Monday, May 26, 2014

Fwd: Letter #60 - 5/26/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, May 26, 2014 at 6:10 AM
Subject: Letter #60 - 5/26/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear world,

So, Letter #60, eh? Well that sure makes me feel like a babushka (Russian word for grandma / old lady). I can hardly believe that I hit my year mark in Ukraine on Thursday! I've been thinking a lot about what I've done (/what the Lord has done through me) and how I've changed in the last year, and I can hardly come to a conclusion -- there's just too much! But it's been a ridiculously good year, I can say that much. :) If you happened to have noticed how I've changed through my letters since I've started my mission, shoot me an email and let me know; I'm curious to hear what you think.

This week was super good and went by super fast. The work is on fire here, and we're teaching and finding more than ever before. Here, I think you'll enjoy this recap I sent to President about how we found some new investigators:

It's so fun for me to think back about the process of finding. For example, with Larisa: (1) I was standing at a bus stop, (2) I looked around for people to talk to and saw a woman wearing a New York shirt, (3) I approached her before I could convince myself not to, (4) I asked about her shirt, completely choked on my Russian, and she didn't understand a word I was saying, (5) she eventually got the gist of it and ended up being super nice, (6) she invited us over, (7) we stopped by the next week to get to know her more, (8) God miraculously placed her in our path the next week and she invited us again, (9) we stopped by yesterday and told her about our message and gave her a Book of Mormon. And another instance with a girl named Olesa: (1) I got a feeling to go to Pusha-Voditsya (right outside of Kiev but in our area), (2) we headed over there on a Saturday and attempt to find a less active there, (3) we got horribly lost and a 75-year-old man tried to get us un-lost for like 45 minutes, (4) he eventually passed us off to a young woman on the street, (5) during our journey to find the house, we got to know her, gave her a Book of Mormon, and invited her to meet again, (6) after some time we went back and had a first lesson with her, and we'll soon return again! Missionary work is sometimes a long process, but it's a fun one! :)

Besides that, we've been teaching lots of people in pairs. Yura and Andrei/Artyom (Andrei was on one lesson, Artyom on the other) -- active (male) members of another church who are having a hard time accepting the Book of Mormon, yet Yura enjoys meeting and we think he's really starting to think/feel something. Valya and Polya -- super nice 15/16 year old girls we met doing service and who come to English, and we just had a good Plan of Salvation lesson with them. Lera and Sasha -- also super nice 15/16 year old girls who come to English, they have tons of questions about trials and the apparent unfairness of life. We'll also soon have lessons with Olesa from Pusha and a nice old woman who attends English and who I've become quite good friends with (Yevgenia). Not bad at all! We thank God every day for the people and the work that He's blessed us with. We had quite a dry patch our first transfer together, but God eventually blessed us with a flood. :)

This week I also had my last interview with President Klebingat. It was wonderful as always, but sad because it was our last. :( He leaves at the end of June, and I will miss him a ton. Great man. :)

What else to say?... I've realized something recently about myself: I've become weird. Actually, I was probably always weird but y'all kindly kept your mouths shut and let me continue in thinking that I'm normal (and I thank you for that :) ). Anyway, I've basically just lost almost all interest in worldly conversation. I get so bored! An important part of missionary work is building relationships of trust and normal friendships with those you're around, especially investigators, and I'm so glad that Sister Parish has that gift because I severely lack it. They'll be talking about music and movies and sports, and I'll be daydreaming about the conditions of the Three Kingdoms of Glory or creative new ways to explain the Apostasy. What am I supposed to do on my first date when I'm home? I'm sure I'll be "normalized" in time, but for now... the gospel is literally my life. But then the more you think about it, the more you realize that the gospel is life -- abundant life now and eternal life later. When we meet with people who want to chat about English or America or something trivial like that (or when I'm tempted to just talk about that in a contacting situation), I feel like I'm giving them an ice cream cone from McDonald's instead of a free entry to an all-you-can-eat Ukrainian buffet. There's nothing wrong with ice cream (and if you know me, you know I love McDonald's ice cream cones), but it's just... there's so much more, you know? It reminds me of a quote from President Ezra Taft Benson (one of my favorites):

"Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life."

