Thursday, January 23, 2014

Letter #43 - 1/27/14

Dear family,


Well, as you probably know, this weekend I had the honor of witnessing the baptism and confirmation of my dear Alisa. After eight months of placing cornerstones in the foundation of Zion, I was finally allowed by God to see a construction through to the capstone. He allowed me to witness and take part in a spiritual transformation of one of His beloved children -- one who He has been nearby all her life, who has been being prepared for the fulness of the gospel for years and years, and who has now officially joined His kingdom. At the end of the baptismal service, when Alisa and Alexander (a man who also got baptized) bore their testimonies, Alisa said, "Dear brothers and sisters. I want to repeat that, 'dear brothers and sisters,' because I really mean it. I feel like I have finally come home. In my life I've been in a lot of beautiful homes with a lot of wonderful people, but there's only one place where I have truly felt at home, and it is this church." It IS home -- an echo of the heavenly home we left to come here, and a foretaste of the eternal home where we will return after this life.


It was interesting to me that the actual baptism and confirmation were less extraordinary than I imagined them being. Yes, the Spirit was incredibly strong, but not much stronger than the myriad of lessons I've been on with Alisa as she has strengthened her faith in Christ and brought her life more and more in harmony with God's will. Baptism and confirmation are two absolutely vital ordinances, but they're only part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I've taught my investigators, the steps to salvation are faith in Christ (#1), repentance (#2), baptism (#3), receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (#4), and enduring to the end (#5 - infinity; continuous repetition of the first four steps, sacrament substituted for step #3 and living worthy of and following the Holy Ghost subsituted for step #4). In any case, I'm so grateful to have been (and will continue to be) part of each one of those important steps in Alisa's life.


Speaking of enduring to the end, we got transfer information a little early, and guess where I'm going?... NOWHERE! One more transfer in Voskresensky and then I'm out of here (words from President). When he told me (I actually snuck it out of him last week after our leadership council), I could hardly believe it. And to make it more ironic, all five of the other missionaries in my district are leaving for other areas. I had a dream the other night that I was looking in the Russian dictionary for the word "dinosaur," because that's pretty much what I am around here. I hope y'all know that my lamenting is purely comical -- I'm glad to be staying, and plus I'm super excited because I'll have a native companion, Sister Batalova, from Russia (and I'm staying Sister Training Leader... yay!).


It's nice knowing that this next transfer will be my last, because I'm going to milk this area dry. Back in August, the first time I thought I would leave Voskresensky (clearly before I knew better), I wrote in my journal something like, "How can I leave this area? I've given my whole heart to this place, and I may soon be leaving it!" If that was August, then I have since also donated approximately both lungs, my right kidney, my liver, and my left kankle to the cause of Voskresensky, and soon will come the other kankle. I don't know what the mission will hold for me at the end of March, but until then... may Voskresensky live on. :)


Spiritual thought, spiritual thought... I've been thinking a lot about the mercy of God and how it's available to literally everyone. Some of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon are 3 Nephi 18:22-25, 32 and 2 Nephi 26:24-28 because of how clear it is that the gospel is for everyone. I love the symbolism that Christ's first miracle was turning water into wine because that's what the gospel is all about: change. If he could literally change the chemical structure of a liquid physically, then surely He has the power to change the spiritual nature of anyone who comes unto him. We should never judge who would or would not accept the gospel if given the chance: our blessing and responsibility is to offer it to everyone, come what may. It's made me think of a little mission motto: let it be THEIR choice, not MINE. If anyone around me doesn't accept the gospel, it will never be because I deemed them unworthy of it; it will be because I offered it and they rejected it (for the time being). So, friends and family, as you're striving to share the gospel with those around you, resist the natural man's urge to judge whether or not someone will accept what you have to offer -- only God knows the hearts of those around you, and I think you'll be surprised where you find the elect.


I love you!


You know where to find me... ;)

Sister Montgomery


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fwd: Letter #42 - 1/21/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 9:25 AM
Subject: Letter #42 - 1/21/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Hey everyone!

