Monday, April 28, 2014

Fwd: Letter #56 - 4/28/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 5:37 AM
Subject: Letter #56 - 4/28/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Hey everybody! I don't know why, but I am ALWAYS running out of time for this letter. But this will definitely be more, uh... substantial, than last week. :)

First off, TRANSFO! Transfers are on Thursday, and it looks like I'm staying in Vinograder, but with the slight change that I'm going to be companions with Sister Andrade, and Sister Parish is going to be with Sister Farmer. Those are the two formerly-from-Donetsk Sisters that came to Vinograder two weeks ago. It's kind of funny because we all live together anyway, we're just switching companions. I'm going to really miss being comps with Sister Parish... I'm pretty sure we're going to be life-long friends, not even kidding. But it'll be cool to have yet another companion to work with and learn from (she'll be my ninth companion in nine transfers!) And I'll still see Sister Parish plenty often. :) We got news that the Donetsk mission president and his wife are returning to America this week but won't yet be released from their calling, so take that to mean whatever you think it means.

So, my week... was... so much better than the last few! God gave us work to do! We had like four first lessons -- one with a very kind but anti-Mormon church man (Bladimir), one with a nice but not-super-interested guy we met on the street (Sergey), one with two 15-year-old girls we met at service a little while ago who have been coming to English (Valya is super interested, her friend Polya a little less so), and one with a young women one of our ward members invited to meet with us (Masha). Unfortunately Masha is the only one who has accepted a specific return visit (thus making her a new investigator), but Sergey and Valya still have great potential in my opinion. And we're still in intense finding mode and have some more appointments set up this week with potentials. I'm SO grateful we finally started seeing "success" this past week, though I'm also grateful for that trial of being rejected for several weeks because I learned a ton from it. Come what may and love it, right? :)

Okay, I'm left with 7 minutes for a spiritual thought. Our lesson with Vladimir left me with quite a few thoughts, but I'm going to save those for next week when I'm not so rushed. I'll say this much though, on the topic of pride. I thought of an interesting definition of pride: when you want to be right about your past more than you want to be right about your future. I think that people often fear the gospel because they think that it means that their whole past and their past beliefs have been a lie. They fear being wrong. First off, that's not what the gospel is about at all; I don't go around trying to prove that people's beliefs are wrong -- I find joy in the truths they know and offer to give them even more. And second of all, so what if you were wrong? That's what repentance is all about, and the gospel will make your future better than you can even imagine.

K, love you all! Have a great week!

-Sister Montgomery

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fwd: Letter #55 - 4/21/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 8:34 AM
Subject: Letter #55 - 4/21/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>


I found out today that's how Sister Parish starts her letters home. Now, let's try this the Sister Montgomery way...

My dearest kinsfolk and acquaintances,

Oh man, I'm in such a goofy mood right now. And I've got like 20 minutes left on my internet time and like 2.7 thoughts about what to write home today...

First thought: that's awesome President Klebingat is going to visit Emily's mission! I don't know what it is about us Montgomery's and our countless "small world" moments, but I love that so much in our lives overlaps with others'. :) That's gonna be an awesome conference -- I look forward to hearing Emily's review!

Second thought: Umm... Easter was yesterday. It's a huge holiday here, and I think my favorite part is how people say "Happy Easter" to each other. It's like it was in Romania, where you say "Jesus is risen" and then the other person responds, "Indeed, He is risen." I'm not exactly sure how people celebrate Easter here, because it was just a normal proselyting day for us, but yeah, it was a good day. Oh, and if you haven't seen it yet, go watch this amazing new Easter video, "Because of Him":

7/10 of a thought: I heard a neat quote yesterday about faith: "We believe in that which we don't see, but one day we will undoubtedly see that which we believe in."

And... 10 minutes, 10 minutes... we had a mission conference last Tuesday that was super cool. President Klebingat told us all about getting called and sustained as a Seventy, including really cool stories and some pictures about the cool meetings he went to and getting set apart by President Uchtdorf. At the end he bore his testimony "as a special witness of Jesus Christ," and it was so powerful. He talked about the history and doctrine of Seventy's (like what they do, why there's such a calling), and we learned that they're given the sealing power when they're ordained. You know what that means, right? He can totally seal me and my future husband! I know, I know, I gotta find one first, but still... that's pretty cool. :) He also told us that the Donetsk missionaries are here to stay. We thought it'd just be a few weeks, but President said he thinks they'll be here till the end of his mission (July). Also, we're going to get a different new mission president in July. It was supposed to be President McGhie, but because of some kind of circumstances, it's going to be Kenneth Boyd Packer, President Packer's grandson.

