Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Hard to know where to start and how to fully show my gratitude to my Father in Heaven and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. I never realized how much God was looking out for me and how badly He wanted me to recognize His love for me. However, like any Loving Father, He didn’t put all that He had done for me in front of me in order to receive my recognition and the deserved, “Thanks.” He stuck by me and carried me and placed me in an amazing family, game me amazing friends, and provided ways of support that I could have never even guessed / might never even recognize in this life. I always did what was right, but without understanding the “why” involved. Through the Holy Ghost and the right atmosphere I often had small flashes of what it felt like to have my will also be the will of God. My Mom and Dad sacrificed everything and rejoiced when I was on a mission and truly in the Lord’s hands. I would name this stage of my life, “The great awakening.” I had “Held on my way”, but now I understood who guided me to the right path and which people in my life truly influenced me to be a better person. First and foremost, my parents, grandparents, and siblings. My eyes were opened to how ungrateful I had been and how offensive were my ways before the Lord. Yet, He never gave up on me. Realizing your own insignificance and helplessness before God is a humbling feeling. Applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ is what brings joy, peace of conscience, and the greatest feeling in the world of the true love of God. Through the mercy of Christ I turned to Him and became a good person. Through the grace of Christ I have become who I am today and it has been a 2 year process that will continue the rest of my life. Repentance is the key to having the Holy Ghost with you and having the guidance of the Holy Ghost these last two years constantly has shown me the true things that are important in this life. I could go on and on about what I will do differently upon returning home.. but the true show of my love for God, Jesus Christ, and His suffering personally for me, fellow man, and especially my Family is who I continue to be. Two years with thousands of spiritual experiences and miracles, each area teaching you something new, each companion lifting and reconstructing to become better, and the very lessons that we teach being applied. I could not name the point in my mission where I changed, but if I had to guess it would be the moment when I started hugging all the Grandmas. When the people around me became my family. When I started loving Ukraine and the culture. When I looked actively for ways to serve, uplift, praise, and teach. When I gave up all of myself, God gave 100x more. (Mark 10:28-30) I cannot replace the relationships and the lessons that I have learned while serving the Lord these short 24 months. I have been redeemed, cleansed, sanctified, and brought to the lowest depths of humility before God. Nothing works if you don’t involve Him. No one can truly change without His Son. No one could ever know without the Holy Ghost. I am eternally indebted to God and will never be able to repay Him back. One way I can show my gratitude is to bring others unto Christ. That is where the irreplaceable role of the restoration of the Gospel comes in. The Book of Mormon. “Where are you currently reading and what have you recently learned and gathered from Heaven?” The BoM was translated by Joseph Smith by the power of God. Joseph Smith saw God our Eternal Father and Jesus Christ His Son and then through his own imperfections and weaknesses became the man through whom Jesus Christ could restore and lead His Church. If we will follow the Living Prophets we will never go astray. If we will live the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will always be ready before God. If we know the Plan of Salvation is true, we will prepare. Follow the keys, magnify your calling and look to God for help and He will be there. No man can understand His ways, but you can get to the point where you will trust Him nonetheless. Give what God has given you full attention and treat as a gem. Whether that be your mother, wife, brother, sister, friend, a grandma that could use a grandson for an hour, or even how we read our scriptures. Be different. Stay firm. The Church is true. Hold on thy way and remember. In the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I'm Home..... 7-25-17

Final thoughts... Hold on thy way and Remember!

It was a great two years and time that has blessed and will bless my life significantly.  The experiences that were had and the testimonies that were born can never be replaced! I love the people of Ukraine and truly tried to administer to their spiritual needs as the Savior would. Excited to move on in life and keep progressing. Thanks for all that you have done in supporting me and I wish you all the best.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Done My Best..... 7-24-17

Dear Friends and Family,
Thanks for all that you have done for me and for your support these last two years! This last week was amazing. Everything just really seemed to fall into place.

I was able to go eat out last week with a tons of my favorite missionaries and friends on P day. The work seemed to pick up a bit, we had amazing meetings with President and I just had my exit interview.  We had a great exchange and made stencils of the temple and used spray paint and handed pictures out. I was able to go back into my old area and have dinner at the summer house of the family whose son I was able to baptize. Recent converts in our area blessed the sacrament and gave talks. We had a ward picnic this past week.  Today I was able to see a person that got baptized in Odessa last summer and go by a family that I love that lives near the temple for lunch. Yesterday it was announced at church that our investigator, Sergei, will be getting baptized this Saturday! I can't be grateful enough. Work here keeps moving forward. I felt an amazing feeling of gratitude and peace in my nightly prayers this week that can't be expressed. Hard to say how I feel. Greatest feeling that I have done my best and that God is pleased despite all of my weaknesses.
I have figured out the "why" a lot more on the mission. I could go on and on but I know that this Church is true and that it is led by Jesus Christ through living prophets. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that we can all return to him thanks to Jesus Christ. The more I have used and applied the atonement of Jesus Christ the more I know that without it I would not be able to become the person that I am today. I could have said this all before, but it means a whole lot more now.
Not a whole lot of time so...Can't wait to see you all! See you soon!
Love, Elder Devashrayee
Taken right after my "Exit" interview with President

Monday, July 17, 2017

Memories.... 7-17-17

I had a great last week! 

