Monday, February 29, 2016

Miracle of Conversion...... 2-29-16

This week was pretty stressful to be honest, but totally worth it. To start off, we had a baptism! Klara, our 90 year old grandma, was baptized! We taught her all of the lessons in 2 weeks and got everything finalized very late Friday night. The Baptism was after church. I will just have to type what I wrote in my journal after we came back... 

".... It all worked out! Thanks for the чайник's (tea kettles) to fill up the font to make sure it was warm all Sunday, her home teacher driving out to pick her up (she lives about an hour away), preparing all of the Baptismal clothes, teaching her in 2 short weeks, moving a couch from the basement of the church to the Sacrament room, organizing everything for the service from the opening prayer to who would baptize her, and tons of other factors. To feel the love of the ward toward her today was amazing. She was a celebrity with all of the primary children. Her grandson, саша, baptized her and Elder Glade looked all good decked out in white and helped support her in the font. Klara cannot walk and one of her arms does not work at all, so there needed to be 2 people in the font to help support her and immerse her horizontally while she laid down. I was a witness for the baptism and it wasn't the prettiest thing, but when she came out of the water she had the biggest smile on her face as she looked right at Elder Glade. It was awesome to see. The meeting soon resumed and President Черников kneeled down by the side of the couch she was laying on with other brethren surrounding her and confirmed her a member of the Church and gave her the Holy Ghost. The Spirit was amazingly strong during the entire meeting, but especially at that point. The Lord was smiling down on клара as he welcomed her. Blessed to be His representative here in Ukraine. We didn't do a thing for this baptism to happen... " more or less what I wrote. I will have to just send pics. Words don't do the day justice.
tea kettles used to warm the water in the font

Her home teachers car - her humble mode of Transportation to come and be baptized

Me, Svetlana (her daughter), Klara, Sasha (Her grandson) & E Glade

We got a lot of less-actives involved in the whole process. The whole program was member ran. It was great to see the branch come together and welcome her with open arms. 

This last week we also made a hospital stop by to one of our good friends here and it is always an eye-opener to see how lucky we are. We had a Zone Conference this week that was really uplifting. We have an amazing Zone. Love all of these people.  

During the week we also had a service project that fell through at the last minute after trekking our way clear out there. So E Glade and I took a few minutes and hiked around this beautiful country. 

Later in the week we had a stop by to a house where I truly learned what it means in the scriptures when it says that the prophets "mourned". I truly felt the lowest of the lows this week and also the highest of the highs. Brought me back to last year exactly with High School Basketball. That same week I experienced my highest of highs and my lowest of lows at that time in my life. On February 28, 2015 we lost the state championship... on February 28, 2016 I witnessed my first baptism. The Lord was helping me replace that date in my mind with the miracle of conversion through a baptism. I am blessed and loved!
Elder Devashrayee

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Steps In The Right Direction...... 2-22-16

This last week might have been one of the best so far. To start off, a 90 year old grandma has come out of the wood works and has the desire to be baptized to join her family. Hopefully I will be able to give you more on that next week. This week we had another exchange and I went out to Kodima. It is about a 5 hour train ride into a non-proselyting area. I had to leave my name tag behind, and only dress in levis and a sweater. It was strange heading out to do the lords work without the normal attire on. They only do service there, and since it is the winter there isn't a lot to do.  I went out with Elder Simmons. 

The moment we got there I could almost feel something different in the air. It is crazy to go somewhere like that and know that not 1 person has ever been preached to in the whole town. They know nothing about the restored Gospel. There is a branch in Fielderovka which is a short taxi ride away, and that is where the Kodima Elders usually serve. It was odd to not have a name-tag on but we decided to just try to serve as much as possible. We were able to do little acts of service around us whenever we could. 

