Thursday, April 5, 2012

Week 56

Dear family and friends,
another week down here in Odessa!! its been pretty dreary and rainy, but as i mentioned previously, everyone all just planted their the rain is probably a good thing at this point for all the crops. ive realized that even though all the rain is inconvenient for me, it what the earth needs and how the crops grow and therefor the people have food i try not to complain.
this week we had the baptism of an 8 year old girl that we have been teaching in one of our branches. she's from a member family, so it was more of a lot of fun family home evenings in preparing her for baptism than a convert baptism, but still it was fun. but there is an awesome story connected to it. each week we set 'goals' for the week-how many lessons we want to teach, how many referrals we want to try to get, how many investigators at church..etc, in order to just track our progress and so on and so forth about the principle of goal setting...well one of the categories we need to set a goal for is how many baptisms there will be this week between me and my companion. and at this point, in most companionships, is where eyes start rolling or you set hyperbolic goals on this. for example... i don't know, sister karpenko? how many baptisms should we have this week? 75? okay, sounds good! ive been told though, that instead of writing a big zero in this spot in our planner when we really don't have anyone close to baptism you should write an "m" for 'miracle baptism'...just to show heavenly father we're open for anything. so....whatever different missionaries do different things with it. long story short, we didn't have a miracle baptism this week, but our elders did. it was way cool to actually witness one of these 'miracle' baptisms....our 8 year olds' baptism kept being postponed because she was a little sick but for some reason last Wednesday they decided to do the baptism on Thursday because this weekend our branch president was leaving for we get a call on Wednesday that the baptism will be tomorrow...okay fine, we invite our investigators, as usual. when the elders call one of their investigators (who actually has been an investing for a really long time, his family isn't too interested but he really does have a testimony)...when they called him to invite him he says to them, 'there is going to be a baptism tomorrow? can i get baptized tomorrow?" what!!??!! okay?? maybe...they call president, get him a phone interview with him and within 20 minutes there was not going to be one person being baptized on Thursday, but 2. it was a way neat to see an 'm' goal fulfilled...a 'miracle baptism' happen.
next event of the week i want to mention just because its funny. do we all remember the prophet abinidi from the book of Mormon... and his not so smart moment when after he leaves the first time from the people who weren't listening, he decides to come back in in 'disguise' in a secret way so they won't recognize him, but then once he starts talking, he gives himself away by saying, 'i am abinidi! i was here before preaching and now im back!" way to blow his cover right? well, this week i had an 'abinidi moment'. we went to got visit a recent convert who has been talking about really wanting to help her sons into the church. well, she actually invited us and two other elders over, but instead of a warm meal and short lesson with her like we planned, she didn't let us come in but led us out the door, down the street to her sons appt where he lives with him friends (all in their twenties). she said she wanted us to meet them and become friends with them. ...okay, fine, whatever, as we're standing outside their door waiting for them to answer, she turns and tells us to take off our nametags so that they don't know we're it will be easier to become their friends, she said they wont even open the door if they see we're missionaries. (im doing an awful job of painting this picture, so just know that it was ssssssupsppper awkward and behind that door was a bunch of partying twenty something and this women expected us to just walk in and become friends and then he'll want to join the church...all wrong). so here we are in front of this door, and im sorry to say she convinced us to take off our nametags, the son opens the door and i walk in first....and what do i do? i realize how awkward this is in a 'party' situation. ,....i do the natural think and stick out my arm to shake hands and say ," hi! my name is sister little and im a missionary!".....boom. cover blown. i realized how dumb it was taking off my tag because there was going to be no way getting around having to introduce myself. and for the past 15 months i have never introduced myself with any other words besides, "hi! im sister little! and im a missionary!"....we weaseled our way out of that whole situation as soon as we could, but its just one of the many awkward situations ive gotten into by being a missionary. ...gotta love it.
on Saturday we had a special meeting with president who came down to interview us all (i know, another interview :) what can i say...i really need them) it was awesome. i can really see his sincere love for each of us and his care for the work here. im so grateful for him and all he has done for me to support me here. i was sitting thinking during the meeting, "what am i going to do when i go home?? i won't have a mission president anymore!! how will i know how to act? think? what about my spiritual progression that he has helped me with?" i guess when i go home i'll have my family, bishops, stake there are thinks to make up for it. outside the mission is going to be sooooooooooo different.
i love you all!!!  thank you for all the prayers and support!!
sister kylie little
here is something president included today...
Good morning Elders and Sisters. Included in the newsletter this week is a short message from President. Have a great week! President’s message:  “Dear Elders and Sisters, Attached please find today’s message which I hope you will read and ponder and apply not only throughout this week, but for the rest of your mission and throughout your lives.  Also, you may tell your family and friends that they can view new pictures of you during the specialized training on  -  video/pictures  - zone conferences – specialized training March 2012 If you want to take a quick peek at the pictures you may do so. best wishes,President Klebingat”
can you even pick me out? yea, that's our 'Odessa' zone there together. small, but gotta love it. each of those group shots are of the different zones in the mission. there are 4- 2 in Kiev (the river splits them), 1 out west including lviv and the other cities around there, and then us down south in Odessa.

