Derek opens his mission call

Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas

merry Christmas! and a happy new year! that was the greatest Christmas I've had since last year's.

whoa, the internet club i'm in just started playing losing my religion by r.e.m. that is surprising. ah, this is the good stuff.

TALKING TO YOU WAS THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME. that was the greatest hour(ish) of my life. yeah the connection wasn't great, but i could hear you good enough. the delay was annoying though. i would tell hilarious jokes and you wouldn't laugh hysterically for a few seconds, it was disconcerting. so I'm thinking skype on mothers day. i hope y'all had a good and merry Christmas, mine was really good. thanks for the call.

...i thought that i heard you laughing...i thought that i heard you cry... (R.E.M. song)

it was a good week. it didn't really feel like Christmas, though. well, parts did. cuz it actually isn't Christmas here (they have a bigger celebration for New Years, and smaller for Christmas), though members kind of celebrate it on the 25 with America for some reason. but also, Christmas is happy, and Ukraine isn't.

so Monday night we had a cool Donetsk dinner party, it was cool, lots of good Ukrainian food. you are right Nicole, I'm going to have to get some recipes, there are some good stuff. i don't know if you will be able to make it well in America. they have this generic meat they put in everything, i think it would be hard to duplicate. Tuesday all day we had a missionary party, we went to a church building and did some service, which included chipping the ice around the building and making packages slash Christmas cards (nonreligious Christmas cards, if that makes sense) for orphans, with like sidewalk chalk and fun stuff in them. after we played some games, some contests, ate some more food (sandwiches!) plus a cake that actually was quite tasty. there is a tradition where all the districts make up little songs about our districts. they were all really funny, i recorded them so when i get back home I'll show them to you. it was a good day. we have a lot of really cool missionaries, fun, friendly, normal people.

Wednesday was a normal day, a bunch of home teaching, ahem, lessons with members. Thursday we had cleaning checks from the fry's (Mission President), which we NAILED. fry's were very happy with us. Friday is the day we have planning, district meeting, and a branch correlation meeting, so there is usually only time for like one lesson at night. we agreed on Thursday with the guy who is supposed to come to the correlation meeting that we would just go back with him to his house for a lesson after the meeting. he said great. well he didn't show to the meeting, so we call and he is like, 'no, of course I'm not coming! its Christmas eve! I'm hanging out with my family!' we were like, man, i wish i could ditch my calling and go hang out with family. so it was a downer, the four of us were sitting alone Christmas eve, and everyone we called told us no.

luckily, a bit later, some awesome members showed up at our apartment and caroled for us, and we joined them for the rest of the night, which was way fun. one of those tender mercies, i guess.

Saturday was just zamachatelno. magnificent. it was a well balanced day. we started out with like three hours straight of contacting on this street. I've learned to love contacting, it is so fun. there are so many different approaches, so many interesting people and conversations you have. i never feel more like a missionary than when I'm talking to people on the street. then we had a couple of babushka lessons, one with the lady who broke her arm, so like i said, a balanced day. except for no investigators, but i think I'm done with investigators anyways. i don't know why elders are so obsessed with them. who needs 'em? all they bring is pain and anguish. (on an unrelated note, yoolie didn't come to church again, after promising several times he would.)

the branch party was great: a little program about Christ's birth, little kids singing Christmas songs (i think little kids singing in Russian is the cutest thing I've ever seen), a lot of food, half good and half pretty bad. lots of people, which made it feel like home. the kids here are crazy, maybe a little too rowdy for a church, but that's cool, at least our branch has kids. I've been giving them the little gifts you sent me, and they go crazy over them. they all love me now. i found the secret. even this guy who is like a year older than me asked me for a bouncy ball and was playing with it during church. i guess it is all new for them. Sunday was good, the kids did a Christmas program, very cute.

have i told you about the mud here? it is just ridiculous. all the snow has melted, so it is just outrageously muddy. and there is no way around it, either. you just get muddy and deal with it. like you clean your shoes before you walk to church, and they are just as dirty once you get there.

so this week we are trying to speak Russian 100%, at least to each other. we have been doing OK, we will see how it actually works, but it is good. the more i speak, the easier it gets.

