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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Secret Restaurant.... 5-22-17

This last week was a great one. 

We will go ahead and start off with a man named Clint. He is 41, loaded rich, and travels the world trying to learn languages and takes missionaries out for food. He learns the language by taking girls out on dates and just talking to them :). Luckily we ran into him. He got baptized about a year or so ago and is doing great. He is divorced, but his daughter sang in a choir with a number of Mormons when she was around the age of 16 and got interested through the other girls there singing. After she got baptized and he went to sacrament meeting for the first time to support her he couldn't go back to other churches. It just didn't feel real to him. He knew he was going to get baptized but was expecting a big answer for about 5 months. Once he decided to delete a few numbers from his phone and go all in, he fasted and prayed one Sunday. He woke up and then knew that he needed to be baptized. He is a strong member and you can tell he is really converted. 

He took us to a "Secret Restaurant" called the Last Barricade. There are no signs for the place, in the elevator there is no labeled button for the floor, and when you get in it just looks like an average gift shop. It is located near Maidon where the terrorist act occurred a couple of years ago. If you go up to the person at the front desk you can say "Fight for Freedom" and he opens up a secret door and you are able to go through a couple more doors and sit down in a really nice restaurant. Cool idea. Good food. First time I have eaten out in a long long time! 

He had us meet him at a spot at 2 o'clock and a girl came up and talked to us. First of all, it is really rare that anyone comes up and talks to us unless they are drunk. Second of all, she knew perfect English. She said that she was baptized when she was 13 and fell away. She is now about 20 and wants to start meeting with missionaries again. That same day we had some occurrences that were pretty non-coincidental. A man dropped his whole key chain and kept on walking, so we picked it up and gave it to him. Turned out he is deaf and it would have been really hard to find the keys again. We knocked on a grandma's door and had a conversation with her by writing on paper because it is very hard for her to speak. She is less-active and she came to church this last week and we now have a great friend.

We have a recent-convert who can't really sit still on lessons and it is hard for him to pay attention. He is 21 and we heard that he was working out on the street every night. We decided to rearrange our proselyting hours and that we would just accompany him and go lifting. I was in heaven. We were using object lessons to teach him about stuff like the Priesthood and testimony as we were lifting at an outdoor gym. It was pretty sweet. 

Saturday was the best part of the week. We went back to the place that we were able to serve last week with handicaps. 

- We talked to the lady in charge and she said that we could have 30 minutes to preach or do whatever we wanted. We showed up and instead of Korean Baptists this time there were Evangelists and they were not happy to see us. The Pastor came directly up to us and said that we would not have one word. He said that we interpret the Bible differently and that we can't be together in the same room. He wanted us to leave entirely, but the lady in charge wouldn't let him completely banish us, good thing she was there. We said that we had prepared a song and that we would at least would want to preform. Yes, I said a song. I have ZERO musical talent. I try to sing "bass" and just sing the melody an octave lower. However, I do know how to play 1 hymn. Sweet Hour of Prayer. I played that hymn every Sunday for about 2 years in Priesthood. I hadn't played a piano for about the whole time I have been out and I was able to by muscle memory play the hymn. The more I practiced it, the more I messed up because I started to second guess myself. The Pastor turned to us after about an hour of him going off and said we could sing. We go to pull out the hymn books and somehow they aren't there. This is what 2 years of repeatedly playing this song in Priesthood, while having all of the priesthood holders mad at me because it was literally almost every week that we sang it, prepared me for. The Pastor literally stood over my shoulder when I sat down and it was more nerve racking than my mom after she knew I hadn't practiced at all that week and I had to play in front of her :). I asked God that I wouldn't mess up too bad and it went really well. I literally used the only musical talent that I own. If we think back to Joseph Smith and the first vision the first things that Satan used were fear and taking away his able to talk. This Pastor took away our ability to "speak" and was pretty hostile for being at a little service opportunity for handicapped people. The only way we could get our message across was through music and through the spirit and that was what we were prepared to do. Music is a way in which we can bless others around us. It has unbelievable potential and no limits to what the Spirit can do with it.  

