Derek opens his mission call

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

First things first, I'm staying! and elder Rollison is leaving. that was pretty much already known, though i had a bit of hope that I would get out. but I'm not all that dissapointed, as this will most likely be my last transfer here, and then my options look very good. Xarkov! or maybe...Lugansk--both would be dreams. I figure I'm getting a younger companion, so at least it should be a change from my last five transfers.

So there is this dude named Pavel. remember when i told you about the cool contact lady Looba? well she gave us a REFERRAL, which is a big thing. and so we contacted her nephew, the referral. and we met with him! it was on Tuesday, on a bench in this...almost park. and he speaks English pretty well. so we were like, probably just interested in English, but whatever. we got to know him for a little bit, then started talking about God and religion. and he is super interested in like philosophy and sociology and all that. So talking about religion is interesting to him. so we taught a good, but scattered first lesson. our meeting was like two hours, but it was good. we gave him a book and he said he'd read. his English is good, but probably not good enough to know religious words, so it was like half English, half Russian. we left the lesson kind of thinking that he might end up either way- a good investigator, or just an English student who likes talking about religion.

But then FRIDAY we had another meeting with him and this one was in his apartment. So he had read most of the introduction of the book of Mormon, and was asking some awesome questions about where it came from, why we have it, about the story in it. we answered them all, and he was (or at least seemed) super accepting. It was cool, the longer we talked about the book, the more excited about it he got. by the end he seemed pretty excited to read it. He also had some questions about prayer. we taught him the 'steps', and a bit about what prayer is. He thought it was really cool. he was trying to memorize the steps with us, making sure he had it all right. we invited him to church, and it was interesting. at first he was like, I dunno, maybe next week. Then we talked about what our church is, what goes on, we talked about all the great people, people he should meet, and by the end of us talking he was like, actually next week I'm not going to be in town, but it would be interesting to me to come this Sunday. we set it all up, where we were going to meet him and when, and he seemed pretty excited for it. Unfortunately SATAN stopped him from coming on Sunday, but we still have a meeting with him on Tuesday, so we are pretty pumped. A new, progressing investigator in one week! Good for us. I can see him going all the way.

other weekly highlights. ha, at the bontsovs, rollison was trying out some new slang that antomonov taught us. so it turns out, the word that antomonov translated into 'bum' was more like 'the a word.' we had a good laugh. Oh, on Saturday we had an adventure. we have heard there is this giant hill made from a mine that you can hike up, and there is a deer monument on top. so we set off to find it, and contact of course. we found it, and it was like the coolest thing in the world. we climbed up, and we could see the entire city of Donetsk from it. Ukraine is really flat, so it was an awesome sight, we could see our whole area, all of center, it was sweet. I'll send some pictures sometime.

Friday we had a short lesson about priesthood blessings with Alexander, and then I gave him one, as he was sick. it was pretty scary, I don't think I did very good. I mean, I said all the important stuff right, but I didn't really know what to say. but it doesn't matter what i said, i guess. it was a cool experience, a first of my mission. he really appreciated it.

oh and a couple of days ago this drunk dude was getting off a bus i was on, and he sees my nametag, and he was like, what's with your name? what kind of name is Brimley? and I'm like, its American. and he was like, that cannot be. that makes no sense. it can not be American. and I was like, well I'm from America. and so he was like, well it isn't a pretty name. I of course was very offended, and in defense of my family, asked his name, in hopes that I could make fun of it as well. he dodged this by saying, "they call me beautiful." yes, that is a perfect translation. i don't know who won, but I hope we meet again. I feel like he is my arch nemesis. the bus was chuckling after he got off.

we did some more service this week, it was getting this ice arena ready for like a bunch of events. so like all of the elders in Donetsk got together and put up some weird curtains. We felt like we really made a difference in the country. But it was fun, at least.

As you can see, this was a less eventful week than usual. but we got a new investigator! so we are happy. i can definitely use my CD player! i just need some more music now. that reminds me, when president Fry goes home, the mo-tab rule goes with him, and everything goes back to the white handbook rules. so that means, soundtracks will be allowed! so a request for my next package would be some of those, like lord of the rings, gladiator, and any other good music you would like to send me. he doesn't leave until June 30th, so there is plenty of time. I don't think I'm losing hair... yet. my hair is already longer, don't worry. My clothes... have been better. but in a couple of months i will start wearing the second half of clothing! crazy! Money is crazy. We spend lots on transport, but we get by.

