Friday, April 11, 2014

Letter received notifying of missionaries being moved to Kyiv, Ukraine mission - April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014


To Parents of Missionaries in the Ukraine Donetsk Mission


            Re:  Status Update


Dear Brothers and Sisters:


Due to the continued unrest in this region, the Church has chosen to transfer the 85 young missionaries from the Donetsk Ukraine Mission to serve in other areas within Ukraine.  Last night all of the missionaries boarded trains from Donetsk and Kharkov for Kyiv.  Missionaries serving in the outlying cities had traveled to Donetsk and Kharkov on Wednesday.  We do not know how long this transfer will be necessary, and we hope that it will not be long.  Sister Lochhead and I met yesterday for a testimony meeting with the missionaries in the Donetsk region, and we briefly joined by telephone a similar meeting being held in Kharkov.  Listening to your sons and daughters share their testimonies was one of the great events of my Church experience.  You would have been proud to listen to them and feel of their spirit.


Saying good-bye even temporarily to our missionaries was very painful, and my wife and I shed more than a few tears, but we are confident it is the right thing to do.  The transfer is being made as a precautionary measure after prayerful consideration and counseling among Church leaders in Salt Lake City and at the Area Headquarters in Moscow.  I am thankful for their unfailing support and wise counsel.  The safety and wellbeing of the missionaries has always been the top priority.  Our three faithful senior couples have remained here with Sister Lochhead and me, and we will work with the local Church members to try as best we can to maintain the positive momentum created by the efforts of your sons and daughters until they can return.  Again I thank you for sending them here.  For Sister Lochhead and me it has been one of the richest experiences of our lives to serve with them.  We honor and respect each one dearly.


Warm regards,


s/Robert Lochhead

President, Ukraine Donetsk Mission

"Salvation is an individual matter; Exaltation- a family matter" - Apr. 7, 2014 - HAPPY BDAY ELDER CLAYPOOL!!!!!!

Thank you so much for your email this week and for helping to allow me to be able to be here. We are so blessed to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation. It helps me realize a few things: 1) We are privileged to experience all the trials and blessings of this world,  2) We have freely received this life and thus should freely give to others and our Savior, and 3) How can we not love life when we understand so much?! The Lord is just so merciful.

With every day I have been trying to be more and more focused, and some times I don't make the difficulties of missionary work easier by beating up on myself...but I am growing.

We have been super blessed to have another investigator accept a baptismal date and now work towards it. He'll be a wonderful missionary someday too! Our investigator Sanya is progressing with flying colors and soon his mom should be doing well too. We just need to keep on keeping on. Thank you so much for all that you have done and all that you haven't done. I truly can say on this day of my birth that I have been born of goodly parents (I know you always say mom is best).

I love you!  I read quote in a member's home I really enjoyed in Russian. The translation is:  "Salvation is an individual matter; Exaltation- a family matter".

Thanks so much for bringing me in to the world!!!!!! As I was saying my evening prayers last night and morning prayers today, I was overcome with gratitude for all the blessings that I have received in my relatively short 21 years of life...and truly all I have to show for it is to point fingers at others who have given me life and given it to my with abundance. My Father in Heaven, My Savior, You Both, and all the many brothers and sisters that have mentored me and helped me to be who I am today. Isn't it funny how on our birthday's we focus on ourselves when in all reality it should be a day of even greater giving back for the fact we received life freely. "Freely ye have received, freely give" the Savior said...I'm still working on the whole selfless thing, but we'll get there eventually :)

This last week went by incredibly fast. I have been battling with keeping focused as usual, but I guess it keeps me humble realizing my weaknesses. I was really studying this week what it means to serve the Lord with all our mind, and realized that just thinking about the mission and nothing else seemed a little too superficial of an answer for me - its not a principle that I can apply after my mission. So in studying more and more, I realized that our minds and our wills are very closely related. When we serve the Lord with all our mind, we are constantly searching for His will in all things. In seeking the will of the Lord more in my thoughts rather than worrying about whether or not I was focused on the work, I have found the words of Isaiah to ring true: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (26:3). I am finding great peace in just seeking the will of the Lord and "look[ing] unto [Him] in every thought" (D&C 6:36).