Week 55

Dear Family and Friends,
Sometimes good things happen, and i just have to look up to the sky and say, 'god, really? you know im not all that worthy of such blessings"...but, i guess sometimes when we get caught up in all the 'trying' to do heaven father's actually happens and we get to realize that it is happening.
this week was a week filled with little miraculous incidences where me and my companion end up just looking at eachother and thinking the same thing, "was that just us following the spirit? and it working? interesting..."
monday night our plans were to hit the pavement, doing some good old contacting but we then decided to call and check in with one of our favorite members who of course invited us over on the spot for fhe. we were hesitant because we've been wanting to set up a meeting with this member with her less active sister to see if we can get her more excited about church. but, we agreed to come over for the night...and who was there coincedentally? her inactive sister. and what had recently happened to her? a coworker had asked her about religion and she very excitedly gave her a book of mormon and was really excited to tell us about it. cool...
tuesday we had a meeting with a convert,elena, who was baptized almost a year ago, but we've thought her progress in applying the gospel has been pretty slow, and she never seems to 'get' our lessons, but she's always talking about wanting to share the gospel with her two sons since youth here really need some direction. my companion and i sat planning her lesson and decided a 'miracle' for her to start praying for and focusing on is the gospel blessing her sons. right before the lesson she calls us and says she's running late and had just gotten in a fight with her teenage son and wanted us to call him....uhhh. awkward, but interesting we were just talking about how we could help her with her sons. we called him and invited him to the church...he agreed. within 15 minutes we had him there at the church playing fusball with the elders, him laughing and enjoying his time there! we shared some thoughts with elena, but she couldnt stop talking about what a miracle she was witnessing that her teenage son was actually in the church building hanging out with missionaries. cool...
another incident was that i mentioned to my companion that i think we need to do some service, so maybe on saturday i mentioned we could go through the neighborhoods in jeans and approach people working in their gardens if we can help. (since its harvest time here)...later that day a less active member we met with asked us if we were available to do service for her on saturday (imagine the look me and my companion gave eachother)..of course! we cleaned her windows :)
wedesday we had a meeting with our investigator katya who is also moving a little slow in her studies. we read with her last week first nephi chapter 1 and wanted her to read ch 2 by this meeting. we figured she wouldn't, so we planned on reading ch2 with her and talking about the brother's different reactions to their fathers teachings and how it can relate to her. you can say 'all this is too hard' and give up trying or you can be like nephi and want to know, pray, etc. ..she showed up and when we asked her if she read, she said, ..."yes! its so interesting the brothers different reactions to what their father, the prophet was teaching." what? you read? and you actually 'got it' ? what? again, i shoot another look at my companion. cool...
another day this week, my compaion and i were pretty discouraged so we decided to head to the church to take a 'breather' the piano, eat something and when we got to the building there was a woman waiting outside. she said she had been waiting half an hour for the elders for a meeting but they hadn't showed up yet. (pretty good sign that she didn't just leave when no one was there) so we let her in and talked with her for a bit and the elders came a little later. but...interesting that we ended up going to the church and meeting her. insert here another 'look' at my compaion.. she ended up coming to church on yesterday and like it.
and in the other lessons of the week, our topics were pretty spot on for what our members, less actives, and investigators i don't know what heavenly father is trying to pull here, but it feels good to have my eyes opened just a little bit to see that i am really doing his work and i am an instrument in his hands here.
also, something fun for the week we decided to go to seminary with the two young women in one of our branches. they meet each saturday morning8am at amembers apt-i think thats the earliest ive ever gone to seminary (me being one of the lucky ones with lunch sem), but it was fun to sit and listen and participate in the discussion of isaiah 48 to 66 in russian. -strengthing our stakes and fasting. oooweee what a challenge, isaiah. in russian. but i liked sitting there thinking that my sister and dad are somewhere in vegas studing somewhere in the old testament too, maybe even this exact lesson made me feel a little closer to all of you.
it was a little colder this week, but there's no denying spring is around the corner. like i mentioned people are out in their gardens already preparing for the 'harvest'. so this week marks a year since i arrived here in ukraine and something i was reminded of this week when i got her is that 'smell' there was definitely a smell when i got off that plane last march and ive always wondered what it was just all throught the air here, a type of sulfery, burnt smell. i figured it was some kind of chernoble smell and when i didn't smell it anymore after a month or two, i figured 'oh oh, ive gotten used to it and its probably infecting me' but...this week i smelt it again! (which means im not used to it and its not a part of me phew...) and realized what the smell was!!! its everyone collecting all their dried weeds, twigs, branches, and all the 'left overs' in their gardens into a pile and burning them to prepare the ground for the new seeds....oh gotcha! its intersting to see piles of dried, dead twigs randomly all over the place here-on the sides of roads, in peoples yards, in the big fields,  on fire and smoke stacks rising up to the sky and its completely normal. its actually really cool how everyone here grows almost all of their own food.
well, i love you all, next week i'll be writing in april! wow! excting!! in ukrainian the word for 'april' is 'flowers' so...there are only good things ahead :)
i love you all!!
sister little
ps. yes, we changed our clocks saturday one hour ahead, and probably gen conf will be in two or three weeks.

