Monday, June 24, 2013

Fwd: Letter #12 - 6/24/13



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <elizabeth.montgomery@myldsmail.net>
Date: Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 4:43 AM
Subject: Letter #12 - 6/24/13
To: Christine Montgomery <chrismont9@gmail.com>


Dear family, friends, blog-stalkers, etc.

Well, my days of being 21 years old are over, and thus my letters will now be infused with the wisdom of 22-year-old instead. I hope y'all can handle it!

This week was... a week! My birthday was great -- Sister Filipovska cut out and hung up happy birthday letters from the Liahona church magazine (the image of the massacred magazine was hilarious to me), and she gave me a little journal (revelation book) as a gift. The Elders in our area made brownies that we all had after English class, and one of the members bought me chocolate. Oh yeah, and Mom and Dad, I saved the gifts you sent when I was at the MTC and have since been enjoying those delicious mints and beef jerky. Thanks for all the birthday wishes from everyone! It was great!

Things haven't been too eventful lately for teaching -- we have a bunch of potential investigators, but it's been hard to meet with them to teach a lesson. This week we're gonna really up our game to find and teach people. We've been working hard, but there's a lot more we can and should be doing that we will plan on improving this week. It's so important to always be improving ourselves. There's a phrase in missionary work that's something like "go home with no regrets," but that makes it sound like you have to be perfect the whole time. I prefer something like, "Go home incredibly better than you went out." Every night I have "regrets" about the day, which is basically just the realization of my sins and weaknesses. But every night, I counsel with God about them, ask for forgiveness, ask for His strength to help me overcome them the next day, and then move forward. "Go home with no unresolved regrets" -- maybe I could live with that phrase.

Quick spiritual thought before I head out... I've been thinking a lot this week about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Big topic to think about, huh? I always think about that quote from Joseph Smith about how the Atonement is the center of the gospel, "and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." Or in Elder McConkie's words, "The Atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths."

Anyway, I've been thinking about how real and personal it is, not just an abstract concept. A lot of the times we think, "Yes, Christ suffered and died for us, felt all our pain, made it possible for us to receive forgiveness and return to Heavenly Father, and... yep, I think that covers it." But how does it work? What does it mean for us personally every single day?

I don't have all the answers, but I understood one piece of the puzzle better this week. I came home at the end of the day and was just sitting at my desk, thinking about what had happened during the day and how I was feeling and everything. I can't even remember exactly how I was feeling -- sad at seeing the disheartened states of people, unsure how to best do the work here, something like that. Anyway, I said a prayer, and when I looked up, I saw the book "Jesus the Christ" sitting on shelf in front of me, and I felt like I should pick it up. So I did and turned randomly to the chapter on Christ's parables, including the parable of the wheat and tares. When I was reading, I read and felt from the Spirit exactly what I needed to learn in that moment to bring me comfort and help me improve.

When I was talking to Sister Filipovska about the Atonement later, I cited that example and said, "THIS is what the Atonement can do. Christ has felt everything I have, and so in that moment when I asked for His help, it was as if He was right there next to me saying, 'I know exactly how you feel, and I know exactly what you need right now. Holy Ghost, prompt her to look up at that book, and have her open up to page 287, and when she reads it, testify to her of My love, teach her ____, and send her My comfort.'" That's how real and personal it is. He is our unchanging Friend, we can have a real relationship with Him, and we must have that relationship in order to become like God and live with Him forever.

That's all for today. Have a wonderful week!

Love,
Sister Montgomery



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Monday, June 17, 2013

Fwd: Letter #11 - 6/17/13



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <elizabeth.montgomery@myldsmail.net>
Date: Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 8:37 AM
Subject: Letter #11 - 6/17/13
To: Christine Montgomery <chrismont9@gmail.com>


Dear family and friends,

Hope y'all are doing well on the homefront (shout-out to Uncle Mikie by using that word...) :)

Here in Ukraine, it's getting hotter by the day, hence the picture of the sweet foot-tanline I'm getting (which will only get darker as summer comes upon us...) But all is well. This week was pretty good -- here are a few of my thoughts...

Thought #1 -- I've found a lot of strength in hearing the conversion stories of the members here. There's a lot who came into the church in the 90's, but there are a lot of more recent converts as well. The reason I like it so much is because it makes me more motivated to be diligent in order to find people like them. For example, a few recent converts met the missionaries through the English classes we offer, and since hearing that, I've been more vigilant about inviting people to that. Also, a member named Lena was found by the missionaries through tracting, and so the last time we went, I just kept thinking, "Somewhere there's a Lena here..." Finding is such an important part of missionary work, but it's so hard sometimes! It helps me so much to see the light of the members here and to hear their stories, knowing that there's people like that to be found right now too!