The mission is hard. but at the same time, it is fun to live here, see crazy stuff sometimes, the people are really interesting, if nothing else. and there are some awesome people, too. it is a fun time, I like it. so yeah. as for things that i love, the juice is really good, and so is the bread. i think I've said that before. The markets are pretty cool, everything is really cheap. i really like borsh and shaoormas, bleen, and fornetti's. there are good things. and i think I'll like it even more once i get to Xarkov...

anyways, that was my week. hope you all had a good one!

love, Derek

Monday, March 21, 2011

Uneventful week

Wazzup y'all

Not quite as an eventful week as last week, or the week before, come to think of it. but it was, OK. somehow we got less lessons than last week! but it is actually understandable, because we had ZONE CONFERENCE. but that doesn't actually explain it, because ZONE CONFERENCE was on Tuesday morning, when we would never have a lesson. but it is ALL GOOD. we got a new investigator this week! and when i say new investigator, i mean, an investigator that missionaries here used to meet with, and then lost contact with. but this dude named Nikolai called us, and said he wanted to meet. so he (and his girlfriend) are pretty much English students, but also at least somewhat interested in the message. our meeting went this way: we got to know them a little bit, did a little English lesson/ practice. then we said, lets pray. we watched the restoration with them, and then talked about it. it is always fun to teach first lessons, i think i can count the first lessons I've taught on one hand. they were pretty accepting, admitted that it was possible. we talked about the book of Mormon, testified, committed them to read it. so from the area book, it said they had been taught the first two lessons, but we asked them what they had been taught, and they so hopefully this time it stuck a bit more. we shall see.

that was Wednesday night. that morning we had district meeting, which was uneventful. well, always fun obviously, hanging out with the district. i just can't remember what we did. but that's OK.

lets go back to Tuesday and ZONE CONFERENCE. president Schweitzer was there, he is the president of the Europe east area. he is in the second quorum of the seventy. yeah, he's in the conference ensign. legit. he was the coolest guy ever. he was SO freaking smart. he taught us for like two hours. lets see, what did he say... he taught us how to contact, which was funny. he compared it to getting a date, which I've heard lots of times, but it was still really funny. I've really been trying to implement some of the things he said, change the way i contact. it is really hard. but I've been learning a lot about contacting this transfer, so it was good. even before zone conference I've been thinking a lot about it. I'm so bored of the normal contacting, just repeating the same memorized lines. I've been trying to actually start human conversations, i know, crazy right? the hard part is seeing someone on the street, and it not being weird to have a conversation with them. like sometimes, depending on the situation, it is easy. but most of the time it's not. here is a funny quote from him giving an example of asking a girl on a date: 'hi, i just got back from my mission. (here he turned and winked to the crowd and said: the clincher!) I served in Ukraine, not one of those wimpy California missions." i hope i didn't offend anyone. but it was a general authority, so it is pretty much scripture.

He also taught us a really deep second lesson: the PLAN of SALVATION. it was way interesting the way he presented it, I've never thought of it in this way. i won't go into it, but here is a good quote: 'most of you have probably wondered if you are doing any good out here. I'm here to tell you that god needs judges in Israel. he needs you to bear heartfelt testimony to this people so at the judgment you can testify that you testified.' It was nice to hear from him, he just seemed to get it. he understood the culture, the language even. it was a nice change from the usual stuff we get that tries to pretend we are like any other mission in the world. anyways, zone conference was sweet.

Tuesday we also had our usual lesson with the Bontsovs, they are great as usual. we brought them brownies, which they said was their favorite, because it was sister Bontsovs birthday the day before. so we had a party, they even fed us a small meal, really tasty. man i love that family, I'm going to miss them when i leave.

so here is my prediction for next transfer: we will white wash out (which means both of us will leave, and two new elders will come in.) i know that Rollison is out, and i think this would be a good area to have a fresh new start. we have been working hard, trying to do a bit of rebuilding, but it wouldn't be too devastating to the area for both of us to leave. We will find out this Friday, and then the next Friday is transfer day. wow it goes fast. I hope I leave, but I won't be too sad if I don't. I just want to go to Kharkov.