KATELYN (Cousin) congratulations!!!! you are in for a treat. South Carolina, right? that is so cool, you are going to rip it up. good luck.

grandma and grandpa thanks so much for the money! merry Christmas to you!

so this week i start into my 'black year', my year that is completely in the country of Ukraine. i feel like i have hit a milestone.

oh i watched the videos (from ward YM/YW), thanks for those.

I'm out of stuff to say, so this is goodbye until the sledooshee ponadelnik. da sveedanya.
love, elder brimley

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Excited for Christmas

priviet y'all

sounded like the funeral was really good, i wish i could have been there. it sounded really nice. it must be nice to have it all finished.

happy six month mark on a mission to me, by the way. well a few days ago. how weird is that, i don't even believe it. i remember thinking when i went into the mtc that the next time i would talk to my family, i would be able to speak Russian. i mean, a half a year complete immersion in any language is enough right? ha, ha, ha. no. i guess there is a good reason my mission goes for another three of those. maybe by may when i talk to you next? man. but yeah! we get to talk on Christmas! call at 12:30 your time, 9:30 my time. no earlier, please, as my companion will be on the phone right then. don't forget!

so it wasn't the greatest work week, unfortunately. Calvert got sick on Monday night, so we didn't leave the apartment until Thursday, and even then he didn't feel good enough to party too hard. though it gave me a lot of time for studying- i finished my first grammar book, and know, in principle at least, all the useful words therein. steep, in general! that is what Russians say, instead of cool. steep, in general. i read my first Chekhov short story! in Russian. another milestone... so now i am in a review stage, to make sure i actually know my flashcards, and can call them to memory quickly. that is the challenge. i also memorized a short Pushkin poem. i promise i studied hard.

other than that, we had a funny night Thursday. it is less active night, and we were meeting a crazy red head named lilia at the branch building. she got there first, and was waiting outside (i have the keys) when some guy came up and talked to her. then we got there. he kind of looked like Robert downey jr. well only kind of. he said he had some questions, so we let him in, didn't want to waste an opportunity, even if the guy seemed a little eccentric. well we sit down and start talking, and he says he has a question. here is his question: 'why did god create man?' but later, my companion said that what he was really asking was 'why did god WANT to create man?' but in Russian, apparently you don't have to say that. anyways, that doesn't matter, because the guy was fairly drunk, and a moron. so he rambles on, blah blah blah, i try to answer him, talk to him, but i soon realize, the guy is a moron. i got tired of it, and my comp wasn't saying anything (He said, 'I lost the ability to speak Russian because the spirit wasn't present'), so i stepped in. I was a little shocked that i could say this in Russian: 'listen. we have answered your question. but you are drunk and don't understand. maybe if you are sober, we will talk later. exit the building.' and so he did. sometimes you just have to take control. drunks... gotta love 'em. can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

this lady randomly walked into church yesterday, said she had a Mormon friend and she would be coming every week. said she didn't really want to meet with us, but that she really liked our church meeting. you should have seen the members, they were all over her (and she had a little baby boy). she made a lot of new friends and felt really welcome, it seemed. we think we are going to try to get the bogmets to invite her over for a family night with us, maybe she would be more willing. posmotrime. we shall see.

nothing too special other than that the last few days. well we went over to that lady who broke her arm, and gave her a blessing. babooshki getting hurt stinks. they just aren't healthy. and now I'm feeling kind of sick, don't really feel like eating. nothing bad, just some pinoose, you know? it will be gone soon, i hope.

the weather here has really stunk. it snowed a lot, but then rained. so there is a lot of really wet, slick snow, lots of huge puddles of water, and black ice. to me the weather is not pleasing. also, it seems the colder it gets, the drunker everybody gets. there were a few people this week we saw that were soo drunk. like that I'm pretty sure passed out in the snow and froze to death in the middle of the night.

speaking of dead bodies, whenever anyone dies, they all just kind of solemnly crowd around the body. I've seen a couple of them right outside our building, it is always a little creepy. i like our funerals better.

hey, how many generations do we go back in the church? like who was baptized first and stuff? I've had several people ask me that, I've been meaning to ask.

yes, i love the packages! yeah, I'm sharing. made the cookies yesterday and brought them to a couple inactives and then to lena. lena said: you can't possibly understand how much i love you. she really likes cookies.

and I'm not too worried about our neighbors. you should see our doors locking system. there are like ten bolt locks on it, plus it is like pure titanium or something like that.

good to hear that you are doing cool stuff with the Young Single Adults (we took them to a Jazz game), that is fun. i want to work with youth when i get back. there is just so darned much of it in Utah. oh man, camp outs sound like so much fun. probably because what I remember is much cleaner/ classier than all of Ukraine.