Thought #2 -- Everyone needs constant nourishment in the gospel. I've noticed this as I've worked with different groups of people: active members, less-active members, recent converts, and investigators. Their needs differ as groups and individuals, but one thing is universally the same for them and me and everyone: we all need to stay nourished in the gospel! I wish it was as easy as being baptized and then calling it good, but it's nowhere close to that. None of us are "safe" in the sense that we can slack in our gospel practices and think that all is still well. And even if we're feeling strong in the gospel, there's still so many other people who need help with it who we should be helping! I look back to how I was before my mission, and I regret not serving and strengthening others as much as I could have. We all need each other in this endeavor of becoming like our Father in Heaven.

If you have some time this week, read Alma 32 and think about the importance of constantly nourishing your testimony (and helping others do the same). It's neat to be here and to witness all different stages of that chapter, from the seed being planted in investigators' hearts to a blooming tree in some members' homes. Moroni 6 is another good chapters about how much we must DO and BECOME in order to stay founded in the gospel and Jesus Christ: "And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith" (Moroni 6:4).

Thought #3 -- The gospel seems hard, and is hard, but ultimately life is better and even easier with the gospel. We had a lesson with an investigator this week who has a very hard life (she's the mother of three disabled daughters). We want her to embrace the gospel, but all she sees right now is the difficulty of it, and it's hard to disagree with her. And yet I know that there's so much joy and peace and light that comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ, even when it seems completely counter-intuitive. It reminds me of the scripture, Matthew 11:28-30: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." How can taking a yoke upon you possibly be easy? That's the beautiful irony of it: when we partner with Christ, no matter how hard that might be at first, our burdens will ultimately be lightened, and we shall find rest unto our souls. I hope I can adequately explain that to the people I teach (or rather, that the Spirit can do that), but I also know that the best way, and perhaps the only way, to discover that is by trying it.

Well, that's enough thoughts for today. :) Have a fantastic week!

Love,
Sister Montgomery

PS-- Make sure you have a lot of fun on my B-Day in my behalf! Thanks for birthing me, Mom! :D


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Monday, June 10, 2013

Fwd: Letter #10 - 6/10/13



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <elizabeth.montgomery@myldsmail.net>
Date: Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 5:25 AM
Subject: Letter #10 - 6/10/13
To: Christine Montgomery <chrismont9@gmail.com>


Hellllllo world!

I can't believe it was only a week ago that I wrote my last letter home -- it seriously feels like a month! Man, missions really mess with your sense of time. When I got to the MTC, I felt like I forgot my whole pre-MTC life, and now my MTC life seems like it was forever ago. Weird.

Well, this week I've gotten a lot more into the groove of things. I'm doing all those real-life missionary things now -- walking around the city with a Book of Mormon in hand, contacting on the street, tracting an apartment building once, teaching English class twice a week, and having lessons with anyone we can. There's a strong ward here, so we're really trying to work with the members to get referrals and help them share the gospel (since that's a lot more effective than just contacting). We also had a few lessons with a recent convert named Looba (a name that makes perfect sense in Cyrillic but which I just realized looks a little silly in English letters) that were great. I just LOVE teaching -- when I'm in someone's home getting to know them and teaching them about the gospel, it just feels so good, you know? It reminds me of that scripture, D&C 50:22, "Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together." There's nothing quite like nourishing others with the good word of God, be it a life-long member, a recent convert, an investigator, or a first contact.

We had some really cool teaching experiences this week. A lady named Lena came to church last week looking for help for a friend of hers named Genadi (he's paralyzed on one side, plus broke his hip, and he needs help at home). She's not a member, but she has a member friend that told her where the church was and to ask us for help. Anyway, Sister Filipovska and I talked to the RS President and she told us who would be good to help, and we set up the appointment.

So on Friday, we all went over to Genadi's apartment together -- me, Sister Filipovska, Lena, and the church member Maria. They talked amongst themselves about how Maria will help Genadi, and then Sister Filipovska took the opportunity to teach the gospel a bit, telling Genadi about our Heavenly Father and Savior, and how we can receive strength through prayer. I testified about what she was saying, and then Sister Filipovska offered a prayer. The Spirit was so strong, it was amazing. Afterward, I was standing by the doorway, and there was a mirror in front of me big enough for me to see myself and another person if they were standing beside me. I remembered a verse I had read that morning when the Lord said, "
Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of themň«╣ven so am I in the midst of you" (D&C 6:32). I smiled as I imagined the Savior standing right next to me, His reflection in the mirror. I didn't tell Sister Filipovska about that until later, after she told me that when she was praying, she felt as if angels were with us in that room. It was really neat that we both felt that way, and I know that the Spirit also touched Genadi and Lena.

Genadi agreed to have us come back to read and pray, and also Lena agreed to meet with us again, which we did this morning and had an INCREDIBLE lesson on the Restoration. She's an amazing lady. Unfortunately, we won't get to teach her more because she was just visiting Kyiv for a little while (she's originally from Ukraine but has lived in New Jersey for like 18 years, so she's going back there this week). But we gave her the address of the church nearest to her, and she's really interested in going there and reading and praying about the Book of Mormon. Man, what an awesome experience... some days are really tough, but it's lessons and moments like that that make it all worth it.

