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!
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.