Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year's Greetings 12/27/2010

Branch in Vinnitsya

A Christmas Feast

Branch Christmas Party

A yummy Christmas meal... good food, good company

Alright so, the rest of this week went really well! Christmas was really fun. After I talked to you, we had some breakfast at the Ewarts and then spent the whole day cooking and preparing the meal for the Christmas party. Elder Munzer returned back to the Ewarts for his Christmas call. So I went on exchanges with Elder Hackett to make sure that both of our apartments didn't burn down because each apartment had like 3 chickens in the oven. After the chickens were finished, we went over to the church at 4 and prepared the rest of the food and set it out. The party started at 5 and there were soooo many people there. A lot of less actives came and some of our investigators came. Members and investigators even brought friends! We ended up getting like 4 new investigators from that party. Everyone was really impressed.  I hung out with the members and some of our investigators during the party.  Before it, while I was setting up Tanya and Zina approached me and told me that I should be sitting over at the little kids table. They told me it was the perfect size for me. They started laughing after that. I was like "You're not gonna be laughing when I beat you in Ping Pong on Monday". But I don't know if I can back that talk up. Our investigators had a really good time as well. One of our investigators, Olya, introduced me to her husband and his sister and her daughter that came. They became some of our new investigators. Our other investigator, Nastya, the ten year old girl that I told you about had a lot of fun and she was showing me some of the things that she got from the party. She got this tiny stuffed penguin and a couple of wristbands. Gena stole my camera and he started taking a few pictures with it. I'd show you, but I just realized I forgot my camera. I left it back at the apartment. I'll send you some next week and I'll have the Ewarts send you some this week because they took a lot. The Christmas party went as follows: it started at five. We had a skit, Elder Hackett was dressed up as Santa Claus, or as they call him: Grandfather Frost. Lena conducted the skit. The older woman sang some traditional Christmas songs, we read some riddles,  and then we ate. After dinner, we took a Branch Christmas photo. 
So even though we felt like we've been ditched a lot this week and we haven't been that successful.. I suppose numbers can't lie that we had some success this week. We got five new investigators and five investigators at Sacrament Meeting. We just had a lot of miracles happen this week. 
We did drop some investigators though. One of them, her name is Yana,  was engaged to one of our recent converts, Chidi. He was one of the Nigerian soccer players. But they had a misunderstanding and Yana realized that she wasn't ready for marriage quite yet. To make a long story short,  she broke it off. Since Chidi was the only reason she came to Vinnitsya, I doubt she will be coming back. She works and stays mostly in Kyiv. We went over to him on Christmas Eve and talked to him and read some scriptures. We read D&C 121:7-9 together which gave him a lot of encouragement. He said that he was confident that God would take care and he knows what's best for him.  Chidi definitely has a strong testimony and is one of our strongest recent converts. Our other recent Convert is Katya Solinko. She is starting to question the church a lot and she is starting to question the temple. She's getting really mad because we won't tell her all the details of what goes on in the temple. She apparantly read some anti-mormon literature on the internet about the temple and it scared her. We're trying to work with her, but things don't look so good for Katya at the moment. Elder Hackett and Elder Fudge told me that she mostly got baptized for Elder Gregoire, the missionary that taught her. Just cause she really likes Elder Gregoire and will do pretty much whatever he says. 
So yeah.. It ended up being a really good week.  As for today, we are going to eat out at our usual place after this, at El Paso, and then shop for our weekly groceries and then relax for the rest of the day. Oh, Gena called me this morning and told me that I am giving the lesson for FHE. I came up with a short lesson about enduring to the end during my studies this morning. 
Love you!
Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas from Vinnitsya! 12/20/2010

