Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 14

Dear friends and family!!!

another week in ukraine! i just still can't believe that i am here. i think back to any given day in the past year and a half and remember how far distant serving a mission was and that how it wouldn't be real til i got to the country..that the prophet would change his mind or something...but no, i am here!! like really!! i think! i think its real!

this week i feel i made a little baby step with the language. up to this point, i haven't been able to pick apart peoples sentences when they speak to separate the words and the grammar out, but yesterday during the talks in church i was able to really listen and separate the words and look up the words that i didn't know to better understand their ideas. my standing goal is to be able to tell when people are speaking ukrainian or russian by the way they pronounce things, not just the vocab (as of now i can't tell by just the vocab either because while i don't know any ukrainian words, there are plenty of words russian i don't know yet either) but i am honing in on how they pronounce their "g"s as "h"s and then their five different "e" sounds. russian has like 3. so hearing a russian word pronounced with a different 'e' sound than i am used to.

so saturday was larisa's baptism. Larisa has been investigating the church for about a year, she is a beautiful 25 year old who works at the american embassy. her english is amazing. so she is quite a bff of the sister missionaries. my first sunday here she came up to us and said "i want the 16th, i want to be baptized on april 16th" my reaction was lke 'okay, lets do it' and my companion freaked out "oh, my goodness! ive been praying for you specifically everyday since i've been here that you would finally accept the gospel!!" so it is very special that she finally decided to make the dive. she will be a very strong member. and she is pretty self conscious that she is not married yet-apparantly in ukraine 25 is super old to be single, like more than in mormon culture i hear, but we have told her that she needed to accept the gospel first so that she can marry a strong priesthood holder and be the mother of a strong lds family in ukraine. i don't know if its part of the sister missionaries job to help recent converts find good husbands now, but we have our eyes open for her. the baptism was beautiful. we showed the last scene of the testaments as a treat and then invited a few of her friends to bear testimonies at the end. and then for refreshments (by the way, refreshments for baptisms are worked into the ward budget here...very important business :) we made banana bread and cookies and larisa used her sweet hookups at the embassy to have cheetos and tortilla chips and root beer!! these products were only appreciated by the missionaries of course. these products are nowhere to be found in ukraine, so it was an awesome treat!

this week at church i really put in the effort to introduce myself (without my companion glued to my side) to some of the ward members. it felt good to try to build relationships which is something i want to accomplish by the time i leave the area, well ideally before then, but anyway it was good. except i would ask a question like "do you have any family that comes to church with you" and i'd get a ten minute shpeil in ukrainian that i can't understand, so i would wait til they were done to repsond-if they smiled then i smiled, if they seemed sad, id give them a hug. another question i asked was where i could buy a bible (there are lots here, but we are trying to find one with a big pravoslavnian cross on it-their orthodox church here) someone gave me a really good place, i think, but i unfortunately didn't understand what store she was describing. thank goodness for senior companions.

i hope everyone is excited for easter!! we have stake conference this weekend so i anticipate it being amazing! one of oui investigators (the one who always cooks us amazing ukrainian food) invited us over for sunday dinner, so don't worry about me, i'll be well taken care of :)

Generally, quite a few people want to know if they can e-mail you, is that okay?
yes, i can receive emails!!! keep them short- i have about an hour to read/write

Tell us about what you eat daily...any crazy Ukranian foods yet?
nothing too bad, some interesting variations of borsh and cooked whole tomatoes. olena, our investigator who always cooks for us (by the way, we dont ask her to, we just walk in the door and she starts setting the table for us. she just wants us to be treated witht the best ukrainian hospitalitiy) anyway, olena has cooked us verenikee which is like tortillina/potstickers and they can have different fillings, like meat, potatoes, or cherries- i haven't had it with cherries, but thats apparantly very ukrainian and im excited

What do you do on Sundays?
sundays we go to one of our ward's ward council at 8:30, then we have church at 10am and our other ward starts at 2. then we run home for a bite to eat, then have a lesson or two at night.

Have you received any mail from the states yet?
no mail, but i haven't been to any big meetings where someone from the office can bring mail yet...for sure it is delivered to us every six weeks, and sometimes more often.