Week 54

Dear family and friends,
another week has passed and there are signs of spring in the air. the sound of birds in the trees and a feeling a warmth when you walk from the shade into the sun. its actually pretty warm for march right now, there will probably be one more stretch of cold soon before it stays warm for good, but....i think its coming really soon. ive upgraded to my waist length pea coat and scarf, and only wear my hat and gloves at night.
so this weekend was 'district conference' for the branches here in Odessa (5 branches)-so its their 'stake conference'. we had a relief society activity on Saturday to celebrate the 170th anniversary-we watched broadcasts talks from the general primary, young women, and relief society presidency. it was really cool. then had lunch served by the 'brethren' and then did service-made shawls for the church buildings so you can wrap one around you when its cold in the building, and then made blankets for an orphanage or something.
yesterday was our general meeting-there were about 150 members there, i thought that was kinda low, but everyone seemed really happy to see so many members. i guess seeing 150 members in the same meeting is really cool when you're used to seeing 30-40 each week at church. One of our branch presidents was put in as the district president which is way cool- i like him a lot, he'll do great job. President Klebingat was there and then our presiding seventy who came was elder minisan, the area representative from Armenia. i know, like wow. he shared some really cool stories from members in Armenia. it was a good reminder as i sat there listening to him that i am serving in a really cool part of the world-its hard- but how neat? sure im just in Ukraine but the work is spreading around us. i don't know if you've heard, but i think last month they finally sent in proselyting missionaries into turkey. they pulled four elders from the Bulgaria mission and had them start working there. turkey has had senior couples and humanitarian missionaries for awhile, but now they are sending in the 'big guns'-the young missionaries. i really can't imagine. i know there are already members there in turkey-the last liahona had a picture of a missionary from turkey-but its going to be hard. when we run into Muslims here, we don't have a lot of hope to get through to them, we just try to end the conversation peacefully and walk away thinking how hard it would be to teach a Muslim. but those missionaries there now...thats who they talk to everyday, every single person is Muslim. but...they've got to have an opportunity to hear the gospel somehow.
elder minisan shared a neat story about members in Armenia. i figure these kind of stories don't make it into the beehive news or other church newspapers, so I'll just pass it along to you. this takes place in a very dangerous part of Armenia which is under a kind of Turkish rule-it was very dangerous at one time (maybe still is) to talk about 'other religions' , meet with missionaries, or, heaven for bid be baptized into a different church. he started telling about this woman who came in contact with the church through very secretive means, read the book of Mormon, and decided she wanted to be baptized. Because of the danger and risk in doing such a thing, she was baptized in secret, not even telling her husband, which was a very hard decision to make (to not to tell her husband). some time later her husband came to her and said, 'i need to tell you something. but you have to promise on your life that you will not tell anyone this, and that you will not turn on me when you hear this...i have been baptized into the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints" the wife "ME TOO!" the lord knows everyone and he has the most patience in the world as he knows that everyone needs to here the gospel in their own language and given a fair opportunity to live the gospel. here in Odessa, we're pretty blessed-the fact that we have meeting houses for our church says a lot. there are still places in the world not far from here where members meet in homes and apartments. serving here i still have a lot of conveniences of a 'western mission' , but i get to be exposed to a lot of the work thats going on around me in other countries that really opens my eyes to the greater work of the lord-and how truly everyone in every land is precious to God, and he wants them to return to him.
after the meeting, i went to talk to elder minisan, to thank him for his testimony and ask him if he knows any of the Armenian members i know (all 3 of them ive met since ive been on the mission-1 lives in Kiev with her husband and two were sister missionaries here in the mission and went home last summer). he did. it was neat. he said to me, 'you missionaries are supermen. people think so many other people in the world are 'superman'- big business men, or rich people, but they are wrong. you missionaries have the best privilege in the world." then he turned to me specifically like he wanted to say something, so i sat there and waited as he looked at me. okay, i thought, here comes some advice some a seventy from Armenia, what is he going to say?..... He said to me, " You  are just ....shining. You are just shining. thank you for all you are doing" again, what a neat experience and privilege to be serving in this part of the world among these strong, pioneer members.
i was able to talk with president klebingat for 20 seconds after the meeting. the first thing he did to me was put his fingers on his own cheeks and showed me a smile. "sister little, smile. you are doing a great job. really, i mean it"
so i guess, even when i don't feel my best, when Satan is working his hardest on me....i guess im an still doing 'good', serving a good mission, working hard, etc.
it was a good weekend. i hope everyone enjoys their spring break (whatever that is).
i love you all, miss you all. thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.
sister little