Inside of church building in Vinnitsya

Decorating for Christmas with Gena and Elder Munzer

Zach and Elder Munzer

Alright so, this week has been better than last week. We've had a lot of our lessons work and made some progress with investigators this week. Zone conference was also really cool. L'viv is a really nice city. Everyone says it is the most beautiful city in the mission, so hopefully I'll get to serve there someday soon. L'viv is for Ukrainian speakers only, so chances are that I'll get there someday. But for right now I'm really content here in Vinnitsya. L'viv is titled the City of Lions, I think it is because they have this running of the lions in L'viv, similar to the running of the bulls in Spain. I don't know if that's a rumor or if it's true, I suppose I'll have to ask around. Zone conference was on Friday and it was a lot of fun. President Steinagel got up and talked about the importance of being bold but simple. Simply teaching the basics, doctrines of Christ. It reminded me of when Elder Bednar came to the MTC.  President Steinagel said a lot of the same things. Then we had some contacting exercises about how to be bold but simple on the street. Elders Whiting and Larsen from Zhetomyr, who have been getting like 12 new investigators every week, got up and shared their success stories and some of their secrets. It didn't really apply to us  who were in Vinnitsya because we can't really contact here but it made Elder Munzer and I think of how we could try to talk about the gospel with people on the streets of Vinnitsya. The new missionaries, including myself, then got up and bared testimonies. Later that night we went caroling in the center L'viv.  Some of us were singing and others were contacting.  People in Ukraine love carolers. So we are going to be doing that in Vinnitsya soon. Probably this week.  And then till the next Christmas on January 7th. I contacted a few people as well. People in L'viv seem to be more open then in Vinnitsya. It made it seem easier. Then we got on the train and headed back to Vinnitsya. The train left at 8. The train ride consisted of the following: Telling scary stories with Elder Whiting and Elder Larsen, playing the harmonica with Elder Brink(who is also serving in Zhyetomyr), and quoting Harry Potter with Elder Lewis and Elder Morrisen(who are serving in Xmelninske). We got back to Vinnitsya at 3 in the morning. We were exhausted, but glad to be back and full of new ideas.
So here's a little bit about President Steinagel: He served a mission in the Caman Islands, I think he said, speaking Swahili. You might think how someone like him would be called to be a president in the Kyiv Ukraine Mission... well, he's a linguist. Not only does he know Swahili, but he also knows Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Ukrainian. He is a very optimistic and up beat person. He somehow makes everything sound exciting. He always has so much energy when he talks. He's very open to change and he's all about new ideas. He always saying, "Now, how can we make this more fun?" He also really enjoys numbers. He thinks that when you focus on numbers, you can better focus on individuals. Which didn't make sense to me at first, but now I think I get what he means. Now, I'm pretty sure Sister Steinagel was a nurse or a nutritionist because she is always giving advice on how to be healthy. Always telling us and reminding us to eat fruits and vegetables and always offering advice on how to recover from illnesses and to eat healthier. So either, she's a nurse... or she has a lot of free time on her hands.  President Steinagel told us that we are going to be having a mission doctor come in  February, and when he said that he joked about how Sister Steinagel won't know what to do with herself when that happens.
Anyways, exchanges went really well this week. We had Elder Lewis and Morrison come over from Xmelninske for another exchange. So we had two exchanges this week. We went out to what is called a celo. A celo is a small village that's located on the outskirts of the cities out in the countryside. The celo here outside of Vinnitsya is called Medvezhavyshka. We have a lot of members out there. So we go out every now and then and spend the whole day meeting members and investigators out there. We went out on Wednesday.  The people there always feed us soooo much food. I'm stuffed by the time we leave the village. I ate so much food on Wednesday that on Thursday I didn't really eat anything and I wasn't hungry at all that day. The women here always tell me to eat more and feed me so much. Even the youth. Tanya and Zina made me like a million sandwiches last Sunday and they kept feeding them to me and kept saying that I need to eat more.  Oh, also the youth here are really into Ping Pong. Who knew? Ukrainians love Ping Pong. So while I'm preaching the Gospel here, I'm also honing my Ping Pong skills. Tanya and Zina play it all the time. They are always at the church playing ping pong. And they crush me every time I try to play them. My goal is to beat them at least once before I leave Vinnitsya. The other elders say that that will never happen. We'll see.
So, what do I do for P-day? We sometimes go bowling. One of the youth here, Gena, he loves to go bowling and always asks us at church "hey are you going bowling tomorrow?". We do a little sight-seeing. Vinnitsya has some pretty sweet statues here. As for today, we are just going to go shopping. One of the members asked us to shovel the snow by the church so we are going to do that, and then just relax for the rest of the day. At 6:30 we have FHE with the youth. So we hang out with them, eat ice cream, have a spiritual thought, and play games for the rest of the night. Oh, and play ping pong. Oh, we also have lesson with a new investigator, Hastya. She is a grandaughter and lives with one of the members, Sister Chalix. We're going to teach the rest of the restoration and help Sister Chalix hold Family Home Evening at her house.