Share a street contacting experience you had this week
hmmm. well i started talking to this lady and she said "spacebo" which means "thank you" so i was so excited! and starting walking with her more to tell her more about the book of mormon! she said thank you! she's sees how amazing this is. for some reason my companion wasn't at my side when the lady said out straight that she actually wasn't interested. i turn around and my companion is way back where we started eating a piece of candy, "sister! why didn't you come with me?! she wanted to hear more about the gospel!!" "sister little, when they say thank you it means they don't want to hear anymore, they aren't interested" definitely a best two years moment.

Tell us something that made you laugh this week.
olena said she had a dream a few years ago that bill clinton came to her house by surprise and she started cooking for him and she's thorougly convinced it was a sign that she was supposed to let these american girls into her apt and cook for them and accept their message :) olena, by the way, was found street contacting a week or two before i got here and had a baptism date for the end of the month.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Week 13 язык ангелов "ya-zik ang-elov"

Good morning everyone!!
I am excited to email you all. Not that I have amazing news or anything, but it is my one connection to home that means so much more now that I am so so so so far away from all of you :) I miss you all and hope you are all staying healthy, happy, and strong in the gospel. It's the only source of true happiness on the earth today.
This weekend we were able to listen to conference. I loved it.It's amazing how boring I used to think conference was and would fall asleep during it...but ever since I really knew that these were powerful men and women and God speaking to us two hours is over so fast. Our mission president got English copies of conference out to us at the beginning of last week so we were able to listen to bits and pieces at our apartment over the weekend. We attended the sessions on Sunday at the church in Russian because we had a couple investigators come. I tried for about thirty seconds to understand, but then took the opportunity to get some good studying in in the dark of the chapel. Slightly disrespectful probably, but what else can I do. I made sure to drop everything when the prophet spoke out of reverence. I think Heavenly Father understands. We have three investigators with standing baptismal dates this month and two of them came. It has been interesting to observe our potential investigators this week in their first lessons. When we began to explain that this weekend coming up is extremely special because we get to hear form our Prophet!!! amazing right?! there were a couple investigators who brushed off that fact and said casually they had to work or would be out of town this weekend so they couldn't come to church. And others, the elect really, get wide eyed and bright eyed when we told them about this amazing opportunity. "oh, man, I want to be there to see that"- it has been a good gauge as to who really understands the definition of a prophet and the truth our church claims.
I am not sure what to say about the language.. I am pretty discouraged as to be expected, but really I feel like I haven't been able to learn anything substantially new since I've been here. Really goes to show I am book smart and can learn when im studying hours and hours a day (like at the mtc) but I am praying that the
Lord will help me learn even when I am not getting a lot of studying in. But my mtc vocabulary is getting me by. I teach about 40% of each lesson and whenever we stop into a member or nonmembers home I share the scripture and spiritual thought. But I am trying to be motivated to progress in a measurable way. Our mission president requires that we read the book of Mormon (in Russian out loud) by our first year mark here and then also to have the 'missionary language vocabulary and phrases' or 'tall' book that comes in the different colors for the different languages that has all the necessary vocab for all the lessons completely memorized in the first six months. That's a huge overwhelming goal, but is is something measurable so I am starting slow...memorize a page a week and hopefully pick up speed as I have been here longer. No luck with Ukrainian yet, but my companion still has to tell me when someone is speaking Russian or Ukrainian to me.

Whenever someone turns away from us with the excuse that they don't understand us, my companion always comforts me by saying, "do you know why they don't understand us, its because we are speaking with the "языкам ангелов" or the tongue of angels. Even if we were speaking perfect Russian they would turn away and say they didn't understand because they don't know the language of the angels."
Its the perfect way to console myself. If they were truly elect, they would know and feel the power of what we are saying. I'll let you all find the scripture references of the speaking with the tongue of angels and the power of the holy ghost...
Here we are the sister missionaries over two wards- kharkovski and nova d. We are considered to be in "Kiev" and we get around by walking and riding marshrukas-the buses here. When we need to go into center we take the metro across the river--it reminds me exactly of crossing the Charles river over the Longfellow bridge on the T in Boston. Love it. Their metro is very similar to one of New York or Boston-underground, tons of people. We went into center this week for a zone meeting. The church building is right in the middle of the city, its like the third floor of a business looking building-kinda cool. We meet in a building in our area but we are getting a new building in the next couple weeks-an actual church building everyone is really excited.
We live in "Kiev" and its about a fifteen minute bus ride to get to the river. Our members live right up to the river. Kiev is huge-it takes about two hours to drive from one edge to the other. We walk mostly everywhere, but will end up taking a bus a couple times a day to get to certain appts and then we take the metro (the subway) into center when we have a meeting as a zone or something. I looove that we walk everywhere. Love it.