Week 53

Dear family and friends,
here is a summary of my journal entries for the crazy week it has been...
Monday to the Odessa train station and boarded our train around 7. sister karpenko and i had our own coupe (a small room with four beds) and 4 elders shared another coupe-1 was going home, 2 were going to Bulgaria with me and 1 was coming up to meet his new companion. it was pretty exciting...i just stared out the window for twenty minutes in awe that i was going on my first 'night train'. one the elders called to me, sister little! what are you looking at out the window? i reply, "i think its a wall!" they check. yep its a wall. but i thought it was still cool. until about 3 am when i still couldn't sleep. this particular train was making lots of stops throughout the night at different towns and so i woke up every half hour. and it was soo hot...but we made it to Kiev by about 7, took a taxi to the temple, and waited in temple housing til the mission office was open. sister karpenko and i called president to have a quick comp interview while we were there that morning, so we snuck in to have one in between all the exit interviews he was doing for all the departing missionaries. we wanted some good direction on how to do the work down here-we're the only sisters in this city and its a big city, we just didn't really know where it start and why we hadn't had a whole lot of success last transfer. he just called us out and said we need to be better missionaries, etc. i just gave him my "look"...i still have lingering doubts/thoughts as i expressed in last weeks letter about just being "done' im just tired. i don't want to do all this anymore. i didn't express these feelings to president, just nodded my head and tried to move on. but i felt empty and more discouraged after the interview, wondering how im going to make it. but...i was off to Bulgaria so i didn't want to think about it. 
so after our interview on Tuesday, me and 6 other elders were driven to the airport to catch our flight. we had a layover both ways in Vienna, definitely out of the way and made a long day of sitting on an airplane. so we flew to Vienna then Sofia (the capital of Bulgaria) i got checked every time we went through Vienna's security-searched and all my liquids that i thought were fine taken away from me. i was fine going thru Kiev's and Sofia's security which reminded me that i live in a more lax, less modernized society where they don't worry about the security level being at red or needing to take off our shoes every time. but Vienna, much more 'on top of it' which makes it much more of a hassle.
Tuesday around 5 we got into Bulgaria, the office elders of the Bulgaria mission picked us up in their van, drove us to the mission home, and took us out to dinner. the dilemma of the night was the big question of what to do with me. i needed a companion for the night, and usually sisters going on visa trips go with another sister so they have a companion or with a senior couple. somehow i ended up on the trip with six elders. they were fun and awesome, but...i couldn't sleep in the same apartment with them. i said, "i'll just stay wherever missionaries usually stay when they come"-the mission has an empty apt there specifically for missionaries who need to come for visa trips, they said, i can't because a. i need a companion (i had already forgotten that detail) and b. that is where the six elders will be staying. okay, i said, "ill stay with your mission president and his wife at there house," "you picked the one week our mission presidents wife is out of town" so they had an idea, they'd call a member and see if i can stay with a member. they warned me though, "this member we're about to call, she doesn't speak any English. or Russian. she's kinda crazy, and..there's only one bedroom in her apt." ohmygosh. what the heck was i about to get myself into???? luckily that member didn't answer so they called the next person on the list who was able to be my companion for the night! and she was perfect!!! she's about my age, has been a member almost a year, is thinking about a mission, and speaks Russian! and English! she ended up staying with me at an empty senior couple's apt close to the mission home. it was a lot a fun- the best companion ive ever got along with. probably because we were together 9 hours. :)
wed morning we all met at the mission office to get our paperwork together for the embassy, gave it to a women there who was going to go the embassy for us and get our visas. so after about noon, we were free to travel around the city til she got our passports back to us. the girl that stayed with me, Eva, took half the day off from work to show us missionaries a few sights around Sofia-man, Bulgaria is way ahead of Ukraine. probably because it became part of the European union a few years ago, but it was a big shock to realize that i live in a country that is still very 'soviet style' for example, all if their taxis were yellow, and looked ligit. here, i can't tell the difference between a taxi, someone's car and an ambulance. also, all their police cars matched also, so its just a little more organized. but...i have to decide if i like the modern life better because thats when you have to deal with all the airport security (like in Vienna) and stuff like that.