I AM SO EXCITED TO TALK TO YOU. or, in Russian, ya ochen...oh you can't say that in Russian. "phone calls to me are very pleasing." should have a good week, lots of fun mission stuff.

I'm rambling again. я знаю церковь- истинна! oh man typing is hard. well thanks for everything! i gotta go. I'll talk to some of you on Saturday YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH

love, elder brimley.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Awesome letter from Derek

(Note: We received permission from Derek's mission president for us to call him to tell him that my mom had passed away. So we called and talked to him late last night. He sounded great!)

good...morning, right? or are you still up? it is morning for me.

it was good to hear your voices, even if it was for bad news. made me excited for Christmas, that will be a good eight or twelve hours, ha ha. I'm really sorry about grandma, but i guess it was just time. all i can think to say is all the old cliche lines, but you seem to be doing well, so keep up that, i guess.

otherwise, I've already said to my parents a lot of what i planned on saying in this email, but i guess there is the rest of you who read these thingies.

i got the packages!!!! all four! and another from the Groesbecks, Serafines, and Davidsons!!!!!! having a huge family pays off. thanks so much for the stuff, namely: vanilla wafers!!! new socks!!! Christmas tree!!! silly little bands!!! those will come sure in handy? and the stocking!!!! and way too much chocolate!!! little kids are going to love me. also, sister lena said she was going to be my very best friend, as i said i got a bunch of American food. and thanks groesbecks davidsons and serafines for the CD (i love Christmas music!) and new tie and that awesome plan of salvation puzzle (I've been meaning to get one!) I have the best family ever! everyone here is pretty impressed.

Before i forget: that's awesome Katelyn (mission call), I'm so excited for you! i hope it comes this week, i want to know next week. as for advice, i don't think there is all too much you can do to prepare for something like this other than just doing it. one thing i would say is to just make an effort to be friends with those around you, companions, members, investigators. it isn't easy, especially comps. but it is worth the effort. also congrats Matt and Stacy, give Graham Stuart a big sloppy one from me. thanks for the note, Groesbecks, glad to hear things are somehow getting along without out me there. surprising.

kind of a strange week. Tuesday we had a lot of lessons, then Wednesday only one. Thursday we had a bunch again, then none on Friday, and one on Saturday. it snowed again, and therefore we had a lot of canceled appointments. the weather controls the people of Ukraine. there were lots of people missing from church. "there is snow on the ground! are you crazy?!" though i will say that one babooshka on her way to church yesterday slipped and broke her arm in like five places. I've almost died a few times as well. it is slippery.

our district is also a 'test district', (have i told you this already?) which means: we go out to work from 9 to 12 am, working only with nonmembers (lots of trying to find former investigators and tracting), then get the rest of our studies sometime else during the day. also one day a week we are dedicating to only nonmembers as well, so no meetings with members or less actives. it is an interesting idea that takes some planning, and it doesn't always work, like on Tuesday. we left at nine, worked, had lessons until about nine thirty at night. that was a really long day, and i really need my studies. it is interesting doing something a little different, there is good with bad, as always. we'll see how the rest of the transfer goes.

this has all been really vague. specifics... have i told you about our neighbors? they hate our guts for some reason. probably because a few years ago they knocked down my apartment's door and stole everything, then went to jail for a while for it. yeah that is probably why. But recently they have been all up in our faces. knocking on our door and ringing our doorbell, just trying to annoy us. we don't answer the door to anyone, let alone that creepy guy we can see through the door hole. this other lady also started yelling at us yesterday. we share a door with them, it is hard to explain. she said: dorageeye tavarishee, dear comrades, then yelled for a while. we said, OK, we are going to church. we have a really nice door now.

