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!