Thursday was our Alexander meeting, he is still legit as always. then we contacted and tracted. and we made TACOS. mmmm tacos. Friday we had a split, which was fun with elder Mccallison, but it was unfortunate because the two lessons we had planned both fell through, so we had to contact for the whole time. FORTUNATELY, the weather is OCHEN XOROSHO. life is AWESOME. it got up to like fifteen Celsius, and all the snow is almost melted. the mud is absolutely ridiculous, but holy bleen hallelujah winter is over. i don't know if i can go through another one of those. life is awesome when you are warm. it is just a fact.

Saturday we somehow got it approved to do an hour of SERVICE! it was sweet, we went to this ice rink and wiped off dirty chairs for an hour with some of the youth. gosh, i haven't done service in months. it felt kind of worthless, i mean we were like wiping off chairs, but it was good. and fun. oh i forgot: i made blueberry pancakes with that package for muffins you sent, and they turned out awesome. so tasty, and i made some maple syrup, it was just so good. so that night we ended the split and our lesson canceled, so we went home and cleaned a bunch, because we had cleaning checks on Sunday (which didn't happen because Sister Fry got sick, so now they are going to be a surprise sometime). our apartment is really clean now, that's good.

Sunday was a normal day. except this one thing. so the sisters come up to us and they are like, oh man! we forgot your surprise! and we were like, darn. then after church they were like, come over to our house for a bit. so we did, and they had made us these awesome Russian pastry thingies. it was funny, because they didn't do it for the other elders in our district, just us. yeah, they love us. it was a good time.

then our lesson that night we made lasagna, which turned out very greasy, but it tasted really good.

and then i went to sleep, and then i came here.

so my companion served in this really terrible area called Dockey, which was known as the worst area in the mission until it was shut down when he left it a few transfers ago. he has told me several times that this area is worse than Dockey. i don't think that's true, but it is a bit frustrating. suffice it to say, I'm hoping to leave. oh by the WAY: i hit my nine month on a mission mark a few days ago. that was pretty crazy to think about. that means one thing. Bulgaria is coming soon. it can't come soon enough.

well. that's about it. sorry for the uneventful week. i hope yours is full of many, many events. love you all. the church is true.

love Derek

Monday, March 14, 2011

Derek Gets Ukrained

Hello beloved readers,

I've been told that it is apparent by my first sentence how the rest of my letter is going to go. so in an effort to break the mold, i shall start out like this:

what a great week.

as it was woman's day, this week wasn't great for contacting or tracting, and thanks to a wedding in our branch, members didn't want to meet either. so we set a record low number of lessons for me, at an astounding 4. 5, if you count the spiritual thought i gave at the missionary meeting on Sunday, which i don't. pretty much, we chose the wrong week to drop several bad investigators.

Tuesday was woman's day, which we kind of planned on contacting until our lesson with the bontsovs at night. when we got outside, the streets were completely empty. in our area, there are usually very few people walking around, but this time there were none. so we were like, tracting, right? the white bible says that holidays are great times to find people, because families are together. this is a lie. they just get really mad at you. but the bontsovs are really great. we brought them flowers, and had a little party. go women!

Wednesday we had district meeting, which is usually great, but this was an...odd district meeting. in short, the zone leaders came to institute some new goals for us. which is fine, except the goals they set for us are like our personal goals. i don't really have time to write exactly everything, but suffice it to say, in our mission there are some issues between leadership and missionaries. they call it 'the wall', and so they have been working to get over 'the wall' by working on unity. so here is my idea of how people become unified: get to know each other, become friends, everybody showing each other love, and working together. and some other stuff. here is the leaderships idea of how to build unity: make a random rule seem really super important, like listening only to mo tab, and setting a goal to all keep that rule really strictly together. that was what they were trying to force down our throats at district meeting. kind of made everybody less unified, i think. luckily me and rollison saved the day with brownies and a scavenger hunt for the girls with a bunch of presents, which lightened the scary mood. me and rollison are good.

after that we got dogged by Leonid, the archangel guy. did i tell you about him? he believes that some aliens and Michael the archangel are coming next year to end the world. so we weren't too dissapointed when he wasn't there. he was there on Thursday though, and our lesson with him consisted of him trying to prove to us that he was right. we got our restoration video back and left. he was a crazy guy. we also had our weekly lesson with Alexander, which as usual was just great. they feed us bread and sausage every time, and i eat a lot, so they love me. they always call rollison a girl cuz he doesn't eat very much. Go me. after that we contacted and tracted.