so wed we saw some sights, ate a lot of food, tried to contact some people about the gospel. it was cool to hear Bulgarian and understand it a lot because its another Slavic language. but, for the most part, people knew more English than Russian, so we spoke a lot of English with the Bulgarian which was really weird. i think Bulgarian is closer to Ukrainian, but maybe its closer to Russian, i don't know for sure. 
so wed night we met up at the mission office again to get our passports back, then went back to sleep and left early Thursday morning to come back to Bulgaria (Eva stayed with me again). Thursday was another long day spent in the air trying to get back to Kiev. so we got back to Kiev wed afternoon, and we could have taken a train back to Odessa Thurs night, but our tickets got screwed up so we came back Friday night. and i was so grateful for that mistake!! we had 23 or something new missionaries meet their trainers on Friday, so we got to be there to see everyone, all the new missionaries, and all my old friends from Kiev who were training. so it was a huge blessing to see everyone because i definitely feel 'out of the loop' down here in Odessa.
one funny thing about Bulgaria is they shake their head to say 'yes' and nod their head to say 'no' i wish i had time to tell you how confused we were and how many funny situations we got ourselves in. im sure you can just imagine.
so one more important detail, on Friday morning it was 'back to missionary life' so all those feelings i left our interview with president with came back to me. and i was really feeling i needed to meet with president klebingat again just to kinda talk about where im at, how im going to make it another 3 transfers serving 'happily' but, i knew he was going to be completely swamped in the office Friday with over 50 missionaries there getting new companions, my problems can wait. but, while we stopped in the mission office on Friday, president kleblingat came and found me and said, "sister little, can i talk to you for a moment?" i sat down in his office and said, 'you must have gotten my telepathic signals this morning," he said "no, but I know something is not right with you and i want to help you work it out" i just told him as stoic as i possibly could be, that i don't know what's going on. i simply feel 'done'. i look back on the mission and see, wow, ive done a lot. ive definitely grown, so i don't want to discredit all of that, just looking forward for another three transfers and thinking what am i going to do to make it through? he advised me that three transfers will fly by, but its still too many to be thinking about home, having these feelings, etc. he said, he can definitely see there is something in front of me that is really hard. he can see i am looking into the future and seeing this trial and wondering whether or not i want to deal with it. (in so many words, thats exactly it. am i going to 'endure' the next 4 months, and keep doing what im doing, or am i going try to change, step it up, and be better missionary), He said, sister little, as your ecclesiastical leader right now, as your 'judge in Israel' im inviting you to take that 'hard thing' and go after it. i don't even know what it is...but i want to invite you to go after it. set goals. and in 3 transfers when you sit here for your exit interview i want you to report on whether you tried to overcome it or not. its your choice." he said, "sister little, you could go home right now, and feel great about the mission you served. there are so many people you've helped, people and service that we may not count by the mission standards, but the lord is giving you a little extra time to turn this weakness in front of you that is staring you in the face into a strength, or at least try to." its what i needed to hear. exactly. but its hard. im still crying about how hard it is to overcome this weakness, but i need to keep reminding myself that this conversion into a strength won't happen overnight. and the lord will bless me for trying. and thats what i want to be able to say at my exit interview, that i tried. i took that 'hard thing' in front of me, and instead of letting it sit there blocking me from any progression forward, i tried.
there is so much more i wish i could share with you, but little time. ...but im hoping for a better week, a week of work, a week of better feelings.
im still in Odessa with my same companion, we're one of only a few companionships that didn't change this transfer.
with my prayers for you and lots of love,
sister little