Shoot, got like 1 minute left... it's so stressful when the time is running out. Sorry there's not too much to write about my actually week. We're trying to find like crazy and still not having the greatest success. But hey, who knows what this week will hold? I have hope... :)

K, gotta go! Love you all!

-Sister Montgomery

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fwd: Letter #54 - 4/14/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 6:42 AM
Subject: Letter #54 - 4/14/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family and friends,

Good news: I'm still in the Ukraine Kiev Mission. Other news: so are all the Donetsk missionaries. Donetsk is the mission in the eastern-most part of Ukraine, and we got a call on Wednesday that they were being evacuated (err... "moved") to our mission on Friday, and thus our mission practically doubled in size in a single day. Our ward alone now has 4 Sisters (we're all in one apartment) and 10 Elders (six in one apartment, four in another), and everywhere else is packed too. Don't ask me what's going on in Ukraine because the Iron Curtain still manages to be draped around us missionaries, keeping us almost completely in the dark about the news around us. The Donetsk missionaries will be here for sure two weeks, and then... yeah, none of us really know yet. But in the meantime, we're all trying to stay focused, and the mass of missionaries will hopefully allow us to do some awesome group contacting ideas. We're having a mission conference tomorrow, and I'm sure President will set us straight on what's going on and what direction we'll need to go in the coming weeks.

Speaking of turmoil, what a pervading theme of General Conference! You'd think we were fighting the greatest spiritual war in the history of the world or something. I loved so many of the talks given, but especially Elder Holland's, probably because it perfectly described our week. I mean, we didn't have mashed potatoes spat at us, but rejection was at an all-time high, that's for sure. I loved the quote: "You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion. Yes, it is worth it, because the alternative is to have our 'houses' left unto us 'desolate'—desolate individuals, desolate families, desolate neighborhoods, and desolate nations." Yes, IT IS WORTH IT! Even the days we're rejected and ridiculed sunrise to sunset, I thank my God for the opportunity to testify of and defend the truth, and if the work that I'm doing won't change anyone else for the better, you can bet I'm going to have it change me.

Not too much to update you on in the last week. I don't know where the magic of Vinogradar went, but practically nobody wanted to listen to us this last week. Members couldn't meet, leaving us on the streets for longer, and we were lucky if we got one person to stop and talk to us in a several hour period. And potentials have either been uninterested or too busy to meet with us. But no worries, Sister Parish and I have managed to stay ridiculously happy and have had a great week in spite of it, and plus God is teaching me a lot in the meantime. Oh man, I seriously love Sister Parish... we have a perfect balance of fun and spirituality, we're super good friends, and there's never a dull moment when we're together (which is, oh yeah... always!) I hope we stay together next transfer!

Today's spiritual thought was inspired by Elder Perry's talk, "Obedience through our Faithfulness," which he just gave in conference. As I was listening to him, I thought a lot about my dog-training days and realized how many parallels there are between me training dogs and God "training" us. I remember the phase reports that I'd fill out every month about my pups -- how they're doing on their commands, what outtings they've been on, how they react to people and places and things -- and then planning my training sessions based around their progress. If they're distracted by balls, you take them to a tennis court; if they're distracted by food, you take them to a cafeteria. You watch them attentively to catch them doing something good and praise them, or catch them doing something wrong and correct them. And every month, you find that you can rate their commands a little higher, and mark a few less problem behaviors (though sometimes they keep coming back).

Likewise, I imagine God with a little monthly, weekly, or daily report of us. He knows what's expected of us -- Christlike attributes, commandments to be keeping -- and He puts us in situations that allow us to overcome our weaknesses, strengthen our faith, and fine-tune our strengths. If you're impatient, He puts in your path a "difficult" person who needs to be dealt with patiently; if you struggle with daily scripture study, He'll send you numerous general conference talks and the Spirit to inspire you. He watches us attentively to bless us with His Spirit and other blessings when we make progress, and He sends His Spirit to warn and reprimand when we disobey. And every day, week, and month, we find that we're a little more like Christ, a little more consistent in commandment-keeping, a little closer to God, and a little less burdened by sin and bad habits.