Most of my time today was answering those questions for Nettie, so not too much to write here. It's probably a good thing though because yesterday we had pretty much the most amazing mission conference ever (President Lawrence, the area president, and his wife) which filled my mind with so much information and wisdom and direction that I don't even know where to start at this point. The end of it was like a two hour Q&A session with Sister Lawrence that left us completely all in awe and full of new understanding of the doctrine of the church. Give my brain a week to process and I'll give you some great highlights next week.

Things are moving along nicely here in Voskresensky. Alisa is still on to be baptized on Saturday. Who wants to bet that's going to be the happiest day of my mission so far? :)

Spiritual thought: learn how to better feast on the word of God by studying this booklet that President Klebingat wrote about improving the effectiveness of personal scripture study. I just started it and it's great!

Love you!
Sister Montgomery

Fwd: Response to Nettie

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 8:08 AM
Subject: Response to Nettie
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Nettie send me some questions awhile ago, and I thought y'all would be interested in the answers too. Mom, pass this out to the fam and put it on the blog too if you want. Thanks!
  • Where are you serving?  What is the city like?
    • I'm serving in the northeast corner of Kiev, Ukraine, an area called Voskresensky. The city is probably like most big cities -- very busy. Center Kiev is where most of the touristy stuff is (it's really neat there), but where I live is almost all high rise apartment buildings, with stores and parks and whatnot scattered around. There's a big river that runs through the middle of the city. We get around on public transportation -- buses, trolleybuses, marshutka's (like small buses / big vans), trams, the metro -- and a lot on foot.
  • What are the people like?
    • It's hard to group everyone into "the people," because like in every place, there's a lot of variety. You hear from people that Eastern Eurpoeans are "hard on the outside and soft on the inside," and it's true. Many are closed at first meeting, but if you're genuine with them and they return the kindness, they are SO genuine. In Kiev people are pretty busy, but I've traveled to some other towns that are less fast-paced. There's lots of families in the place where I live. I remember once seeing this tough-looking man in all black walking his little daughter to school while wearing her cute little pink backpack -- I think I laughed out loud. :)
  • What is every day life like for a Ukranian? (i.e. home, school, work, food, leisure)
    • With some details aside, life for a Ukrainian (at least in Kiev) is much like life for an American. There's school for the kids and work for the adults, leisure in parks and malls and get-togethers with friends and family. Food comes from the grocery store, food markets on the side of streets, or occasionally from people's cottage houses (it's called a dacha; lots of people have dachas located outside of Kiev where they spend summers or weekends). Transportation is certainly different, like I explained earlier. Technology seems to be rather similar to technology in America (though it might take a little longer to get here)-- lots of smartphones and other gadgets.
  • What is every day life like for you?
    • I wake up at 6:30 and exercise (we run the stairs in our 22-floor apartment building), eat breakfast (cereal), and get ready for the day. In the morning I study the scriptures by myself and then with my companion, and we also have another hour in our day when we study Russian (either on our own or with a Ukrainian). The rest of our time is spent proselying -- we travel around our area meeting with people and teaching them principles of the gospel. The ward where I live has about 125 active members, so we spend plenty of time with them. We also do a free English practice for people who are interested in that (knowing English is very helpful for people here -- they study it in school but there's not a whole lot of practice available, so people really appreciate our free class). We talk with people everywhere we go and meet a lot of great people that way. If there's ever opportunities for service, we love doing that as well. We're home by 9:00 or 9:30 at the latest, plan our next day, have some time to relax, then bedtime at 10:30 until it starts all over at 6:30 the next day!
  • We hear a lot these days about the unrest and protests in Kiev b/c of the President's decision not to make trade deals with the EU. Does that affect the people in your city?  If so, what do they think?
    • Yeah, politics are a hot topic around here these days, though the craze has died down a bit the last few weeks. Honestly, I hardly know anything about it because we don't read the news here and we aren't allowed to discuss politics with anyone or go near the protest sites (in center Kiev). So I can't really say. It's always tempting for me to get the latest news about what's going on, but I've got different (better) things to focus on. :)
  • What do you like most about the Ukraine?  Least?
    • Oh, I could go on and on about the first half of this question. :) First and foremost, I love the people. Yes, they can be really closed and skeptical at first meeting (can you blame them considering the history of their country?), but once they open up to you, their sincerity is above and beyond what you typically even find in America. The members of the church especially are always just so nice to us, and it's rare to walk out of a home without some sort of treat from them. They are the most giving and generous people I know of.
    • I also really like their honesty; sometimes Americans will hold back negative comments and/or give compliments that aren't very sincere for the sake of being politically correct or something. Here, people just say things as they are. Sometimes it's hard for missionaries because they seem too honest (for example, they aren't shy about telling you how awful your Russian is), but I find it refreshing. I once asked a woman how she was doing, and she responded, "Do you want the American answer or the Ukrainian one?" implying that Americans would naturally say, "I'm doing great!" whereas Ukrainians would tell you how they're actually feeling.
    • There are some REALLY good foods here that I really like (including their famous soup, borsch). I couldn't even tell you the names of half of them, but yeah... great food here. :) Oh, and chocolate! So much better than in America!
  • What do you miss most about the U.S.?  Least?
    • What do I miss most? I'm not even sure... I don't ever think about that honestly. I miss having a dog, but there's plenty of dogs around here that I can fawn over. I think I probably miss certain foods, especially Mexican food. Right now I'm kind of missing the warmth... things have gotten quite nippy around here. I don't miss speaking English -- Russian is an awesome language that my brain thrives on, and sometimes it's even easier to express myself in Russian (I will really miss that when I come home). I suppose I miss my family a little bit... :) Oh, and I miss driving a car! And school. Nothing too specific about America though. And by the way, Ukraine totally beats America in firework usage -- there's a ton of holidays in December and January here, and fireworks have been everywhere.
Sister Montgomery

