Monday, April 24, 2017

All-Star Weekend..... 4-24-17

Lots of great highlights from the past week. 

One of them would have to be the fact that Elder Holland was in our mission and on three separate occasions I was able to listen to him and other leaders give us direction. I will just leave few thoughts: 

-You ALWAYS have time to do a good deed/act of service. 
-Great opposition is when something great is about happen. 
-A handshake with a look in the eyes can be a personal interview. Seek ways to know how to serve others when we look into their eyes. 
-We must always remember our true identity. Doing this, everything else falls into place. Our choices become better, we become happier, and we feel that God loves us with all of His heart, mind, and strength. 
-The Doctrine and the Spirit are the most important things in Church services. Members aren't perfect and never will be. 
-Missionaries (Visiting teachers, young women leaders, Bishops)  are to create spiritual experiences. The lessons are just a way to help others learn. We are to give people a Reason to follow Christ and not just Knowledge. 
-God's family tree is 1 generation. Us and God. While family and those that influence us to do good are very helpful, we need to remember that we are all sons of a Loving Heavenly Father and we must personally get back to him. 
-The Sabbath Day and how we observe it is not a new program. We have been given freedom of choice to how we spend it. That way, we can truly make the day a delight. 
-Do you think Adam knew what was happening when the first time rain fell or he was told to plant a seed into the ground? Did he know what was happening when he sacrificed lambs? Sometimes God doesn't have time to explain it all the way. (Does that sound like parenting?)  Just trust. 
- What God loves the very most is a broken heart and contrite spirit. 
-"At the time you need God the most, resist the temptation to leave Him." - Holland 
-The city that Jesus made famous (Nazareth) had to be left to preform miracles. It is all based on our faith. 
-"Sometimes, I think we should bring a lamb and slash it's throat open so people would understand whats the big idea!" -Holland while talking about the importance of the Sacrament 

Lots of spiritual knowledge gained this last week. One thing that kept popping up in my head for a week or two was the verse, "Do not cast pearls before swine." I have been thinking of that a lot lately and trying to see how to apply it. Elder Holland was very impressed with the mission and instead of his usual fiery side, was very emotional while with the missionaries. He didn't want to waste time talking about obedience or our calling and how we should open our mouths more. Instead, he told us that he would teach us doctrine and very rarely has done so with missionaries. We, as a whole, were ready to learn and prepared to expand our understanding. He attributed it our mission President and Wife and I couldn't agree more. They leave in about month or so and gave their "Farewell" at Stake Conference this last week. Couldn't have asked for better examples in my life these last two years. 

We were able to go to a professional European soccer game this last week with the two biggest teams in Ukraine. Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk. Had to leave after 35 minutes into the game in order to get home in time but it was worth it. We went with Farid (16 year old who will be getting baptized here soon), Artur, and a local friend that knew his way around and could keep us out of trouble if it arised. Great experience. 

All-star weekend here in Ukraine. Hope you all have a great week! 

Love Elder Devashrayee

Monday, April 17, 2017

Heart Transplant.... 4-17-17


We were able to go and view an area that I had not been to before. Saw some pretty cool thatched homes and windmills. Even met this older gentleman who played the coolest instrument. It was a good day.

Then we walked around the Kiev Dynamo stadium and were able to walk into some people from Ireland and talked to them about the Gospel and what we believe for a bit. I thought of Grandma and Grandpa Pohlman as they had just started their mission and are heading there. 

We then went to a setting apart of Masha. She is the Bishop's daughter and invited us to go to it. She is heading to London and is going to be a great missionary. 
Sister Prach (Photo from my Grandparents in the Utah MTC)
 Found out today that my grandparents ran into her at the MTC and couple of other missionaries that have been sent from Ukraine. I "missed" the setting apart of my grandparents, but the Lord made up for it and during the setting apart of Masha I was able to try and be there in Spirit for my Grandparents too. 