Friday was OK. we are supposed to do planning, so we tried, but we don't have much to plan, so we went out and worked after like half an hour. we tried to find some old investigator who lived out in the edge of nowhere, we couldn't find her, but we found a cool temple, and it was a cool little village place, so it was a good walk, if nothing else. the rest of the day we tracted and contacted. the problem isn't tracting and contacting, it is just, in our area there are very few big domes, which is the only good place to tract in the winter, and we are running out of them, because most of our area is little individual houses. and tracting domes stinks.

Saturday was awesome. we get up in the morning, and the other elders call us and say come open your door. they came over for a breakfast party! we were really surprised, we didn't think they had it in them. but they made us some bleen and we did studies together, it was a great morning. then we all together went to the church and cleaned it up a little bit (from the wedding party the night before. it was a disaster). see, that's how you build unity. we had a member lesson during the day, which was great, and then found a less active who lives in our area, who is hopefully willing to meet. he seemed pleasant enough. then we filled the rest of our day up.

so this is where things get a little scary. I've thought about not writing this one, but i figure i should. if i were you i wouldn't let mom read the following. we went to sleep Saturday night pretty happy- rollison got a call from his last area, and a lady he found and taught is doing really well, and said she wants to be baptized. so we were both really excited for him, this is a first for him. so we go to sleep. next thing i know, it is about three thirty am, and i hear some yelling outside our apartment door, and some pounding. i was still really groggy, so i just sat there in bed. it sounded to me like a small group of men were out there, and from what i could tell, they were really angry about something. i recently learned the main swear words, and yeah, they were all there. that's when i realize that it isn't just some random drunk guys partying, but they were banging on specifically our door. not just banging to get us to come open it, but they were trying to knock the door off its hinges. they were really, really mad at something, and trying to break off the door handle. well I'm trying to think logically, and i realize that I'm completely defenseless. i figure, if they come in, there is nothing i can do about it. this was the first time i have been truly terrified in this country, and thinking about it, it was probably the scaredest I've ever been in my entire life. after a few minutes they kind of lay off the door, and just keep yelling. i ask my comp if he knows the number for the cops, and he says no. so we call president fry. he tells us he will figure it out and call back. meanwhile, I've thought about it and armed myself with a frying pan and a rolling pin. we hear them still in our building, screaming, banging on other doors, banging on ours, and we are just sitting, waiting, and wondering. but it sounded like it was dying off, they were slowly making their way downstairs. president calls and says that he cant wake up his APs or office elders so he cant find the number for the cops, but it was OK because it was over. he said wait for a while and if it is really over to go to sleep. so we did.

the next morning we head out for church, and i take a look at the door, and it is pretty bad. lots of foot marks, and the door handle is completely snapped off. we until then were pretty sure it was just some crazy people attacking everyone in our building, but none of the other doors looked like they had really been touched. so that kind of scared us, it seemed like we were being singled out. we didn't know, i mean, who knows? maybe it was enemies of the church. we couldn't really leave out any possibilities, i mean, its Ukraine. we call our landlord, tell him about what happened, about the door. we go to church and come back, and the landlord has figured it all out. we got a new door handle, and he told us the story. apparently there is a girl on our level whose ex boyfriend got really drunk and came with some friends to break into her apartment. but they were drunk and mistook her door for ours. her landlord is kicking her out as soon as possible, by the way. a bit later, president came and made sure everything is OK. we told them everything, and he said that everything should be good, we have a good solid door. we said we felt a little uncomfortable sleeping there again (mostly true for me, very true for my companion) so we should probably sleep with the other elders. he said that would be fine, so last night we had a completely OK sleepover! it was a party, it helped ease that fear.

