Monday, May 30, 2016

Ice Cream Surprise :)...... 5-30-16

Great last week here in Odessa. Received the news that I will stay here in Tairovo/Tairovsky for another transfer and will continue serving with Elder Jorgensen as zone leaders. Transfers fly bye... 

This last week we had some great success finding a less active that is 15 and just playing some basketball with him. At the end we had a spiritual thought and then he mentioned that he had given a Book of Mormon to his friend! It was completely out of the blue and we were able to go back on Sunday and talk with him and his friend. Apparently, his parents are Muslim but he broke off from that at age 11 and has been searching for God. He has tons of potential and has been prepared. Just goes to show that the Lord seriously does 99.9% of the work and we are just here to fulfill our duty/part. 

We were able to make some great connections with the less actives in the area and I can already see it growing and growing. It has to be my favorite part of this work to be honest. We also got caught in some unexpected rain lately. Wasn't fun, but we survived.

While at a lesson with one of my favorite grandma's of the ward, she asked what I wanted to be after the mission. I said, "I want to create/run an ice cream factory", she instantly jumped up and nearly injured herself as she remembered that she had ice cream bars for us in the freezer- haha it made my day! 

Not a whole lot of stories for this last week, just doing the work and a lot of different and fun interactions with people. I am absolutely positive that I am still here in Odessa for some reason, but I can't quite figure it out but I trust President Packer and the Lord that it is exactly where I need to be. It reminded me of a story in the Book of Mormon. Alma 16: 4-8. When you rely and trust in your Priesthood leaders, you will be guided and blessed. 

While trying to read the Book of Mormon in a month, before Elder Ballard comes, my testimony of the Book of Mormon and the truthfulness of it as the word of God has grown. Every day I have been able to mark it up on the topic of pride and humility. Every day I have been tested on what I learn and it has helped me grow. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can solve any problem and help with any decision. The more I have read, the more I have grouped Humility with Trust, Prayer, Obedience, Blessings, Peace and Joy. I am beyond grateful to be a missionary here in Ukraine at the moment and also grateful to my Father in Heaven for everything that I have been given. 
Hope you all have a great week and ENJOY SUMMER! 

-Elder Devashrayee 

p.s. Forgot to show you. We were tracting apartments and we found all these cool levels with pictures on them.  here are a couple of the murals. They were painted on the walls from top to bottom.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Time to Realize our Blessings....... 5-23-16

Fun week here in Ukraine. It might just be a short story telling week again.

Center Odessa, my last area, is going to be split into 2 separate areas that will now have two sets of Elders to cover because the area is just too big for on set of Elders. Elder Glade and Everton (my posterity) are there right now and I was able to go back on an exchange with Elder Glade and go around looking for an apartment for the incoming other set of Elders. The transfer ends in about 9 days from now so we were in a hurry once we heard from President. I wish my momma was there with me, it would have helped. We were wandering around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to talk to people that knew how we could rent an apartment. It was different, fun, and we found a few options. It was good to be back in Center for a day and also with my son. 
Elder Konstantinov & Elder Glade
The next day, I was on an exchange with Elder Gerasimov from Crimea. The highlight of the exchange was the meeting we had with this fellow from Afghanistan that knew how to rap like Eminem and sang some other songs to us. He is very faithful to the Muslim tradition and teaching people like him is fun but can also be very frustrating. 

To end the exchange we traveled down to Illy and ended up having lunch with the Mikkelsen's and I had the tastiest burger that I have had for a loooong time. The Mikkelsen's somehow always come in clutch.
Elder Gerasimov from Crimea & the Mikkelsen's

This week, we met the "Angel" of Outer Darkness. We went out to the area with a lot of time on our hands looking for members to meet with. We kept talking about how picture perfect the day was and the setting around us. We met a lady and talked to her for a bit. We then asked her on the spot if she had 20 or so minutes. We sat on the grass and she sat on a little cement block. The meeting was humble and the Holy Ghost was present throughout. It was a "picture perfect" setting. I had never taught a lesson like this before. Outside, sitting on the grass. It was awesome, and even half way through a train came by and we had to wait a couple minutes before we could hear each other again. It was a great experience. She has a lot of potential and a family. That day, I learned the characteristic of Urgency. Instead of just leaving a pamphlet with her, we helped her make large steps. 
This is where we sat with her for this discussion, pretty cool!

We had a ward picnic this week and it was a blast! We were in the middle of the forest and then it just opened up. It was fun and the food was delicious. We also had a chance for service before the picnic and it was nice to do something along the lines of farming. 

On Sunday, the newest ordained Priest told me that he was going to bless the Sacrament for the first time and he was nervous but excited. I told him to go slow and clear and that everything would be alright. He messed up about 5 times and you could hear the frustration/teariness in his voice near the end. I knew exactly how he felt. It made me think back to when I repeatedly messed up and then in the following few days I received a letter in the mail from a ward member thanking me for blessing the sacrament and that it helped them focus on the words more. I was grateful for that ward member, and then went straight to that kid and gave him a hug and said, "don't worry about it" and told him about the time it took me nearly 7 tries and about my stuttering problem that tends to pop up when stressed. 