we had a good meeting with this guy roman, he is an English student, so i don't think he is too interested in the church (we meet him at his house, so it is allowed). but gosh him and his mom are so friendly. i mean, we are teaching him English for free, so he has good reason to be nice. but not everyone is. once in a while we meet nice, normal people and i realize there is this idea of 'hope' floating around even Ukraine. people have so much potential to be wonderful- kind, happy, Christlike, i guess sums it up. it seems so easy, and i wonder why more people aren't better to each other, until i look at myself and realize, no, it's not easy. but that potential makes people so worth the effort. i guess that's what missionaries try to do, help people realize their potential, realize that they are children of an all powerful God who hasn't forgotten about them. it is hard to see, to believe sometimes. I've been trying hard to keep that in mind as I've been here. sometimes (often) in busses the people are so crammed in, you can't move your arms, you are stuck and sweaty, and everyone just smells awful, and most of them are at least partly drunk, some all of the way, and you feel like an animal just being herded someplace. doesn't really seem too kingly, noble, but once in a while you see it. i don't know what 'it' is, and i don't know how or why i sometimes see it, but after our English/ spiritual lesson with roman, i just had that playing in my head- 'he is a son of God.' missions are interesting.

what else, shto yesho... did i mention I'm really excited to talk to you on Christmas? oh! i read my first skazka, or child story fairy tail thing. it was in my grammar book, about a little fox. it was short and simple, a story for little kids. i feel like it is a big milestone in my Russian learning. next in the grammar book is a full short story by Chekhov.

I've shown several people my pictures recently and every time, without fail, they specifically mention you, mom- 'kak krasiva!' 'how beautiful!' every time. 'znayoo', 'i know.'

hm, investigator news... yoolie was busy Sunday, so didn't come to church/ we haven't met with him since last week when he said he wanted to be baptized. i don't think he really understands it is a really big thing. 'the twenty fifth right? good, we still have time.' hopefully we can meet with him in the next week and explain to him what exactly baptism is going to mean. Alexander, I'm pretty sure we are going to drop. he is an eternal investigator. i think that phrase is funny. our last meeting he was fairly drunk. he is really smart, believes it all, understands it all, just doesn't DO anything. too bad, he is a really nice guy. did i talk about alla? she is a professional fencer, though she is paralyzed. we had a meeting with her a little while ago with her ex-j dub (Jehovah's Witness) friend. they both seemed somewhat interested. the ex-j dub said he sinned, so they kicked him out of the church. but they were cool, i really respect alla, she is amazing. so... i still hope for maxime. he is sooo legit. he is my one real hope. pray for these people.

yeah, I've learned some new Russian words, Nate. here is one: lavatchka. it means 'little bench in a peasant hut'. diminuatives are crazy in Russian, but fun to play around with. i guess you don't know what I'm talking about.

i think I've run out of things to write. I'm going to go buy a CD player, or maybe something else to play music on. ha ha, lady gaga just started playing in this club. i was really surprised when i found out that both her and Stephanie Meyer had made it to Ukraine. the elders quorum president keeps asking me if i can join him and get 'baptized' into the orthodox church with him on the seventh of January. everyone just jumps into some melted snow in the shape of a cross, and he does it every year apparently. i think i might. OK now I'm just rambling.

well have a good week all. ya boodoo. i will. merry Christmas! church is true! Christ was born and saved us all! i love christmas.

with respect, elder brimley

Monday, December 6, 2010

Really good week

hello to all.

the packages are here!!!!! i haven't picked them up from the office yet (right after internet i will) but they somehow made it to Ukraine!!!!! spacibo bolshoye. i really appreciate it. I'm very excited for them.

snow!!!!!!!! it snowed last week!! finally. though then it warmed up a little bit, just enough to melt all the snow, and everything was just complete mud. mud, ice, and giant water puddles everywhere. it is really cold here, i finally had to buy a beanie, which i LOVE. it is really cold. contacting got a lot harder, and so did tracting to... uh, chastni domes, like little individual houses. so we have been doing lots of dome tracting, that is, giant apartment complex tracting. somehow that has become the most productive use of our time (up from last place last week). we have actually met some cool people, a couple people who somehow already have copies of the book of Mormon, and have read and liked it. and say they are willing to meet with us. that is the first step to a white Christmas!

