April 27, 2015
This week turned out to the one of the densest weeks of contacting of my mission. To make the matter even less entertaining, nothing particularly interesting happened during the course of my time spent walking the streets of Borshogovka and surrounding areas. This will lead into a letter that is rather empty of interesting stories and facts. I apologize beforehand. There were some activities; however they weren’t the most interesting events.
Tuesday started out with Elder R and me waking up at four thirty to get dressed and make our way to the train station for our trip into the city of Cherkassy, which is about three hours outside of Kiev. To get to the train station we have to ride the railway car from the stop that is outside our house. We were fortunate, because at five a.m. it only runs by once every hour, and we arrived just five minutes before it came. Both of us were in shock. Upon arriving at the station, we boarded onto not a train, but a small bus to take us on the journey.
One thing I have been able to develop a lot here is my patience to sit in uncomfortable transport for periods of time with nothing to do. The seats in these trans-city buses are packed closely together to allow the maximum number of passengers, which leaves very little leg room. This, paired with uncomfortable temperatures and old Ukrainian folk music from the driver, has made some of these trips real enduring experiences. In the beginning of my mission, it would be a real gauntlet and I would have to get myself ready for it. I am at a point now where I can just sit down without anything and just stare out of the window for the entire duration, and time flies like none other. I remember that when I was young, a one hour car ride would require constant input from a movie, music or something else. With compliance to the missionary rules, all of these crutches have been taken away and I have developed the mindless patience toward the passage of time that I have now.
Our exchanges in Cherkassy were not all bad. I was able to serve with Elder A, with whom I have not really been able to talk with since serving with him nine months ago in Chernigov. We had one lesson with a really weird individual whose only question was how to escape from fear. I tried to explain to him why we are here and what we teach, but he was quiet most of the time. When I would ask questions, he had this expert way of never giving a concrete answer with general tones of “I don’t know” or “Maybe”. It was a frustrating lesson to say the least, but he did agree to keep meeting. I asked Elder A last night how the second meeting went and he said it was just as strange as the first. After the lesson our day was filled with another five hour section of contacting. It went by quickly by catching up with Elder A about the course of his mission over the past year. It was good to see in what ways both of us have developed.
The following day was opened up again at four thirty after a long night’s sleep on the floor, to catch a bus back to Kiev in order to make it to a two day training conference with eighty-five percent of the mission. Currently, there is a gap of a year between old and young missionaries. There are more called to come in. The challenge though, is that they will not be arriving until all of the old leave. This means that when I go home, the oldest will be only eight months in country and will be responsible to train all of the new. President Packer is nervous about this for so many reasons. He put together this training meeting which focuses on the bare bones of missionary work so that all of the seasoned people can have the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with those who will soon be carrying the torch. As I expected, the actual meeting was boring because all of the material covered were things that I have long since learned on a mission. It did however serve its purpose in training the newer missionaries.
Elder R and I were assigned to teach a ninety minute portion about the importance of helping investigators come to church. Fortunately, we were scheduled to give our portion on the second day of the training, which allowed us to see what others would do, and then make changes accordingly. The morning of ours, we reviewed what we had planned and ended up throwing a lot of things out and replacing them with others. This caused for the actual presentation to go shaky.
Because we had no time to practice it and more than half wasn’t entirely planned, a lot was done in the moment. There were several times where I would go off talking about an idea and then finish what I said, only to look at Elder R with a face saying, “I hope you have an idea because I am dry right now.” He would then take it away and expand on my words while adding his own. Somehow, we were able to fill the entire ninety minutes with content that was understandable, as some people walked up afterward and commented about our portion being enjoyable.
The remainder of Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were each filled with long blocks of contacting, resulting in us neither teaching any lessons, nor meeting with any members. We worked hard this week; it just turned out to not be the most fruitful one. Few people were interested in speaking with us, but it was made better by the fact that I can now wear short sleeves and all of the trees have leaves on them. This week was still filled with its own rewards.