The mission is just a time to realize all of the blessings we have had, and then a time to learn how to give these blessings to others. Great week.

President Packer told us to read the Book of Mormon is less than a month before Elder Ballard comes to the mission! I am reading it on the topic of Pride vs. Humility. I would love to receive your favorite quotes/phrases for each! 

-Elder Devashrayee

P.S. Had a great time last P-day playing some beach Volleyball  

& Finally found an outside basketball hoop!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mini Golf Lessons Learned..... 5-16-16

I will try to switch it up a bit and just tell some stories this week. 

Last P-day we played mini golf that took me back to memories at Bear Lake growing up. I was in missionary mode and you can make up an object lesson for every hole. We used these two pictures in a number of lessons this last week regarding the narrowness of the gate and the opposite also regarding baptism, leading us right back to our Heavenly Father.

I was on an exchange this week and some things needed to be solved. I prayed about it and ended up reading Matthew 18 right after. It was an answer to my prayer on how to help this companionship and learned a lot myself. Great chapter on Forgiveness. My companion was Elder Konstantinov and he is from Ukraine. It was great serving with him. Had some really good Ukrainian cooking! I will go with him again just so I can learn some more.

We had a great lesson using M&M's, blindfolds, and 1 Samuel 16:7 this week. The kids especially liked it and it really brought the message home that God loves all of his Children. None were able to repeatedly guess what color they ate and it was a good time. 

We visited a lady in the ward on a day when it was raining non-stop. Unluckily for her the reason we came is because of a hole in the roof. Luckily, I knew enough words to be able to describe the situation to Elder Mikkelsen but I learned that studying with a concrete goal/reason in mind will really help language. I can now decently describe the problem in Russian but still can't hold a conversation with 4 year olds. 

On Friday the 13th our phone broke.  NOT cool!

Found the largest loaf of bread this week.... should last us a day or two :) I need to run more to work it off, but it was good!

We have an area in our boundaries that is called "Outer Darkness" because it is really far and difficult to get to. 2 1/2 hours after leaving and getting lost about 10 times and feeling pretty frustrated we sat down outside a shop on the side of the road and pulled out the map and tried to figure things out. A man came up and tried to help us at first to find the houses but then eventually just told us a bus to get us back to the main city. He then told us that it was joke that we believed in Christ and told us that he believes in the Sun and the trees and that there is a God for everything on the Earth. We let him talk, but then he just kept going. He then stated that we are zombies and have been brainwashed. That the Church takes our "prime years" away from us, has us pay to come to Ukraine, uses our youth and energy to find people, and that the Church was using us and it is all a huge business. At this point, we both just walked away. I realized, "wow, we just met Satan in outer darkness." hahaha and then Elder Jorgensen compared it to when Jesus had been fasting for 40 days and Satan came to tempt him. The rest of the day we saw miracles and the sisters had a baptism of a mom and son to complete another family in the ward. (The daughter was baptized not long ago.) 

On the bus home from Church a little kid about 2 years old kept wanting to get off of his mother's lap and walk around. After the 3rd or so time the mom, in one fluid motion,took him by the hand, made his body flat, and spanked him one time so hard that it made me hurt. I was shocked to see it and looked around to see other peoples reactions too. She really got him good. What surprised me was that the kid whimpered a bit, and then cuddled up to his mom and stopped moving around completely. When he got off, all was well. I saw a lot of symbolism in it with our Heavenly Father. Sometimes, he helps us get back on the path by means of force or circumstances. If we become like this little kid and love our Heavenly Father after it happens, then we will only grow our relationship with him. It also made me consider if I will spank my kids in the future..... 

Have a great week! I'll share a verse a member shared with us. We all need Christ. Moroni 7:33. 

-Elder Devashrayee

Some "artsy" photos he sent home this week... 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Things Fall into Place..... 5-9-16

It was a busy week, but a good one! 
We started it off with an exchange with the Assistants to the President. They are amazing humble missionaries and I was able to learn from them to be a little more confident, as long as I am confident in myself and in the Lord. The missionary I served with on the exchange served in my area for 7 months and it was great to see how involved he still was and how much the people were still on his mind. 
Per tradition, had to introduce them to our Sharmas!

We had Zone meeting this week and it went really well. All participated, and I learned many things from all. I couldn't make up my mind on what to talk about for a while and had about 3-4 different routes I could go because I would be closing the meeting. Throughout the week things came to me and even the day before as I talked to a new missionary about the army (being together, being leaders, but also followers like Christ) things fell into place. I feel like teaching from what is around you and always being willing to leave room for the Spirit is very important. At the end, we were really able to realize what could be holding the zone back as a whole and were able to discuss it as a whole. It was very uplifting and helpful for all, and I didn't do a single thing. 
Our Zone

Our main investigator right now is Roman. He is making strides and a number of members are helping us along the way. He showed up on Sunday in a white shirt and tie and it made my day. The language is a constant uphill climb, but what was awesome this week was that a member while telling a story said the word "oak" and I somehow for some reason memorized it and it was cool. Whatever you learn/study the Lord will use for your benefit. 