Our area is going well with a slower week, but with still lots of potential. Sanya is doing just wonderful and even came to church with us this week! He also aided us with service on the cabins of one of the members. The members are doing a wonderful job of finding and helping to friendship our members here.  It was wonderful to have the member who struggled with quiting smoking for many, many years be able to just have a heart to heart with our investigator multiple times throughout the day. Sanya looked so good at church this Sunday! He came to church this Sunday in his suit, tie, white shirt, and slacks. The Gospel Principles teacher didn't even recognize him as an investigator :) He still has a ways to go, but the Gospel is literally transforming his life from captivity to freedom. His mom is also sitting in on the lessons now and even reading the Book of Mormon! Any person who wants a better life: daily read the Book of Mormon and apply what you read. There is truly power within that book. It is truly from God. We also have two other investigators who are on date that are both member referrals, Yuri who is a sweet man that has been through a lot and just wants to change his life for the better, and Sasha who is the son of a member, 17, and extremely spiritually mature...he'll make a wonderful missionary soon :) It's been super nice that they are member referrals as well because when one of them was sick this last week and we were unable to meet, the member was with him almost everyday because of work. So the work is moving forward. Thank you so much for your prayers!

I love you mom and am far from perfection...but we are moving forward to our best selves :)
Elder Claypool

PS- We will be watching General Conference this weekend and I am super excited!
PPS- Nina, the red-haired lady, is moving forward, but slower. The members again are playing a crucial roll in her returning to activity :)

Happy Birthing-Me-Day :)

Aren't We Privileged to Be Participants? - Mar. 31,2014

I'll be praying for Ky and fasting for her!

Tell Lydia that I will be super excited to see her and I love her.

And for this week:

We were able to see just so many tender mercies this week especially with a man named Sanya who is was on really hard drugs for about a year and a half. He gave them up two months ago and in order to quit, took up really heavy drinking...and here come the missionaries knocking on his door :) He let us in (and if not for the Spirit giving the okay we would have not gone in...) and we were able to give him a Book of Mormon and set up a return appointment. That was a little over a week ago...and now, he is down to a few grams of alcohol every 24 hours, is reading the Book of Mormon and praying every day. It is incredible to see that only the fullness of the Gospel would have the strength to take him out of the hole he got himself in, even hospitals have rejected him considering him hopeless...and some of the sweetest moments of my mission have been with this man who is trying just so hard to change his life against all odds. Because of the drugs, his brain suffered a lot of damage...but that doesn't stop the Spirit from literally fusing his neurons together and helping him understand fundemental truths that have the power to make him free. Only the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and through the Book of Mormon has and will have enough strength and power to combat the adversary in these days and in the darker days to come. "Does God love me?" He has asked time and time again. "I'm pretty sure that He hates me for what I've done." And with full heart and testimony of the redeeming love of our Savior eternities echo as we are able to repeat just as often as the question is posed: "Yes Sanya. He loves you so much." As the prophet Isaiah poetically put: "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 9:17). Though we must repent - and often that repentance is painful - I testify that His hands are always stretched out still.

Are we privileged to be participants?

I love you mom!
Have a wonderful week and tell the twins that I love them too!
Elder Claypool

Self Mastery - Daily work - March 24, 2014

Mom, thank you so much for your pictures and your message! I hardly recognized half of the cousins :) I really needed to hear that message right now. Heavenly Father is so merciful to me, but all the same my physical imperfections have always been something that get me and hold me back...but self-mastery is what I am working on. Your message was an answer to prayer.

Kharkov is wonderful! It was difficult of course to leave Sumy and all that I left there, but this is where I need to be. In prayer I asked Heavenly Father to confirm that this was his will with who and where I would be. Time and time again already, the Lord in His immense mercy has showed me that (1) even in the end of my mission I need him more than ever regardless of how well of a missionary I have been able to become, (2) This is where I need to be, and (3) He loves me along with all of His children. Building a personal relationship with our Father through prayer is such a crucial aspect of our lives that is so rewarding! When our confidence is in the presence of Heavenly Father, then we are able to not fear man, ourselves, or anything that may meet us on life's path. I'm finding in prayer great solace and reconciliation with my Father in Heaven. Prayer is such a supernal gift, as Elder Scott would say. I really do love Him and invite all to make their prayers a little more sincere and much more listening than speaking. 