How do you get around town? and was it a pain to trying to get your luggage to your new living quarters?
we took a taxi from the mission office which is right next to the temple. it took about 40 minutes. pretty painless.
Did you take to much stuff?
No. I did good. And once I realized I can get pretty much anything I need at the stores or street vendors here I was fine. We do need to revamp our wardrobe. In the mtc they stressed that they don't want us to look like fundamentalist with dark long boring skirts and clothing. And that's exactly what we look like here. Everyone here gets pretty dressed up on a regular basis. Maybe we can get wearing stilettos approved to better fit in with the culture.
Is there anything that you are already missing from the states?
Not really. They have McDonalds here which I don't plan on ever going to, but its a constant reminder that that oh ya, i'm from America, and i'll go back there someday so im not really missing anything much.
And tell us about your living quarters....
We live in a super nice apt- 4 rooms for the two of us. And we have a big kitchen, a 'workout room', a study room, a room for our beds and a room for our clothes. Its super nice.
I love you all!!! Have an awsome week!
c little

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Week 12

Wow! I am here. If you were to ask me what day it is I’d tell you that yesterday was when I got here so it must be sometime around Wednesday or its Monday! I’ve been here a week. What?! The jetlag really hasn't had any effect on my body, but I lose my mind about 7:30 every night. But that's okay....alright shall I start at the beginning?...

I landed in Kiev Wednesday afternoon at a very small terminal and no one was there initially to pick me up, so I started my hunt to find this "important" customs paper I had to fill out if I ever wanted to leave the country again (thats what the mtc told me) so I used my Russian right off the bat. I was directed to three different places with no luck. Then I found the missionaries waiting for me!!! yay!!!! and the mission president was there too!!! yay!!! We load up in a van to head out. (They said I didn't even need to fill out that paper) first few things I noticed- Ukraine definitely has a smell. I know I’ll get used to it because the AP’s I was with had no idea what I was talking about, but that’s okay, and it is very dusty here. So they drove me around all day-went to a grocery store to pick up some things for dinner, and drove around downtown Kiev, again I thought this was a cool orientation to the city, but no, they were just trying to keep me awake and busy for another 8 hours. The mission president is extremely “gung ho” and excited about the work. He kept bringing up that the summer I spent in Germany was the best mission prep that I could ever have. "You’ve probably seen a lot of stores like this since you lived in Germany....they have the best candy bars here! They are called "bounty" and they taste like, oh wait, you've probably tasted them before since you lived in Germany..." I couldn't really say anything to negate his assumptions, but I wanted to be like,.." um, I don't remember anything from that trip really, it was 5 ago. I have no idea what you're talking about" kinda funny, so I just went with it.

The mission home looks very similar to our homes in Vegas and its right next to the temple, and about 10 minutes from Kiev proper. And in Kiev its only apartment buildings. everywhere. very city like. even driving around the first day I wasn't convinced Kiev was a beautiful city until.....we were tracting Thursday night on a top floor of one of the buildings in our area and I looked out the window at the city lights at night and I was awestruck. My companion asked me where the spirit was telling us to go next and I couldn't even answer. Just beautiful. I think it’s because I’m from Vegas, I think I am really drawn to a city's skyline at night and really judge the city off of that. And Kiev is just beautiful-so many lighst, so many people. that’s the moment I really got excited to be here. yay. So my area is in 'east' Kiev, the part of the city that is east of the Dnepr River. and it’s been described to me as the 'sleeping section' of the city- so where everyone lives that works in 'center' or downtown Kiev. and it’s so true-there are so sososososo many apartment buildings here and it’s all our area!! So big! So many people to find!!! So exciting.