We went to the store to buy some filtered water and the cashier was using an abacus. I was so fascinated that I just stood and watched as she used it to tell people how much to pay.  Then we had a nice conversation about it. On the way in the hotel we exchanged some nice words with Provoslavny Priests in the hall before we went into our room. An hour later, we heard a knock on the door and were really puzzled on who wanted to talk to Us?! Opened it up and one of the Priests invited us over to their room for some food. We decided we might as well and didn't see any harm in it so we went over. They were just chilling in normal clothes and had some food out on the table and a bottle of vodka. We ate with them and one of them kept trying to offer us vodka and was almost offended we wouldn't drink. It was light-hearted in the room, but he could not get over that fact. We talked about it and he was astounded that we had never smoked, drank, and that our standards were as high as they were regarding females. We asked if we could bless the food and I said the prayer. We ate some Moldavian food and it was a great experience to just talk with them. They asked what we believed about life after death and were very respectful listeners. They did some of their singing ritual/prayer things while we were there and then at the end to show us how they pray.  They asked us about the Prophets in the Bible and about Jesus and when I said that they are "Mormon" they got a laugh out of that. We swapped numbers and then returned home. 

The next day I received a call from the Priest over the Kodima area. He invited us to go on a tour to the temple. 

The Temple we toured with the Priest! Had to get this pic from a distance 
cause people were watching us. Such a different place inside
Seeing it as a great opportunity and a learning experience, we went and he let us in. He explained everything inside and all of the ordinances they do, the murals on the wall, the idols, how they confess sin, how the levels of priesthood works, the robes/hats and the symbols they represent, the 1/3 part in the back that only the Priests and the Bishop (when he comes) can go, how they bless and administer the sacrament, how they baptize, and many many more things. They are sooo close to the truth, and at one time they might have had it a  long time ago. What was the most interesting thing was that at one point, I felt the Holy Ghost without a doubt. They love Jesus Christ and the light of Christ can be anywhere. 

The Priest was a great listener to us and never argued, he only brought up similarities and was very humble and respectful to what we had to say about that we have a prophet (they don't) and that we believe baptism starts at 8 not as an infant. We were able to give him an Articles of Faith card and a card with  info.  I could go on and on about the experience, it was amazing! 

The Kodima elders returned this week and talked with the Priest and his friends. Apparently, they are now protected in the area by some little gang if anything ever happens, you are welcome elders :)  It was a great step for the LDS church in the area with relations, and with Kodima in general. Beyond grateful for the the experience. 

We stopped by a family in Fielderovka and helped them crack dried peas. This is part of the city there.

I asked the man of the house (Alexander) his conversion story. It is my favorite question to ask when visiting because everyone was at one time converted. Very few are born into the Church here. We then taught English in the house of the Branch President, which now serves as the the Church for the small area. Very small and quiet town, but very spiritual. 

I hopped on a train at 2 in the morning, was reunited with my son.  We were able to go out to teach the 90 year old grandma. What a cool area!

We visited a family in our ward, and then picked up a mini missionary for a couple of days. He is from Ukraine and knew Russian. It was so nice to have someone that could speak Russian fluently. We took him on all of our lessons and they all went better than before (no surprise). It is crazy to see the difference it can make when you can fully communicate with people and how they open up even more. It was a good motivator to me to keep learning Russian better and better.

This last Sunday we a had a "linger longer" after Church with tea and cookies of all sorts. It was great to see the ward come together and I hope that they start doing it monthly (for me, and for the ward). I loved those as a youth.  At some point in the 3 hour block, all of our main investigators showed up and one that we had seemed to have lost for a while. It was a great feeling. Blessings.

One thing that stuck out to me was how Elder Glade talked about us being born in the Church to an investigator. "We were blessed and born into the Church so that we could be prepared to serve here and bring you back. We probably told you before this life that we would come back and remind you!" Take the knowledge you have and remember how privileged you are to have it. Share it with someone this week! 

Elder Devashrayee

Monday, February 15, 2016

Knowledge Sets Us Apart....... 2-15-16

This last week was a little slower, but we were able to accomplish a lot. Sometimes it is good to take a step back and really evaluate. A mini miracle this last week: an investigator brought us lunch randomly to a lesson where we had been stuck at the Church all day and he just said he felt an impression to bring us something. We are truly protected out here on the mission. 