Don't ever be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and don't wait to share it. I am convinced that it is the only thing in the entire world that will fully satisfy the deepest needs and desires of the souls of men. There are many counterfeits in the world, and also many good yet incomplete sources of truth, but nothing enlightens and heals and brings peace of conscience in such fullness as following the example of Jesus Christ and living according to the principles contained in His restored Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's all true, and it was given to us by an almighty, all-loving God whose only desire is for us to be happy. And for that, I am grateful beyond measure. :)

That's all for now. Have a wonderful week! I love you all!

Sister Montgomery

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fwd: Letter #59 - 5/19/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, May 19, 2014 at 6:08 AM
Subject: Letter #59 - 5/19/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear fam and friends,

What an amazing week! I'm so happy right now! Here, I'll copy you what I just wrote President:

Sister Parish and I had an amazing week. God is SO good for SO many reasons. One particular reason: the members in Ukraine are AMAZING. Every time I'm at church here in Vinogradar, there's been a moment when I just look around myself in awe and think, "What an honor to be among such incredible Saints!" Yesterday we had amazing sacrament meeting talks, Bishop led a perfect gospel principles class on baptism, Relief Society was full of testimonies and the Spirit, we had a great people-focused ward council (and they totally valued and implemented our ideas), and then afterward one member gave me a guitar to borrow, another member randomly invited us over for dinner, and after a lesson with another member, she walked us from her house to the bus stop in the pouring rain and then called us to make sure we were home okay. They're incredible!

Also, Igor, the investigator who has been living in Western Ukraine for the last four months but who has been taking the missionary discussions by telephone, finally was able to come back to Kiev! And despite a TEN HOUR train ride Saturday night to Sunday morning, and the fact that the Vinogradar ward is almost the very FURTHEST from where he lives in Kiev, he STILL came to church yesterday and loved it. That's how much he's been thirsting for the gospel... what an amazing example to any member of this church. He'll soon be in the hands of the Borshagovsky missionaries and you can expect a baptism just around the corner. :)

That's the Igor I wrote about first in Letter #41 and then mentioned again in Letter #53. We've been talking over the phone weekly for almost three months now, and when he told me he was finally coming back to Kiev, I was overjoyed. And when we went and met him at the metro to take him to church, it was like seeing an old friend that I haven't seen for so long. I wish he lived in our area so we could teach him, but the most important thing is that there ARE missionaries to teach him and that he will soon be in a ward of Saints that he has been aching for for so long. :)

Speaking of church, I found this cool section in an old training booklet about the blessings that come from church attendance. Investigators (and members) who attend church can...
  • Partake of the sacrament to renew baptismal covenants
  • Demonstrate their faith in God's commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy
  • Feel the Spirit of the Lord and receive revelation and answers to their questions and concerns
  • Strengthen their faith by receiving revealed truth from leaders, scripture study, and gospel instruction
  • Receive blessings from keeping the Sabbath day holy
  • Establish associations and friendships that will help renew their faith and strengthen their lives
I can totally testify to every single one of those with gusto. So, as that one Sister missionary from the District says (this will only be funny to those who have seen that DVD far too many times...), "Just come to church!" :)

What else to write in the time I have left?... We've been teaching these two men named Andrei and Yura. They're very intelligent, devoted Christians who hold to the Bible as the complete and perfect word of God, and our lessons have been heavily focused (naturally) on the Book of Mormon and the power of the Holy Ghost to teach truth. I won't give you the whole run-down on everything with them, but I will say that I feel like God has been using them as a way to teach, testify to, and even transform me -- more specifically, teach new ways of viewing and defending the Book of Mormon, testify powerfully of her (uhh... I mean "its"... darn Russian) power and truthfulness, and transform me from a contentious Bible-basher into a meek and calm teacher of truth. I really hope that their hearts will be changed in the process (because I've strongly felt God's love for them and want them to partake of the fulness of joy found only in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ), but even if that doesn't happen, I'm grateful for the work that God is doing on me as I seek to help Andrei and Yura.

