Monday, December 30, 2013

Fwd: Letter #39 - 12/30/13

We had an amazing 1 1/2 hour visit on Skype!  Yay for technology!  It was so good to "see" her!  Have a Happy New Year everyone!


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery
Date: Monday, December 30, 2013
Subject: Letter #39 - 12/30/13
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Hello again! I've got less time to write today because we took some personal time to go to the temple Friday, so this will be quick.

First off, we had a SUPER fun Christmas evening with all of us missionaries at the Bishop's house. We did a white elephant gift exchange and everything! I've attached a picture from it; Christmas card worthy, don't you think? :)

Thursday was great because, as Mom has probably told everyone by now, we got to talk on Skype! I absolutely loved it, and it was hard to hang up. But thankfully instead of making me homesick, the call made me want to go out and fulfill my purpose more than ever; remembering all the blessings that have come to me and my family because of the gospel made me want to go out and find another family whose lives will be changed forever because of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. I often silently thank the missionaries that found, taught, and baptized my ancestors, and I hope to have the same eternal influence on these amazing people in Ukraine.

Friday I got to go through the beautiful Ukraine Kiev temple. What a sweet way to commemmorate my half-way mark (and my one-year anniversary of going through the temple) and rededicate myself to the Lord for at least the next nine months. As I was in the Celestial Room, I was studying the scriptures and my eye caught hold on D&C 7:5 when it says that John the Beloved, "desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men that what he has before done." I chose that as a simple theme for the remainder of my mission. I want to do more, a greater work than what I have done before. I want to be more obedient, more full of faith, hope, and charity. I want to find, teach, and baptize more. I want to change more into who the Lord wants me to be. The clock is ticking, and I want to work while the day lasts!

To end, as a spiritual thought I'll share my response to Sister Klebingat's letter this week. It was about the different aspects of "enduring to the end," and I responded with this:

Thanks to Sister Klebingat for the wonderful letter -- I'll definitely be feasting on that more this week. I especially liked the last paragraph about how enduring well means developing enduring qualities. Someone once told me that change is a lot more like freezing ice than baking cookies. When you bake cookies, there's a chemical change, and no matter how long you leave the cookies out, they'll never change back into cookie dough. When freezing water, however, there's always a chance that the ice will turn back into water if you leave it out. I've always wanted "cookie change" where my habits and character just change completely and I never have to worry about backsliding, but I've learned through my experience and the experience of others that such a mindset is fallacious and dangerous. If I walk away from my mission thinking, "Woohoo, my cookie dough days are over; I'm good to go for the rest of my life!" then my spiritual habits and urgency will slip and pride will be my downfall. On the other hand, if I think, "I am so much more frozen than I was a year and a half ago, and now I just need to keep this freezing process up until the very end," then my life will continue in the pattern that my mission has -- continual spiritual progression. There are parts in Siberia where permafrost goes thousands of feet into the ground; that's the kind of "endurance" I'm searching for, and I'm grateful for this letter that will help me deepen my permafrost a few more feet.

I love you all! Have a great week!
Sister Montgomery

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fwd: Letter #38 - 12/25/13

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Today is Christmas (and a Christmas party at the bishop's house tonight), tomorrow I get to Skype with Mom and Dad and Mike and Reanna, and Friday I'm going to go to the Kiev temple to commemorate my official half-way mark of my mission (where has the time gone?!). What an amazing week! And as a Christmas gift from my dear Heavenly Father, He gave us...

A BAPTISMAL DATE! Yep, Alisa wants to get baptized! She picked January 25th to work toward, and I think we'll need about that much time to go through the lessons and make sure she understands everything and truly repents. She is such a sweet woman, and Sister Hunsaker and I have a great relationship with her. She even told someone that "we're a wonderful 'face' to the church." Great compliment! The members have been doing a fabulous job of fellowshipping her; the member last night invited her to Institute (for adults) and two men in the ward gave her a Priesthood blessing. I'm really looking forward to what the next few weeks hold for her. I also love her story because she basically walked into my life when everything else was falling down around me; after a long week of losing all our investigators and getting rejected by all our potentials, she just waltzed into the church on a Monday afternoon. God tore our area down just to build it up even better, much like He does with our life in general sometimes.

