Short and Sweet

June 1, 2015

This Monday we were surprised to see what is probably my fourth or fifth successful member referral turn into an investigator. While visiting with our bishop last week his daughter mentioned to us that she has in recent history began dating a young man by the name of D. More importantly, she asked that we start meeting with him and set up for Monday evening this last week.

Upon walking out of the metro and seeing who this person was, my hopes of anything good coming out of the following hour quickly dropped. He is nineteen years old and looked like a complete hoodlum. The guitar wrapped around his back, paired with the arrogant step in his walk, dropped my opinion of him on par with my thoughts of Drake Bell in his younger years. This was even more intensified as he began to open his mouth, because the emphasis was not to find out about us, but rather to seem tough in front of the girl who referred him.

The first seven minutes were going to kill me as we walked around answering insincere questions, but then things changed. I cannot remember what was said, but very suddenly we actually caught his interest. He actually wanted to know what we had to say so we found a bench outside a park and sat down. By the end of teaching he agreed to keep meeting with us. I can see that he really does want to know more and it came as a refreshing surprise in the end.

Honestly speaking, I am fatigued in writing this email. It has taken me thirty minutes just to get this much written down, as my brain is more or less not functioning today. Sadly it is going to be a short one…

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Best,

Elder Hancock

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American Football and Ukrainian Soccer

May 25, 2015

A mission president, during the course of his service, has the opportunity to conduct a total of twelve zone conferences. This breaks down to four a year. Oddly enough though, in the eleven months that President Packer has been serving as our head, he has only planned one. The reason is because for the last eight months, each time around the time that we are due to hold a new one, a general authority has a scheduled trip into our boundaries, which commandeers the authority from President Packer, and into their hands. In this time, I have shaken hands with the following general authorities: Elder Bennet of the Europe East Area, Elder Callister of the Presidency of the Sunday School, Elder Porter of the Europe East Area, and this last week again with Elder Bennet and Elder Halstrom of the Presidency of the Seventies. It really is a privilege to have them come and teach us. A part of me though, feels bad for President Packer because in all of this time, he personally has not had much opportunity to train us.

No matter where I am in my mission there always are challenges in different forms. This conference showed me one that is coming as a result of being on a mission for so long. At the beginning of my mission, the language was a huge barrier, being thrown together with young missionaries, and many other things were large hurdles over which to jump. During this though, I was learning a lot from other missionaries and President Klebingat, and it seemed as though there was no limit to what I could know.

This conference was good and educational, but many parts were boring. Elder Halstrom talked about many of the topics which have been drilled into my head over and over again, and it was almost as though I could guess each word that would come out of his mouth. The younger missionaries were, of course, soaking up everything, as I did two years ago. I think this is just a principle of learning through life. There is a point where you have more or less learned all of the theory that you can, and it just comes to applying the knowledge.

Unfortunately, this only comes by a lot of monotonous repetition as our carnal nature is a lazy, one and we ultimately take a lot of time to really “get it”. A part of me was disappointed walking out of the meeting, because I had expected to feel that same sense of discovery that was so prominent at the beginning. Looking back though, I was able to develop my own lessons from it.

The next two highlights of the week touch one another, so I will give a brief introduction.

Once a year, the branch in Billa Tserkva holds a large picnic, to which they invite the mission president, missionaries from surrounding areas, and many non-members. The Americans bring an American football and the Ukrainians bring a soccer ball. Everyone together plays a game of each with a lunch in between. I just barely missed the cut off date of last year’s game, as I was transferred to Chernigov. This year however, as a result of my proximity to the road that leads to Billa, my companion and I made the roster. It turned out though, that Elder J has recently had a serious thumb injury and is not allowed to play any sports. Another companionship which was invited also has a missionary who cannot play due to injury, so Friday night we did this odd exchange where Elder J went to the temple with the healthy companion and afterward we switched, putting me with the healthy one, making us ready to travel to the game the next day.

The two things which I want to cover are the three hour exchange on which I served, and the game itself. For whatever reason, it made sense to approach it this way.

The injured elder is from Ukraine and has been serving on his mission for about nine months now. In the past six weeks he has been having a really tough time with motivation, and even at one point asked to go home early. While serving with him, I noticed some things that I think are worth sharing.