-My main goal throughout the whole service opportunity was to have good relations with this Pastor and his fellow evangelists and to keep on smiling. After the event, we went up to talk to them and they didn't want a thing to do with us. I told them that what I have learned is you only need to get to know someone a little better and you always can end up having more respect for them and see things from their point of view. These are the main things that really made them think and I was happy that we could tell them about: 

1. Temple work. At first, baptisms for the dead was a joke that was thrown at us. We then explained the reasoning and testified that every person will have a chance to repent and either accept or reject Christ in this life or in the next. God is a God of perfect mercy and justice. 

2. The fact that almost the whole room doesn't really even need to be preached to. They are all already saved. They are all mentally handicap in some shape or form and cannot decide between good or wrong, so God will not judge them according to their deeds. We all know a mentally handicapped person and know their spirit. They have a one-way ticket to heaven and are just here to help others do the same. 

4. Modern Day Revelation and The importance of a person being called of God to preach. I have never really understood the gravity of the revelation that Joseph Smith received when he knew his older brother, Alvin which died without being baptized, could be with him again with God and was not cast into hell. This Pastor is a very respectable person who knows the Bible very well. I did't feel the power when he spoke. He said that miracles have ceased. Other religions being bashed was the more part of the doctrine of which he spoke about. I looked around and everyone just looked sad. Now take that and compare it when Elder Holland came to our mission months ago. Night and day. 

The last part was something that really hit me when I realized it. One of the other people there with this Pastor gave a great speech about the events after the resurrection of Christ and I went up to shake his hand after and to thank him. He told it by heart and very well. I was really impressed. When I went for the handshake he refused and kept his hands in his pockets. I have come across religions that refuse to shake hands and I was ready to just assume that this religion didn't do that. After the hour long conversation, my companion also tried to shake hands with him (He hadn't seen what happened earlier)  and he again refused. If someone would have asked me what this Branch of the Evangelists believe in, I would have probably noted the fact that they do not shake hands. Upon leaving, I decided to give this man a friendly pat on the shoulder. His arm sleeves were tucked down in his pockets as if his hands were in his pockets. This man had a metal frame for shoulders on both sides. I was ready to tell everyone and judge this Church from a first impression of this man not shaking my hand. Turns out he doesn't even have arms! Let's now take this lesson and apply it to us. Someone could see a missionary or a member and know they are a Mormon. If one of us is not honest in our dealings, someone could attribute that to the whole church. If a missionary is not obedient or disrespectful, that is instantly reflected to the Church. If we are choosing which commandments to live by and which ones aren't convenient or don't "apply to us", others see that and that becomes the image of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. Let us not jump to conclusions about people that don't shake hands because they don't have arms. Let us be examples to all and remember how blessed we are to know what we know. 

Hope you all have a great week!  

Elder Devashrayee

Enjoy some artsy photos from this week... I had fun taking them :)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Opposition = Something Big...... 5-15-17

Good week! Had a great time talking with the family and stuff on Sunday.

Biggest thing of this week is how the work is going. It is going well and things just keep on moving forward.  We have a number of people and families moving forwards at the moment and we are hoping for the best. 

We were trying to find a service opportunity on Saturday and we got lost on the way somehow. It was raining and we got there right as the Korean Baptists were leaving.  We walked in the room and about 50 people just stared at us liked we were aliens that just walked in from Mars. Half of them were handicapped and the others were all of their relatives.  Every Saturday they hold a party type thing at 3pm and we walked in an hour and a half late.  We were immediately sat down with sandwiches and cake and stayed after to make some friends and clean up.  The lady that runs the whole thing met with missionaries about 7 years ago and she took the whole group through the temple open house. Things worked out perfectly there.  We couldn't plan anything that day and got lost and every thing fell through but God had a better plan for us. For some reason I knew that something big was going to happen the moment I realized that we were having some opposition that was pretty un-explainable. 

Hope you all have a great week! 

Love Elder Devashrayee

A couple of photos from our week's adventures....