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fwd: Letter #41 - 1/13/14 (apparently the year changed recently... who knew?)

Wow!  What a letter!  Enjoy!
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 9:15 AM
Subject: Letter #41 - 1/13/14 (apparently the year changed recently... who knew?)
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family,

Where do I even start with this week? Perhaps one of the best weeks of my mission... the Spirit has been at an all-time high, we've been busy truly teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we're having a blast!

By the way, do you want to know what Ukrainians do to celebrate Christmas? They invite you over and feed you amazingly delicious food until you feel like you're going to explode. Christmas here was last Monday, and all six of us missionaries went over to the home of one of the bishopric counselors to eat dinner, watch "Joy to the World," play some guitar/violin Christmas music, and enjoy one another's company. I don't know when the last time was that I ate so much food... I completely stuffed myself, and then they waited just long enough to bring a second portion, which I somehow also fit into my stomach. A little while they brought out some bananas, and I thought, "Alright... I can do a banana." And then they brought out cake and tea, and I thought, "Yeah, maybe there's a little corner I can fit that into..." Top that off with a piece of delicious chocolate, and I was set for a week. They offered milk after the chocolate, and I immediately thought, "Where's it gonna go? It would just fill up my esophagus!" I politely declined. :) Oh man, what a hilarious night... Merry Christmas, Ukraine!

Here are some awesome first contact stories (first contact is when you have a first lesson with a nonmember but don't set a return appointment for whatever reason... once they set an appointment, they become a new investigator). A man named Pavel that we met a month and a half ago called us out of the blue and invited us over to hear our message. That's the only time on my mission that anyone has ever called us to set an appointment. We went over with a member that lives nearby him, and though it wasn't the most stellar first lesson (he was a little drunk...), I still felt the Spirit super strongly and was able to see him as the amazing person he can become through the gospel. Also, on the way back from Pavel's place, we met a young man named Igor at a bus stop, and a few days later we met in a hotel lobby where he told us about how much he is searching and yearning for truth, and we were able to tell him about Joseph Smith's story and the Book of Mormon. Third, today Alisa invited her friend Tanya to get a Priesthood blessing of healing, and after the blessing we had an impromptu first lesson with her as well, and she's excited to read the Book of Mormon. And finally, as we were grocery shopping today, a former investigator named Jenya called us and said that he wants to meet tomorrow. What is going on?! The gathering of Zion, that's what! In case you couldn't tell, I LOVE TEACHING! :)

This week we've seen Alisa every day since Wednesday -- we had three amazing lessons (one with Sister Klebingat with us), went to a baptismal service in Brovary together, were at church together, and today was when she brought her friend to be taught by us. She is on FIRE with the gospel -- she's already inviting everyone to her baptism, to activities, to church, and who knows what else! I love her so much... all of the trials of all my months in Ukraine have been so worth it to just find her, you know? "And if it so be that you should labor [half your mission] in crying repentance unto this people [of Voskresensky], and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with [her] in the kingdom of my Father!" (D&C 18:15). True words right there.

