Yep, we are now in Kiev! Pretty crazy right? Less than one week ago we were in Kharkov just doing missionary work and then Tuesday morning we got a phone call from President and Sister Lochhead. It was at first kind of hard to swallow that I would be leaving my mission early - I didn't know if I would be staying or if they would be sending me home early, so I was a little nervous - but all things as usual are turning out to be the Lord's will - which is always the best. From that phone call we had about 24 hours to get all packed up, say goodbye to all our investigators, and hand them over to the members. Our mission was at an all time high in many areas and we were just having a wonderful time. We of course asked the question "why?" but the Lord really does know what He is doing. He has been preparing the mission for all the changes. When I was serving in the office our average weekly number of lessons with investigators that had a member present on them was 80 at its highest...and this last week before we were transferred we were almost to 140. Almost all of our key investigators in the mission had a member ready to take over. We were at first a little worried about our investigator, but as soon as we took time to plan out who was going to take care of who, our fears melted away as our faith increased in the wisdom of the Lord: All of our investigators have members that are ready to take over. What better way to get the members involved in missionary work and furthering their participation in the work of salvation, than taking all the full-time missionaries out and letting the members continue on. It will be a refining fire for our mission, but the members will become even better because of it. I just imagine what it will be like when the missionaries do return and their efforts are added to the efforts of missionary work of the members - the work will soar.
So we made it to Kiev safely (i didn't smell to good after a day and a half of traveling...but that's why you pack deodorant near the top of your suitcases :) ) Almost flawlessly we were able to get out of our varied cities in our mission and head to Kiev only to be met by smiling missionaries who were ready to help us with the tons and tons of luggage that we all had. It was pretty funny just how much we had and just how much we tried to fit in the individual coupes on our train...but it all worked out :). It is definitely different to be in Kiev...I always mistakenly say 'branch' instead of 'ward' and 'branch president' instead of 'bishop'...but it was a miraculous feeling and sight to see the Kiev temple. I haven't seen one of our temples in a long time, - but it was a wonderful spirit to feel just what that building means for thousands upon thousands of living and dead here in the Slavic lands. Their meetings here are in Ukrainian, so I am feeling like a really new missionary with a new area, new mission, and a new language. But in all of it, there is still a sacred feeling of peace that pervades it all. We are still missionaries, we are here to serve, and we expect to help those the Lord has called us to help here. There are now 16 missionaries in our ward, but with over 150 members it's a little less noticeable. :)
We did have an opportunity to watch General Conference! I was just amazed by the immense Spirit that was carried during the testimonies of the Prophet, his counselors, and all the Quorum of the Twelve. Are we blessed to have living prophet and apostles that literally speak the will of God for our day and time? ANY person can watch conference and truly feel such a spirit and receive answers to their questions. There were so many amazing messages that touched my heart and helped me to be better, but I think more than anything else, the Spirit helped me to realize two things: God really does love us and wants us to follow His Son Jesus Christ, who lives and guides His own Church, and that we need to continuously strive to be the best disciples of Christ that we can be. As President Eyring said: We hold the happiness of more individuals than we can even imagine. Yes, we do not decide their fate - only they can do that - but we do influence their lives in such great ways that we can be the catalysts or cross-roads for them to choose eternal happiness or eternal loneliness. It's hard to do the right thing at times...but I can promise that we will find strength every time to do what is right when we do it for those we love, both born and unborn. As our Prophet counseled: Have courage to do what is right because it is right. In this upcoming Easter season, I wish to add my witness to the love, mercy, reality, and divinity of our loving Savior Jesus Christ. He lives and loves us. Only through Him can we find happiness. Just try it. Try living by His Way and I promise as His representative that you will receive eternities more than you could ever have imagined. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Way.
I love you Mom! Keep doing that missionary work like Elder Ballard taught! :) We'll conquer our friends together when we get back :)
Wow! I did not know Derek Anderson is to be married. That is great. Any details? Please congratulate him as I assume he will be married before I get home.
Thank you for your letter and for all the support you give. Just like Elder Scott and President Eyring talked about it in general conference, we all have our heroes that help us to grow. Thank you for being a hero. You have no idea just how much every good decision you make influences each person you come in contact with.
I came away from conference realizing that I need to continue to develop more charity for all men and for my Father and Savior. Life is so much better when we are serving out of love and not just because we are forcing ourselves to do so. Like Elder Hales said: Christ-like love is the key to Christ-like obedience.
We really could use more love in the world, and when we take the time to truly say with all our heart that we love God and our fellow men as ourselves, life all of the sudden fits into place wherever that place may be.
I'm in a new chapter now in Kiev, but as always there are lessons to learn and to teach, people to serve and to love, and so that's what I'll do. The simplicity of the life of a disciple is so breathtakingly beautiful. Aren't we privileged to have what we have? And as was said in General Conference: The people around us are those we are given to love and serve.
Thank you for being a stark example for me of service and love.