Monday, September 29, 2014

Fwd: Letter #78 - 9/29/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 4:21 AM
Subject: Letter #78 - 9/29/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear friends and fam,

I just wrote President a couple really good stories from this last week; I'll copy them here to you:

We had an awesome lesson with our 17-year-old investigator Malina; we spent time getting to know her and establishing a friendly relationship, and then she was more receptive to our message, said her first personal prayer (not reading "The Lord's Prayer") at the end, and then later called to ask us for help finding the Book of Mormon verses we left her as a commitment. It is SO cool to watch her progress in the gospel. I already love her so much, and I can feel God's love for her very strongly too (and tell her that often). We're also teaching her grandma and hope to soon teach more family members. And it was awesome how God led us straight to their home -- both Sister Cromwell and I had a feeling to go to that area, and we had to knock only a few doors before Malina let us right in and we started teaching her. God wants to find His elect children, His elect children want to find Him, and all we have to do is be the worthy link between them. :)

Also, cute story about one of our elderly members who struggles with the Word of Wisdom. During one of our lessons with her awhile back, we noticed that she had clocks all over her room, and when we asked her about it, she said she likes collecting them. Later one day, when we were walking to her apartment, we noticed some alarm clocks being sold on the street and bought one of them (bright green, which happens to be her favorite color) and then gave it to her as a gift. She was so happy and grateful. I didn't think much of it afterward, but then in our last meeting with her, she told us that when her son was cleaning her room, she specifically said, "Now don't you touch that green one. The Sisters gave it to me, and every time I look at it, I remember, 'I don't drink, I don't smoke. I only follow God.'" When we bought it for her, we had no idea that it would make such a difference in her life, and hearing that story was a testimony to me of the power of simple, good deeds, even when you think it's just a "cute idea." :)

Also, a funny story about a quirk of the Suvorovsky ward. Every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. we have a meeting with all the missionaries and the ward mission leader. And without fail, every morning, one of the really old men in the ward comes to the room that we're in, says "May I?" (in Russian of course) in a very abrupt, funny way, and then comes in and proceeds to shake hands with the Elders and then kiss the hands of all the Sisters. OR, as has been the case lately, he'll kiss us on the cheek (which is super awkward, but you just gotta let him because he's just about the sweetest old man you've ever seen...). This last Sunday he kissed the other three Sisters and accidentally skipped me, and I thought, "Sweet, I got out of it!" but then Sister Cromwell so caringly pointed out to him that he skipped me, and he came back and gave me THREE kisses on the cheek. Way to look out for me, companion. :P Oh man... I'm gonna miss this ward. :)

So yeah, I had a great week, I'm as happy as ever, and life is good. God is sure making this last stretch of my mission worth my while -- I don't think I've ever felt consistently as close to Him as I do now, and I love it.

Lastly, I'll also share with you another something I wrote President. He asked for miracle stories from all the missionaries in the mission, and I sent him this. Enjoy!


When you asked us to share with you a miracle that we've experienced this year, I thought back to all the miracles that I've witnessed, both great and small -- being led to prepared people, watching as the Holy Ghost has softened hearts, seeing the incredible faith of the Ukrainian Saints, and so on. But there was another miracle that in a way is more incredible than them all, and that's what I want to share with you: it was the miracle of change within myself.

I feel like my story has a lot of similarities to the Three Nephites. Those disciples experienced a transfiguration that made them immortal -- invulnerable to the prisons they were locked into, the pits they were thrown into, the furnaces they were cast into, and the wild beasts which they ended up playing with like "a child with a suckling lamb" (3 Ne. 28:19-22). Literally nothing could hurt them or bring them down, and they went on their way preaching the gospel of Christ.