And... that's a wrap. Thanks for all of your examples and support and prayers -- I really feel it over here! :)

Sister Montgomery

PS -- I also wanted to send you a poem that I wrote awhile ago about missionary work. It's amazing to me how much work we do (especially here in Ukraine) for the sake of even bringing ONE soul unto Christ through baptism. The poem as a whole is inspired by Matt. 13:45-46, with the last part is inspired by D&C 4:4.

The Kingdom of Heaven
By Sister Montgomery

The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price
To a merchant man seeking such treasure,
Who, when he discovered its matchless beauty,
Went and sold all he had with pleasure.

From his home he collected his rubies;
From his shop, all his silver and gold;
From his yard, all the gems he had buried;
Now all with intent to be sold.

He went to his places of hiding
Where diamonds had laid for so long.
He remembered his favorite topaz --
So golden, translucent, and strong.

He gathered them all for the selling,
For he knew it would cost all he had.
Some who saw watched him with wonder
While other were sure he was mad.

Was it hard? Oh you can't imagine
The war that was waged in his soul!
But with every doubt he remembered
The image of one priceless pearl.

And when all was gathered and ready,
He went to the market to trade.
"All that you have in exchange for the pearl" --
With pleasure the bargain was made.


The kindgom of heaven is like the worth of a soul
To a missionary seeking to serve,
Who, when he discovered the grace of the Lord,
Put his life for two years on reserve.

At home he left friends and his family,
Took leave from employment and school.
He put away favorite hobbies,
All to become the Lord's tool.

While serving, he discovered his weakness,
Habits he'd held to for years,
Traits not entirely Christlike,
Like pride and doubt and fears.

He cast them off each one by one,
For he knew the Lord needed his all.
Many admired his service
While others thought he was a fool.

Was it hard? Oh how you can't imagine
The war that was waged in his soul!
But always the image he kept in his mind:
A child of God, saved and whole.

And when he had finished his mission,
He went to the Lord and heard,
"All of your might in exchange for your soul."
"But wait," he thought, "what was that word?

My OWN soul I never considered;
It was not for myself that I gave
My heart and my might, my mind and my strength,
So why is it I have been saved?"

And thus he discovered the secret,
The irony of this great labor:
You thrust in your sickle for others
Yet bring to yourself God's favor.

In teaching, you're filled with His knowledge;
In serving, you're filled with His love;
In daily fulfilling His work and His glory,
You're filled with His power from above.

Oh, the kingdom of heaven, what an honor to build
While the God of that kingdom builds you!
"All that I have in exchange for your will" --
Thus He blesses the faithful and true.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Letter #58 - 5/12/14

Hey everyone!

Alright, so you're probably all wondering about what on earth is going on with the missionaries in Ukraine. Well, I'll tell you... we got news last Tuesday that all the formerly Donetsk missionaries were being reassigned across the world. They packed their bags and were on a plane by Friday morning. It came as a huge shock to us, and Sister Parish and I were super sad about Sister Andrade and Farmer leaving... we got pretty close with them. But here's a funny story in the midst of all the drama: being the cheeky prankster that I am, I took the Donetsk Sisters' phone and changed our number to the name of "K AP 1" (Kiev Assistants to the President) instead of "K Sis Vino" (Kiev Sisters Vinograder). I nonchalantly gave the phone back to them while the Sisters were packing and Sister Parish was laying in bed sick, and then I sent the following text from our phone in the next room:

"Dear Kiev missionaries, the Brethren have made the decision to reassign all Kiev missionaries within the next two weeks. President will be on a conference all with mission leaders at 12:00 today and they'll be in contact with you soon after with more details."