Monday, May 8, 2017

Prepare And Focus..... 5-8-17

This last week was great. It was sad to leave my last area but we had a great last few days riding bikes, going into center with members and going to do service. I had a really warm welcome here in Харьковский. Most of them remembered me and it was nice to see them all again.

Had some great experiences. We had a meeting at the Packer's home and really focused on preparing to pray. Really taking a moment before the prayer and focusing your thoughts. Getting up in the morning, splashing your face with some water and collecting your thoughts before you pray. I cannot tell you the amount of times that I have rolled out of bed in the morning and then not known whether I started or even finished or what had happened or if I was even still dreaming. I have really taken my prayers a lot more seriously this last week and have seen a huge difference in contacting and seeing God's hand more in my life.

My new companion is Elder Tolman who is from Utah. He wrestled and went to Mountain View High School. I have a lot to learn from him and a lot of great habits that I can pick up that will help me throughout life. He is a top notch missionary.  He is the one in the Waffle Love shirt in the photo below.

Had an interesting experience this week. We went to a park to meet with an investigator that the previous Elders together had met. He had his wife there and even brought a friend. At one point it honestly felt like the Sermon on the Mount. There was a younger man sitting close by that wasn't opening up, some older man that was really pondering the message but wouldn't get over some points of doctrine, a person that just walked into the lesson and wanted to know more, an invalid person was sitting near and asking very thought provoking questions, people were sitting on the benches nearby and you could tell that they were listening, and even one grandpa came by the nearest bench and sat and listened and even started to pray while we were teaching. Our investigator's wife came down with a disease over the last few years that has left all of her limbs crippled and slow of speech. Her husband was treating her like a million bucks. It was a great example to me. She is wheelchair bound and very slow of speech now. I then saw how he treated his small boy when he ran up to them and was pretty impressed. How hard it must have been for all of them. For the husband seeing his wife go through all of the trials, the wife seeing her son and knowing that she can't interact with him as a normal mom would, and for the child that will grow up more or less without a mother. One thing was obvious though, they were all genuine happy people. It was a reality check for me. Where did it all come from? We have every reason to be happy. We need to find our source and always be grateful. I have seen a huge difference of people on the mission that take happiness from temporal items, and those that rejoice in God. 

I was able to send Artur off on his mission and be at his setting apart right when I left the area and that was a huge blessing. I will just paste what he wrote about it. 

Кстати я хочу рассказать историю как я поехал на миссию. Был конец трансфера, у моего лучшего друга был трансфер, я незнал когда я еду на миссию. Я был очень подавлен и расстроен. Я вечером шел домой и думал Что мне дальше делать? Когда я пришел домой мне было очень грустно. И я начал очень сильно молиться. Как действительно сильно. На 100 процентов веря, что Бог ответит. Я молился о том чтобы знать когда и куда я уеду на миссию. Я молился, чтобы знать, что делать дальше. Я помолился и лег спать знаю что  утром я буду знать когда я еду. И Днем мне звонит пр.Кравченко и говорит: " Артур, ты где? Тебе сегодня встречали во Львовской миссии. Сколько тебе нужно времени, чтобы собраться?" И вот это был ответ на молитву. Просто, Бог всегда отвечает на молитвы. Всегда! В этот же день меня рукоположили и на следующий день я отправился на миссию. Просто если мы действительно просим с верой, то мы получим это. 

Hope you all have a great week and that you shower Travis and Cassie with love!!!

Elder Devashrayee

p.s. Did end up attending the ward picnic today... had fun.

Here is what google translate said was written in Russian above - note Derek is the friend he is talking about.

By the way, I want to tell the story of how I went on a mission. There was an end of the transfer, my best friend had a transfer, I did not know when I'm going on a mission. I was very depressed and upset. I went home in the evening and thought What should I do next? When I came home, I was very sad. And I began to pray very strongly. How really strong. 100 percent believing that God will answer. I prayed to know when and where I would go on a mission. I prayed to know what to do next. I prayed and went to bed I know that in the morning I will know when I'm going. And in the afternoon, Kravchenko calls me and says: "Arthur, where are you?" You were met today in the Lvov Mission. How long do you need time to get together? " And this was the answer to prayer. Simply, God always answers prayers. Always! On the same day, I was ordained and the next day I went on a mission. Simply if we really ask with faith, we will get it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

PB&J Sandwiches..... 5-1-17

Hope you all had a great week! 