Looking back at myself at the beginning of this year compared to now, I feel like it's nothing less than a transfiguration. "There was a change wrought upon [my soul]" (3 Ne. 28:38) -- invulnerability, no, but instead, complete trust in the Deliverer to deliver me out of anything. I have found, recognized, and even developed weaknesses that have imprisoned my soul (like pride, fear of man, and contention), and I have felt those prisons "rent in twain" as I've come unto Christ, whose mercy was sufficient to turn them into strengths. I have been cast into the depths of despair in the face of ridiculing rejection, spiritually losing people I love, and other soul-stretching trials, and yet none of those pits were sufficient to hold me as I reached for God's hand to lift me up. I have consistently felt the burning discomfort of divine discontent, only to discover that it is merely the fire of the all-knowing, all-loving Refiner cleansing and shaping me into who He needs me to be and, in fact, who I myself want to be. And as for the devil and his tactics -- the natural man that prowls around me like a hungry beast, the shame that constantly lurks in the shadows, waiting to pounce -- they no longer bring me such harm. I know who I am, I know Whose I am, and the Lord and I handle those beasts together.

What else is there? Standing with the Savior, I feel like literally nothing can bring me down -- no weakness, no trial, no correction, and no temptation. The only thing left to do is beware of pride, continue to repent daily, and keep on walking with Him. "Thus [we] did go forth among all the people of [Ukraine], and did preach the gospel of Christ unto all people upon the face of the land; and they were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ" (v.23).

I've seen so many miracles during my time here, but like I said before, I've realized that the biggest miracle of my mission is actually me, or rather the miracle of Christ's atonement working within me. And as I serve out the last few weeks of my mission, I can't help but apply the final verses of 3 Nephi 28 to myself: "There was a change wrought upon me... I was sanctified on my mission, that I became more holy, and that the powers of this world could not hold me. And in this state I will strive to remain until the judgment day of Christ; and at that day I have hope to receive a greater change, and to be received into the kingdom of my Father to go no more out, but to dwell with God eternally in the heavens" (v.39-40). And that will be the greatest miracle of them all.

Love you all! Have a great week!

Sister Montgomery

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fwd: Letter #77 - 9/22/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 4:44 AM
Subject: Letter #77 - 9/22/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Sep 22, 2014 at 1:43 PM
Subject: Letter #76 - 9/15/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family and friends,

I'm getting more and more excited to go home. Not less and less focused, because I'm working as hard as ever, but still... I just have a lot of hope and excitement about my future, and I feel very at peace about what I've done here on my mission. Who knows how those feeling will change in the next couple weeks, but right now, I'm feeling really good about things.

Speaking of feeling good, I wrote in my journal one evening this week, "Nobody on the streets wanted to talk to us today, but that's okay because I wanted to talk to them, and I've realized that that's usually an indicator that the Atonement of Christ is working in my life." It's interesting how regardless of the agency of others, I can feel the love of God and the joy of the gospel in my own life. It's like what Mormon said in Mormon 2:19: "And wo is me because of their wickedness; for my heart has been filled with sorrow because of their wickedness, all my days; nevertheless, I know that I shall be lifted up at the last day." Yes, there is sorrow for the sins of the world, but there's also the sweet assurance of your own salvation thanks to the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. And that feels so good.

A little peak into Ukrainian culture from this last week -- a lot of people who live in homes (as opposed to apartments) grow a lot of their own food, especially grapes. This last week we went over to the Relief Society president Tanya's house with the other Sisters and helped her gather all her grapes (and there were a ton of them). We each had a knife to cut them off the vines, then we'd wash them in a little baby pool thing, then we'd pick them off the stems (all the while talking or listening to Russian General Conference from a couple years ago), and later Tanya will use some kind of juice-making machine to make enough grape juice to last them probably the whole winter. It was super fun to do service like that. :)

One more story from this last week. We stopped by Malina and her grandma Svetlana and had pretty much a tornado lesson -- Malina is a typical talkative, curious 17-year-old girl who asked us questions about five times faster than we could answer them and was distracted by basically everything. Oh boy, it was all over the place... one of those things you just have to laugh about afterward because the other option is to be frustrated about it. :P But teaching her will be very good practice to learn how to teach for understanding (simply, in language that she'd understand).