We also got a new investigator, Aliya, who is renting an apartment from one of the women (Lidia) in the ward. She just moved her from Uzbekistan and has absolutely no Christian background (prominent religion is Islam), but after sitting in on the end of our lesson with Lidia, we asked if she wanted to hear our message and she agreed. We've already taught the Restoration and watched "Finding Faith in Christ," and the Spirit has been SO strong in our lessons, it's so wonderful. She also has a super cute 3-year-old daughter and another on the way. It'll be hard to progress toward baptism because her husband is pretty anti, but at least we have the opportunity to spend time with her and teach her about her Savior. As we were walking away from our last lesson with her, I told Sister Hunsaker, "I just love being a missionary." There's just nothing like teaching people and testifying about Jesus Christ. It's been especially interesting to teach someone who, until a week ago, didn't even really know who Jesus Christ was. And now the sheep has found the Good Shepherd who has been searching for her. :)

Besides that, the work has really been progressing with members. We came up with a service list of all sorts of things we missionaries can do for the members and their friends, and we handed it out on Sunday and had great success -- it got us both member appointments and referrals, and the ward loved it. Also, our bishop, without any prompting from us, got up in sacrament meeting and gave a talk about how much we as missionaries bring the Spirit with us and how much of a blessing we are to the ward, and he encouraged everyone to invite us to their homes more often. It was incredible, and I love that we've gained his trust so much that he chose to get up and say those things to the ward. Have I ever told you how amazing our ward leadership is? Because seriously... wow.

Lastly, little spiritual thought. I've been reading "Our Heritage" lately, and I've been so inspired by the stories of the pioneers (my ancestors in many cases). I've found a lot of connection with them; though their trials were physical and mine right now are spiritual, the spirit of persecution from the enemies of truth is in large part the same, and (most importantly) the Source of comfort is always the same. The pioneer's trek refined them as Saints, and I can think of no better word for a mission than "refining." Also, I found it interested that about 62,000 Saints gathered to Utah in the mid-1800's, and now, in 2013, there are over 80,000 full-time missionaries serving throughout the whole world. First we gathered TO Zion, and now we're going out TO gather Zion. There's just something poetic about that. "Our Heritage" has helped me see and remember the big picture of the Kingdom of God on earth, and I would highly suggest it to anyone. I'm so grateful for the faith of the early Saints, for the things they learned through all their trials, and for passing those things down throughout the generations all the way to me.

Well, I hope this letters finds all of you having a very merry Christmas! Christmas here is more celebrated on January 7th (Orthodox calendar) so that's when most of the festivities will be. Have a great week; I love and miss you!

-Sister Montgomery

PS -- Pictures: me and Sister Hunsaker, me and Genadi, and me and a snowman. (Which is which???) Oh, and Mom, you can post these to the blog, except for the one with Genadi. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Letter #37 12/16/13

Dear Family,

Thanks for all the letters that have been flooding into my inbox! Sorry for the lack of response -- slowly but surely I'll get back to everyone eventually. :)

This week was pretty good. Met with lots of ward members, had a great lesson with Alisa (she wants to see a baptismal service, which we'll do soon), had a fun youth activity (cook-off! And what did I do? Took pictures and then ate the food :) ), and of course talked to (or tried to talk to) lots of people about the gospel. Pretty much a typical week. By the way, winter is definitely upon us here in Ukraine; snow is on the ground, kids are sledding and building snowmen, Christmas songs are playing... a lot like back in America. Yes, there's also been civil unrest and protests, but honestly, you probably know more about it than I do. It's all happening in downtown Kiev, which isn't in my area, so you don't really need to worry about me.

Quick spiritual thought before I have to (get to) get back to work. It's about the Atonement. I read an interesting verse this week: Alma 31:38 -- "And the Lord provided for [Alma and his brethren] that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith."

I loved that phrase because it doesn't mean that they didn't have afflictions; it means that somehow the Atonement made up for those afflictions. It healed them, strengthened them, gave them hope where no hope was to be found, somehow filled in a hole that no other source could fill. I also found it interesting that in Moses 7:41, Enoch's sorrow as he views the history of the world is described with the words "his heart swelled wide as eternity," and a few verses later (v.53) Christ is described as "the Rock of Heaven, which is broad as eternity." Instead of a care-free world, we live in a very difficult world in which God provided the Way for all our difficulties to be overcome, with the end result being our growth, joy, and ultimately our salvation.

I wrote a journal entry about this a few months before my mission when I was having a particularly hard day, and I feel like it'll help some of you (it has sure helped me) :

There's one thing that I can remember that brought me comfort that day; it's about changing your thoughts about the "status quo." If we think things ought to be happy and cheerful and free of suffering, then naturally we'll be disillusioned with this world. We'll turn to God and ask, "Why do you allow such suffering in the world?" If, on the other hand, we change our status quo to our fallen state—that without God, there would be no hope or joy or purpose, and there would be abundant evil and suffering—then things change. Instead of asking God about why He allows suffering, you start to ask, "Why did You provide the Atonement for us? Why have You given us everything we need to be happy and safe?" Then, instead of being bitter, you start to actually be grateful. The Atonement can overcome all the evil and suffering in the entire world in its entire history, and that is miraculous. I still have a lot to learn about the Fall, but it's comforting knowing that, in the end, with Christ, it will all be as good and even better than we hope for.

I hope to make the Atonement more real in my life so that these aren't just words, but that it actually brings me the comfort that I (and we all) seek in life.

