I'm going to UKRAINE!!! Alright, so I've known that for a while, but we got our flight plans, so FOR REAL I'm going to Ukraine. I leave the MTC Tuesday morning at like4:00 a.m., and get to Kyiv (after stops in Washington DC and Vienna, Austria) about 24 hours later. Brings back memories of my travels to Romania -- exhausting but awesome. :) And FYI, the last day I'll get mail is Saturday, so hopefully everything gets to me by then!
Real quick about the pictures... there's a couple pics of my district (that's the Ukrainian flag in case you couldn't guess), and then the picture of the chalkboard is when we split up into teams in our classroom to play a game. It was me and the Elders versus the rest of the Sisters, and our teacher named the teams "Tenors" and "Sisters." I got a kick out of that. :P And naturally, I've got to share a funny language story. Sister Lee in my district says "maybe later" in Russian like all the time (может быть потом), and the other day, I told her, "Hey, you should totally say 'может быть потомство' [sounds really similar]. It means like, 'maybe later for sure.'" So she was saying that all day, and then the next morning I finally told her that it actually means "maybe posterity." :) I love being good enough at the language to crack jokes and play pranks. I mean, preaching the gospel in Russian is awesome, but Russian puns are pretty great too. :)
Well, I've had an AMAZING week. A lot of teaching and studying as usual, but also incredible personal studies (especially in the Book of Mormon) and an amazing devotional last night. Elder Marcus B. Nash from the Quorum of the Seventy came and spoke, and the whole thing was about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Spirit was incredible. It's amazing to me how REAL the gospel is. A few weeks ago after some sisters in my district practiced a musical number of "I Know that My Redeemer Lives," I turned to my friend and said, "Isn't it amazing that we can feel so close to a Man we've never even seen?" Last night in the devotional, there were literally thousands of us gathered together listening to Elder Nash talk about that Man, our Savior and Redeemer, and the feelingswere more real than anything physical I've experienced. It reminds me of the quote, "We're not human being having a spiritual experience. We're spiritual beings having a human experience." That's how I've felt in the MTC--so in tune with and encompassed by the Spirit that I've almost forgotten about all the physical things we worry about in our lives. Not to say that temporal things aren't important, but nothing compares to the joy and peace that comes from the Spirit of God and the doctrines of the gospel. The healing the Savior offers us is real, the forgiveness through His Atonement is real, the guidance and direction God gives us in our lives is real -- all fairly unseen (for now), but SO REAL! And yet there's something that IS seen: the change in the lives of those who apply the Savior's redeeming blood. I'm different because of it, and I'm so excited to see that change in the people that I'll teach. There's a topic in the Topical Guide under "abundant life." I can't think of a more fitting term for those who turn their lives over to God and consistently use the Atonement: abundant life.
Well, I leave for Ukraine in six days, and that brings a lot of emotions with it... mostly a balance between excitement and some fear. Thankfully I've had a lot of scriptures brought to my mind to put my fears to rest a little bit: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." (2 Kings 6:16) "If this... this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it." (Acts 5:38-39) I know that I'm doing the work of God, and I know it will go forth, even with such imperfect and weak instruments as mortal, young missionaries. I've been thinking about what the MTC has done for me. I know a lot more Russian than two months ago, and I know more about teaching, but above all, my testimony and desire to share it has grown incredibly. I can't think of a better way to describe it than being spiritually on fire. I had a pretty big flame before coming here, but now it is RAGING, and I know that, for now, it's enough to get me out to Ukraine. It's enough to withstand the rejection I'm sure to face, and the sorrow that comes when people reject the message of the gospel, and any discomfort that I'll deal with. And I also know now how to keep that flame burning when I'm there. I'm grateful I've had the opportunity to be here for nine weeks, and I'm really going to miss this sacred place. But at the same time, it's a good thing I'm leaving because I don't know how much longer I can keep this fire contained. I'm nervous, I'm excited, but I'm also confident that the work of God will go forth "boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." And perhaps above all, I'm just grateful for the privilege to be a part of it.
Talk to you next week :)
PS-- Just as a reminder, anyone can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they don't want to send stuff all the way to Ukraine. Or real mail works too, whatever you want. :)