There's a lot more parallels I can draw from dog training, but I'll end with what I jokingly told Heavenly Father in my prayer as I was pondering about this: "If You love me even half as much as I loved my dogs, then I'm in good shape." And to quote Elder Andersen, "You are infinitely more precious to God than a [dog]." :)

Alright, I love you all! Have a happy Easter!

Sister Montgomery

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fwd: Letter #53 - 4/7/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 7:05 AM
Subject: Letter #53 - 4/7/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear friends and family,

Hello! First off, though I haven't had the chance to watch conference yet, I did hear about one incredible talk. It was called "The Sustaining of Church Officers" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, and during it, JORG KLEBINGAT was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy! That's my mission president! He was even super sneaky about it (I think the proper word is "confidential") and told us all that he and Sister Klebingat were taking a "family time" vacation somewhere, when really he was just sitting on the stand during general conference! That being said, I feel the need to write you what I just wrote him about hearing that news:

Since it's related to my missionary work now, I wanted to share with you my thoughts when I heard about your new calling to the Seventy. Sunday morning I was pondering about callings, since I've noticed that many people have a pride problem with aspiring to callings in the church and feeling less-than-happy when they're not chosen for a certain position. And then I get that text about you being called to the Seventy. After the shock wore off, I realized that my joyful reaction to it was in and of itself prideful: I imagined telling my friends and family now and in future occasions about how I got to serve under Jorg Klebingat during my mission, as if that connection to "fame" somehow that made me special or better than others. I decided to push that "natural man" thought out of my mind and replace it with how the Lord would have me respond, and I came up with the following: I feel honored that I have been able to serve under and learn from someone who is worthy to lead the Lord's Church in the capacity of a Seventy. I am grateful that the Church is led by such incredible men. I'm happy for President Klebingat because I know how much he loves the Lord, and now he can serve Him even more fully. I'm grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ which can turn a regular German teen convert into a General Authority just a few decades later, and which can also turn me into whoever God needs me to be in this life. :) I'm so happy for you and will continue to pray diligently for you... I hope you can still stay until July!

So yeah, I'm hoping they'll probably finish their missions before President McGhie takes his place in July, and then he'll take off to Salt Lake or wherever the Church sends him. What a great man. Oh, and he's even already got his professional General Authority photo and profile here. :)

Things are slowly but surely moving forward here in Vinogradar. We taught a Plan of Salvation lesson to a nice young man (30 yr. old) named Evgeni who I met at a bus stop, and I hope we'll be teaching a family this week who we met in a park. We also had a very spiritual phone call lesson with a man named Igor. I wrote about him way back in Letter #41, and we kept in contact by telephone ever since because he's been in eastern Ukraine visiting family (he comes back to Kiev soon). He's been eager to talk about spiritual things with us, and the first thing he wanted on our phone call was to hear how the gospel has blessed Sister Parish's life (since he hadn't had the chance to meet her or ask that before). He also remembered us talking about the temple with him, and he wanted to know what he needed to do to be able to go into the Kiev temple. We read some of the Book of Mormon with him, but he didn't have his copy with him because it was so good he lent it to a friend to read. And (maybe the coolest part), he told us about a dream he had awhile ago in which the Lord told him, "Keep moving forward and you'll find the truth." He is absolutely thirsting for the truth, and the Lord has totally prepared him to receive the message of the restored gospel. I hope he gets back to Kiev soon; I'm almost positive that he's going to get baptized.

My spiritual thought today is brought to you by a member of my ward, Marina, who told this story in Relief Society. It was absolutely an answer to my fast, since I was seeking direction about what to do in the face of the adversity that's starting to appear in our area. Here's the story:

Once upon a time, there was a man who wanted to become closer to God, so he prayed and asked, "Heavenly Father, what would You have me do?" God told him that there was a boulder in the forest by his home, and that he should go and push that boulder. And so that man went, every day, and pushed the boulder. He pushed and pushed and pushed, but it never budged. People watched him as he went there and returned, back and forth, and they laughed and told him he was a fool. After a few months of pushing the boulder and seeing no results, he went to God in prayer again and said, "Heavenly Father, I have done exactly what You've told me to do, and the boulder hasn't moved an inch. I've done all I can, but nothing has happened!" But then God said to the man, "What do you mean 'nothing has happened'? Look at your arms and your legs, your neck and your back -- how much stronger they all are. I never told you to move the rock, I only told you to push it, and to push it with all your might. Now that you have done that, I will move the rock myself."