Well, you know how I usually include a funny story every week? Well, funny story... President Klebingat informed me (and six other first-transfer sisters) that I'll be training a new missionary next transfer! Yeah... crazy, I know. There's a ridiculous(ly awesome) amount of sister missionaries coming into the field soon, and there's not enough older missionaries to do the training, so the lot has fallen on all of us. Normally you're supposed to have 12 weeks with an older missionary, but I'll only have these 6 and then I guess finish up my training while simultaneously training someone else. Anyway, that announcement elicits quite a lot of emotions from me, the primary one being... fear. Yeah, I'm kinda freaking out. But not in a bad way... it's just become very obvious that there's no way on earth that I will be able to do what's asked of me by myself. BUT the good news is that I don't have to do it by myself, and in fact, I shouldn't try to do it by myself. This is God's work, and I'm merely His servant/laborer/employee. Deep down, I know that He can train me equal to this task if I trust Him, rely on Him, and do everything in my power to access HIS power. He knows Russian, He knows how to reach His children, He knows what I need, and He knows what He needs from me. If I'm connected to Him always, I can accomplish all that He asks of me, for His sake and for the sake of His children here in Kyiv who are searching for the peace that only the restored gospel of Jesus Christ can bring.

That's all for now. Have a great week, and keep praying for me and these people!

Love,
Sister Montgomery

PS -- President asked us last letter to do this "homework": "Review your patriarchal blessing, ask your companion and family at home and then make a list of your many gifts, talents and skills. Then determine for each one how you might best use it in fulfilling your purpose, in bringing souls unto Christ." So yeah, if you'd like to help out, just shoot me a quick email with some of the gifts, talents, and skills you've seen that I have. (You know, cooking, cleaning, sleeping... :) ) Thanks!



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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Letter #9 6/3/2013 (I'm in Ukraine!)

Hey hey hey! I'm not even sure where to start writing... let's break it down. (By the way, email rules are that anyone can email me and I can email anyone, and on Monday there's no limit to how long I can read email, but I have a 1.5 hour limit to write. Not too shabby!)

THE TRIP -- Traveling last week was exhausting. Also, we totally missed our connection from Vienna to Kyiv so we were stuck in the Vienna airport for an extra like eight hours. But everything worked out, I caught up on sleep (so jet lag didn't hit me too bad), and eventually we made it to Kyiv. We met President Klebingat and the assistants at the airport, and then later the office couple greeted us at the mission home, so we were very well taken care of. The next day we had a training conference and then a sisters conference the day after that -- very inspiring. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm in like the best mission in the world. :) Seriously, the mission culture is outstanding, the missionaries are stellar, and the mission president is amazing. I definitely feel blessed to be here. Oh yeah, and the Kyiv Temple is GORGEOUS! I get to go three times a year, so that's pretty exciting.

THE AREA -- After the sisters conference, Sister Filipovska and I headed out to our new area: Voskresinsky (I never know how to translate Cyrillic into the Latin alphabet... it's something like that). It's basically the northeast part of Kyiv. Sisters haven't been here since last September or October, so we're reopening the area. We've got a massive apartment that's pretty nice. There's two Elders that are here in Voskresinsky too -- Elders Anderson and Romney. Not sure what else to say about that...

COMPANION -- Sister Filipovska is originally from Kazakhstan, then moved to Ukraine when she was young, then lived in Italy for a long time (joined the church there), and now she's back in Ukraine serving a mission. She speaks Russian fluently but knows a lot of English too, so our thing is that we speak English at home and Russian outside. I'm grateful to be with a native to help with my language, and I'm also grateful for Sister Filipovska in general -- she's an awesome person and missionary, and we get along super well.

Let's see, what else...

THE CULTURE -- I love it! I totally feel like I'm back in Romania (except everything is in Russian instead of Romanian. Actually, I take that back -- everything is in Ukrainian...) So yeah, I don't know what else to say about that. If anyone has specific questions, have at it. :) Oh yeah, and people have DOGS here (and cats)! I pet one yesterday... so great. :D

HOW I'M FEELING -- Well, that's a loaded question... Tired, a wee bit overwhelmed, and sometimes it feels like my brain is slowly leaking out of my ears with every new 100-miles-per-hour Russian sentence that's said. BUT I know that I'll get the hang of things in time. We've got a lot of great goals this week, and I'm excited to really start getting into the work. The other day I read Moroni 7:33-34 which says, "And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever is expedient in me. And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved." I love that those verses are right next to each other, because it's basically saying that if I have faith (and work accordingly), I will be able to accomplish the work that the Lord needs accomplished in this area. It's a good thing it's His work, because there's no way on earth that I would be able to do this on my own. But He knows His children, He knows what they need, and He knows how to get us in touch with them if we do our best. I'll be excited to write next week and let you know how things go. :)

That's all I've got time for. Have an amazing week!

Love,
Sister Montgomery