Week 52

dear family and friends...
this week was pretty good in a 'sister little' way...not necessarily in a perfect missionary pretty happy (how many prayers are answered by that one?)
so when i found out that i was going down to Odessa this transfer, i was working in the office with the Humphries and Presidentkinda casually pulled me into his office to give me few words of advice.. about my companion, the area, etc. he kinda said in so many words that i needed to 'keep everyone in line' down here, that i am a strong sister that he trusts, and now its time to call people out if they aren't doing things the way they should be done....for a few minutes i sat and thought to myself, "wow, i have to be a leader. dang it. no one likes leaders." well, you know, the annoying ones that ruin the party. anyway...i answered back to president that this weight of having to be the "mean" missionary set on me for a awhile, then after some prayer and consultation with my heavenly father, i kinda got the answer that i need to go down there and just be myself-call people out if things are really bad, but mostly lead by my awesome example. so i felt better about that.
when i got down here and as ive been serving here the past month, nothing huge has really stuck out as 'apostate' or anything, but there were a couple things me and my companion saw we could improve on as we and the 4 other elders who work in our areas work here. we decided this last week we needed to bring these things up to the elders....but how? who wants the sisters to tell them how to do their job? especially when we're not the most successful sister in the mission. but. we thought this kind of intervention was necessary. so...we decided to "sugar coat" it. last Monday i made cinnamon rolls for the first time- and they turned out (big miracle)- and asked the elders to come early to district meeting on Tuesday so we could have a 'pow wow' about our area. we promised them cinnamon rolls and they were there without any questions :) we talked about three things that we as sister observed and wanted to set as district goals with the side note, im not a very good missionary...but i will admit my strengths lie in working with the members-loving them, serving them, etc, so thats kinda what we talked our three things were 1. talking to each other in Russian when we were around ANYONE in the ward/on the street. of course, you would think we would do that naturally, but it is really hard when we have awesome stories to tell or we think no one is listening. 2. show a little more enthusiasm!!!! as we sit in our English class or our culinary nights, you can imagine how thrilling all that can be for 20 year old boys, but i told them it would be nice to see a little more excitement! even if its not 'cool' or 'natural'...we've got to kinda put on a 'show' so that people around us-members and investigators get excited too. im reminded of when i had to teach parent/ tot classes when i was life guarding-yeah, you feel like an idiot and a total dork, but the louder you sing those ridiculous songs, the more the kids like you. same principle. Ukrainians don't really like quiet, boring missionaries. its always good to have a magic trick up your sleeve or a fun hand game to show and play. 3. we've had only our 'investigators' coming to these activities, and i don't know why the elders don't step up and start conversations with them, but we asked them to start doing that. our work is not about being possessive about our investigators-its about making everyone feel welcome. my companion, who was baptized four years ago here in Ukraine was able to testify about this a lot-yes, she had her missionaries who taught her, but it was also how friendly and open the 'other' missionaries were to her that made her feel welcome. the elders jumped back with the response that its awkward having 'small talk' with strangers, especially in Russian, then i kinda shared that a mission is the best time to develop those social skills! i think back to some moments before the mission and how i really couldn't handle a lot of social situations, but the kind a person ive become because ive been willing to put myself out there and talk to people on the mission has really helped a yeah. all that discussion over some delicious cinnamon rolls. and the assistants to the president happened to be there...oops. threw down on our district and zone leader in front of the aps. oops. ohwelll.....can you see how sisters run the mission? hahaha.
but it was really good, and they humbly took our advice .....and.....they changed!!!! English on Thursday and our activity on Friday were so fun and awesome!! they were all actually talking to everyone, even if they were making fools of themselves. and our zone leader even came up to us after our activity and said, 'you know, sisters, thank you so much for your talk with us on Tuesday. we're really lucky to have awesome sisters like you who *keep us in line* cool. and i happened to be fasting that day for just some comfort that i was actually doing any good for the work here. so i'll take that as an answer. it was really good. and....our elders our awesome and ive seen them in the past week come out of their shells even more and they're actually smiling, laughing, and enjoying the work. thinking about it, the elders probably thought we, as sisters, were calling them together to talk about how we need to be 'more serious' about the work, when actually, we invited them to 'be more serious about having more fun'...i guess that's just the kind of sister i am. i just see a lot of 'dead beat' members and the least we can do as missionaries for them is bring a little life back and help them smile.
here are two funny instances of the week...
i was walking in church yesterday and walked passed one of the long mirror and realized my skirt's slit in the back had ripped...pretty far up. like...yeah. really far up. i realized it was from having to climb into all the trams here...its like a three foot step up onto the trolleys it was kinda funny. luckily my companion had a safety pin and  i sewed it up last night. but it was kinda funny. i was wearing thermals so it wasn't too big a here a lot of skirts women wear have really high slits in the back or front, like all the way up the thigh. so i realized that they aren't trying to be skanky, they just need that kind of slit in their skirts to be able to get into all the public transportation here. duh. its nice to understand the culture a little better. :P
so, one of our branches doesn't have a piano player. so instead of volunteering myself, i am teaching one of the young girls in the ward to play the piano. so we meet once a week, she watches how i play the hymns and memorizes my fingers, then SHE plays in sac meeting...yeah im scared to death to play in church, but this way too, its like im teaching her how to fish instead of fishing for her, right? so yesterday i was leading the music while she as playing and we were singing 'we thank the o god for a prophet" and i was holding the hymn book with one hand and leading with the other. then realized....this is the only song in the Russian hymn book where you have to turn the page to sing the last line of the song. (i have no idea whose idea that was, but its a bad idea) i realize this was we're in the fourth line of the hand is holding the book, the other is leading andi just have this thought, "how am i going to turn the page??!!" it was an awkward 5 seconds turning the page, leading, not leading, almost dropping the hymn book because i had to turn the page back for the next was just funny.
well, as you can see, my cheeks are defrosting, i can smile a little easier, and my heavenly father is showing me that i am doing some kind of good here.
thank you for all your support and prayers :)
sister little