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. 

We went down with the goal of finding a family and the way I prayed and thought how to do it was ask everyone that would stop a strange but realistic question. I would stop someone and then say, "I am about to ask you a very strange but serious question." I would then go on to say, "Have you ever heard or seen one of your relatives or ancestors after they have passed away... or at least felt their presence near in hard times?" To get people to stop is hard enough, but out of the 10 or so that did over the day and half there, about 6 of them had very real and spiritual experiences of this occurring. This was then a perfect lead into the Plan of Salvation and it was a fun way to contact. Praying that someone's ancestor came to them in a dream and then hitting the streets really opens your eyes and you don't wan't to miss someone that potentially had that happen the night before. It made for some awkward conversations, but that is just being a missionary. 

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!  

Elder Devashrayee

Monday, July 10, 2017

Get Rid Of It.... 7/10/17

I will start off with a few interesting stories...

First off, a great activity with the members this past week. Sand Soccer!

We ran into a man from Kentucky named Kevin who was angry that,  "McDonald's only sold nuggets in 9's and not 10's so he only had 18 nuggets and not 20 and he was going to be 2 nuggets short here soon and was not happy about it." That made our 4th of July memorable enough to hear that in a Southern accent haha. 

We make a huge batch of food every Monday and eat that throughout the week when we are home because we have no time at all to make meals and get in all of our studies, meetings and/or lessons. So we have been mixing it up a bit but this last month or so we have a made a buckwheat mix (with potatoes, carrots, salami, onions, garlic, peppers and then we cook eggs fresh and throw that in daily). We took it off the burner and threw all of the additions in and it was too hot to put into the fridge so we left it out to sit on the balcony and forgot about it until we got home that night and then threw it into the fridge. 

The next day, we ate it and it seemed a bit slimy. So, as two 20 year old experienced missionaries would do, we had the idea to stir it up a bit and let it dry out a bit during the day because of how hot it was. The slime ruined the texture and made you not want to eat it so we thought that we could get rid of the slime by taking the lid off and letting it air out. We came back that night and it smelled really bad so we put the lid back on and put it back into the fridge. This was our food source for the next week so we were determined to make it work. To get rid of the slimy texture and smell we thought that we could spread it out on a cooking pan and put it into the oven to bake. A buckwheat casserole! Nothing better. We stuck it in on a high temperature and after an hour it was still wet so we mixed it up and threw some cheese on top and let it cook more. When lunch time came, we put salsa, eggs, sour cream, but we could not get over the smell and taste. We thought that we could somehow magically fix it and we convinced ourselves until now, after we had eaten over 3/4 of the casserole and then felt horrible. At this point it was undeniable that our huge pot of buckwheat had gone bad.. there was no hiding it.. especially the smell. 

This was the time when we experienced what the scriptures describe as "Godly Sorrow" and we had to just admit we had to get rid of it and threw it down the garbage shoot from 5 stories high, the only bright point. We fought the fact that it had gone bad and payed the price in the end. It simply had to be disposed of or Elder Tolman and I would be lying in a hospital at the moment on our death beds. 

Lesson learned: Maybe this can be related to an ongoing lie that we are desperately trying to continue to not get caught, maybe we are too embarrassed to admit that we made a tiny mistake in "being honest in our dealings with our fellow man", maybe we are delaying the day of our repentance and think that we can do it ourselves and not through the order that the Lord has given us, or maybe you are just too cheap to throw away a pot of food and it pained you to the very core to think of throwing it away. Whatever it may be, just get rid of it! Throwing it down the garbage shoot and never looking back was the best decision that we ever made. It took us a few tries to admit it, but the relief was both physical and spiritual as they say. 