so that was pretty scary. it really felt at the time like we were going to get attacked. we both talked about it later, and we both thought about Carthage jail while it was happening. my heart was beating harder and faster than i think it ever has. later i realized that i had armed myself with a rolling pin, while we have a fairly nice knife set. so next time hopefully i remember that. but man, it was crazy. that's all i can think about right now. you should have been there, it was just crazy.

oh by the way, happy birthday Scott! 18? i totally remembered yesterday and so we made a cake at the sleepover, we even blew out candles. though we were also celebrating p-day eve at the same time. but i remembered.

so yeah, a really interesting week. i think every week is pretty interesting. but this one especially. i guess it just shows that SATAN is trying to stop us, so it is actually a good sign, when you think about it. GET THEE HENCE SATAN

THANKS FOR THE AWESOME PACKAGE!!!!! that was the right book, the ring fits, the CD player works (and was actually a big surprise, thanks!). and of course, a special thank you for the whatchamacallits, or in Russian, the etee sameeye. it was a great birthday package.

that's crazy about the japan thing, i hadn't heard anything about it till now. that sounds awful. the video didn't work, but i heard the sound, and it was pretty scary.

man, I'm happy. zone conference is tomorrow! and it should be a much, much better week than last. members should be able to meet, and hopefully a couple of the contacts we've gotten will work out or something. thanks for all the letters, as usual. yeah. this is an adventure.

have a great week, and happy p-day to all!

love, Derek

Monday, March 7, 2011

Warning! Read at your own risk

Dear All,

So i just went to the office and got my package!!!!! thank you!!!! I haven't opened it yet, but it is sitting right next to me, and the description says 'book, cd, food, tie'. so thanks for the book cd food and tie!!!! i had a really good birthday week. hey, lady gaga just started playing here. aly aly handro, aly aly handro...

Six months in country! that happened basically on my birthday, so we celebrated both at once. it is a big deal. i thought I'd be fluent in Russian by now. I'm surprised i made it this far. Fortunately, it seems like winter is on its way out. it got really warm a couple of days ago, everything started melting. really muddy. but I'm getting ahead of myself. excuse me.

i think it is cliche by now for me to say this wasn't the greatest week, missionary work-wise. missions are really frustrating, heart breaking. well my mission has been. from what i know of other missions, there are probably happy missionary stories. they tell me to have faith and hope. it is really hard to put your faith in somebody, or put your hope on them, after I've had so many 'hopefull's' die off. this area is kind of down to zero investigators again.

anyways. Monday we had a fun meeting with the tikamerovs, district presidents family. they are so legit. just indescribably awesome. it was a good family night. Tuesday we had a first meeting with this dude we met tracting. the lesson didn't go very well, as we kind of figured it wouldn't. his real purpose of meeting is to convince us that Michael the archangel is coming to destroy the earth next year. he has a lot of crazy books that he tries to give us. he is a really nice man, i mean, he let us in tracting! but it is just because he is crazy. we left the restoration movie and told him to watch it. we have a meeting set up for this week, and the only real reason we are going back is to get our movie back. but who knows, maybe he won't be crazy anymore.

that night was great. we had a meeting with the bontsovs, which is always just so great. it was probably one of the best nights I've had on my mission. we get into their apartment, and sit down. then they bring out a big wrapped box for me! they gave me a tie, and a nice card, and this funny refrigerator magnet. then they turned out the lights, blindfolded me, and when they took it off, there was a cake with candles and everything! they even sang happy birthday in English! it was a delicious cake. they said that it was the first time they had done that for a missionary. i love that family so much. they are just the nicest people.

my birthday was really good too. we had district meeting, which just turned into a birthday party. we had lots of bleen, as it was bleen week. we played a fun game of finger twister, my first time. i totally won. then everyone gave me presents! i got an awesome recipe book made by the sisters, who also gave me a little toy gun. my companion gave me some Andes mints that he had gotten from a package, very nice. already ate them all. it was a great birthday party. later that day we went over to brat doberdays house, and even he gave me a signed copy of the new testament in Russian, it was a really good gift. also he hugged and kissed me, then prayed specifically for me, and made my companion say a prayer for my birthday. it was a little weird, but hey, he is crazy. poost.

that night we went to jamals house, which was pretty average. we will probably not be meeting with him anymore, but it was a good birthday dinner. we figure he isn't going anywhere, and hasn't really ever gone anywhere, so it is time to drop him. it is sad cuz he really is a great guy. but oh well.

