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