The lesson there is obvious and very applicable, and I'm so grateful that the Lord answered my prayers through this story. Keep moving forward in the faith -- we're all getting stronger, and the Lord will always move the rocks in our lives in the best way and timing possible.

Love you all!
Sister Montgomery

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fwd: Letter #52 - 3/31/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 8:18 AM
Subject: Letter #52 - 3/31/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family,

Wow... I could tell you SO many stories from this past week, seriously. President just sent us a letter about "unwearyingness" (Helaman 10:4-5) and I replied, "Speaking of unwearingness, I'm pleased to report that I just finished one of the most dedicated, unwearying weeks of my mission. We did exactly what we talked about in mission conference: set goals, dedicated ourselves to them, petitioned the Lord in every prayer, showed our faith and dedication in everything we did, and worked unwearingly until we nearly dropped dead as we walked through the apartment door on Sunday night. Some goals we didn't reach, others we exceeded, but we had the piece of conscience of knowing that we gave it our all. We planned great and yet the Lord always seemed to change things and it would end up even better than we hoped."

In short, I am LOVING Vinograder! Sister Parish and I work hard and laugh even harder, the ward here is super united and the members are amazing, and though we get rejected a ton on the streets (actually, not even that bad), those who don't reject us are SO great! In the last week, we've had 3 first contacts (taught and prayed with someone), handed out 7 Books of Mormon, and gotten 10 numbers from interested (well, we'll soon find out how interested) people. Plus 11 member visits and a new investigator, Alexander. He's the second man I wrote about last week who we gave a Book of Mormon to, and though we thought he wasn't actually all that interested, we called to invite him to church and he said, "I read a little of the Book of Mormon and I want to know more." Unfortunately our meeting didn't go through, but there's definitely potential there. It's ironic because we also had a first contact with a young woman named Anya that seemed totally elect (she was super interested in the Book of Mormon and coming to church, and we taught her a brief version of the first lesson and prayed with her right there on the street) and yet when we called her to invite her to church, she didn't sound all that interested and didn't end up coming. And yet Alexander, who I described in my journal as "an interesting man with interesting ideas..." totally wanted to know more. Don't judge a book by its first few pages (or something like that...)

Also, we had one of the best Relief Society activities that I've ever been to. The RS President came up with this skit idea where seven women represented seven great women from church history and told their stories as if they were the actual characters. It was Eve, Esther, Mary Magdalene, Eliza R. Snow, Louise Y. Robison, Marjorie Hinckley, and then one woman from the ward, Adda, who represented herself. After all their stories they said the same line, something like, "My God was always with me, all the days of my life. He was my strength and my comfort, my stronghold and my fortress." Add onto that testimonies from the women in the ward about how they've been supported by the Relief Society (and especially visiting teachers) over the years, and at the end there wasn't a dry eye in the room. One thing I love about this ward is that they do their home and visiting teaching, and the results of that are visible and incredible. Please, all you people at home, take that calling seriously! It's divine and inspired, and it can change your life and the lives of those you serve.

I don't know what else to write other than life is SO good. Oh yeah, and I hit my year mark! Only six more months of this incredible calling, but then I'll still have a lifetime to continue to share the gospel and spiritually grow. I remember one day on my mission when there seemed to be a lot of trials around me -- I was having companionship problems (yes, they happen, as in marriage [so I've heard]), problems with investigators, and spiritual "stretching" that comes from continual spiritual progression. And yet the Spirit was with me, and in that moment I surprised myself with the thought, "What on earth am I going to do when I get home and I won't have all this opposition? How am I going to keep myself growing? Are there going to be enough trials and questions to keep me progressing?" I know that home will have its own challenges, but I consider it a blessing to be on this spiritual battlefield where emotional, mental, and spiritual progress seems to be sped up by the intense conditions of full-time missionary service. Be grateful for your trials -- they help you become who you came here to become in the first place, i.e. just like your loving, perfect Father in Heaven. :)

That's all for today! Have an incredible week, and I hope to have another one!

Sister Montgomery