This week I had the inkling of a feeling that I was going to leave this area and made a weekly tour to a lot of the homes of the members here in this ward. President called and I found out that my streak of 9 months was going to come to an end in Воскресенский. I was awarded the chance to speak the day before and my small testimony had to be replaced with a 10-15 minute talk when the speakers didn't show up. Am I grateful the speakers didn't show up? I shouldn't be..? :) I had way too much that I wanted to say to this great ward that the time wasn't enough! My talk went a little like this: 

"Every since I can remember I have had a PB&J sandwich for lunch at school. My mom made our lunches, but when we got old enough she had my older brother and I make the lunches for us and our siblings. My job was the make the sandwiches. If I didn't get up on time, took too long in the shower, or was just too lazy... the sandwiches didn't get made. If this happened, I didn't eat a sandwhich and neither did my siblings. My mom and dad helped out when asked and so did other siblings, but it was my main responsibility. It not only affected me personally, but my family also if I didn't get up and make the sandwiches. I then learned that if I knew I would be in a huge rush in the morning I could always make them the night before. I learned to manage time a little better. Nothing ruins a mood throughout the day when you don't have a PB&J (Peanut Butter & Jelly) in your backpack for lunch." 

It went something like that... and then I related that to making sure we not only physically nourish our bodies, but also spiritually. At one point, I needed to gain my own testimony and personally set aside time for scripture study. We need to spiritually feed our testimonies every day and when it becomes just as important as eating every day it will not only bless us, but everyone around us ALL DAY. Think of the people you come in contact with and the influence you have. If a sincere study of the Book of Mormon was done in the morning, I have reasons to believe that we would act a little differently around those people and act more like the Savior. There is a lot more than you think in that decision we have every day to read or not. Let's just make the decision now and not worry about asking ourselves every day. 

I then read parts of the Prophet's talk about the Book of Mormon and went over the importance of building personal relationships. The Book of Mormon is just a book, until you read it and gain a relationship with it. Jesus Christ can be viewed as "Just a historical figure" until you learn more about him in your reading and apply His atonement. A ward can just be full of people until you end up knowing each and every one of them by name and have spent quality time with them. A lot more is behind a welcoming handshake every Sunday when you have been in their home and have spent the time well. I then invited all of the members to get to know each other better so every Sunday they are surrounded by 100 or so friends and not just people that they see every week. 

I then read Alma 39:17 and talked about the urgency with which we need to share the gospel and how important individual souls are. Then D&C 59:21 because I owed this ward a huge thank you for all that they have done for me. They helped me live the two greatest commandments to the fullest (Matthew 22: 37-39). I believe that personally living these commandments AND helping those around you do the same is very important. I felt the love of God and my love for God increase while in this area and any time I was around these amazing members. They are very easy to love and make you want to do anything to serve them. I then finished with the words of Paul (Philippians 1:2-11) and addressed it to the ward and finished with my personal testimony. 

I found out that I will be serving in the Харковский branch which is actually the one that I served in last summer before I came to Воскресенский. It will be a lot different than the last time I served in that area because last time we were out in a smaller town a lot of which has now become a small group on Sundays. Lots of changes. One of my best friends on the mission will be coming in and replacing me in this area with Elder Durtschi. I will be serving with Elder Tolman and I am excited for the opportunities that lie ahead. 

Hope you all have a great week! 
Elder Devashrayee

This week I was able to go to the area cemetery with a dear friend. It was very different than back home, but the feelings were still the same - love and peace. Also got some great advice :)

Able to say farewell to some dear friends in the area.... 

Appreciative of these guys for helping me grow and become a better person. I will miss them all!