May 3, 2015
Another opportunity showed up this week to travel to Bila Tserkva on exchanges with a missionary around whom I served when I was in Voskresensky, Elder L. The short twenty four hour period was filled with a lot of déjà vu as we walked the streets, and I talked with a young missionary whose situation in her next transfer will be sadly that which I faced over a year ago.
My service in Bila began in December of 2013 with Elder B. I was in my third transfer, placing me at two months in country and Elder B only having been one. To make matters even more interesting, the majority of time of his first transfer was spent sick and indoors, making his accumulated missionary work a total of two weeks. Neither of us were anything to brag about as far as language ability is concerned, and the whole reason leading to us serving together was one of necessity because of the massive numbers of young missionaries at the time. The eight weeks that he and I spent together were of great stress as we became lost in the sea of mixed languages that is Bila Tserkva. By some miracle or another, the two of us were able to make it out and actually found success in our work. Looking back today, I would consider the work we did to be of really low quality, but with what we were capable of doing at the time, it really was not bad.
In the transfers following my leave from Bila, I discovered that Elder B’s and my situation was common throughout the whole mission. There were many other very young companionships who struggled to communicate with people and lead their missionary work through the winter. One thing that all of us looked forward to was that the situation would never have to repeat itself. There were a little over fifty missionaries who entered the mission within a three transfer window, which required such young companionships.
We had assumed up to this point that sometime after each of us would be at our year mark, another flood of missionaries would hit the mission, making us their trainers. Due to the uncertainty of the situation in the East though, the long awaited rush of new missionaries will not be coming until all of us have left. Of those fifty or so missionaries, only five have trained someone new. There are only sisters coming in right now, but they did not start arriving until all of the sisters who came in at my time had left. Likewise, the fourteen elders who are expected to come in September will only make it just as the rest of us leave. Elder L and I talked about this with one another during the exchange. As much as it will be awful, those who are currently and will be coming into the mission are going to end up dealing with the exact same situation which we did.
The fruits of this are already coming forth. Currently, there is a sister missionary in Bila who will be going into her third transfer. President Packer told her a number of weeks ago that she will be training in the next transfer. I talked to her after we held English practice to see how she is feeling about it. She is nervous and rightly so. All I could say to her was simple and maybe a little too straight forward: “Yeah… it’s going to suck, but you’ll live through it.” She did not find much solace in my words. President Packer is going to have his hands full with keeping so many missionaries motivated and trained next fall. I personally do not envy him in this at all.
Another unexpected opportunity showed up as one of the missionaries who serves in my district received permission to travel to Voskresensky for Sunday, as he will be leaving to go home next week, and spent just under a year serving in that ward. He needed someone to go with him, and having also served there and being from a different companionship, the lot fell on me. Honestly, it has only been a month since I left the place so very little has changed.
After attending Sacrament Meeting, we scheduled several visits. The first was to a paralyzed man, G, with whom I met many times during my time there. He overall seems to be doing a little bit better than when I left, which is good and has given me hope. He has been trying for a long time to quit smoking, but after having the habit for forty years and being bedridden all day, the temptation to keep smoking has been a very high hurdle for him. Another challenge is that his roommate, who takes care of his cooking and cleaning, also smokes and has even less motivation to quit than G.
The next visit was to the family from Iran. They were very happy to see Elder S and it was good to chat, but I would not say that it was anything really special. The final visit was really what made the day rewarding. We were able to make the hour and a half long trip to a city north of Kiev where our recent convert G lives with her husband B. Both Elder S and I played a large role in her conversion, which made it even better. B was in shock that we were able to work it out and did not believe that we were coming until he actually saw us walking up to his apartment building. We had a nice visit with them and talked about the past month. A lot of their problems with which they were struggling are still present, but slowly things are getting better. I think the purpose of the whole day was really so that we both could visit G and B, which is something that they really needed.
Other things on which to report for the week are that we were told to be inside on Thursday and Friday nights. They were a holiday which could have stirred up riots throughout the city. Fortunately, nothing bad happened and instead we used it as a much needed chance to get things done around our apartment. Other than that, this week was more or less normal.