The branch here is just incredible! You have no idea how strange it is for me to go from 35 attendance to almost 85 :) But there are families, wonderful members, and a very functioning branch here in Novie Doma. (It means 'new homes' :) ) Elder Witt is my new companion and a wonderful young missionary at that from Salt Lake area. It will be a wonderful privilege to serve with him! Our area is wonderful and definitely far from everything else...but there are really wonderful people here. In fact, in the first few days we have already had many, many tender mercies. The first was that we felt that we needed to tract an apartment complex near our home and in doing so we were able to meet a wonderful man that was a drug-addict for the last year and a half and was just now coming out of it. He has a huge desire to change! The next day when we came back he had read nine chapters of the Book of Mormon and you could already see a difference in him! We asked his mom to join us on the lesson and his mom not only came but was super active in the conversation and has a lot of potential too! Then that same day we ran into a man that has been just living with immense guilt for the last 10 years because of how he drank away all of his money and as a result lost his family and all that was dear to him. He'd gone to many churches, was even baptized in an other church, but just didn't feel that it helped at all. Our lesson with him was a little rough because he has beat himself down even deeper into the hole of sin and doesn't have the faith that anything can help anymore...but we are working with him. He definitely felt the Spirit though! On our way to church the most amazing experience occurred: We were walking on our street, just having left our home, and there was an older lady with bright orange hair that we just said hi to. She stopped us and asked if we were believing people and asked if we were from some American church. We answered accordingly and she said, "well I was baptized in your church!" We thought to ourselves that she must have been baptized in some protestant, American-founded church and thought it was ours. And then she said "Yes, I was Relief Society President back in the day." Well there was no confusing our church with others :) We found out in later meeting that she was one of the first members in Kharkov, but lived in the Saltovka branch. She moved to Italy for work and lived there for nine years, thus becoming inactive. When she moved back, she didn't know of other branches and moved away into the Novie Doma boundaries but was too lazy (in her words) to go back to the Saltovka branch. In the time she had been inactive, she spoke of how the Spirit that she once felt was greatly less and that she worried she would never get it back. She has forgotten a lot, but she will be a wonderful addition to our branch here. What is best, in my talk on Sunday to introduce myself, I mentioned the sister that we found earlier that morning and the relief society visiting teachers or president (I"m not sure) came up to me and said: "What is her name, address, and number? we would like to visit her today and return our sister." I am in awe at just how incredible this work is and just how amazing the Lord is in doing His work.  

I love you mom! Keep praying that the Lord open the hearts of his children here!
Elder Claypool

From Sumy to Kharkov - Mar. 17, 2014

 "What do you choose"

So many people have trials of Faith.  It is a joy to help even atheists learn of truth. The Spirit softens their hearts...but then with trials and lack of diligence, many fall again into not believing in God and it seems firmer than before. It is absolutely heart-breaking to see people give up happiness.

As disciples of Christ we often wonder "am I doing any good in the world today?"  We may serve well, but when we watch people go inactive, missionaries wonder if they just added more former investigators to the pile or one more less-active to the ward roster...but, the Spirit doesn't confirm that idea and I know that we are on the Lord's side in a great battle against the adversary.  We are who we choose to be.

I sanctify myself even more for these my people in their time of need. Grace is needed.

I know how to be a missionary and how to share the Gospel. I really enjoy it. I love to teach...and it will be interesting to see what The Lord wants me to do after my mission.  I cannot believe I will be back in school this fall !

Thank you so much for your dedicated service. We had a really wonderful lesson yesterday in Gospel Principles about sacrifice. I had never thought about sacrifice as a necessary characteristic to become like our Heavenly Father. Our Father is willing to give all to us. How can we even come closer to him or become a little like him if we are not focused on others and ready to give all. For God so loved the world that he gave. Thank you for pointing me even further on the path to our Heavenly Father.

