June 8, 2015
My exchanges this week brought me to the city of Vinnitsya. Honestly, it is probably my favorite city that I have seen in Ukraine up to this date. The reason is the following: it is the happy medium between a large, fancy city and a small quiet one. It is big enough to have two McDonalds locations, but not too big that getting to any location in the city becomes a real pain to arrive at. For example, a distance that should take forty-five minutes to travel takes at least an hour and a half, due to switching transports. The president of Ukraine is also originally from Vinnitsya, and has used much of the profits from his domination over the candy empire to develop many parts of the city. One of these is some fountains which are supposedly bigger and more expensive than those outside of the Bellagio Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. Also, because of the age of the city, many of the buildings in the center have an old European style and have actually been taken care of very well.
Our exchange breaks up into two days. For the first day I was with Elder H from Utah and we spent the majority of our time contacting. The second day was spent laboring out in the hot sun as we worked to put up the framework for a green house.
Our contacting went pretty well. We rode a train leaving from Kiev at 7:00 A.M., which took about two and a half hours. We made our way from the station to the elders’ apartment, at which point Elder H and I left to contact for an hour and a half until district meeting was to start at the home of the senior couple. This was one of the more successful hours of contacting that I have had on my mission. We were able to get four numbers from people and give out two copies of the Book of Mormon. One of the numbers turned into a lesson for the next day, although the guy was crazy and the lesson more or less a disaster. Our efforts were rewarded by a delicious lunch of Mexican food made by the senior couple from America. This is one of the small handful of opportunities for tasty Mexican food that I have enjoyed on my mission, so it was a tender moment.
Day two brought forth what may have been the most unique service project in which I have participated. Around five years ago, the church started projects around the Europe East Area to build small communal farms to make groups of members more self-sustainable. One of these projects was started for the branch in Vinnitsya, and land was purchased along with all of the materials for a green house. One family who lives at the edge of a village thirty minutes outside of the city was chosen to have the farm located on and around their property. Some men came in and turned the raw steel into the framework needed for the green house, including a boiler, but the project never went much further than that. For the last four years all of the parts have been sitting in a yard and growing rusty until President Packer became aware of it and made it part of the senior couple’s responsibility to complete the unfinished farm. It just so happened that the day on which they had planned to travel out there coincided perfectly with our exchange and we were able to help out.
Building the green house was an interesting process. It consisted of several pre-constructed arcs, which were welded together, that we would one by one cut apart and weld to anchors concreted six feet into the ground. The process was to first put up the two end pieces and then run a string from the highest points of each one. The next pieces were put in place one after the other. We would anchor in one side of the arc and then raise and lower the other side so that it was in line with the string hanging above. The process was very similar to the fence that I built while serving in Chernigov. I was impressed overall at how simple it all was, and that in the end the two sides matched up without there being a whole lot of deviation in the different parts. Attached are some photos of the whole process. I am not included in the final group photo because I was the one taking the picture.
On Monday we held a lesson with the kid whom we taught last week. It turned out to be one of the most awkward times of my mission. This boy is dating the bishop’s daughter and we had originally planned to meet at our church building. About a half an hour before our meeting, our bishop called us and asked if we could meet at their house instead. Immediately an alarm went off in my head, but we decided to go for it anyway. Upon arriving at their home, I quickly came to understand why it would have been better at the church. The first time the bishop had met the kid dating his daughter was only a couple hours earlier. The amount of tension in the air was so high I could have died. The lesson turned out being more of an interrogation of the poor kid than teaching the doctrines of the church. We would get the attention but it would not be long before the bishop would take it back and go into some over detailed explanation of the topic along with prying questions. Elder J, toward the end, just decided to testify about what we were talking about, which did leave it on a good note. Other than that, it was a painful hour for the kid.
After the lesson we had an experience, which for me at least gave some light as to why it was better to have it at the bishop’s house. Walking down into the Metro we noticed a girl who was probably fourteen years old and just smiling. It was not an overly anxious smile, but a quiet and humble one that caught the attention of my companion and me. I mentioned to Elder J that we should talk to her, but neither of us knew how. It generally is not good to talk to minors about the church, and those of the opposite sex no less.
Elder J was able bite the bullet though, and asked her if she knows English. She said no and they carried a short conversation that ended with Elder J giving her a Book of Mormon. No sooner had we walked away than a crazy old man came up to her and started going on about how we worship Satan. He followed her into the train car next to ours and we watched through the window for five minutes as this guy tried to convince her to throw away the book, even trying to take it out of her hands in the process. I don’t know what will happen with the book or her but I do think that we were directed to talk to her.
Another note from the week was that we had a zone conference that was actually conducted by President Packer, which was probably one of my favorites from my mission.
That is more or less everything note worthy.