help an elderly woman who traveled here from Belarus. We were told that she needed move her bags to the rail car stop, which is about a ten minute walk from the temple. Upon getting her there, we understood that she had expected us to accompany her all the way to the train station and then onto the train. The kicker was that the time was already 8:20 when we made it to the railway.
By the time we arrived at the train station it was already nine o’clock. What was really funny about the whole thing was that this woman asked that we stay because she did not understand Ukrainian at all. I just dropped my head in amazement when she said that. She is a native Russian speaker and actually expected us to be able to understand Ukrainian better than she did. The different between the two languages is similar to the difference between Spanish and Portuguese. What shocked me even more was when I realized that we actually did. In a token of her gratitude to us, she walked over without us asking, and bought ice cream. After walking up and down stairs in search for her platform we found it and made our way through the very relaxed security. We hopped into a taxi for what was one of the most nerve wracking drives I have had and made it home very speedily, arriving at 10:30.
The big surprise of the week came about in multiple steps. It started with a phone call from President Packer in which he said that two elders needed to be emergency transferred, and that the companions of one of them would be staying with us for Saturday night into Sunday. It just so happens that the area in which this elder is currently serving is Bila Tserkva. The very place where I served just over a year ago. Even better is that Elder R started serving in Bila the transfer that I left. And even better is that the elder’s next companion would be traveling to Kiev with President Packer, and the city through which they had to travel is none other than, Bila Tserkva. To top off the cake, our ward was scheduled to watch general conference this weekend so we did not have church services.
All of these small little factors led to us making the ever so brilliant decision that we should leave Kiev early Sunday morning, show up to sacrament in Bila unannounced, and spend the day working in the area there until evening, at which point we would catch a ride back to the city with President Packer. Much to our satisfaction too, President Packer agreed and before I knew it I was headed back into the second area of my mission, after having not visited it for almost a year.
I was absolutely shocked about how much that branch has grown in twelve months. They have moved from the old children’s hospital to a renovated office just down the road from where they were. Apparently, the church has planned to demolish the old building and start work on a brand new meeting house which should be finished in about three years. More than that though, is how many new and returning members I saw there. There were so many unfamiliar faces of people, and one of the members told me that yesterday had notably less people than usual. I was not able to see my recent convert from my time there, who has become much less active, but it was still good everyone else.
One thing that I am completely amazed about is how bad the language ability of the people there really is. While serving in Bila, I knew that people frequently spoke a mix of Russian and Ukrainian, I just did not know how badly. One member with whom I talked a lot walked up to me and said some sentences of the dirtiest language hybrid I have ever heard. A year ago I thought he spoke clean Russian, and that the reason it was so hard to understand was because of my only ability in the language. How wrong I was, though. I asked some other missionaries if that member ever speaks clean Ukrainian or Russian and they said never. Even walking around the streets and contacting people amazed me. How I was able to do any missionary work a year ago with a companion who was only in country for a month is a complete mystery to me.
The day went by very fast and we were back in Kiev before I knew it.