Week 51

Dear family and friends,
well it was another rough and tough week on the mission...but that's okay, i have to remember that we can grow spiritually when we are in the dark, its just a little harder to see it. this week i found some answers, well, maybe not answers, but insight in the scriptures this week that i want to share. so at a couple points on the mission and in life and i will honestly admit that even lately that...ive had enough. like wow. over a year. ive been wearing a skirt everyday for over a year. ive been doing this all for over a year. im done. i just want to admit defeat and get the heck out of here. i know we've all felt that way in life too....i know at times ive caught myself thinking, "wow, i am wayyy to active in the church and nothing good is happening to me...i need a break, i need a vacation. im just going to fall victim to all the winds and storms of the world, hide under a rock, and then one day ill come back out, ready to face it again, i just need a break." well, on the mission, we don't really get how on earth am i supposed to cope with these feelings that i just want to admit defeat and give'd be so much easier that way than trying to move forward. well....lets all open up our book of Mormons to Mosiah 21 vs yeah, thats exactly where i am, ive been humbled by all my trials and struggles to the yoke of bondage to a point where i am surrendering myself and those exposing myself to further pain, winds, and the 'desires of my enemies' (the devil and his oh so pressing depressing thoughts)...kind of like a prisoner of war who has just given up their last thought of hope. i just hang my head down and admit defeat to Satan. BUT THEN, lets read one verse further. vs 14...what kind of humility comes after you've been driven to the dust of the earth? oh, a humility that drives you down even further, even to the dust of humility, but this time, you realize you've hit rock bottom, and we turn to our God for help. ALL the DAY LONG they did cry to their God that he would deliver them. 

so what did i realize from these verses....that admitting defeat, saying 'im just so tired, i need a vacation! i need a break from all this spiritual stuff!"....saying that and admitting defeat is the easy way out. definitely easy, drop everything and just leave, back out of a calling, a commitment, another service project. i know a lot of people will disagree with me, but, saying 'no' is easy. well, maybe not easy, but its the easy way out. what should happen, i what i need to do and have started to do is relying on god more. relying on my savior more. asking for help ALL the DAY LONG as I CONTINUE in the calling for which i am set apart. ive realized that i don't want to take the easy way out, and i have found how i am going to make it through (the mission, school, life) taking the hard way...actually staying active and relying more on my heavenly father who i am communicating with each day, He knows my struggles because i am honest and i tell him about them, and i am looking now more intently for the ways he blesses me each day. i know he can....he may be a little slow to do it if we're not to worthy right away, as we learn if we in this chapter a little further, but, he will help. 
Saturday our zone had a conference call with president....straight and to the point- "loosen up all you depressed missionaries!! and start working toward the beautiful goal that one day there will be a stake in Odessa!! the people you are meeting with now are potentially the future stake auxiliary or priesthood leaders of Odessa! remember your calling and keep finding people to teach!" okay president. no, it is actually really cool to be serving in an area where there is such a goal. can you imagine our stake in Vegas saying that? come on missionaries! we want to divide the warm springs stake into two stakes by simple missionary work! i mean, there's no reason to not have a goal like that in Vegas, just saying that it is cool to be working toward it. and something president promised is that that day will come. one day we will be home probably, studying somewhere, or with little kids running around, and we'll hear from a friend or from a face book update that they have organized a stake in Odessa. and he promised that we can feel proud that we helped build that. im so grateful to be serving in this mission specifically. its hard work, but wow, what a blessing.
by way of information/update.
do remember Lera who we contacted and prayed with on kreshatik in center Kiev? she got baptized and received the holy ghost last week. pretty cool. so, i am 'doing work' ...just not in my own area.
also, this week i'll be in Bulgaria to get my new visa. i only have a one year visa, so i have to go the nearest/most convenient American embassy in a different country to renew it. so i'll take a train tonight to Kiev, fly out to Bulgaria tomorrow and fly back to Kiev on Thurs or Fri, then train back to Odessa Fri night. what a week....wasn't i just talking about how i need a vacation?...just kidding. i know Bulgaria trips if anything through off missionaries' groove more than help it. but we'll see.
love you all lots, thank you for all you do for each other and to build up the kingdom of God and dont forget to build up yourselves!
sister little