The first mission related thing we did was Thursday’s transfer conference. It was like a mission prep rally. I felt so overwhelmed and awkward-like I didn't belong. They kept talking about their incredible goals for the year and kept quoting a general authority that had recently visited the area, they are all in the middle of a 40 day fast, and they sang a song they wrote about their big goal-200 baptisms in 2011. That’s all great, but honestly in that moment I couldn't identify with any of it and knew that I should be, but just couldn't. It was like jumping into a boiling pot of water of everyone’s emotions and excitement, and I couldn't escape. But this is my home now- the Kiev Ukraine mission, so I better get its was hard. still is hard. one the biggest things I had a hard time accepting was this 200 baptisms in 2011. Why that number? I am sure it has a lot of significance to everyone here. I think its double last year’s number or something, but I really was not excited about it. Our first opportunity for personal study was Friday morning, so I decided to read one of my fav chapters for some comfort- mosiah 18 and I got to verse 16 and read it and read it and reread it. Okay. I like this number. If Alma can do it we can do it. it was just a cool moment where I knew the spirit was with me telling me that I could fit in here and do this work, and do it of my own willpower, not just because someone else decided for me.

My first lesson was with a babushka. I actually testified twice about how I know God has a body and the restoration, and then again about baptism, then I read from the Book of Mormon. So I really felt like I participated. And we invited her to be baptized and she said yes :) we just need to get her to church 2 more times but she has really bad circulation/diabetes and cannot walk to church. I think we are going to find her a wheelchair somehow. Then we had a lesson on Saturday and the investigator knew I was new to the country so she cooked me a very Ukrainian meal and let me enjoy it. Very tasty. She has a baptismal date but needs to come to church 3 times before she can be baptized- and we got her to come yesterday, so yay. And Saturday night we went to visit a less active which was a wonderful visit. Sorry I don't have more details...I don't remember the names of any of these people yet and I kinda just follow my trainer around all day and I my understanding is in the 25% range. I have actually surprised myself at how bold I am with street contacting and tracting in Russian. I feel like a salesman though, so I am working on improving my vocab to contact more effectively-you know, actually testify how the Book of Mormon blesses families when I talk to families on the street.

My trainer is awesome and very positive. She is from Utah, has been here 6 months and has served her whole mission so far in this same area, so she knows the area and the members really well. I think the fact that she isn't perfect in Russian yet is inspiring and motivating to me to really speak up whenever I can in the lessons and when contacting. We’re trying to make it fun.

Today we got to go grocery shopping!! yay!!! its like the one thing I have been waiting to do all week to make it feel like I actually live here. I bought my bundle of vegetables for my stir fries so I am happy. I have no idea what the week ahead holds for me, but hopefully I will survive :)

I love you all!! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!!

Sister Little

Oh yeah, Kiev will be beautiful in May because their was the country wide service day on Saturday for all the members of the church and I got to meet everyone and see their unity as they cleaned up parks around Kiev. Awesome! and here there is so much Ukrainian!! All of our hymns we sing in Ukrainian and about 40% of prayers/lessons are Ukrainian and all the street signs/store signs are in Ukrainian. I can't tell the difference yet, but I’ve been told by my second transfer I will. They say it’s much like English/Spanish in America. There are a lot of coganates, but they are different languages.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Week 11 -- First Email from the Ukraine!

This just my quick five minute note to let you all know I made it safe and sound to where? oh yeah...the Ukraine. oh ya, Kiev. so cool!

The Mission President and AP's picked me up from the airport and took me on a pretty cool tour of the city. I thought they were just being really nice, but their ulterior motives were to keep me awake all day so the effects of jet lag aren't as severe. I landed around 1230 in the afternoon and its now 7 o'clock and I'm in totally zombie mode. I can"t walk straight and my eyes are just completely glazed over. I spent exactly 24 hours straight traveling on an airplane and sitting in airports. but I love it! I'm staying at the mission home tonight then tomorrow is Transfer Conference where I"ll meet my trainer and head off to wherever. We went by the mission office today which is right next to the temple for some orientation and then I got to walk around the temple...amazing that I am actually here! I found out I'll be watching General Conference next weekend (week delay for translation) and in Russian...and I found out I'll get to go through a session at the temple once a transfer....

I love you all...

probably email again on Monday which is p-day I think
Love, sister little