So, its time to finish this chapter of my mission and move on to the next. Yep. I received a transfer to serve now in Kharkov and leave this wonderful branch and area here in Sumy. There are so many thoughts in my head and heart that I hope I will be able to express and I pray the Spirit will help me do so. This was one of the greatest periods of growth in my life here in Sumy. I feel that here was a special place of pre-earth life fulfillment. There were so many people that I have met, befriended, and some what helped. As always, my mission and this service has given me so much more that I've given to it...but I guess that's the way it will always be. It was a little hard for me not only to be leaving, but seeking approval from Heavenly Father that I had done all that I was called to do here...there were times when we had a lot of investigators and when we had little to no investigators. But I just wanted to know from Heavenly Father that it was enough. With Elder Harrison and President of the Branch we were able to sing "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" and mid song the Spirit impressed me as we sang the following words (they are translated from their Russian text to English because the English words differ a little): "I know all, he said to me. Don't fear, for you have helped me." There were plenty of times here in Sumy when I was a far-from perfect servant. There were many days that I needed to repent and get back on top, but He knows all that. He knows all our bad days and all our good days...and He loves us still. Even in all my silly mistakes, he still forgives me when I repent and His graces makes my far from sufficient efforts sufficient. While I was sitting there looking at the congregation from the Sacrament table, I was just able to remember. Though there were not 50 people there as I had wished, though there weren't hundreds that were baptized, and though it would look like there was little change, the Spirit said differently. When the branch sang "God be with you till we meet again" that hymn became more than just music and words for me, but rather a prayer to protect this wonderful branch and all its members. Then on the second hour our investigator Nicholai broke down in tears (this is a Soviet Military man crying over a 20-year old kid) and proceeded to pray to Heavenly Father to bless and keep my path. It's really important to say that the most important name on my tag is and always will be the name of my Savior not mine...but it is a rare blessing that God gives us to peak into just how much we make a difference. The day continued with rejections and imperfections, but that's what makes this life -life. I came to Sumy extremely imperfect. I had to relearn how to love missionary work and to do the Lord's will with a full heart. The scriptures here in Sumy have opened up to me more than ever before. My relationship with my Savior has increased in quite, yet firm steps. And now I leave Sumy still imperfect, with more to learn, more to do, and closer to get to my Savior. But it was not time wasted in my life or in the lives of others. I am eternally grateful that I could be here in Sumy. I guess I can't and wont ever be able to express how I feel especially in an email...but my heart is washed over in gratitude to my God that for five short and extremely fast months, I could serve the people here in Sumy. What ever our calling, let us magnify it. In this is growth. In this is happiness. I remember when I sat in President Lochhead's office knowing that I would be then serving in Sumy and I thought to myself: "What next?" I had already felt that I had learned a lot, served in almost every assignment, and honestly didn't know what Sumy held in store for me. I came to serve the people...and I am so grateful that the Lord knew what was next and allowed me to experience it. On to the next chapter :)

I love you mom! Tell Korm and the twins that I love them too! 

Elder Claypool

“Sanctify ourselves” - Mar. 10, 2014

I must say that any perfection that I have received I learned from my parents, right?  While I've learned a lot on my mission from various leaders, nothing can change the foundation upon which it is all built. More and more I feel like I'm learning more and more just of your nature and character...kind of a mini lesson on how life is like for us as we try to come to know our Father in Heaven. I'm grateful for you.
The last week was a lot better in regards to missionary work and time is just flying by. I was able to read a journal entry from my first area and just feel the change. Although my writing style and words haven't changed all that much, the spirit behind the words have.
It was pretty shocking to hear that Bryce (Elder Samuelson) was already sent home (six missionaries left early from our mission until Ukraine settles) and that threw me into a huge ream of needing to get back focused. But, the Lord has kept me here for a reason. I could have just as easily been in his shoes, and he in mine, but we all have our different callings and our own times. This was something  that I needed to realize this week. If the Lord needs me to be here for another three months then I will be here and serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength. It is a daily battle to keep our covenants...but it is so worth it.  The people need hope.
There were moments this week where I had incredible spiritual experiences with the scriptures, investigators, and new members. President Lochhead came up to Sumy for a few hours just to meet and talk about the current situation...but his presence just helped me to get back up again and do my best. Never expect any less from me. The kind of leader and disciple that I want to be is one who always does the will of the Father...this in turn helps others to do what is best. At times it is difficult for anybody to do the right thing...but when I think of how many people that one right choice will influence, the decision becomes second-nature. Like the Savior said: "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (John 17:19). When we sanctify ourselves for the sake of giving others the example to be sanctified, the strength come to endure.
This last week was really wonderful and super fast! Our investigators are doing well, but we are trying to find more. Nicholai is just moving on closer and closer to baptism, but is waiting for the weather to warm up to be baptized in the river...besides that minor set back, he is a Priesthood leader prepared  from before the foundation of the world. :) We also were able to find a lady that is just looking for so many prophecies to be fulfilled including the restoration of Zion, the gathering of Israel, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Such an incredible blessing it is to be a missionary and have the truth!