Love you,
Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, December 13, 2010

Week 3 in Vinnitsya 12/13/2010

Church in Vinnitsya

 We have a washer in the apartment, but we have to hang dry our clothes. That's how we do laundry in Ukraine. So there's two Christmas' and two New Years here in Ukraine. There is the December 25th Christmas, which usually members of the church celebrate it with us and other Christian denominations in Ukraine. And then there is the Pragoslavian (orthodox) Christmas which is Jan 6, which is what most people celebrate in Ukraine. Some people celebrate both, just as a way to give and get more gifts.  Then there's New Years Day(Jan 1) and then the old New Years Day which is like Jan 18.
This week has actually been pretty warm.  It's been like 5-9 degrees every day this week, so like 40-50 degrees this week. It's cooled off a little and we got some snow yesterday.
As far as this week goes it hasn't been too well. We set the record for most investigators at church and member present lessons last week, but this week didn't go so well. We got dogged on, ditched, so many times this week, probably like 10 or 11 times. We had planned for like 7 investigators coming to church, who told us they would be there, but only one showed up. Serhi was the only investigator to show up. Bummer.. But it just makes me want to work harder.
We still had a pretty interesting week. Here's what happened:
1. So we have these less active members, Natasha and Demitri, who are from Russia, and they speak English really well so we just teach them in English. They really love the church and the Book of Mormon but the only reason they don't come to church is that they are afraid to leave their house. Natasha is a very paranoid person.  I'm pretty sure it's something mental and Demitri kinda agrees with everything she says. She thinks that ex-members of the KGB are after her and Demitri and they are  part of a conspiracy to tear down the Kyiv Temple. They always feel like they are being watched and people are trying to kill them, so they never leave their house anymore. We went to visit them this week and they found this phone w/out a sim card. It was a pretty nice slider, even though it looked a little beat up. They said that they looked on the internet and found that you can still listen to people through a phone without a sim card and only a battery. And they were like " we have proof now that people are listening in to our conversations and that people are spying on us and that people are trying to kill us!" They have a tendency to make everything sound dramatic and to jump to these random conclusions. They also said that they found these stereos and they thought that they were tapped as well. Elder Munzor and I were like..."we gotta go" We shared a quick spiritual thought about the Book of Mormon and following the counsel in it. They gave us the phone when we left. President Steinagel's advice to us concerning Natasha and Demitri is just to be their friends and keep telling them that we'd love to see them at church. We do that and usually share a thought about faith and prayer, doing what God wants you to do even though it seems scary.We haven't really made much progress with them.
2. We've had a couple of drunk people walk into the church.. it happens sometimes. One of two things happens when drunk people come into the church building. They either swear at the missionaries or tell us how much they love us and this church and then grab all the pamphlets we give them and then they give us their number. The second option happened. His name was Roman and he seemed to be loving life. He said he would come to church the next day(This was on Saturday) but he didn't show, no surprise. We'll probably give him a ring soon.