The week was full of great times but I would have fast forward to Saturday. Saturday, we went to the temple with a man for his first time. He was baptized about 4 years ago and then dropped off about after a year, we were able to go with him and do baptisms for the dead and he has now printed off 3 family names. (He showed up on Sunday wearing the white socks he was given to wear in the temple, it was awesome to see). We then stayed for the session and it was amazing to see about 30 members from the ward in the temple. It was an eye-opener to me about how close I have grown to these people and reassured me that I will see them all again whether in this life or in the next. The man that ended up taking out his endowments last week was there also and I was able to help him out. The session went great and after we went with one of my best friends I have made in Ukraine, Zhenya Macksimov, out to eat who was also on the session with us. After that we came back and headed over to the family that is planning on getting baptized in the near future. There we tried to have a shorter lesson and then just get to know them better and shared photos and just talked for a while. It was the best day I could have asked for. 

I have probably gained about 10 pounds in this last week alone. People here have an amazing tradition of baking during Easter. Look up Easter Ukraine Cakes on google and you will know what I mean. We have eaten about 10 and got about 5 more from members and friends on Sunday. We ate lunch and dinner at member's houses and had a great time. Church was very interesting. The temple President and Matron came and gave great talks. I liked a story given by the matron: 

"Two men are sitting in a waiting room in the Spirit World. One of them gets called into a room and is asked by a person what he knows about Jesus. He tells where he was born and about how he taught at a young age in the temple and then at age 30 he started his mission and about all of the miracles he preformed and how many apostles he called and so on and so forth. He was then thanked for his time and dismissed back into the waiting room. The second person was called into the room and fell onto his knees immediately and cried, "Oh, my Lord!" and was overcome with gratitude and happiness to see his Savior."

We should all spend time getting to know our Savior. Easter is a great time to do that, but why not look at every Sunday and the chance to partake of the sacrament how the rest of the world looks at Easter Sunday. It came up a lot this week on lessons and in general the importance of not just going to church on Sunday and going through the motions and then going home and not thinking about Jesus until next Sunday. Spiritual strength requires effort and I was very happy to be in the presence of the Temple President and his wife during church on Sunday. They went to temple prep class and I was able to translate for them. They had incredible insights. One of them was that a "change of heart" can very literally be taken as a heart transplant. For those that need to repent to be worthy to enter the temple / re-new a temple recommend, must take medication regularly so the new heart keeps beating. That includes: going to the temple, church, reading scriptures, doing good and etc. Once we stop, the new heart (Natural Man) takes over and says, "This is not my heart" and rejects what was just replaced. I took a second to just realize where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing and was very grateful for my mission. They are from Austria and know English pretty well. They served as Mission Presidents in Bulgaria and are the happiest/brightest people I know. 

Every thing is going great and we are now preparing for the Apostle Holland this next Saturday. Hope you all have a great week! 

Elder Devashrayee

Monday, April 10, 2017

Check Boxes..... 4-10-17

This last week was a great one. 

Best part was sacrament meeting for me. I feel like it would have been just another usual meeting for most of the people there and then God gave me a whole new perspective to how I viewed it. When I looked at who was blessing the sacrament for the first time (a less-active that we had practiced with saying the prayer a few days prior) and a man whose daughters we taught the lessons before their baptism, all of the speakers (the 2 missionaries Artur and Masha getting ready to leave and giving their farewell talks), and the Bishopric with whom I have grown a very personal relationship with each of them. I was overly grateful. 

We found out that the man we wanted to go through the temple next Saturday with ended up going on the 8th without letting us know and I thought immediately to Elder Uchtdorf's talk about not being invited but it helped me realize that this work really isn't about us at all and was happy that he made that step.

We have watched almost all of the conference talks and I see myself applying what was said in them without really thinking much about it. This time, instead of taking notes I knew I wouldn't look at again, I made check boxes for a "To do list". One of those involved acting on one of my first impressions that I had received about 2 weeks ago but failed to carry out into action. That resulted into bringing a little gift and card to a middle aged single lady that works day in and day out to support her parents that are getting very old and can't care for themselves. She teaches the Gospel Principles class here in our ward. It wasn't much, but I'm positive it was straight from the Lord as it was the 3rd time it popped into my mind and was stirred up again in one of the talks. I still have a lot of empty check boxes, but now I have direction into what I need to do. Words can be written, but we really improve and make a difference when we DO. 