Last week I talked about how we found a new family through a re-activated man doing his home teaching. We have also been spending time with one of the Sister's investigators that is about our age who is awesome and getting up early to run over to the church and play Frisbee or ping pong with him before he heads off to work. Last Monday night was stacked with two lessons involving the both of them. Our first lesson was planned for 5:30 and got cancelled while we were emailing because he had to stay at work a bit later and we were busy later that night so it just didn't work out. We had to look up the address of the second lesson on the computer and found a spot where we could hop on a bus to this smaller village. We got off at a metro stop and walked to the bus stop. Turned out, there wasn't a bus stop and we were just on the side of a major highway with cars going about 60 mph and we had to try and flag down a bus. After most of them just waved us off and kept going, one hit the brakes and it took about 50 meters for it to even come to a screeching halt. The driver was mad at us and the people inside were obviously not happy about the sudden stop either. We barely were able to push onto the platform for the door into the crowded bus. We handed up the money for the ride and our phone rang... it was our 7:00 lesson cancelling. You have got to be kidding me. We were embarrassed to tell the driver to stop so we just decided to get off at the next stop about 5 minutes later. We took the attitude of "God wanted us right here and led us here and cancelled our lessons" and contacted the first couple of people we saw at the bus stop about the Book of Mormon. They declined so we kept walking and then we saw a dirt path going off into the woods. We both saw the path and looked at each other and said, "Why not?" and headed into the forest. 

After a few rejections, we ran into an older couple. The wife was totally wasted and was leaning on the husband not to fall over. The husband was just sober enough to talk to us and get across the point that they are members by explaining to us what the Book of Mormon is but they just don't really live by the commandments anymore. We got their information and found out that the children go to church but they just got tired of it. To have had all of the contributing factors and miraculously meet these people we were pretty content with life. We were also hungry and we had planed on eating at the lessons. 

We finally made it out of the forest after 30 or so minutes and when we popped out we saw a food stand. So we stopped to get шаурма's and took a seat on a nearby concrete block. As we were eating, we saw someone's feet in front of us all of a sudden and heard, "What's up guys!" We looked up at it was the person that we wanted to meet with at 5:30 and he had just barely gotten off of work and was walking home. At this point we were mind blown at how God had put all of this in our path and we somehow wound up right on his pathway home 30 minutes away from his house in a random spot eating шаурма's near the forest where he randomly worked. Long story short, we went back home with him and his mom made amazing apricot filled Вареники (dough dumplings) and we played billiards for the first time in two years with him and had a great night.

We had a plan, but God had something better in store for us. We weren't the ones who changed our plans according to the Spirit and cancelled all of our lesson to go to a random spot in the forest to meet this family or eventually with our friend. We just did our part and the Lord used what he had and made something better. He waits for us to use our free agency and then if we are worthy and humble enough to let Him, He will make it something better and show us what He has in store for us. Trusting in God isn't expecting an answer immediately to every prayer, it is trusting that He will be beside you and help you along the way. 

Hope you all have a great week! 

Love Elder Devashrayee

Monday, July 3, 2017

New President arrived..... 7-3-17

Great last week!
Highlights of the week:
We had our last few meetings with President Packer and his wife and went to the airport and picked up the Kumfermans! 
Me & my Comp, Kumferman's & the Packer's at the airport
The moment their plane touched down on Ukrainian soil he was then the Mission President. While waiting at the airport, we had the chance to talk to some people and one of them was a family waiting to pick up their kid from Canada who has been gone for 3 years. The contact was able to calm down my nerves and the family that we were talking with. It was interesting to see the airport scene from that perspective. Lots of emotions all around in that airport. Sounds cheesy, but when we saw him he gave us the biggest and longest hugs and it just felt right that he was now our Mission President. Love the Packers and will miss them a lot.. but the Lord calls who he calls and President Kumferman isn't missing a beat. The wife is the nicest ever and hey have a 10 year old girl with them and a 20 year old daughter that will be staying with them for the summer. I can't wait to hear more about them and hear from them this next week. We had an amazing dinner at the Temple President's house right next to the temple and it was a great day. Grateful for the experience and chance to be there.
 Gratitude.... This last week we had a big surprise and her name is Lidia! She is an old grandma that is missing an eye and sells flowers by where we walk home every night! We think that she forgets who we are after every time we talk to her and she talks in Ukrainian with soft western accent and is really hard to understand but we just smile and listen. Missionaries have talked with her for 6 months and out of the blue she said that she was coming to Church! Anyways, she showed up to church and really expected us to preach. Luckily, it happened to be fast Sunday. We both went up and I shared a story from home about gratitude. Every time I have gotten a gift or anything from anyone else my mom has made me sit down and write a thank you card back.... and for the most part I can't say that I enjoyed it. After Christmas, it would take hours. The Haldemans (Senior Couple here)  had us over for dinner the other night and we did a video type thing with the whole district to send out to her grandchildren to help them decide to all serve missions. She asked the question, "What have you learned the most on the mission?" I thought about it and realized that the more and more I get to know God, the more I understand how eternally I am in debt to him. D&C 78:17-19. The grandma loved the fast meeting and it was a reason to be grateful that she came. We fasted to find a new family and a recently re-activated member did his home teaching and brought a part-member family that no one knew about to Church and we are going to meet with all of them tonight! You can always find a reason to be grateful. 