We were able to teach a lesson together and I can say that he is a great strength in our mission. He is friendly when he teaches, and although went too deep in certain topics, overall he stayed very close to the missionary lessons. The fact that he is a native made him leagues more effective than me in teaching, which was a very helpful note. I think overall he is someone who has a lot of very useful skills with regard to missionary work, which if focused correctly, can make him a heavy hitter. My concern is that he just does not seem to be in the work at all. I think that to best describe it is, he is being selfish. Looking only after his own needs and trying to justify them, to the point that they override his other responsibilities.

A good example of this is that I found out that he has not enjoyed serving with any of his companions since his trainer. His last one was Elder A, and I know for a fact that he is one of the easiest people with whom to get along. If anyone does not like it, they are either focusing too hard on his weaknesses, or it is frankly just their own problem. When I talked about some of his challenges, he did not really care about what I could say. In his mind, he has already decided about a lot of issues and will not budge. It is a real shame, because he has so much potential to do good work. All of that is going to waste though, because he will not stop thinking about himself. Since the exchange I have been really focusing on what I personally can do to help him.

The Billa game was just awesome. The past eight weeks have been really good to me as I have been able to visit this city three times. When I arrived, my heart skipped a beat because there were only twenty people there with about half of them being missionaries, and only one a non-member. The missionaries serving there said that the branch president and ward mission leader would not be able to make it because they had a scheduled game somewhere else in the city.

President Packer was scheduled to arrive with his entire family within the hour and under the current circumstances would not have been happy, based on the amount of missionary effort and time that went into it. I took one of the other elders and we stood by the stop at the end of the dirt road leading to our field and we invited every single person who walked by to come play with us. Person after person rejected our proposal. When the call came that the mission president was about to arrive, a part of me just gave up and said, “Oh this is going to suck.” He drove up to the end of the path and went on through with his family. We stayed behind to keep inviting people and all of my worries were put to rest when the branch president and his brother drove up with two cars full of non-members.

It was at this point that I felt okay to go the field, and we made it just five minutes after they started the football game. Personally, I have discovered that I have more of a talent for soccer than football and overall enjoy it more. One of the missionaries worked hard on defense and he took a ball right to the groin, which was delivered a meter away by a seasoned Ukrainian soccer player. He went right to the ground and they ended up scoring a goal anyway. Fortunately, he is all right now. It was a really fast three hours and before I knew it we were back on the bus to Kiev.

Fun week.

Best,

Elder Hancock

Some Interesting Conversations

May 18, 2015

My new area is all right. Honestly speaking, I didn’t really want to be transferred here. It is overall pretty similar to Borshogovsky, except smaller. Of the two areas, I would have preferred to serve in Borsch. Everything here looks like Voskresensky, but with more trees. The branch is very good at what they do and functions very well. This is a place where the missionaries could disappear all together and there would not be much of a difference. It contrasts greatly to my first areas from my mission where things would fall apart very quickly if the missionaries were to suddenly disappear.

Elder J is a very capable person with whom it is entertaining to serve. He is from Alpine, Utah. One thing that has really impressed me is the amount he cares about the members here in Ukraine. It was very obvious walking into church on Sunday that the branch values him, as each member seems to have a good relationship toward him. I will be able to learn a lot from the coming weeks.

One lesson which we taught is worth mentioning. Not so much that it was a good lesson, as much that it was interesting. It was a man named A, from Iran. He has been living in Ukraine for over eight years, and in that time has converted to Christianity. The challenge that came in teaching him was that he understands the Bible incredibly well. He was able to pull out scriptures from memory that support his arguments far better than I could, even if I had focused on studying only the Bible for the last year and a half. It turned into him teaching us about his Baptist beliefs instead of us teaching him. When we would get back onto our topic, he would find something that relates tangently at best, and then run with it. Overall, it was about eighty percent all him talking.

Another point of the week was a lesson, which we held with a man from Sierra Leone. He is a Muslim and still holds well to those beliefs. He is interested in why we are here and agreed to meet with us. When he was eight years old, some guerilla fighters attacked his family, ending with his father’s death. One of the fighters bashed his arm with the butt of his rifle, which damaged the growth plates. Because there was not medical care in a reachable distance, his mother just wrapped it in a cloth and they fled. The untreated wound has caused his hand and forearm to stop growing and he currently has the hand of an eight year old, being in his early thirties.

Despite all of this history, he still has good faith in God, and tells us that if it were not for his faith, he would not be alive to this point. Overall, I don’t know how interested he is in our message, but I was able to learn from his as an example of looking up in tough situations.

That is about as much as I can say with regard to this past week.