One of the reasons the lessons with Alisa were so amazing is because we covered the gospel of Jesus Christ -- through Jesus Christ we can be cleansed from sin, faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. I came up with a rather long and detailed parable to explain each principle, and it was enjoyed by Alisa, the members that joined us on the lessons, and especially by me -- I've learned so much as I've studied and pondered those simple steps of salvation. I can't tell the whole parable here (I'm seriously considering writing a whole book about it when I get home...), but I'll give you what I wrote in my journal after the final lesson about it:

My favorite part was the very end when Alex gets called to court and the policeman tells him to gather all his unpaid tickets, and he replies, 'I don't have any. Let's go; I'm ready.' And later in the courtroom when the Friend tells the Judge that He has paid all Alex's tickets, and they all rejoice together, and Paul [who told Alex about his Friend] is with them... it was such a beautiful scene. The Spirit was so strong that I literally did not want to leave. Sister Hunsaker and I ended with our testimonies, and I told Alisa, 'I'm so grateful that God allowed me to be your Paul.'

What an incredible lesson. What an incredible doctrine! There's nothing in the world that compares to the doctrine of Christ... the relationship with the Savior built on faith, the freeing power of repentance, the beautiful promises of baptism, the unfailing friend of the Holy Ghost, and the enduring process of joyful change. What more can someone ask for? This is the whole point of the gospel, our existence, and my mission. What an honor to invite others to partake of these blessings, and how I hope and pray to do it better!

And while my journal is open, here's my internal response to someone who thought the drunk Pavel wasn't worth teaching a second time:

How can you judge someone and decide that they're not worthy of the infinite blessings that the ultimate judge is just WAITING to give them? He is on the edge of His throne, with words of mercy and forgiveness on the tip of His tongue! "Behold, doth He cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay! But He saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price!" (2 Ne. 26:25, emphasis added). If members of the church truly understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our phone would be ringing all day long with referrals coming in and they'd be fighting over who would be helping us on lessons. And if only *I* could keep this doctrine forever at the forefront of my mind, I would be able to overcome any fears and start talking with everyone like I want to.

Man, these letters sure fire me up... I'll have to end there and go take that fire somewhere else. Make your homework this week to delve into the gospel and Atonement of Jesus Christ... it'll change your life!

With so much love,
Sister Montgomery

Monday, January 6, 2014

Fwd: Letter #40 - 1/6/13

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 8:35 AM
Subject: Letter #40 - 1/6/13
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family, friends, and possibly impostors,

So much to write, so little time! Story of my life. Theme of this letter: why I'm grateful to still be in Voskresensky. :)

For one, I had an amazing exchange on Wednesday with a Sister I've never had the opportunity to be on exchanges with before (Sister Winsor). I learned a ton from her, she learned a ton from me, and it felt so right that we were together for that. I LOVE exchanges... it was a nice "break" for a few weeks without them, but this last one reminded me how great they are. I was also able to help some other Sisters out, something I wouldn't have had the chance to do had I been moved to a different area (or zone at least).