She found this lovely selfie on her phone after we left - love her dearly!
We have a goal to give a Book of Mormon out every day. We set a goal for 3  for one day this last week and had it on our minds but things just kept getting in the way and we were rushed to and from appointments. On the lesson right before we were about to go home, somehow I didn't say a word the whole time other than the closing prayer. It was around 30 minutes and I didn't want to force my way in, but at the same time I didn't just want to say something to say something.  2 years ago I would have gotten mad at my companion in the MTC. 1 year ago I would have thought my comp was out to get me and did it all on purpose and it was a competition. 4 days ago, those thoughts came creeping back  all the same but I was determined to let the lesson be led how was natural and that consisted of my companion and this member talking. Thoughts such as these kept attacking me: "There isn't one missionary older than me in this mission. I should be the one taking the lead right? He made a Russian mistake that I wouldn't have. Why won't he just stop talking..." In my mind a year ago I would have had "every right" to be bugged by the lesson and sort of just go on home angry at my companion. Instead, I kept a happy countenance and the first 3 people we met outside while walking home accepted a Book of Mormon. The Lord tests us and showed me the higher road that He now expects me to take. Self pity is not from God and kills our progression. We can have two outlooks on every situation. I am glad I realized what was going on in my head 4 days ago and the battle that we truly have daily.
Hope you all have a great week!   Birthday shout out to my Slothman Justin! Your landlord will be returning shortly, enjoy your time before then. Hope your birthday events and gifts were just what you wanted. Watch out on the road everyone else! Also, beware girls, he is legal to date now...
Love Elder Devashrayee

Monday, June 26, 2017

My First Ballet..... 6-26-17

It is a great time to be serving in Ukraine. There are street markets everywhere at the moment and every one of them has tons of different fruit & fresh vegetables. We missed out last year on the amazing fruit by being cheap but now we have a rule that we have to buy something from those stands every day and it is so good! 

We went to the ballet with one of our investigators. He loves it and had us go to Swan Lake with him. Good times here in Ukraine. 

This last week both of the new converts in the ward (brother and sister) had some differing challenges. For the brother, it was the first time passing the sacrament, which he was really worried about it but it ended up being a really positive experience. For the sister, her eyesight suddenly dropped on Saturday morning. She had no idea what had happened and we offered to go give her a blessing. She said that she was going into the doctor soon and that was the last we heard about it. We had no idea what to think but then Sunday Morning we got a text from her saying that she was at the doctors all day Saturday. They did tons of tests and none of them could figure out what had gone wrong with her sharp drop in sight. She said that she was exhausted when she headed home but prayed her heart out and when she woke up everything was fine. Her eyesight was back to normal. One of the most important parts of this whole story was her relationship with her Heavenly Father. She was so incredibly thankful to God on Sunday and it was visible. Not only could she see clearly, but her relationship with God was strengthened and others could see it as well. Some could say that it was just a freak accident, or a coincidence.. but thanks to her faith in Christ this now turned into a huge testimony builder regarding prayer for her. We can either see and expect miracles, or go a year or two without noticing one.

We headed out to an area in the mission that is an hour or so out of Kyiv that is having tons of success. We wanted to see what was going on there. One of the biggest factors for me was the relationship between the ward and the missionaries. The ward was ready to receive new converts and helped in every phase of the work. On the other hand, the these missionaries just "Get out of the way and let the Lord do His work." A good reminder that we are here to assist and be tools in His hands and when we do that, then the feel of the work changes and that area is really alive at the moment due to amazing relationships in that area. Have the missionaries serve you! It is all that they want to do. Find a way to spend quality time with them and Sundays don't turn into just shaking hands but something more with which the Lord can work with! 

It was the last zone conference for the Packer family. They all bore testimony and it was a great conference. I could go on and on about them. I could publish a book with President Packer quotes and thoughts. Love that family and I was truly blessed to have served under them and with them for almost all of my mission! Gonna miss them a ton but we are excited to welcome in the new President and his family this week. 

Hope you all have a great week! 

Elder Devashrayee

Monday, June 19, 2017

Grasp the "Why"..... 6-19-17

Great last week. Highlights would have to be: 

An amazing time playing Sand Volleyball - home made net and all! We had a great time for P-day today.
See more photos below!

