We were able to head down to Odessa to conduct exchanges with missionaries. I thought that I was never going to be able to see the Black Sea again, run on the beach, or ride a bus in the wet and hot summer heat of Odessa... but I got to re-live it one more time.
While I was there I was also able to see a mother of a member that I had gone over the first lesson with, over a year ago and then got transferred! She was baptized and is now the ward librarian. She gets up at 5 am every morning and reads the Book of Mormon for two hours. She is planning on making a trip soon to get her endowments out and I am really excited for her! I was also able to meet up for lunch with a family that I interviewed before baptism last year and they are doing great also. The most rewarding part of being a missionary is seeing people change and a year can do a lot! The list goes on and on. And then to walk down the streets of the two areas that I served in while serving in Odessa brought back floods of memories of when I had a lesson with someone on a certain bench, got yelled at on that corner, bought amazing bread at that store, got the worst haircut of my life at that place, took that wrong bus and almost got lost in the middle of nowhere, and the list goes on and on. It was an amazing experience that I am very grateful for!
Today, we visited the Mykola Syadristy Microminiatures museum. You will have to look it up. Art that can't be seen to the naked eye, but if you look through a magnifying glass you can see that it is 50,000 times the size of a poppy seed or located on the end of a piece of hair. In order to do the work, he has to use the most precise diamond cutters in the world while looking through extreme magnification and slowing down his heart rate to the point where he can work between his heart beats or else it would make him flinch and ruin the art work. He has shaken hands with nearly every president from all of the major countries in the world, received thousands of rewards, and has his own museum located in the heart of the most famous and sacred grounds of Ukraine.
It turned out that he was there and it being Monday morning, we were the only ones in the museum. We bought a little card and had him sign it and took a picture with him.
He is one of the most renowned artists and public features from Soviet times, had been all over the world, and yet he has probably never even seen missionaries. It hit me while we were talking to him that this man is very very accomplished in life, but is missing the only thing that matters before God. Every other sentence he said had something to do with money, a slander to other religions/countries/races, or a very confused belief of who God is. I was sent here to help those "Who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it." I felt the need to make sure this person knew how and where to find God. I had a brochure with the temple on it and pointed out the art and architecture and that he could take a look and walk around the temple sometime and then testified that everything written in the brochure was true and from God. It wasn't much, but I saw him as a brother that I needed to help. I realized that with all of the famous people he has associated with his whole life, I was most likely the only one that was a living extension of the Apostles and a holder of the Priesthood. It put life into perspective.
I was reminded of a quote from President Kumferman, "Everything will fall into place or fall away by the wayside if we are focused on God and Jesus Christ." A great lesson that was learned just before being thrown back into the "real world" back home.
Hope that everyone has a great week! I will probably be able to send home a little something next week so until then!