speaking of Christmas, we are allowed to listen to all Christmas music, not just motab now! the only thing is, i don't have any Christmas CD's. the other thing is, we don't have anything to play Christmas cd's on. don't worry, we will figure something out. i can't go through the Christmas season without Christmas music. we are searching far and wide, it might actually come to buying one, but that is the last resort. is there a sufjan stevens Christmas CD? i might need that for next years Christmas.

we had a really good week. we got every standard of excellence but one, which is two investigators at church. and even then, we had one at church, so I'm happy with the week. we have been doing a lot of good work, lots of meeting with less/ inactives, a couple of them we even got to come to church. lots of figuring the area/ area book/ ward list out, figuring out who is active, who isn't, who is in our area, who moved several years ago, etc. it has given us lots of opportunities to find people who have fallen through the cracks and get to know them. i have met a lot of people in the branch who i didn't know before this week, which is fun. have i told you about their cool tradition of showing pictures to each other to get to know each other? its my favorite, you just say, lets get to know each other, i brought my pictures, and they get all excited and you tell them about your pictures, and family, and home, and america, and they show you theirs (i love pictures of old communist Russia). it is a cool thing they do.

i had one really cool meeting with a really awesome active family, the bogmets. they are a younger couple with one young daughter, yoori served a mission in Moscow or something. but we met with them, ate a bunch of food, drank coffee, just had a good time. afterward i realized that i had been speaking Russian and joking around at the SAME TIME. and the joking around wasn't about how i couldn't speak or understand Russian! it has just been awhile since i have had a fun family night gathering thing where i can do anything but sit there and smile. that was nice. and no, i can't speak Russian yet.

our district is having a good time for the Christmas season. the zone leaders have given us a bunch of little gifts for every day until Christmas, just little stuff like soap, candy, TEA, etc. oh, by the way, oreos are here! suddenly they appeared in like every store. it is a Christmas miracle. also our district has like a daily challenge for each companionship to do something, like preach on a crate, or give flowers to babyshky, or go caroling. it is fun stuff.

oh! we need to figure out a time to talk on Christmas. when works for you? we are nine hours ahead of you, so sometime before noon, or something. unfortunately I'm not going to be able to do skype (though you can). apparently there was this unspoken agreement between everyone, that there was no official rule for or against skype, so a lot of people did it last year. everyone just made sure that nobody actually asked president, because that would shatter the unspoken agreement. my companion is the guy that asked president. so I'm not going to be able to. maybe for mothers day? hopefully. i think that would be awesome. so I'm going to send you like my cell phone number, and some password, and you'll be able to call my phone. and we'll talk for "one" hour.

my companion is a very good cook, and in his words: "I'm a weird person. i really love to cook, and i really love to do the dishes." so I'm staying out of his way. we have been eating well, and I've been studying while that is going on. so it is a good deal for me. i finished Jesus the Christ! did i say that last week?

i think in a lot of missions there is this 'white Christmas' challenge, where you are supposed to try to get an investigator baptized on Christmas (wearing white clothes). do you remember yoolie? he is the guy that read the book of Mormon twice really in depth, and knows it is all true. a week or two ago we challenged him to be baptized on the 25th, and he said no. we said, will you at least prepare to be baptized? he said no. we said, will you try to prepare? he said maybe. so last night he called and said, I've been thinking about the 25th. i want to be baptized. he has a few questions, but we are going to definitely be working with him hard. obviously it is not yet for sure tochna, but yay!

they are having a Christmas party on the 25th, my ward that is, and we are allowed to go if we have an investigator. so i really want to, i haven't gone to a branch function yet other than Sunday meetings. no, they don't decorate too much for Christmas. maxim, the golden contact said to call January, he will have time then. and sometimes i get the emails from other missionaries, but sometimes there is just a blank email. like this week i didn't get zach's or spencers. and don't worry, Ukrainians make very sure i am dressed warm. I'll try and take those pictures and send them. i don't think about those things when I'm just in the day to day routine. I'll get on it.

by the way, i sent a couple of letters, so if you never get them, then just know that i sent them. it's the thought that counts, right?

thanks for everything, hope all is well, have a holly jolly Christmas, watch lots of Christmas movies for me. the church is true, and Christ is the head of it. and this season is an awesome time to be a christian. love you all!

love, elder brimley