She told us about some of the things she wants in life, and I told her that our message will help her achieve all her righteous desires (especially a happy, strong family for eternity). I told her that the Book of Mormon will bless her family life, and she looked at me like I was crazy. Later I thought, "Yeah, that does sound kind of crazy the way I explained it." I realized that it's not actually the book that helps you, and not attendance at church, and not even saying prayers. Those things are all instruments for our perfection and our becoming like God and partaking of His blessings and Christ's mercy. They're commandments, they're important, and we ought to do everything in our power to do those things which God commands us. But we should always remember that they are not "ends" in and of themselves -- they are the means to becoming like Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. As President Klebingat often told us, "The gospel is the best kept secret in the church." Keep going to church and doing the "churchy" things absolutely, but don't miss the gospel on your way. ;)

That's all for this week. God be with you till I write again!

Sister Montgomery

PS- Here's a pic from a couple months ago of me and my three trainees: Sister Zaretskaia, Sister Cromwell, and Sister Hunsaker. What a legacy! :P

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fwd: Letter #76 - 9/15/14

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 4:54 AM
Subject: Letter #76 - 9/15/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family and friends,

In exactly one month from now, I will be on U.S. soil and released as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wow. I haven't been able to figure out my feeling about ending my mission soon, but I'll let you know as the last few weeks go on...

I came across a neat verse in the Bible the other day. It's Hebrews 13:5-6: "Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." I feel like that's what last week and the beginning of this week did to me. I felt the Lord very close to me, and I can say without a doubt that He is my helper, especially in hard times.

But despite how wonderfully grateful I am for that recent trial, let's just say I didn't complain when it passed. :) I had a great exchange with Sister Zaretskaia on Tuesday in Center Odessa (my last exchange on my mission!), and after that, our area seemed to open up and start flourishing. We've given out so many Books of Mormon that I've started to carry an extra one in my bag so we wouldn't have to go home to get another one.

Also, Sister Cromwell and I both felt like we should go to a certain part of our area where missionaries have rarely been, and when we went, we tracted right into a very kind family, immediately shared the plan of salvation with a 17-year-old girl named Malina who has lost a lot of loved ones in her life, and later went back and met her grandma Svetlana and shared the message of the restoration with her. They have never heard of our church before and were immediately interested, and I feel like that family has a ton of potential. All week I've been thinking of the phrase, "The field is white already to harvest" (D&C 4:4), and the other day the Spirit changed it a bit as I asked myself, "The field is white... am I ready to harvest?" All I need to do is follow the Spirit and open my mouth, and the Lord will gather His people.

Alright, looks like I'm out of time. I hope you have a wonderful week full of the Spirit of God. Because when He's with us, no matter what's going on in our lives or the world around us, everything seems to turn out alright. Remember, he Lord is your helper, and He will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. :)

With love,
Sister Montgomery

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fwd: Letter #75 - 9/8/14

Last week was a very emotional week for me, so I ended crying through this letter too.  What a wonderful letter!  She has grown so much during her mission!

Love to all,   Christine

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 5:08 AM
Subject: Letter #75 - 9/8/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Dear family and friends,

I've heard the phrase, "If you pray for patience, God won't just give you patience -- He'll give you trials, and through those trials you'll gain patience." Imagine my mistake when I set a final last-transfer goal for myself "to overcome the fear of man." It's turned out to be a recipe for constant and harsh rejection. But I'm not here to complain, because it's also turned into a spiritual journey of recognizing and fighting the darkness in the world. And that's what I want to write about today: the war between light and darkness.