This week we had a run in with some 7th Day Adventists. At one point in the lesson, going to Church on Sunday was compared to committing adultery.... it was one of my least favorite lessons for sure and I left with no thought that they would change. Elder Jorgensen helped me out by making sure that I realized my level of faith in the conversion process and I will be working to improve that. 

This past week we were up in Kyiv for a meeting and a couple of things stood out to me. 

"The best way to deflate an inflated ego is to compliment it, and the best way to inflate and deflated ego is to compliment it" -President Packer

While during my renewal for a temple recommend President simply asked if I was worthy to be a missionary and then that was that. It was simple, but it was powerful to me. He said that there is not a higher level of worthiness or calling and signed the new recommend. 

Odd facts from the week: Talked to a man on the bus and he literally had feet as hands. It was cool. A drunk man tried to pay for us and then tried to drag me off of the bus to meet with him. Obviously I didn't get off. We witnessed a migration of Ukrainians to the cemetery on Sunday. Everyone was going to visit their loved ones and clean the place and put down flowers.  

Also, I am learning that there is a holiday for every day here. They celebrate Mother's Day but not really big. But celebrate. I guess yesterday was national Forgiveness day too? I can't keep up with it all. Today is national "Rest Day". 

The Callisters.... they are an amazing senior couple that have been in the office for 18 months. They are like grandparents to me and I was able to get a pic with them luckily while I was up in Kyiv this week! They leave on the 17th of May. They will be missed!

I hope you all had a great Mother's day, it was great to be able to talk with my family. 

Elder Devashrayee

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Picture Perfect"...... 5-2-16

Great last week! Had a fun P-day last week. Went bowling and I still have it! 
Notice that ball going right down the middle for my Strike! 

Two of the biggest things that happened this last week are that I went back down to Illy (my first area) and did splits with an awesome Elder and we celebrated Easter here in Ukraine! 

Going back to Illy was oddly really symbolic for me. I was on an exchange with the Elder Kovalov (he is currently serving as their Branch President) and riding the bus back into town it all came back to me really quickly and clearly. My whole first transfer I had no idea where to go or where anything was and the moment I was back in the area I knew exactly where to go without a doubt and memories came back clearer and clearer. The smell of the town was even there. It was interesting. 

I was able to see a lot of members that I missed and took part in some interesting phases of the work. One of those included a hospital trip where a young mother had just been informed that she had lost her baby and the main focus was now to save her life, bringing medicine around to people in the out land area, and many other tears and hardships for the members. Blessed to be able to have shared those experiences with them.

Elder Kovalov taught me of an analogy of praying as sending a letter to heaven and when we fast it is putting a stamp on it that says "urgent".  That is why we are asked to fast as well as just pray. The moment I came into the mission I wanted to serve with this missionary and even to be able to do that for a day was awesome. For companion study (usually an hour) I read a paragraph out loud and then we took the rest of the time going over my accent.. hahaha I have a long way to go he said.  

We are both interested in cooking, and he helped add to my recipe book. We made some pretty cool cookies with a skillet thing we found at a members. They let us borrow it.  Filled our top shelf of the fridge! They won't last long!

Back in my area, this week we had a lesson with an investigator. It was almost as if it went like we were in the MTC. Focused the lesson on Plan of Salvation and then shifted to baptism half-way through. The Spirit was strong and we invited him to be baptized. He said no. We then bore testimony and then asked again. This time it was a yes, but with slight hesitation. He is 25 but has been smoking his whole life. We had a member with us and he gave a very powerful blessing to him to help him quit. Even after he said that he felt the power of it. It was "picture perfect" and we are excited to see what happens with him. 

We also had a lesson with a family that was baptized about a month ago that went very well. Amazing to see how far people can come together.  The many blessings of living how we should. 

This last week we had a few chances to do service also which really helps mix up the work.  At one of the projects this guy was way up in a tree trimming it. It was cool to watch him.

We ride the bus often, and it has become one of my favorite forms of contacting.. they have no where to go! Poor souls! But we are getting fairly good at it. We often meet new people that don't live in our area, but we are able to pass on their names.

We have a member that is leaving on a mission in 2 weeks and had a little get-together at the beach. Luckily for us, he brought a friend that he has been talking with so we were able to go and talk to him. The beach was a blast and we finished with a small spiritual thought. A lot of YSA age people were there and it went really well. Even got to watch some beach Volleyball as well. 

Sunday was Easter! People were visibly more happy and it was great weather. We handed out "The Living Christ" and kept saying, "Иисус воскрес!" (Jesus has resurrected)  and then everyone replies "в истину воскрес!" (truly risen). Easter was great. We had a lesson with a nice blind lady, met with a contact in the park we found on the bus, and then visited a lady who didn't quite think she was cut out to live in the Celestial Kingdom. In the end, we even managed to paint Easter Eggs. Great times. 
Notice the Ukraine and USA egg right by each other!

Hope everyone has a great Mothers Day! My homework for each of you is to read the Living Christ as a family or even alone.. and then do something nice for your momma. 

-Elder Devashrayee

Happy Mother's Day mom - I am sending you some flowers!