Monday, March 28, 2016

Lime Cupcakes & Sunrise Volleyball..... 3-28-16

This last week was a good one. We held Zone Meeting and it seemed to have went well. The Odessa Zone is awesome and going strong. We have seen some people in the ward really change their lives around and they are now regulars at Church on Sunday. 

We also made some sort of Lime cake Cupcakes to take around to people this week instead of just cookies. It really is amazing how food can open doors for us, even with a smile, sometimes ;)

Had an interesting interaction on the street this week. We called some numbers from the Area Book and a man decided to meet with us at a park. We walked around while he pushed his baby girl in a stroller for a good 30 minutes, we were barely being able to get in a word. At one point, he walked into some friends that were part of the Pravoslavny Church and they started arranging the baptism of his infant right in front of Elder Glade and I. I had my finger in Mormon 8 and was itching to say something... it was if they just didn't even think we were there. Later I asked to give my opinion of baptism and they seemed surprised and gave me a moment. I asked if they understood the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how that related to baptizing an infant and then mentioning that she had no choice at all in the matter and to do it was incorrect. They quickly said "Babies cannot decide to be fed, but do we feed them?" It was interesting to say the least, and we parted ways with his friends and again I was talking with the man pushing the baby. In my mind I was not reassured that I said the right thing, or what I was supposed to do but when we were about to leave the baby woke up and we gave the man a pamphlet with the picture of Jesus Christ on the front. He handed it to his daughter and she then had the biggest smile. At that point I knew that what I had said was out of love and that even though it could have come off impolite, I said what needed to be said. 

 We were able to wake up early one of the days this week and go play beach volleyball! It was so fun. 

I had an exchange with Elder Habel this week. He is from Montana and loves to play basketball also. He is a very outdoorsy Elder and we were able to help lay some rocks/old bricks in the big pot-holes in the roads of his area. His area is awesome, but nothing beats Center:) 

We had a Mini-MTC this week for all of the members in Odessa. A lot of members from my first area were there and more importantly my favorite grandma in all of Ukraine! Grandma Lidia! I caught her eye and she yelled for me to "Come here" and she gave me the biggest hug. I wasn't sure what to do at first but then just hugged her back. She did not disappoint! She got mad at an Elder for not paying attention when she was talking to him and not keeping eye contact and then physically took some Elders' hands out of their pockets. In disgust, she came to me and asked for me to help them become Real Missionaries! It was good to see her again. I learned from the best! This weeks wisdom comes from her directly. 

1. Have a "Listening Spirit". It shows your love and soul that each of us has, but not many people know how to access. 

2. Every day ask: What do I wan't to become? What does God want? How can I really become a Missionary/ Man/ Brother/ Son/ Husband/ etc. and overcome my natural self? How can I truly become a representative of Christ? 

3. Paul taught to always have an answer.. We discussed this and I told her about the talk from last conference from President Nelson (correct me if I'm wrong) about having a short answer. She agreed and asked me what a short answer was. I waiting a second and then she replied, "humility." 

4. Either she forgot throughout the meeting, or she thought it was really important, but she read Mosiah 2:41 to me a couple times. Check it out. 

Hope everyone has a great week and maybe even Easter? Conference? Not sure. Our Easter here is celebrated in May.
-Elder Devashrayee 

Derek included a bunch of photos he titled "Artsy, best picture taking missionary in history here." I will put a couple here at the end, but there are others in the photos to the side.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Service, Not A Job...... 3-21-16

This week might just be more of a list than a summary! 

-I made Sloppy Joe's for a family that always makes us food when we go over and we might have killed all of their taste buds. Apparently Ukrainians do not like spicy food at all. It was a great night. I think she will insist on making the food from now on. We really only eat at members homes about once a week. If we are lucky we get to twice, but then we go for a while with zero.  

-We have started approaching English Class differently and making sure it is more of a service for the people that come and not our job, and we have seen the numbers jump! At times we have had an average of 5 but now we hit 17 this last week so it has been great teaching that.  In English class we just teach themes or object lessons.... like we went over how to talk on the telephone and then linked it in with prayer this last week. For now, the only reason people come is for English. We eventually hope that it will lead to investigators.