Last week we were able to have a few service opportunities helping bring a bed frame piece by piece to a grandma in our branch. She gave some interesting advice that I think I will start using. She told us a word that I forgot, so I asked her the next day again she said that I need to pray whenever I learn a word so that I can retain it/use it when necessary. I need to do this!

We had an exchange this week and we were really able to see how other companionship's works and what we/I can do better.  While contacting with Elder Christofferson, someone asked why there are so many churches on the earth today. Usually when that question is asked I go straight to the Great Apostasy. Elder Christofferson took a different approach that I really liked. He just said, "God knows... ask him!" and then invited them to pray. No arguments with that answer, nice. 
E. Tolman, E Glade, Me and E. Christofferson - Exchanges

We were able to give a few blessings this last week and we are always grateful to have that power as long as we are worthy. A lot of General Conference talks were listened to this last week and I liked how one of the talks said, "it is the power of God restored on Earth through Holy Angels." In one of the talks I heard a phrase that I have heard a few thousand times at home when walking out the door. "помни кто ты такой и откуда ты пришёл"  Remember who you are and where you came from!  

We had a English class and then lesson after and the YSA had a Valentines Party on the floor above us. The music was so loud and somehow they had gotten hold of some big amps. Holidays are seriously so pointless on the mission.  But we did make some incredible pancakes.
What we did for Valentines night- fun stuff for missionaries. Pancakes galore (found whipped cream!!!!)

Our branch recently installed home teachers and I am really excited about it. Then I remembered how horrible of a home teacher I was, sorry!  I keep looking back and realizing, "man, I could have done better." But honestly, I feel like that is just life. In a year I will look back and say the same thing about the missionary I am now. Life is just becoming a better and better person/representative of Jesus Christ. 

Whenever we talk with youth on the streets they always ask about all of the rules we have, all of our guidelines, and then always end saying that they could never do that and that is sounds like being in jail for 2 years.  Some may think that, but if you are out here for the right reason it will not feel that way. 

I found a quote that I really liked from Boyd K. Packer. "We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see." It is the knowledge that we have that sets us apart, and it is that knowledge and joy that we are trying to spread here in Ukraine.  In Preach My Gospel, it says, "to keep our covenants, we must give up activities or interests that prevent us from honoring those covenants" I thought to myself what I could give up or change. I invite you to do the same! 

Finishing Ether in the Book of Mormon this week, I went through a few chapters were it just talks about kings and tons and tons of generations and people born in bondage/people born into a time where they had to take up the sword with their mother and father and go to war to protect their own lives and so on..... I have every reason to be grateful. I have a family. I was not born into bondage. I was born into the gospel. I have not had to fight for my life. Huge things, that I have not thought a lot about before.  Thanks!

Hope everyone has a great week! Favorite scripture this last week was D&C 18:10
Elder Devashrayee

Monday, February 8, 2016

Reasons Behind Each Opportunity...... 2/8/16

This week flew bye really fast. The mission just keeps speeding up. 

This week was full of little things that made the entire week great. We really focused on trying to work with the ward here and member-present lessons are one of the hardest things to come by out here. We really focused our efforts on the ones closest to baptism and came out with a personal record for a week of lessons with members present. Wow, it is nice to have a native speaker on lessons. We were able to enter a home with an active member, less-active, and an almost atheist. It was interesting to see the dynamics of it all and the feeling of peace in the house compared to when we first entered. It was amazing to see how just talking about simple truths and Jesus Christ completely changed the environment. 

One of our investigators decided he wants to gather funds to build a statue of Jesus Christ in Crimea bigger than the one in Rio de Janeiro ( haha Brazil). His idea was it would just be there and silently say, "That's enough" and the war would stop. Interesting thought, and I liked it. Not sure it will happen though.