3. We got this referral from Kyiv. Her name was Nadiya. She invited us over on Saturday to her house and said that she would be happy to meet with us. We got excited and thought "Yes! new investigator!" It took us like an hour to get to her address and when we finally got there she wasn't there.  Her roommate/friend was there and told us that she went back to Kyiv to visit her son and that she said that she didn't want us to call her anymore. If she wanted to meet with us she would give us a call. After wards... we kinda just stood there walked around for a little and then I turned to Elder Munzer and finally said "Well... this sucks" We took the hour journey back into Vinnitsya and tried to figure out what we could do for the rest of the day.
4. So on Sunday, Sister Prakobovich, the Branch chorister, wasn't there. She was in the hospital for a check up that day. So Elder Hackett, who was also the 2nd counselor in the Branch Presidency, approached me and said "Elder McEntire, do you know how to you lead?" I answered "Yeah kinda" He replied "Oh, good. You are like the only one out of us who can kinda sing. You're leading today." It was pretty much a train wreck. Elder Fudge played the piano with one hand because he only knows how to play with one hand. There's only one person in the Branch who knows how to play piano, Katya. Well actually Tanya and Zina(mini missionaries that came back with us from Kyiv) know how to play but they refuse. So Elder Fudge and I were in charge of the music that day. Even though there are people in the Branch who can sing, the people who can't sing try so hard and sing so loud that you can't hear the people you can actually sing. And all you hear is high-pitched squealing from those who can't sing. Sister Prakobovich  sings really loud and really well. So the music usually sounds good because you can only hear her. But it was me trying to lead and I don't sing that loud. All the youth had this grin on their faces as I was going up. They probably felt my pain.
So that was my week. Oh, we had a read the Book of Mormon day on Wednesday. Which was nice. This week we're  going on exchanges with some of the Russian speaking elders on Tuesday and Wednesday. So we'll see how that goes. Then we have zone conference in L'viv on Friday. Which I am definately excited for. Mostly cause it's an 8 hour train ride from here to L'viv and that gives me an opportunity to nap. I also hear zone conference is way fun.
So this week was more meeting with the members and less actives. All our investigators can be given baptismal dates. We just need to meet with them and none of them could meet this last week. We need to start handing out baptism dates like they're hot cakes. The youth are really cool. They joke around with me a lot. The call me Elder Macaroni for some reason. Well the girls do(Tany, Zina, and Lena). So, Tanya and Zina are the ex-mini missionaries from Kyiv. They're both like 17/18. Lena is a returned missionary. She served in Moscow. She is like 23. Then there is Gena. He served a mini mission too. But he is starting to work on his mission papers. He is 20. Then there was Sasha who just left for the MTC. He was a goof, he's 19. And that's pretty much the youth here. I need to start taking more pictures and videos to send you. I have a couple.
Love Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, December 6, 2010