First off, in case you didn't know, there's a war in Ukraine. I don't write about it much, either because I don't want to worry you or because it hasn't affected very much the work that I'm doing. But I realize now that I am affected, especially when I consider coming home in the middle of October to a country where there's currently peace. It's going to be strange to not hear almost everybody talking about the destruction happening in their homeland, to not have refugees in my ward being housed by other church members, to not hear of people's friends and family being drafted into the army, and to not have my heart skip a beat every time I get an unexpected text message thinking it's a notice that all missionaries have to stay inside (like back in February/March) or leave Odessa. I promise you that I'm safe and that the Church has, does, and will take care of us. But hopefully that little amount of detail gives you an insight into what life is like right now in Ukraine for me, the other missionaries, and especially the Ukrainian citizens.

Second, in case you didn't know, there's a spiritual war going on in the world, one in which I've been fighting on the front lines for the last year and a half. On a single walk home from the church one night, I talked to a man who didn't want religion because it's only for those who aren't happy and who want something, I saw a tired woman yell at her children and another woman scold her for yelling at her children, and I heard a 5-year-old boy ask his father for a beer (surely following his example). This week I've been yelled at, laughed at, called a cult member, and ignored... and it's not just this week.

Now that I've brought you into the darkness, please don't stop reading here. Because now I'd like to introduce you to the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as radiated through Ukrainian Saints and in my own life.

Yesterday was probably the most spiritual and uplifting church meeting that I've ever been to. I didn't even realize how incredible it was until I left the church building and felt as if I had walked into another world. Testimony meeting, both during sacrament meeting and later in Relief Society, was filled with the testimonies of some of the strongest Latter-day Saints in the world. The branch president spoke of the inner peace that the gospel brings into our lives regardless of what's happening outside of our homes. One lady who had to leave her home in Donetsk, whose daughter and grandson are still there, and whose other family members have been scattered across Ukraine, spoke of how grateful she is that God has not forgotten her, that He loves us enough to try us. Another woman spoke of the war in Ukraine as a cleansing, separating the strong in faith from the weak. Another spoke of not being able to reach friends and relatives in Eastern Ukraine but praying and feeling the Spirit's confirmation that they're alright. Every testimony was filled with faith, joy, humility, hope, and gratitude. Yes, even gratitude. You cannot imagine the Spirit that filled those rooms as those testimonies were borne... it was truly a light in the midst of darkness.

As for my own battle with darkness, regardless of all the rejection and darkness that have been heaped in my path, somehow through the grace of God I am still going forward. Why? Because if I don't, darkness wins. If I allow a person in darkness to rob from me my own light of the gospel, how am I supposed to shine to those who are ready to receive that light? "But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose... To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins" (Acts 26:18). Every time I open my mouth is a victory; it's the evidence of God's love for that person, and evidence of God's power in me, constantly helping me overcome my fears and doubts. And guess what? In some miraculous way, in the midst of all the trials of this last week and a mission in general, and despite the current situation in Ukraine, I am completely and perfectly at peace. And I'm happy. Really happy. :)

I'll leave you with a few very applicable verses of scripture, as well as a very literal quote from Joseph Smith. My invitation to you is this: don't let the darkness get you down, because in the end, the light will win.

"And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem." (Moses 7:61-62)

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." -Joseph Smith

With love and faith and joy,
Sister Montgomery

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fwd: Letter #74 - 9/1/14

OK....when I thought her letters couldn't get any better.......this is a "must read."  Her Sacrament Meeting talk was amazing!!!  Have a great week everyone!


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Elizabeth Montgomery <>
Date: Mon, Sep 1, 2014 at 4:43 AM
Subject: Letter #74 - 9/1/14
To: Christine Montgomery <>

Hello family! So, we got transfo on Saturday (the last relevant transfer information of my mission!), and looks like I'm staying in Suvorosky with Sister Cromwell until the end! It's what I was expecting, and I'm really happy about it. As I told Sister Cromwell, this last transfer was probably the most peaceful of my mission; Sister Cromwell and I get along fabulously and without any problems, and the work hasn't ceased to move along. It's also cool because Sister Barnes is coming here to serve with Sister Nielsen; ironic that we started our missions together (as companions in the MTC) and we'll be ending them in the same area. It's gonna be so much fun to serve around her again. :)

Well, we've had a good week, and I'm happy and safe and all that. Unfortunately I spent a lot of my email time writing out my sacrament talk for y'all, so this little update will have to suffice. Hope you all have a great week, and I'll write more next week!

