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?