And then I just sat and listened. :) Sister Andrade gasped and read the text out loud, and Sister Parish FREAKED out. In a good way though; she was stoked. She kept repeating, "We're gonna kill it! We're gonna kill it!" (like we're gonna be awesome missionaries in America), and then I couldn't take it anymore and finally came in laughing and said, "Actually, you're gonna kill me, because I just sent that text from our phone!" Oh man, it was hilarious. She forgave me, all is well. :)

And THEN, this morning we got an update. There I was, getting ready to do personal study, and I notice we had a new text message. I opened it up and read, "Elders and Sisters. President just called and asked me to pass on the following information. Please do not go to email or tell your parents anything. You will find out travel information tomorrow and Sister Talley will send an email to your families informing them of this. Then you will email from your new mission. Thank you."

I FREAKED OUT, ran to Sister Parish, and read it to her. She said, "Are you kidding me? Is this another prank?" I said, "NO! It's legit from the Zone Leaders! Is this a prank from you?" And she said no too. We read it three or four times and sat there freaking out for a good 10 minutes, during which we had the following text conversation with the Zone Leader:

Us: "What's going on? So should we pack today?"
ZL: "Umm nobody knows where anyone is going yet. You will probably find out tonight or tomorrow then you will be able to pack!"
Us: "So we aren't doing emails today at all?
ZL: "Why not? Today is a normal P-day!!"
Us: "We just can't tell our parents? Right?"
ZL: "About what??"

At this point, we were SO confused and decided to call up our Sister Training Leader, who had heard absolutely nothing about this, which made us even more confused. She hung up to call the Zone Leader and figure out what the deal was, and in the meantime, we searched our phone for that rogue text and found that it was sent on MAY 7, 8:40 A.M.! How on earth it came up as a "new message" on our phone, and how on earth we didn't even recognize that we had seen that text somewhere before, and how on eartheverything matched up to make it completely realistic... that is totally beyond me. The Sister Training Leader called back and informed us that we're all staying here for the time being, and we got another text from the ZL: "Nobody is leaving anywhere! I was talking about transfers! Sorry if I scared or confused you Sisters!! I meant tonight or tomorrow you will find out transfer info."

And after laughing our heads off and feeling RIDICULOUSLY embarrassed (the ZL probably thought we were freaking out about a little bit of transfo!), we sent both of them this text: "Hahahaha okay, so... for some ridiculous reason, our phone said new message and then pulled up the text that was sent to the Donetsk missionaries [on May 7... at 8:40 a.m.]. Oh boy... thanks for the clarification!"

SO... I'm still in Kiev! And no text or call is going to convince me otherwise unless I hear it straight from the lips of President Klebingat! Oh my... you can't imagine the quantity and degree of emotions that I experienced in those few minutes. That's karma for you -- see ifI ever play a phone prank again! I think God had a great laugh this morning... I know that we did!

Unfortunately, that hilarious story has taken its toll on my email time. But for your information, I've had a GREAT week. Somehow we ended up with seven investigators! Given, not all of them are progressing (or really even know yet that they're investigating...), but the work is moving forward. And I got to Skype with Mom and Dad and Beck... that certainly made this week great. :) I've felt super close to my Heavenly Father and have experienced the sweet joy of repentance and forgiveness daily. Yesterday especially was an incredible day: I went to church with four questions on my mind and came away with four answers -- two from the words of ward members and two straight from the Holy Ghost. The church is so true! Give everything you can to the Lord, and He'll give you even more in return. God loves you all and I do too!

Sister Montgomery

PS -- The pics are of me and Sister Parish at the temple site the other week, and also a chalk drawing of the Plan of Salvation that we drew in the park one morning. Unfortunately it rained just a few hours later, destroying our beautiful masterpiece. :( We joked that the rain would actually just distort it so that an arrow randomly points from Judgment back to the Premortal World and/or change to something like (Jehovah's Witnesses), but in fact, it just completely erased it. Maybe next time... :P

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Letter #57 - 5/6/14

Dear fam and company,

K, I did things better this week: I've got a whole 40 minutes to write AND I decided this morning what I wanted to say. Prepare yourselves for a dang good letter...