I saw a person on the street this week with a Utah Jazz sweatshirt and I stopped and talked to him about it and he had no idea what the Utah Jazz even was and was kinda weirded out. We also stopped a man who said he has read the Book of Mormon and already "knows everything" but allowed us to come by his work to teach his employees. My mind instantly thought of walking into a big, pristine office with a big long table and passing out Book of Mormons and the whole office would have our attention and we would stand up in front like true disciples of Christ and speak with power. We ended up walking through a couple of alleys and entering a sketchy back door and were allowed 20 or so minutes to speak to a couple of ladies that worked in a 1-room store that sells books. Expectations verse reality will always getcha. It quickly became apparent that one lady had not interest and we shifted most of our attention to another. She seemed interested, but then we realized she was just trying to be polite. We left there with no immediate results, but we know we were given that opportunity for a reason. 

One principle really stuck out to me this week. We need to pray and plan for unplanned opportunities. Maybe leave somewhere 15 minutes early, maybe have something on your lips that you are ready to share, or even just be aware and observant of what is going on around you. 

Mormon 8: 35-39 I labeled this "stamp out all pride" We are not to give heed to that which "hath no life" Decide for yourself what that means to you and try to focus your attention elsewhere this next week! 

An investigator of ours wanted President Packer to have this. We sent it up with a couple of other missionaries to give to him. Pretty Cool painting!

Hope everyone is doing well. All is well is Center Odessa. 
Elder Devashrayee

Monday, February 1, 2016

Upped My Personal Courage....... 2/1/16

This last week was great. Busy is always a good thing. My "son" officially had his first шаурма and as a father, it was a touching moment. 
Elder Glade's first Waypma, great excuse for me to get one too!

We were able to teach a lot of lessons this week. We met with a man that had been previously taught, then I taught him once 6 weeks ago. Then he showed up at Church one day lat week and had completely turned his life around. It is amazing what the Gospel can do for people. It is my favorite to just say what needs to be said upfront and then watch the Holy Ghost work with them. 

This last week I would say I have upped my personal courage in proclaiming the Gospel and teaching repentance and I have seen the result of it in my life and in those who I teach. The worst part of this week was in the grocery store running into "Joe". He realized that we were american and started to talk with us in English. Found out he was from Texas and traveling the world. Noticing from all that he was buying, I knew he wasn't up to much good but started to talk with him. He asked a lot of questions about the MTC and questions that seemed like he knew something about missionaries. In the closing 10 seconds as he took his groceries and paid for them he mentioned that he used to be a missionary and the "3rd highest baptizer in his mission" or whatever, and then said he realized the Church wasn't for him. I replied with, "I'm sorry," and just like that he was gone. I was so stunned that he used to be a missionary. I thought of the people he had taught. The people he testified to. The people who he taught the commandments to. As he walked out of the door I yelled, "Come back!" but that was the last of him. While walking home and thinking over that, I wish I had that moment back. I wish I could have been like Elder Holland and "singed his eyebrows off." But at the same time I wonder if talking with us would be enough and his chance to come back.

I read a verse this morning that actually went right with this and seems a little rough, but it is the justice of God. Sometimes Enduring to the End just gets thrown into the list of what people need to do to live with Heavenly Father again. I realized that sometimes I tail off with this last step. The verse in 3 Nephi 27:17 made it clear to me. Every day the Lord tests our faith. The moment I give someone advice is when I get tested on it 2x harder than before. We are seeing miracles here in Central Odessa: a 10% heart surgery going well and full-recovery is imminent, people showing up out of no where wanting to be taught, and also my cooking is slowly getting a little more expansive, not just Borscht and potato something....
Made some pasta this week. Notice the veggies in there Mom :)

I read my patriarchal blessing for the first time in a while and was grateful to have received it. My own personal scripture. If you haven't read it in a while, go and read it! If you don't have one, go get it! 

We haven't seen the sun a lot lately, but it did try to peek through the clouds the other day. It's cold and snowy, but we still have work to do. Staying warm on the inside helps with the cold outside.
Elder Devashrayee