Best,

Elder Hancock

Attached is a rainbow

a RAinbow

Donuts, Trains, Meetings and a Transfer

May 11, 2015

On one of the days this week Elder R and I left our apartment to travel to the church. What we encountered along the way started as a big annoyance, but turned into an unexpected opportunity to help someone. To get from our place to the temple site we travel along the railway car. There is a station about a minute walk from our door with a small outdoor shopping area nearby.

When we entered the station and went to the attendant to buy two tickets, Elder R pulled out a one hundred grivna note. Each ticket costs three grivnas so it is not a particularly convenient amount to change out. Most of the time though, the person will have enough.  She did not.  She told us that we would have to give some smaller denomination so Elder R pulled out a fifty.  She said again that she could not change it out and told us to go find some smaller bills.

Here is why this frustrated us so much. First off, she is working at a main station, through which a lot of people travel. If it was some small end of the line place I could understand, but this woman should have expected that someone would pull out some larger notes. Second, the majority of attendants, if faced with the same situation, would have just allowed us to go through.  If we board a bus and the person cannot change out our money, then they just say that we are riding for free that day.  I can count the number of times where this hasn’t happened on my right hand. Third, the total cost of the two tickets is only twenty cents. This woman should have had enough money, and even if she didn’t should have just told us to go through anyway.

Elder R decided to just go along with it and walked into the nearby market to change out the money. We found a doughnut stand and each purchased a couple. On the short walk back we arrived near the doors just in time to see our railway car leaving from the platform with us missing it altogether. Both of us thought to ourselves how much we just wanted to kill that woman. While waiting for the next car, we stood on the platform and ate our doughnuts.  A man walked up and said; “Boys, I don’t want to disturb your eating, but when you are done could I speak with you?” We of course dropped what we were doing right then and asked him how we could help.  He explained that about fourteen years ago he was baptized into the church but fell inactive some time afterward. He then told us that he wants to restore the church to the place that it once held in his life.

We exchanged information and found out that he lives in another area of the city.  After talking for a bit more, we parted ways and called the missionaries who serve around him and gave them his number. It was interesting to see the whole situation play out. How we had to deal with a situation, which just does not happen, and then to miss our car because of it.  All that happened took place for a good cause. We met that man and then were able to get him connected with those who are serving around him.

This week also brought up a number of unexpected and good lessons. The first lesson was on exchanges with the elders serving in the office in which we taught their investigator from Vietnam named H. We invited the office senior couple along with us. The topic was about how to receive revelation and the role of the Holy Ghost in this process. It was very convenient to have with us the senior couple, because I, for the most part, had trouble understanding what H was trying to say, even though it was all in English. They also did a great job in answering his questions through sharing personal experiences. He enjoyed the subject matter about which we talked and seemed to get a lot. I was even more satisfied when he came to church that Sunday. It has been a good learning experience to teach people from all areas of the world here in Borshogovsky.

Another lesson started one day while we were out contacting.  We were doing what we normally do when a man walked from the curb of the street and stopped us.  It isn’t really something that normally happens, so we were both very interested to talk.  He said that he wanted to pray and meet with us sometime. He gave us his number and walked back to the street. What shocked us the most is that sitting on the street was this man’s pretty well maintained Subaru Forester, which came as a huge shock to us, seeing that very few people have cars here, and those who do often don’t have the best quality.

The fact that this person approached us, that he was not either crazy or homeless left my companion and I in a very confused state. The lesson, which we held with him, was a decent one. We shared what we have about the founding of the Church and the importance of the Book of Mormon, which he seemed to enjoy. He did not agree with everything, but enjoyed it nonetheless.  He has agreed to keep meeting.

The final news is that I am already being moved out of Borshogovsky into a different area. Elder R is on his way to Odessa and I’ll be serving with Elder J from Alpine, Utah.  The branch in which I will be serving is Svyatonsinsky, which is literally about twenty minutes along the highway from where the Borshogovsky building is situated.  For whatever reason, the branch building for Svyatonsinsky isn’t even in that area of the city; it is actually a ten-minute travel into Borsch. I am excited to see what happens and how the next six weeks will treat me. More or less everything will feel the same, except that I no longer get to attend the international branch in English.

Best,

Elder Hancock

Trips to Bila and Voskresensky

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.

 

Best,

 

Elder Hancock

5-4-2015-1 Chris 5-4-2015-2 Chris

 

 

Traveling and Teaching

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.

 

Best,

 

Elder Hancock

4-27-2015Chris

Exchanges and a Day Trip to Bila Tserkva

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.

Fun week.

Best,

Elder Hancock

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