Thursday was an up and down day. we had an awesome lesson with Alexander, who is just a fine fellow in general. he gave me the book 'spartacus' in Russian. way awesome gift. and he is just the kindest man. it is hard to describe, i just love that guy so much.

then we had a lesson with sasha, finally. we met at the church like usual. he is such a great guy. he is really, really smart, which makes him hard to understand, and he has a lot of really deep questions and ideas, that i don't really fully understand. so the lesson wasn't good at all. he told us that there was nothing in the book of Mormon that he didn't already know. that he couldn't learn anything from it. i tried to do my best to teach about its purpose, but i just don't speak good enough Russian, and probably more importantly i didn't really understand what he was saying. so he owned us, I'm not going to lie. he was nice about it, and he really is a great guy. when Elder Thomas was here, or when we had a member in on the lesson, it was great. but without a real firm grasp on Russian, he just isn't handleable, if that makes sense. i was pretty down after that lesson, and i decided that I'm going to become a good speaker of Russian. easier said than done, but i decided that I'm going to do it. that night we met with sister bobskova, who is really legit. she has like the whole book of Mormon memorized, so she pretty much taught us. she is so cool. that cheered me up.

this kid next to me playing a video game keeps saying a VERY bad word over and over. i think it is all he knows in English. it is a little distracting.

Friday we tracted all day. both our lessons fell through. but we got like 5 contacts, and a couple of them seem actually pretty hopeful. yeah, that was a long day, but ok.

Saturday was a really interesting day. it was another tracting all day day, except with one lesson in the middle of it. we were starting, and we headed to the ploshad, and there was this big celebration going on. we still don't really know what it was for, probably women's day (that's tomorrow, by the way). there was some singing and dancing, and they had like this little fire. it was kind of cool, but not all that exciting. we go walking down this street, and it was really muddy. like, really muddy. Alex, you said you wanted some crazy Ukraine story? i saw on the ground was a little root, so i stepped over it. rollison was right behind me, and he was like, hey. look. i look, and i see the root again, but then i look closer. it was a DEAD CAT that had apparently suffocated in the mud. it was like one of those dinosaurs that got stuck in the mud and died there. it was disgusting.

we were walking away from that, pretty grossed out, when i look to the side of the road. there was a slope, so the side of the road was like five, ten feet lower than us. i see a bigger man who was bent over, like touching his toes. his rear end was pointed towards the street. i instantly noticed that his pants were all the way down. not too weird, people pee in public all the time. then we hear like this grunting. his crack was open WIDE. a yellow, green slime was pouring out. he had bad diarrhea. just pouring down. just absolutely shameless. we both swallowed some vomit and got out of there. that was probably the grossest thing I've ever seen in my life. that image will never leave my mind. i kind of wish i would have taken a picture.

the lesson we had that day was with this awesome lady. she is the first person that came in contact with missionaries in Donetsk. she basically told us about the history of the church in Donetsk, all of which she has been an active participant. she is the office cooking lady, so we also had awesome borsh and lots and lots of bleen! she is such a sweet old lady. the rest of the day we tracted.

Sunday was a shame. it snowed really bad, randomly. i think that it kept a lot of people away. including that lady who said she would come. we called her and she said she would be there, but she didn't come. Sunday night we pretty much had nothing, and it was really snowy and cold and dark. so we cleaned our apartment, something we have been putting off for a while. it needed to be done. it is better now. i also made lemon bars! so tasty. I'm still not done with the Christmas packages. ha. thanks again.

yeah, so pretty much we have dropped all of our investigators. it is pretty sad. but it is way easier to keep meeting with our bad investigators, than find new ones. we are working.

that's pretty much it. thanks for everything, the package, letters, so on and so forth. love you all! happy women's day tomorrow. this was probably a pretty negative letter but I'm still happy. things are good. the church is still true.

love, Derek