We were able to go pick up the new missionaries from the airport and they were able to stay with us for a day or so and be our companions. 

They both went to the Spain MTC and already know Russian pretty well so they both jumped right into it. One of them is the son of the Moscow Mission President and the other has a Russian dad and ran a marathon in "crocs" which landed him in Sports Illustrated! We took them back to our apartment for the night and we took them on lessons and English practice that night. The next day we took them to the main square (Maidon) in center Kiev and they had a blast. Greenies are fun to be around and we had a lot of laughs and fun doing the work, they had no fear and just dove right into it. We were in charge of holding training meetings and one of the points was "We can do hard things". I had thought of an example in my life that was pretty hard and it is called Fast Offerings on Fast Sunday...

 In our ward there was a low number of youth. My brothers and I made up about half of the young men's group and there were about 7 packets of Fast Offerings that needed to be taken around each month and about 7 or so houses that needed to be stopped by in every packet. Some Sundays we would be the only young men that showed up to take out the packets. My Dad drove us around to stop by the houses and then later when Travis could drive he drove around and I got out and knocked and eventually I was the one who drove around while Justin knocked. Some packets were smaller than others and those usually went really fast when they were handed out. Some packets were more convenient.. and some were usually avoided by the young men. One of these packets, was always taken last if others were there. This had houses full of cats, houses that you couldn't breath in because of how much the people smoked, and one scary house at the end of a road. For the scary house you had to drive the car up a little dirt road and you were all of a sudden in a different world other from the little neighborhood that I lived in. In this home lived a scary old man that all of the youth were scared death of. Since I can remember, my brothers and I were the ones to take that packet.. then inside that packet was one envelope that had the name of Brent Hancock in it - the scary house. From when I was a Deacon all the way to the Priest we stopped by this man's house. We had heard a lot of scary rumors about him, the house wasn't too inviting on the outside, and when we would knock big dogs would come and pound on the door before he opened it. However, over time we started to get to know him. He would bring out fresh vegetables that he grew in his garden and share them with us. He would talk to us at the door for about 30 minutes every time. We learned you just had to kill the engine in the car because there was no way to get out of there fast. He shared old church videos with us and we were able to go back and talk to him about them. Over time we became like his grandkids and he was readily waiting for us on fast Sunday. He started coming to Church from time to time and would sit in the very back. He actually said the closing prayer at Travis' farewell, he wanted to do this for Travis. It was always great to see him there over the next few months and members were always welcoming. He really opened up and at one point I was over there, not on a Sunday, to talk with him or help him with something. He had gotten really sick and looked like he just needed to talk. He sat me down and had me read his Will to him. I couldn't believe it. He had me read his dying words to the world and to his family. I was in shock, but it was a really spiritual experience now I look back at it. We saw him change before our very eyes. We also saw him turn to using an oxygen tank and having us carry it around as he read the Book of Mormon to us out on the front steps. He always had a little testimony to share with us when we went over, but we could see it grow. Before I knew it, he had gone through the temple for the first time (my Dad was able to be there for that) and the next thing I remember is that he passed away shortly after, just prior to Travis coming home from his mission. I cannot tell you how many members of the ward helped in this process of re-activating him, helping him get ready for the temple, caring for him, and then eventually preparing the funeral. This whole story came rushing back to my mind this week. The moment that I really understood what occurred and what the Lord was able to do through us, I dropped to my knees in a prayer of gratitude. 

Why did we go do fast offerings every fast Sunday? I would tell you because we were supposed to and we just did what we were told. I never truly saw the importance of it. To a 12 year old me, this was one of the hardest things I had to do on an empty stomach every month. The Lord works through us when we fulfill our callings. Sometimes we don't know why we do what we are told. We don't fully understand. Until we truly grasp the "why" of commandments/rules we just need to keep following them. The mission really clears the fog of the "why" in life and especially in the church. Why do we contact when we usually don't see the outcome fully? Why do we follow all of the mission rules? Why do we open our mouths on the street to preach about something that is dear to us but gets "trampled under their feet." Lastly, why did I as a young man have to go out to gather Fast Offerings every fast Sunday since I was 12. The Lord will give us hard things. If we aren't stretching and becoming better, then chances are we are not living according to the will of God. 