K, gotta go. I love you all so much, and hope you have a wonderful week!

Sister Montgomery

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fwd: Letter #36 - 12/9/13

I love her personality that comes out in her letters!  Enjoy!!! 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 8:55 AM
Subject: Letter #36 - 12/9/13
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear friends and family and fan clubs all across the globe,

To make up for my lack of letter last week, I shall make this letter especially awesome. Are you ready for this?

First off, Genadi got baptized on Wednesday! Go back and see "Letter #10 - 6/10/13" for the first time I met him (he's the paralyzed man, the brother of the Lena that I taught). Anyway, it was amazing. We got a portable baptismal font and brought it to his little apartment, and then it took eight or ten men to lift him up on a stretcher and immerse him in the water. Elder Romney was the one the baptized him (rather, said the ordinance while the ten of them baptized him) and conferred the Holy Ghost afterward. At the very end of the service, I was able to read the journal entry that I wrote on the day I met him (the spiritual experience I had in his apartment; again, see Letter #10), and I was holding back tears, seriously. What an incredible man. The best word I can find to describe him is "transformed." He was a burdened and broken man when I met him six months ago, and now his spirit is healed and elated while his body awaits the healing of the resurrection. What an honor it was to play a small part in such a transformation.

Also, I haven't written much about Alisa, but she's our awesome progressing investigator. She's 53 years old, and came into the church for English but was also interested in the gospel. She already knows the Book of Mormon is true, and she really enjoyed our church services the other week. We'll be meeting with her again tomorrow to talk about the Plan of Salvation. She's such a sweet lady, and I'm looking forward to offering her even more blessings of the restored gospel. :)

Oh, by the way I'm staying in Voskresensky yet another transfer (and it might be an 8-week one because we just had a 4-week one). I almost forgot to mention that because it's no longer "news" to me. I swear, if President doesn't pull me out of here by the end of this next transfer, I'm personally sneaking into his office to rearrange the transfer board. Just kidding, just kidding, I'm happy about it. :) Also, Sister Hunsaker is a fantastic missionary, and I'm glad to be staying with her too.

Spiritual thought for the week: Jeremiah 20:7-9. Here Jeremiah is having a hard time... he was cast into the stocks and is pondering about his predicament. He complains for a few verses: "I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily." And then he appears to make a decision: "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name." That's it, I've had enough, I'm done with this! It's too hard, everyone rejects me, and now I'm even stuck in the stocks. It's over! But then we see what actually happens: "But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." In other words, I imagine something like this...

Jeremiah: "Man, this is horrible!"
Jeremiah's prison-mate: "Yeah, life stinks!"
Jeremiah: "Yeah! Life sti--... hey... do you know the purpose of life? God has a plan about that, you know..."

Anyway, I know that I have certainly felt what Jeremiah has; the word of God has been like a fire in my bones, and I've barely been able to contain myself. And that's exactly how I'm feeling now. The church is true and amazing, and the world's gotta know about it!

Alright, we'll call that quits for today. Thanks for all your prayers and letters and support. I love you sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much (blame Mom for that many o's...) :)

Sister Montgomery

PS -- Funny random addition: you may have wondered if I ever think about "life after mission." Well, this was my train of thought last time when I tried to attempt such a feat (one night as I was trying to fall asleep).
  • You know, one day I'm going to start dating again
  • That means I should probably buy some cute clothes or something
  • I can probably get a bunch of stuff at DI
  • Hmm... I'm probably not going to be in Utah until January, because...
  • I'll be visiting my sisters around the country before then
  • That mean I'll be at a bunch of different airports
  • Which means I can totally share the gospel with the people I meet there!
  • I should bring lots of pass-along cards and some copies of the Book of Mormon
  • What was that about dating?
Yep... not only is my body 6000 miles away from home, but a lot of times my mind is too. Not to say I don't think about y'all, but... yeah, I'm pretty focused here. :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fwd: Letter #35 - 12/2/13

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 7:53 AM
Subject: Letter #35 - 12/2/13
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Whoops... I totally didn't leave enough time to write a detailed letter to y'all this week. Let's see... in general, a pretty tough week for me. Send some extra prayers this way if you can spare the time. But hey, a lot of good things happened too (that's kind of how it goes in the mission... a crazy mixture of really hard and really awesome things). God blessed our Thanksgiving Day with a sweet potential investigator in the morning (a 17-year-old girl who was happy to take and read the Book of Mormon) and very receptive people in the evening. Our lessons that night fell through, so instead we spent the last few hours of the day in the freezing cold talking to people on the streets. And guess what? Almost everyone stopped and listened to us! We gave a Book of Mormon to someone and got two phone numbers from some others. Nothing more has really come of that, but we sure appreciated that blessing on Thanksgiving night. :)

Sorry, that's really all I've got time for. Spiritual thought: D&C 58:1-9. Have a great week!

Sister Montgomery