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!