Also, Alisa is as amazing as ever. Every lesson I'm on with her, I learn something new. We'll be talking about Law of Chastity and she makes the connection that it's like churches -- once you've found the true church of Jesus Christ, then you shouldn't go running around looking for other doctrines and whatnot. Or we were talking about why we came from the premortal realm to mortality, and she drew the connection from the Parable of the Talents and how when God sent us here, He expected us to make more out of what we were given, i.e., gain experience and follow the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's always a joy meeting with her, and after so many trials that I've experienced in this area, I'm so glad God finally blessed me with the fruit of my labors. :)

Thirdly, I wrote a long time ago about a woman named Elena (Letters 16, 17, and 19). She was the miracle story about her daughter receiving a Priesthood blessing and the Spirit absolutely filling their house. Well, she left town at the end of the summer and we lost contact, and I've been trying to last couple months to meet with her again but nothing has worked. Well, Thursday night I called her to invite her to the Christmas party and found out that she was moving. Immediately I asked if I could help, and she said yes. Friday we went over with two of our Elders and helped them move for about three hours. Almost the whole family was there, and I could tell that their hearts where softened because of our service. We were even able to share a bit of the Plan of Salvation with Elena's daughter-in-law and gave her a Book of Mormon.

I thought that would be the end of it, but after we left, she called again and asked if we could help her move into her new place. It was too far away from our area, but I called the Elders across Kiev and gave them her contact info, and that night they helped move everything, and it turns out that she lives in their area (I thought they were moving farther away from Kiev). So now they have her contact information, and Sister Zaretskaia, who taught Elena with me in the first place, just happens to be serving in that area too. Coincidence? I think not. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm still here in Voskresensky, and if it wasn't for that phone call, and if it wasn't for our willingness to serve, Elena would have been left in the dust. But now her contact info is preserved and there's a connection to the missionaries in her new area and an opportunity to hear the restored gospel of Jesus Christ again. I love Elena so much, and I know God has a wonderful plan for her and her family.

There are still more amazing stories from this past week, but that's all I have time for. I know my past letters have made it seem like I'm tired of this area, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't felt that at times. But I'm realizing now why the Lord has kept me here for so long, and honestly, I will be very sad to leave. The ward here absolutely adores me, and I feel the same way about them; I've made friends that will last a lifetime. Transfers are a month from today, and though I don't know for sure, I think I'll be leaving this blessed area (but then again, how many times have I thought that before?) :). What an honor to serve in Voskresensky!

As a spiritual thought, I'd like to share a story from my journal about forgiveness, seeing as we've probably all been offended by someone at some point, thus giving us the opportunity to learn and practice the heavenly attribute of forgiveness. And while you're reading, focus less on the characters and more on the principle. :)

After church, I was asking [my companion] some language questions, and she kind of snapped at me because she was really overwhelmed at that moment. I didn't realize until a little later that that hurt me – I was trying to be diligent and learn all that I can, and the response was far from appreciative. It really threw me off and I started thinking negatively about her despite not wanting to. I realized I was holding a grudge, and it was definitely negatively affecting our relationship. I felt the pride in my system as I thought things like, "What's her problem? Why is she so on edge all the time?", wanting to blame her instead of help her. And every time I'd be about to humble myself and think better about her, that pride would come back and I'd say, "No, she's the one that hurt ME! I'm justified in being mad at her."

This battle in my mind kept going for a while, and eventually I turned toward God. When I told Him how I was feeling, it kind of came out like, "Father, I'm hurt, and I don't know where to put that hurt if it's not on her." But really, I knew the answer – on the Savior. Whatever thoughts and feelings that one comment elicited from me, the Savior could comfort and heal me. Before that, when I was still arguing with myself and with God, He reminded me that I've also done things that have offended others but that He's forgiven me like I need to forgive her. Pridefully I responded, "But not like that! I don't constantly snap at people for no good reason!" (By the way, she's really not that bad – you tend to exaggerate people's faults when you're mad at them.) Anyway, the Spirit responded to that by asking, "And why not? Why are you so calm and generally charitable? Why do you feel so much peace in your life?" Short answer: the grace of God, and nothing of myself. That definitely humbled me, even more so now as I reflect on it. "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Long story short, I forgave [my companion], and now I'm a lot more willing to try to serve and help her so that she doesn't feel so overwhelmed. Sometimes I'd like to think that a good relationship is one without problems, but that's impossible where there are two imperfect mortals involved. A good relationship is where there is continual repentance and forgiveness, because the next best thing to "perfect" is "perfected" in Christ. I just read this quote from Elder Uchtdorf: "Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive." I love that, and I'm grateful God taught me that lesson.

Love you all!
Sister Montgomery