This last week I had the opportunity to be in the beautiful old city of Kharkov, Ukraine. It was my first time and quite amazing to see the difference in Donetsk and this city. Here there are cobbled streets in the main square, a subway system that made me think of Disneyland, and plenty of incredible members, missionaries, and our brothers and sisters who haven't yet accepted the Gospel. I was able to be on exchanges with tons of missionaries here and most of all I was able to be submersed in this people. They are so kind and mean so much to me. One of the most amazing things this week was being able to see Andrei Lukashuk and Ina his new wife at their reception that just happened to be the night we got in town. What a blessing it was to see him and her so happy-the product of righteous Gospel living. They will be sealed in the temple at the end of the year. It was my first time really on a "Ukraine-train", in a different city, and with a lot of growth that happened. The Lord is blessing me more than I deserve especially since I am so imperfect. The role of the Assistant will change hugely when President Lochhead comes, and I would pray that I can be all that you wrote in your email.
The greatest thing that I was able to do this last week was to become more dedicated to the work. I was just fighting with myself...well I guess I was fighting more the Spirit. The Lord wasn't giving up on me, but instead he was continuing to fight with my natural man and pull me out. What helped me? Well honestly it was a good solid sit-down scripture study about obedience, a lot of personal choice, and an exchange with an incredibly Christ-like elder named Elder Harrison. There were so many miracles that we saw talking to people who had prayed us to them, fasting with investigators that I had only met, being in a different area every night, and yet having every experience clearly mapped out for my personal growth. One thing that I have not been able to say up until this point in my mission is that I love my mission, this country, or all the people. Yes, I loved those who loved me...but as Christ said even the pharisees loved those who loved them. So, I've set out on a quest of love. A quest to gain an abiding testimony that my Heavenly Father loves me, that I love myself, and that I love my neighbor. This country is incredible, the people themselves are the epitome of enduring to the end. I love them.
One experience from this week shows their endurance:
We were in an area called "Novie Doma" inviting people to an open house. There were some very nice people, some not too nice people, and people who just weren't ready. We followed the Spirit, opened our mouths as we covenanted to do so, and had many miracles. An old lady was sitting on a bench when we received the prompting to go and talk to her after receiving the prompting earlier to walk her way. We sat down instantly when she upon seeing us exclaimed: "The Lord answered my prayer! I saw you earlier, prayed that you'd come, and here you are!" She had just had a run in with missionaries of another religion and was flipping through their materials when we found her. We were able to talk to her, teach her about the restoration, and invite her to church. She told us about her past, the difficulties and the hardships that came because of the old soviet union where they taught even in schools that God did not exist. But this old lady along with hundreds of old ladies who believed dearly in God were the real pioneers in this country. Not because they faced the trials of the Latter-day Saints now, but because when it was by law forbidden to believe in God, they still in secret faithfulness kept Satan from completely controlling this country. Because of her, her family knows who Jesus Christ is, what the importance of Him in our lives are, and loves God, as she expressed with tearful eyes. Upon the backs of faithful children of God this country has hope.
These are my people. I love them with all my heart...to love a person it helps to understand them. With understanding comes forgiveness, and with forgiveness even greater love. I could spend the rest of my life among these people serving them and helping the church to grow here...of course a wife and family would be a bonus...okay necessity ;) But if the Lord calls, I would with all my heart do all that I can; - and I do not forget that the Lord has already called. There's not only planning for future service in my heart, but day to day Christ-like kindness that drives me to open my mouth and declare our message of the Restoration. What an incredible work we are all called to as we beautifully saw from the broadcast. Who can we work with in our family?
I love you with all my heart! Like Elder Nelson said at least 10 times during the broadcast: In doing this work, we must act in love. So let's show a little more love to the world that needs it far more than anything else. Thanks for being an evidence to me that my Father in Heaven loves me.
In general it was an incredible week that I really dont have words nor time to explain it all...but that is why I pray every night before writing in my daily journal: so that I can express my thoughts and feelings to all that will have a chance to read it on a day to day basis. I love you mom so much and am more than pleased that the Gospel is even more become the center of our home. Thank you for doing the work of the Lord. Its the only thing that matters in this life.
PS - our new mission President Lochhead and his wife come in this Saturday and then time really starts to fly!