- We really pushed this week and on Sunday we saw the fruits! We had 4-5 Less Actives show up! It is just as pleasing or even more than investigators when we see them come back to Church. We are getting somewhere.

-This week we were far from the apartment one day wondering around trying to find an apartment that could not be found. We had an appointment at a members house so when the time ran out we just went there. They helped us locate the house and after dinner we set off to go found it again. We stopped by and all of the relatives were there. The father (Grandfather to the children that live there) had passed away that morning. We were able to talk with them for a short bit. We tried to help them understand and be grateful for the Plan of Salvation and the Comforter, in the Holy Ghost. I told them that we were led there at that time and on that day and it was absolutely true. They had not answered the phone for nearly a month and we finally decided that day that we would go try to find where they live. There are a lot of traditions here regarding death. One is that you bury the person on the 3rd day after they died and then the 40 days of mourning. 

-Back in August I made a 6 month goal to finish the Book of Mormon in Russian and I have accompanied my English reading with that also. Today I got to Moroni 9 in each. I set the goal for the 22nd of March and will complete it tomorrow. For sure I am not fluent, or even close to it, but it is amazing to see how far I have come since I made all of those 6 month goals. I heard a quote this week.. "When we fail, we succeed" and I can attest to that completely. But, just like always when I was thinking how great I was that I had reached this point, I translated for the Senior Couple, the Mikkelsen's, in Church yesterday and it was a humbling experience. Lots of work to go. 

-I especially liked the verse Moroni 7:15. The imagery helps out a lot with me. I realized that this can only be achieved when we repeatedly choose the right over and over again. Through experience, we can see this difference in our choices. Moroni 7 is a great chapter overall about this. 

Hope everyone has a great week! 
Elder Devashrayee

We get an email every once in a while from the Senior Missionary couple - the Mikkelsen's - that Derek talks about. We got one from them this morning as well. Just thought I would include it. Always good to hear from adults that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing :)

We had your sons over for dinner last night after a long day at church.  They were kind enough to help us eat up the leftovers from an activity the night before.  They wanted to make sure that you saw them eating their veggies!  I can tell you those two can eat, it was fun to watch them.  They are a blessing to this mission and this area. They are making a wonderful difference here. Thanks for sharing them with us.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

Russian Jokes & Cookies = Smiles & Opened Doors..... 3-14-16

Not a whole lot to fill you in with this week. I was able to learn some Russian Jokes and they are a great way to put a smile on nearly anyone here. I am enjoying this!

Fun fact: The 8th of March here is Women's Day!
Holidays are celebrated for a week before and a week after here in Ukraine. Last week at Church the Priesthood sang to the Relief Society and then had a "linger longer" type thing after Church that the Priesthood organized and such. It went fairly well considering....
Important to Note - notice it is all bought/purchased, not homemade, since the Men were in charge :)

It was transfer time and I had to say goodbye to Elder Gladwell, one of the Kodima Elders who stay with us. He was in my MTC district and one of my good friends from the mission so that was bummer, but we bought pizza and sent him off. 
We ended up running into other missionaries at the same place - a good place to eat!
We received Elder (Jentry) Young who was also in my MTC district. It is going to be a great transfer. 

We were able to go up to Kyiv for a Mission Council Meeting and we learned lots of great things. The points that could apply to you back home are: 

*President Packer - "If you are immersed in the Book of Mormon, you will never go inactive."

*When we teach, make the Book of Mormon the "meat" of the lesson, not the decoration. 

*When leaving a lesson, class or home-teaching assignment ask yourself, "Did I uplift this family/person, strengthen his/her faith, and were they brought closer unto Christ?"

We were able to visit and go through a session in the temple after the meeting. The Kyiv Temple is so amazing and to think that I am in Eastern Europe and that I can go through a temple just reminds me how lucky I am to be serving in this mission. We then hopped right back on a night train to Odessa. 

We have seen so much success with cookies..... Sister Mikkelsen's cookies work wonders on Center Odessa and we are going to make it a weekly deal. We have been able to show up randomly to Less-Actives and get in the door. We had our biggest turn out for a while at English class. It was great! 