Volodia has been going through some post-baptism trials of his faith that are rocking him pretty good. The last Sunday he was struck on the side of his head from behind and woke up in his apartment shortly thereafter. At first I didn't believe his story...and then we saw him a few days later with lots of swelling etc. It ended up turning into a pretty bad infection which has left him at home for the last few days. On top of the physical and far more dangerous is that his testimony is really shaking. He came a long way to believe in God and put off his atheistic roots...but they are rearing their ugly head again and causing a lot of doubts in him. From the outside it is so interesting to see how much his personality changes from happy to unhappy when he abandons his faith and sticks to his atheism. For me it was super stressful! I didn't want him to go less-active right from the with blank paper ready for revelation and lots of prayer and study I was able to learn some really important lessons this week: (1) How does our faith cause the miracle of conversion in the hearts of others. We cannot change their choices, nor can we take away their agency. We also can't have faith in them nor hope in their conversion unless they choose to repent and change. So how then does our faith play a role? When we have faith in Jesus Christ we have faith in not only his word (his commandments and promises), but we also have faith in his power. This puts us in the perfect situation to give opportunities for another to become converted. No matter how strong our faith is, we cannot change some one else's heart simply because. No matter how hard I prayed that because of my faith Volodia would receive the same, I couldn't control his agency. However, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, through me and other means, the Lord can work the might miracle of Volodia's conversion by providing him opportunities to become converted. (2) When someone is having a hard time believing, what should we do. We had a lesson with him yesterday where he came out and said just the different problems that he was having with faith in God. At first, the instinct was to pull out scripture after scriptures to help convince him to believe in God...even though we used scriptures, the Spirit taught something different: It's okay if he has doubts. In fact, faith by definition is not perfect knowledge. There is nothing wrong with a person if he has doubts. Faith is a gift from God that is given to us through qualifying efforts of reading the word, hearing the word, keeping the commandments, and praying to name a few. The problem occurs not when a person has doubts, but when a person stops qualifying himself to receive faith from God because of his doubts. Faith isn't faith until its tested, and the difference between faith and proof is that proof is human and faith is a gift from God. The message helped Volodia and taught us a lot too! Elder Evalde is just doing wonderful as well and carries the Spirit with him in all his very humble testimonies! When ever we have doubts in our faith, the words of Paul should ring clear: "call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions...Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back..." (Hebrews 10: 32,35-39). Hold to what you've received even in times of darkness. Cast not your faith away from you but be patient with faith. We are not of them that draw back. 

I love you mom! Thank you for you ever constant prayers and support! It is much needed!

Elder Claypool

A Voice of Hope- March 3,2014

Morning everyone!
This morning we received two emails from Ukraine-one from Kade and one from his mission president. 
His mission president reassured us of the measures are being taken to protect all the missionaries and how they are relying daily, if not hourly on the Area Presidency and church headquarters for their guidance and inspiration. The missionaries in Kade's mission are being allowed to carry on with restrictions- only speaking Russian (due to some growing anti-American feelings), cannot be out after dark, cannot go near city centers or plazas, government bdlgs and groups of people. But they are moving forward with the Lords protection! :)
Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers!!


Thank you so much for your prayers and your specific prayers that we we'lll be able to continue to teach the Gospel here in Ukraine. The people need it so badly here!

Everything is just moving forward here! Yes, there are a lot of fear in the air among the people, but you know Mom, it really is okay. I was a worried a few days ago about the people here, the future, not being able to finish my mission...but I was able to go through a huge change in a matter of hours thanks to the scriptures and the Spirit. 

I don't know if you've have the opportunity to study the signs of the Second Coming in huge depth, but I had never done so until this week and it greatly increased my hope! When you read all the things that must happen before the Second Coming it is really easy to lose hope, but when we read just how much the Lord is willing to help us, we gain that hope. I love the counsel and scriptures that are just filled with promises and hope for all faithful members of Christ's Church. 

D&C 45:32 - we are commanded to stand in Holy Places
D&C 45:57 - We must take the Spirit for our guide and we will be able to abide in our difficult day
D&C 21:5-6 - if we follow the prophet, we will not be overcome in these days
1 Nephi 8:23-24 - In holding on to the iron rod, or the scriptures, we will be able to press forward through the mists of darkness. 

We are seeing before our eyes here in Ukraine the Savior's prophecy in Luke 21:26 - "Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." Honestly, satan is doing his best right now to simply make us lose our way by focusing on all the things that are going on  around and put off the things that are most important. See what the Savior spoke next: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads...And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with...cares of this life, and so that day come upon you dunawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." All Satan wants us to do is to be distracted from our true purpose. He places all these material crisis and blessings in our path so that like the people on the path to the tree of life in Lehi's dream we lose our way and are lost when the 'mists of darkness' arise. We are called to warn our neighbor and help them have peace in their hearts that comes from living the Gospel and only from such. Like the Savior on the boat amidst the storm, we can be at peace; was He wet from the waves? I would assume so, but he still slept. Will these troubles be around us? Most definitely. Will we sink like Peter who was afraid looking at the waves and winds? If we hold to the Iron Rod and keep our focus we will be able to stand in that day. Count my message today as a voice of hope. The future is as bright as our faith. 

I love you mom!
Elder Claypool