Sunday morning we were able to go to a Hare Krishna service! It was on the other side of Kyiv but we had made friends with one of them and were invited. It took us through a crazy path through back alleys, parking garages, gates, across railroad tracks, and eventually we ended up at their temple. We were invited in and taken to the 3rd floor where they hold services. Everyone sat down with a bucket in front of them and were peeling carrots while they listened and singed. The main point of the service was freeing ourselves from things on the world. They have a prayer that needs to be said a minimum 108 times a day and that keeps them as clean as possible. They have great beliefs and I have never met one of them that doesn't smile. Really friendly people. We sat down on the ground on a rug and they started to sing, read scriptures in sandscript that they translated to Russian, and held a lesson. All of the people there were in white robes and very bright colored clothes. After an hour, we were taken down to the first floor for breakfast. We had a plate in front of us and everyone was sitting cross-legged (except me because I can't haha) and they came around and poured a mixture of rice, carrots, squash, and other things with a layer of home made sour cream. Next, they gave us халава. Some crazy fruit mush combination that was really good. Check it out because I am not really sure what it is made of. Really great experience. They were extremely happy when I told them my grandpa was from India! They gave me a really cool Flower Lei when I left. Incredible experience!

Speaking of Fathers, I just barely found out that it was yesterday! Happy Father's Day!  Thanks to all of the fathers and especially my father, uncles and grandfathers! 

Elder Devashrayee

Monday, June 12, 2017

"Second Birthday"..... 6-12-17

Passed out, passed away, and spiritually reborn. This will make more sense in a minute. We were able to go and tour some areas I hadn't been in yet. This was a hat made while I was standing there watching them.

This last week was great. Lots to talk about. 

I will start off with a thought I had while I looked over some prized possessions that I have gained while here in Ukraine. One of them is a little McDonald's Happy Meal dog that was given to me by a member in my last area named Alexander. The next, is a huge blue kangaroo tie from a member here in my current ward from over a year ago from Alim. My understanding of the parable of  Widow's Mite was opened to me. Both of these people literally have nothing to their names and what they gave was truly something of great worth. A study without pondering doesn't give the Spirit ample time to speak to us. Reading 10 minutes a day is great. Pondering before, during, and after gives a chance for a very meaningful personal study. 

Passed Out: 
This Sunday, we were talking with members after church when a member yelled at us to run over immediately. We went with him and right inside the door of the women's bathroom a grandma was lying face up on the floor. She wasn't breathing and we propped her up into the sitting position. I lifted her up from behind and put my hand on her back trying to find her heartbeat. Elder Tolman was checking the breathing in the chest and couldn't see anything either and we looked at each other trying to convince ourselves that she hadn't already passed away. The member held her hands and just started talking to her. In what seemed like 5 minutes but in reality was probably 30 seconds she gasped for air and we all sighed from relief that she came around. She was sat on a chair and was instantly given a Priesthood blessing. There was no panicking and the blessing after was given by us shortly after. The one thing I loved was how the blessing was second-nature on behalf of the member who helped her come to. We took care of the first things first. 

Passed Away:
Sadly, this last week one of the bed-ridden members from my last ward passed away. He was around 50 years old and has had a rough life. He has been half paralyzed, divorced, his kids have left the country, bed-ridden and because of the circumstances, obese past the point where he can't move much for the last 30 years. He had gone through it all. Surgery after surgery and they could never get him past the point of lying on his back in his bed. I was in my last area for roughly 9 months and we helped him move beds, clean him off, and while I was there he read through the whole Book of Mormon for the first time as we read with him weekly and he started to read on his own! Puts life into perspective. How would my attitude have changed if I knew that it was his last Christmas/Easter/Spring? One thought came to me that comforted me. One of my last companions loved Tabasco sauce so we found and bought a bottle and he forgot about it and shortly after left the area. One day I saw the bottle in the fridge and I got the feeling that we should bring it to Genadi for some reason. So we did just that. He loved spicy things and added it to nearly everything he ate from that moment on and it was always on his bed stand. Genadi is now is a better place and I can guarantee that I won't recognize him at first.. although, I hope that I will see him holding a bottle of Tabasco. 

Spiritually Reborn:
Two Sunday nights ago I had one of the most open prayers with God that I have ever had. Hard to explain and hard to say that this one prayer was any better than prayers that we offer every day.. but I had tons of little things adding up all around me throughout the week and things that I heard and read and I simply just asked God if I could just finally baptize someone. I know that I have given him everything and all my sins to truly know Him these last two years. I have been part of baptisms, companions have baptized, ward members have baptized and I have left areas where investigators have gotten baptized later on after I left. I felt ashamed for what I asked right after and I knew that I should have been more grateful in knowing that every phase of the work is just as important as the next, but that was replaced with the biggest feeling of peace and certainty shortly after. The next morning, I got a call from the Elders in my last area saying that Фарид was going to get baptized and that he had asked that I come back and baptize him! I had worked with him and his parents for the longest time there. The parents are still waiting for documents concerning their marriage, but Farid decided that he was done waiting and made the decision on his own to get baptized and told the Elders the next morning during a lesson. The Elders did a great job preparing the talks and service. Elder Durtschi and Houston are two of my favorite friends in the mission and to go back to my home area and see all of the members and the family that we taught for so long was a treat in and of itself. Tons of members had helped in getting the family to this point including the Bishop, Masha, Artur, Brother Kixno, the Demchenko family, and the list goes on and on. 