We had a lesson with a couple that is not married about the Law of Chastity. They are amazing people and are doing really well. They have a kid and have not been married for about 15 years. We talked about the Commandment and it seemed to really hit them. I saw the face of the mother turn from a cheerful countenance to one of guilt and shame. She then said, "We have been living in our sins all this time..." and was really distraught. This is what we call Godly sorrow. Her view was opened to the reality of life with God after this life and the importance of living a clean life to return to Him. The member there with us on the lesson helped her realize that God only judges us according to our knowledge and what we know is true and false. The lesson took a different turn and continued and I couldn't help but keep looking at the mother's face. It was one of complete sorrow. I had to say something. I held up the picture of Jesus Christ and testified to her of His love and God's love for her. We are all far from perfect. Only thanks to the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ we can be saved and return to God's presence. God did not send Jesus to judge, but to save. The fear we have when we realize what we have done is wrong can be cast out with perfect love. The only one who can do that is Jesus seeing that he lived a perfect and sinless life.

Beginning of the mission I was not worried about numbers but hated seeing "zeros", I then to counteract against this did all that I could to have high numbers and feel good about myself when I looked back at the week/day/transfer and over-packed days full of lessons and always rushing to and from them, I then went into the phase where I was against numbers and stopped setting as many goals because I felt like a robot and without the Spirit at times just mindlessly doing the work.. now we are completely focused on individual people. Numbers don't matter, but we are setting high goals. The more I have seen my love for people grow the more success I have seen as a missionary because individual people are making steps to God. 

I hope that everyone has a great week and enjoys EASTER! Great time of year to be a missionary here in Ukraine. 

Love Elder Devashrayee
Great View from the top of the "tower"

Babii Yar (Park there)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Family Unit..... 4-3-17

This was a great last week. On Sunday we left the house with only suits on an it was a great feeling. The weather right now is perfect and it gives us a lot of energy. 

On Tuesday, I had an exchange with a relatively new missionary. We had about an hour and a half of unplanned time between travel and teaching English and lessons. We set the goal to give away 4 Books of Mormon throughout the day. God works to our desires. In that hour and a half we gave away all 4 and got numbers from all of them wanting to know more. I can't say that I have done that every day, but honestly it is all up to us. We planned and prayed to see miracles that day and went out and the Lord did the rest. Goal setting and faith is how we get the most out of each day or even an hour and a half. It was a great exchange and I hope that the new missionary keeps the momentum going. I love being a grandpa here in the mission. I learned a lot from him. 

One of my biggest desires in this area is to get people to the next step. Whether that is doing baptisms for the dead, going through the temple, or getting baptized. We have a number of people doing all 3 in the next month or so. We are excited and the work is going great. 

A family baptized their daughter this last week. They invited a lot of family and I was able to talk to one of them after the actual ordinance of baptism and then later after the whole service for around 30 minutes. When I approached him, he was pretty unresponsive and didn't seem happy to see me haha. At the end, we were both laughing and enjoying the conversation. I have learned to really accept and see the views of other people without getting angered when they disagree, and enjoying every moment I have to tell them what I believe and what makes me happy. I wouldn't have been able to answer his questions before the mission, and let alone in Russian. I am grateful for the time I have here and being able to testify numerous times every day. At the end, he asked me what was the purpose of life. I thought about it and said, "To be able to stand before God at the last day and know that I had done everything in my power to be confident in His presence. Secondly, that I had done everything possible to help family and loved ones get to that point too." He asked why my family was more important than others and the question kind of surprised me. 

The family is the unit in which we can all return to God together. We constantly search for opportunities to help others and lift them. We take people in. People become our family. We have amazing friends and acquaintances.  However, the most important people we can constantly help and love is our family. Find someone whether it be your brother, sister, mom, dad, uncle, cousin, mother-in-law, great-aunt, or even your spouse. Think about ways to show them you care for them this next week and spread a feeling of love for Easter coming up. Find a grandma who could use a "grandkid" for an hour, find a person that could use an "older brother", or find someone that could use a talk you heard in conference. Hope that you all have a great week! 

Love, Elder Devashrayee 

p.s. Went to their zoo for P-day... It was quite the adventure and was pretty cool. Enjoy some of the photos from it.
 Their "Cotton Candy"