Week 50

Dear family and friends...
i can feel ive almost made it through the worst of winter...almost. the sun is starting to come up earlier and earlier (about 3/4 the way through morning exercise) and while im wearing the most warm, ridiculous boots i have, its is only because they are the most water proof because as we walk the streets, we walk on more slush than ice now, so my socks get wet if i wear my other boots. its still gets really cold when the sun goes down. but. its amazing what a little warmth can do to an attitude. i think ive found my 'trigger'...something that puts me in a bad mood immediately and thats being my poor companion has had to deal with the worst of Sister Little the past couple weeks...but hopefully we are not far from some warmer days.
ive realized my past few letters have been pretty sub par..and i blame it on the cold weather. but now its a little easier to smile because my cheeks aren't as frozen, and my brain cells can work a little faster because they aren't' as i figured i could write a little better letter from a sister who has the privilege of being in Odessa, Ukraine at this moment and be living the missionary life...
this week was pretty good. its interesting to think about the progression of the people here in Ukraine. when it first opened up...lots of churches came in, lots of options, people were exploring, interested, inviting their friends here and there so there are now lots of churches in Ukraine who have some pretty loyal followers...Baptists, Jehovah witnesses, ive even run into ...what are those people called in Pennsylvanians?...ya, them. so now, twenty years later, people know who were are when we walk on the street. they know they just have to throw up there hand and walk away and we won't bother them. they'd rather believe what they hear in the media then what we have to say. so...we changed our strategy a bit. we are trying to just get people into our church buildings and meeting our members. lucky, our area actually has one, a pretty one at that, so we are trying to have regular activities at the church throughout the week to get people into our churches to see how we look on the inside-that we don't have icons everywhere, that it is a warm, welcoming place, that its okay to have crazy kids running around. Thursday nights we have an 'English discussion group' on spiritual topics since English it a big seller here. last week we had a really good discussion on faith/miracles/actions. we had 5 people there. not a lot at all, but, we've had worse shows. then Friday night is supposed to be 'fun night' where we play games or something...and when i got here no one was coming, not investigators, not members, no one. every one knows about it but everyone thinks someone else will come, some one else will do it...but then, we end up getting no support. so...we decided to develop it a little better so that its more interesting. we decided that for '4 weeks' and 4 weeks only..Friday would be a 'culinary night' where we showed everyone how to make different American sweets (everyone here through the course of 20 years of American missionaries know exactly what brownies are...but they don't know how to make them)...this way there is 1. free food which is the best way to get people anywhere, no matter what country they are in. 2. there is a time limit on it..only 4 weeks to learn how to do it...better come this week! and 3. its interesting...hopefully members and investigators will be intrigued by it and come and interact and we can build better relationships between our investigators and members.
well, the first week, we had like 5 members come...pretty good turn out! but no nonmembers came. we did rice krispy treats and brownies (except they don't have rice krispies here so we used a diff cereal), last week, our second week, we had 6! nonmembers there! (we did fudge and banana bread) members.. but that's okay, it still got some people into our building, interacting with each other, feeling comfortable with missionaries, and showing that we're fun too. i understand its not the best best way to teach people about the restoration or eternal life...but its a start. we got more nonmembers into our building than we have before. doing better, the language is coming back. i gave a talk yesterday in church about Jesus Christ, the everlasting gift of the atonement. it was a good reminder for me to be grateful for the many blessings i do have.
i love you all,
miss you like crazy!
thank you for you thoughts and prayers!
sister little