I had some 1 on 1 time with him before the baptism and was able to have a real heart to heart. He was so excited and knew he had made a big decision. June 10 had now become his "Second Birthday" as he put it. As we walked into the font and got positioned, I just took about 10 or so seconds with my eyes closed and told Farid before to just take in the moment before and after he was submersed. No need in rushing anything in such a moment. Those 10 seconds of silence where of gratitude and the most amazing feeling of love for the Savior. I repeated the baptismal prayer very slowly and I can't say that I have ever felt the Power of the Priesthood so strongly. During that prayer, the only important thing in the world was that I was a worthy Priesthood holder who has never been closer to God in my life. I am at a point where I am starting to scratch the surface of understanding the Power of the Priesthood and my previous ignorance &/or indifference had been wiped away. Priorities have switched on in my head over the mission. Live every day as if you are going to meet the Savior or preform an ordinance in His name in the next 5 minutes. All of this was going through my head during the prayer and when I said, "Amen" dunked him and gave him the biggest hug after when he came back up out of the water. The Mom, Dad, and Farid all bore their testimonies after and it was a special day to be a missionary.

Hope you all have a great week! 

Elder Devashrayee

Monday, June 5, 2017

Accidental Call.... 6-5-17

Lots of events this last week. Going to start off with the miracle that happened Monday night.
We set up a lesson with a less-active for Monday night and right before we were about to head out he called and told us that it would not work out. Right after the call with him ended a random grandma called us and asked when we were coming over. We had no idea who she was but decided to ask for her address and head over. She happened to be baptized about 5 years ago and had fallen away. She accidentally pressed a button on her phone and saw our contact and thought to herself, "Hmmm. I haven't seen them in a while." She had a number of difficult surgeries and stopped coming to church after. She was very grateful to see us and had us meet all 5 of her children. She was the only one who got baptized and her family has tons of potential. Most importantly, she has two twins that are both 17 and they would make amazing future missionaries. We were able to go back and help her pull off wallpaper later in the week and we are really pushing forward to work with this family.

We had our last interviews with President Packer and it was pretty sad. We see him weekly, but 1-on-1 time with people like him is priceless. Here are a couple of things that I came away with from him:
1. When I asked, "What was the most important thing you could tell me to do after the mission." He said, "Hold to the Living Prophets." He gave me a million reasons of why but maybe that can be up to you to take a second to ponder and discuss that either as a family, in your studies, or as we all see the direction that the earth is currently headed in.
2. If we want to know how to find, teach and baptize families... we must study out why families are important, know how to show others the blessings that come from a family that lives by the gospel, and be ready to be able to teach a house full of little kids that can't sit still for 3 seconds without being entertained. The Lord uses what we have and if we prepare ourselves for these moments, He will send families in our direction. I have spent a lot of time studying the Family Proclamation to the World lately in order to be ready and focused on baptizing a family. One of the biggest blessings that I can promise is Peace. (3 Nephi 22:13)
3. He thanked me for every testimony that I have born, for every door that I have knocked, for every sick grandma I have blessed, for every time I have taught someone the Gospel, for every time I have gotten yelled at on the street, for every companionship I have ever been apart of, for every area that I have cared for and the list goes on and on. It really helped me see the last 2 years in the bigger picture and as he talked hundreds of memories came rushing back and it was a special moment to look back and see what the Lord has allowed me to do in assisting in the work.

We teach an English class at a government building in the Center of Kyiv and thanks to those relationships we were able to participate in "Kid's Day" and hold carnival type games for about 400 underprivileged kids from small villages surrounding Kyiv. It went really well.

I was asked to participate in the "Mission Band". We had a guitarist, pianist, violinist, and even a drummer. I was the one who held the microphone to the mouth of the Elder playing the guitar hahaha. When we sang "500 Miles" I made sure to wedge a spot in the background singers in honor of Grandpa (Elder) Pohlman with that being his favorite song and sang loud and proud. We also held an American party for all of the English people that come and it was a blast. Lots of fun activities this last week. 
Singing 500 Miles

I have always heard about reading the Book of Mormon and underlining every time a mention is made of Christ and am on plan to finish before the 30th of June when the new mission president comes who is a professor of the Book of Mormon and Russian.
Hope you all have a great week!
Elder Devashrayee

Monday, May 29, 2017

Rapper D..... 5-29-17

Great last week.  Even had a chance to "run some hills"... sand is very different to run in, but had some fun as well.