Another week in Vinnitsya 12/6/2010

Kyiv Mission

So I've been here in Ukraine now for over a week, and it's been awesome. I'm really enjoying it here! Even thought it is pretty cold. Last week, we got the first Ukrainian blizzard of the season.  It was snowing hard.  Apparently there will be a lot more of those this winter. Last week it got to about -15 degree's C(Which is about 5 degrees F I think), but then it started warming up later in the week. Everyone in the branch keeps asking me if I'm cold, but I give them the same response.. only a little bit. My Trainer, Elder Munzer, said that no matter how layered you are you're never really warm, just less cold. Last winter it got about -33 C and they say it will be the same this winter if not colder. Right now its only -2 C, so not that cold, but the humidity and the wind make it seems a lot worse than it really is. 
So, the picture you got from the Senior couple, The Ewarts, was taken on my second day in Ukraine. We were in the train station on our way from Kyiv to Vinnitsya. In that picture is Elder Munzor and me, the Ewarts, Elder Fudge and Elder Hackett, and two mini missionaries who were from Vinnitsya, Tanya and Zina. They were serving a mini mission, a 6-12 week mission usually in Kyiv but sometimes in L'viv or Odessa. That's our District here in Vinnitsya. Elder Munzor and I(Ukrainian speaking elders) Elder Fudge and Hackett(Russian speaking elders) and the Ewarts(Senior couple). The Ewarts told me to tell you that you could e-mail them any time if you had questions because they have unlimited access to e-mail. The Ewarts are from DuschaneCounty in Utah, Elder Fudge is from Southern California, and Elder Hackett is from Arkansas. Our District here is really tight. We have District meeting/brunch at the Ewarts every Tuesday and a District lunch every Sunday after church.
So the building we meet is an actual LDS chapel. It's really nice. Oh and a funny fact about the church... it's right across from the Jehovah witness' chapel. Weird huh? I don't know who was there first or if that location for either church was coincidence or on purpose. 
So a couple things that happened this week. One of the youth from our branch, Sasha(by the way, Sasha is a very very popular name in Ukraine almost everyone has this name so when I can't remember someones name I just guess Sasha and I'm usually right) left for the MTC yesterday. He is going to Ekatarinburg, Russia. He gave his farewell talk last Sunday and asked for a Priesthood blessing from the Ewarts and we were invited to be there for his blessing. His farewell talk wasn't as big of a deal as it would be here in Utah. His family didn't show up to hear him talk, mainly cause they are inactive or nonmembers. It amazes me how much these people give up to be a part of this church. A lot of the members live on the other side of the city and they travel for quite a bit just to make it to church every Sunday. Most people take public transit. It's weird cause I see cars all the time but no one we teach have cars so I always ask myself "Where do all these cars come from?" 
We got a few new investigators this week. Thats the hardest part for us because of the proselyting rules here in Vinnitsya. Since we can't really contact, tract or handout English ads/flyers it's hard to find new investigators, but we find them nonetheless. The thing about contacting here is that we can't bring up the gospel. It can't be the first thing that comes out of our mouths. They have to ask us a question about it, then we can talk to them about the church. So we call it "natural conversations" here in Vinnitsya. It still is a skill that I have yet to perfect.  I still have to work at it. Some good ideas to start conversations here is to ask directions, or just any question in general. If you ask a Ukrainian a question about Ukraine or the language, they will drop everything and help you. I also catch people staring at my name tag, I don't know why but people's eyes are always attracted. So when I catch people staring at it I go up and start talking to them. "Natural conversations" isn't really the most effective way to find new investigators here. The best way is through members, referrals, and the area book. But having conversations with others is a skill that I need to develop as a missionary, so I just need to keep working at it.
Vinnitsya is the fourth largest city in our mission. First is Kyiv, Second is Odessa, third is L'viv, and then it's Vinnitsya. 
There's a few popular phrases here in Ukraine regarding religion. "God is one" is what most people say or "All paths lead to God". Most people here believe that all churches are true and it doesn't matter what church you attend as long you go to one. Most people also believe that being baptized a second time is a sin. The biggest religions here are Ukrainian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Baptist. Although the Orthodox churches are pretty cool looking here. Also Ukrainians are very family oriented, which is good and bad. Good because they believe a lot in the fact that family is central, but bad because most people don't make any kind of decision without consulting everyone in their family. And if one person disagrees then they don't make that decision.  This isn't always the case, but it happens often.
I've never seen so many stray dogs and cats in my life. In Ukraine you will see stray dogs chilling on the sidewalks all the time. You will also see herds of dogs traveling around a lot. You will also occasionally see a dog fight and people act like it's no big deal. 
As for the Christmas call, I can skype to you from the Ewarts' computer. You just tell me when on Christmas you want to talk. Like what time? 

Elder McEntire

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Hello from Ukraine 12/4/2010

Good evening,

We are Elder and Sister Ewart. We are the senior missionary couple serving in Vinnitsya Ukraine with your son Elder McEntire. We thought you might like to see the picture I took at the Вокзал (train station) of Sister Ewart and our Elders along with our two returning Sister Mini-missionaries last week after transfers. You might recognize one of the Elders in the picture. The Elder to his left is his companion,  Elder Munzer. He had only been in the country a few days when he was assigned to our area. He was at our apartment today with all of our Elders. He assisted while I gave a blessing to a native Elder who leaves in the morning headed to the MTC in Provo. He will be serving a mission in Russia. We just wanted to let you know he is doing very well, and I'm sure you will be hearing soon about Vinnitsya and this great work. Thanks for sending us this great young Elder. Please keep all of us in your prayers.

Elder & Sister Ewart