I am getting excited because the weather is starting to turn for the better and people seem a little more happy. We are being told to try to capture this next couple weeks with Spring and share the message of the Restoration. You can do the same :)

We had an investigator ask us the question, "If Jesus came up to you, would you know it was Him?" Mosiah 5:13  and then, "if Jesus said, 'Come follow me....' would you?" We answered "yes" and said that we feel that we would be ready. He was really troubled with this answer and said wouldn't it be better for us to say "I don't know" than to say "yes" and not follow.... I hope we are all ready to say "yes" and not have a hint of doubt and follow. We know we are not perfect, but we can be ready. 2 Nephi 25:23

Food for thought,
Elder Devashrayee

Monday, March 7, 2016

One on One Time....... 3-7-16

This last week flew bye. This last transfer randomly had 7 weeks so here are the highlights from it:

Last P-day we were able to go and tour the Pier nearby. The harbor was pretty cool. Because of the weather not many people are out walking around. So we get a few weird looks as we are taking photos and "touring" the sites.

Last week we were able to find the best beach access for our morning runs. We are learning to appreciate the area we are serving in, where we can see the ocean, a small village, or be downtown in less than 25 minutes.  Had a great run! It was foggy that morning so we had some cool photos to add.

(Derek sent a lot of photos from the Pier and his "run" - they can be found in the Odessa Folder. His camera started acting funny so he took out the batteries but didn't update the date, so his photos are a bit out of order when you look at them. You can find his newer ones more in the middle of them all)

During the week we were able to go over to the Mikkelsons (Senior Couple in our area) and bake cookies. Cookies work miracles here. We were able to visit some people in hard times and the cookies did more than we would have been able to with words to be honest. I am glad that as missionaries we are bold and we say what needs to be said. At times I feel that I can come off offensive and even a tad impolite, but as long as we remember that we are here to do the Lord's work and to act as if we were the Savior talking to these people, it adds a sense of peace and authority when teaching the people we love. 

We have been working on making the entire branch a "House of Order" and did some cleaning up. On Thursday we were walking back from the Church talking to people. Met a man name Annatoli, who acted like he knew us personally and was one of the nicest people I have ever street contacted. I even asked if he was already a member of the Church by how he greeted us. We gave him a pamphlet and parted ways. We kept thinking about it and realized people like that don't just come by very often. One of the first times on the mission, I decided we need to run back to this man. We caught up and because it was raining he told us to follow him to the opera house. He just walked in, said hi to the people and kept ushering us to follow him. We honestly just wanted his number and figured he was going to grab it. 

Turns out he was an administrator for the opera and wrote us a free ticket to tour around and even for a free show! Randomly, we were all of a sudden in the famous Odessa Opera House with a ticket to go do anything we wanted! We decided to use our dinner hour and tour around. We had an appointment that night and the staff was very confused why we were leaving right before the show started! But wow... so lucky. We were blessed that night. 

(Derek took several photos of the Opera House and sent them to us. I have put them in their own folder to the right so you can see them all if you are interested. Amazing opportunity for them!)

We have been working really hard to gain referrals from the ward. I think with me being here 2 transfers now (the longest I have been anywhere here on my mission) we have started to finally break that shell and the members are trusting us. When a ward and the missionaries are in harmony, the work goes so much smoother. We were able to have Cherry Vareniki (like a Cherry Dumpling or Turnover that a member made for us), checked out scuba gear of a member for when we come back after our missions, and then we also were asked to teach part of Elder's Quorum. Tons of experiences because of the trust increasing.

I don't know quite how to explain it, but my weaknesses that I know I have as a missionary kept replaying over in my head for a couple of days straight this last week. Felt the impression that I just needed to write them down and post them on a paper that I would see every day. I did just that. The next day the transfer info came and I will continue to serve in Center Odessa with Elder Glade but we were called as Zone Leaders. Humbled by the opportunity, because I know nothing, but I know that the Lord sustains those he calls. Excited for the new opportunity and to become a better missionary. The Lord was helping me strengthen myself, by me realizing my weaknesses. 

That is it for the week. Find someone this week and have some good quality 1 on 1 time. It can be between a lonely friend, relative, sibling, parent, the Lord, or even your scriptures. Find some 1 on 1 time. It is more precious than anything you can buy or go do. 
Love you all,
Elder Devashrayee
We were very thrifty this transfer (7 weeks) so we splurged and went out and got the best hamburger 
we could find and afford! It was amazing!