This last week was SO great. In case you didn't know this or have forgotten, God answers prayers. Absolutely. Last Sunday I studied the stories of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon and Paul in the New Testament to find out what made them "tick"; what was it that kept them teaching and preaching through all sorts of persecutions for roughly 27 years? Or to make it more personal, what can help me keep my internal spiritual fire and desire until the very end of my mission (considering it's coming up ridiculously soon). Well, I found out that it all came back to the Atonement (see Alma 36:24) and so I prayed to feel an increase of the power of the Atonement in my life.

After that, almost every day at usually completely random moments, Heavenly Father sent me little bursts of the Spirit. The best way I can describe it is like little love notes from heaven, like those notes Mom used to leave in my backpack or lunches that said, "Just wanted to let you know I love you! Have a great day!" I felt so much peace and joy and gratitude, from the beginning of my days to the ends. I especially felt it during sacrament meeting this past Sunday, so much so that I got out my little revelation book to write about it, and as I was writing, I added, "And you know what? I just realized that it's an answer to my prayers." It turns out I had completely forgotten about that prayer from the past Sunday! I continued, "And what has Heavenly Father done to answer that prayer? He has blessed me with His joyful, peaceful Spirit in an extraordinary quantity and quality this past week. God is real and answers prayers. Christ has the power to cleanse and fill us. The Spirit gives us the sweetest feelings in the world. And Alma was right -- this knowledge and experience and these feelings... it fills you with such an intense desire to share it all! Thank You, Heavenly Father!"

So, Monday through Wednesday were my last days with Sister Parish, and then Thursday I started with Sister Andrade. She's been on her mission one transfer less than me (we overlapped in the MTC), and she's from California. We've already had a few weeks of bonding (the four of us in our apartment are super tight) so things started and have been going great. Here's a couple favorite moments from the last week:

Thursday night we stopped by one of my favorite old women in the ward, Loodmilla, to drop off a poem I wrote that she really liked. When we got there, Loodmilla was actually there with another member, Marina, who is probably my absolutely favorite member in this ward, and also Marina's little 2-year-old son and their little dog. We just wanted to stop by and drop the poem off, but they (naturally) invited us in and offered us borsht (delicious Russian/Ukrainian soup) and we just chatted for 15-20 minutes and then went on our way. It just reminded me of how much I LOVE the genuine hospitality of Ukrainians... I am going to miss that so much. Also, when we stopped by like that, it honestly felt like they were just my family -- here was Loodmilla like my grandma, and Marina totally just feels like my sister, and I even felt like her son was a little nephew of mine. (And of course, every dog has a place in my heart.) :) Just know that I'm well taken care of here in Ukraine. These members are absolutely incredible, and I'm so grateful to know and love them.

Also, Saturday we decided to go out to a little city/village called Poosha-Voditsya about 30 minutes outside of Kiev. I had a feeling a couple weeks ago to go and visit there, and we finally had the chance and took it. First off, it was GORGEOUS there. It's in the middle of a forest, there's beautiful lakes there, and it's just got a really relaxed, neat feel to it. Second off, we couldn't find the house we were looking for, so we asked an old man (Vladimir) for directions, and he spent the next half hour walking around town with us (while walking his bicycle [with a chess board hooked to the back of it]... he's a pretty cool 75-year-old) asking for directions, including from a theological seminary. That was pretty funny. Finally he asked a young woman (Olesa) to help us out, and she agreed and took us the rest of the way. She spoke great English, and it turns out that she's really interested in religions and finding the right faith. She took us where we needed to go, and then we gave her a Book of Mormon and she agreed to meet again. We didn't know anything about the member we were stopping by, but she was super glad to see us and had a friend living with her that she wanted the Elders to help out. We met him and gave him a brochure with the Elders' number, and then that night he called them and they both (him and the less-active member) came to church the next day. And all this in just a few hours in Poosha-Voditsya! What a cute little magical place. We'll be going back there for sure!

Alright, well I think that's enough for today! I love you all and am grateful for the influence that you've had in my life. Mom and Dad and Becky, can't wait to see and talk to you on Saturday!

Love you!
Sister Montgomery

PS: The pics are just a sample of the awesomeness of last transfer -- Sister Parish and I with our babushka (old lady) scarves and me jamming on the guitar during English contacting.