Sister Montgomery

PS -- Here's part of the the talk I gave in sacrament meeting last week, translated into English of course. There's a lot more symbolism that I've come up with using this example, but here's just one aspect of "the mansion of God." Enjoy!

The Mansion of God

Today I'd like to share with you an illustration to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a whole. Imagine that we are all in one enormous mansion with hundreds, even thousands, of rooms. Everything here is beautiful, clean, and interesting. This mansion is a symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some have lived here since birth (like me), others have moved here later in life -- maybe 20 years ago, or maybe just recently. Perhaps you've come in, left, and returned, or perhaps it's your very first time here. In any case, we're all here right now in the grand, beautiful mansion.

Now I would like to take you on a tour of this home. As missionaries, we often have the privilege of conducting these "tours" with many different people, and it is my absolute favorite part of my service here. As many of you know, we teach people mainly four lessons: (1) the Restoration, (2) the Plan of Salvation, (3) the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and (4) the Commandments. Allow me to take you through each of these rooms.

First, let's move into the first room: the Restoration Museum. Here you find out the history of this mansion: how it was designed by a loving Heavenly Father for the happiness of His children, how it was built by prophets and His own Son Jesus Christ, how wicked people throughout time fell into apostasy and therefore destroyed this mansion and built their own homes, but how God again and again restored it, most recently 200 years ago through the Prophet Joseph Smith, because He loves us that much.

Now let's move into the Plan of Salvation Hall. You walk in and see an enormous mural covering all the walls. To the left of you you see the mural of your premortal life, before your birth, where you lived with God, where He knew you and you knew Him, and where you rejoiced at the opportunity to come to the earth. And in front of you, you see the mural of your life right now. Not everything about it is beautiful (because of course there are trials and sorrow), but you see the big picture and understand the purpose of life: to become perfected through experience, to be happy through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and to become like God. And you understand that everything that seems unfair about life will be made fair thanks to Jesus Christ because there, on your right, is the mural of life after death. There you see that we will all be resurrected, that everyone will have an opportunity to hear and accept the gospel, and that we will all stand before God to be judged according to our choices and actions here on the earth.

Next, let's take a look at the utilities room, where all the electricity, gas, and water in the mansion are regulated. This is the room of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and there right in the middle is an enormous generator, which gives unlimited electricity to every single room in the mansion. This symbolizes the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which gives light, joy, peace, peace of conscience, remission of sins, strength, comfort, and even more to every person who experiences it. And there next to the generator are four simple switches -- four steps in order to receive all the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. And we need to do everything in our power to make sure that these switches are always ON.

And finally we move into the last room: the Hall of Commandments. Like the Plan of Salvation Hall, this is also an enormous room, but in this room there's absolutely nothing... except for doors lining all the walls. Every door has a commandment written on it; there's "Daily Scripture Study," on the right is "The Law of Chastity" and "The Law of Tithing," and further down you see "Keep the Sabbath Day Holy." And next to every door there lies a key on which is written OBEDIENCE. But as your guide, I'm not allowed to open these room for you; I can only tell you about what incredible, unending treasure awaits you behind those doors. And then you must take the key, open the door, and discover for yourself what's there. There are so many blessings that your Heavenly Father wants to give you, and He is simply waiting for you to open up those doors by obedience to His commandments.

That is only a little tour of this Church, and I know that it's all true and incredible. And if you're like me, and you truly come to realize what this mansion holds in it, then you can't just stand around here by yourself. You want to go outside and tell everyone about it. Likewise, when we truly understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, we share it. And then we realize that "missionary work" is a lot more than just an invitation -- it's a tour of the Kingdom of God.