This last week we had a couple of opportunities to hold exchanges with different missionaries in different areas and with different callings in the mission. One thing I realized is that every one of them has a background that I could have never guessed, trials that I could never have known about without getting to know them better, and tons of talents that I am definitely lacking of. Not one missionary was "better" than the other. While some talk better with people than others, some are amazing at keeping paperwork updated. While some speak amazing Russian, others are good about body language and always having a smile while making tons of mistakes. Some have been out of mission funds for a week and are eating buckwheat everyday, and others are buying gifts for members at every visit. The mission is an awesome experience to learn and see that the Lord needs everyone and everyone can always improve. I haven't been on an exchange where I haven't seen a way that I could improve. The ward needs every member. The family needs every member. Fun to see how the Lord uses every missionary also. 

On one of the exchanges I had 3 goals: 1. To have a blast with this missionary. 2. Leave as best friends. 3. Have meaningful and spiritual conversations throughout. The day went really well and by the time we got back into our area we had a lesson with a future missionary and then had an empty schedule for the night. No matter how hard I tried and how many people I tried to set up with the day before I couldn't plan a single thing. We met some people the night before that were throwing a Frisbee around and were listening to some oldies... so we made sure to go talk to them and throw around the Frisbee with them. We got their number and said that we would love to play with them some time. Then out of the clear blue they called us the next day and wanted to play some basketball at a nearby court. Without a second of hesitation we went back home and got dressed to play and headed back out. This is where we meet "Rapper D". He learned English from rap and spoke like it too :). He and his beat maker buddy were there and we had some fun shooting some hoops. 

He asked questions about our church. He noticed that we weren't swearing. He noticed that we were happy people. He then wanted to know why we wouldn't smoke/drink. He then wanted to know why we didn't yell at the people whose ball almost hit us. The list goes on and on, but he wanted to know more and more. I love when missionary work is this natural. One of the best feelings ever and you can just be yourself. 

I really enjoyed the verses of Helaman 5:13-14 this last week. There is always a lesson to be learned and lesson to be taught. It requires time to sit down and teach with words and testimony as parents/leaders in the Church/friends/grandparents/sport coaches/etc. The other form is done by actions. This form can be done at any time and in any place. It is done without words in most cases, is not a sit down talk, is probably not even noticed by the person setting the example, and in the end the most powerful form of teaching because it is continuous and open to all. "Rapper D" is interested and that would be amazing if he got his life turned around. No doubt that it can. The exchange goals were all met, and we a great time.

My companion had a dream a long time ago that he needed to contact a blue apartment building so when he saw it a week ago in our area we found time and did just that. It was pretty heavily armored with a grandma at the entrance, a coded door, and the fact that no one wants us inside their buildings! You gotta be a little tricky to get in to be honest. I had a phone call with myself as we approached and tried to slip in right behind other people heading in. The person turned and tried to close the door behind him not to let us in. He asked, "Which apartment are you going to?" I was quick on the draw and chose the number 13..... bad choice. From all of the numbers 1-64 I choose the one where this now angry man lived. He got up into my face and asked what business we had here and what we wanted from him. We told him that we had a lesson about families and how they are key to God's plan and we are searching for people that desire to know more.  This was either going to be an amazing miracle or we were going to get yelled at and threatened. Needless to say, we got kicked out and were pretty bummed. We were positive that a family was in that building and were debating on how to get back in. 

We then just decided to contact around where we had been led and had tons of success. We got 4 numbers and a number of addresses in a very short amount of time. People contacted us on the way to the building and on the way back home. We got home and had to really sit back and be grateful and realized that God knew what He was doing in having us go there. It was a little embarrassing to be honest and not the greatest feeling to be rejected so harshly from that home, but the Lord had different plans. We just had to be grateful for what happened. 

I was able to see Artur this week because he is waiting his visa for Australia in Lviv right now and had to come stay the night in Kiev. So he stayed at our apartment. Good to see him again.  

I keep finding amazing verses in my studies that lead me to James 1. I think it might just be my favorite chapter in the Bible. Take a minute to sit down and really study it out as a family/personally. Lots to learn from it. 

Check out the song "One by One". It is a poem written by Elder Bednar about 3rd Nephi 11 and was turned into a song. While you listen to it, think of someone that needs help around you and how you can personally minister unto them. Charity is "Pure Religion" James 1:27. 

Hope you all have a great week! 

Elder Devashrayee