Monday, January 31, 2011

I feel like I'm teaching crazy people! 1/31/2011

A rundown well in Medvezhevushko
Looking down the well

The Temple card that the missionaries pass around

 It is starting to get colder here. It was pretty cold this week. Right now it is 0 C and is starting to snow a little bit. The river is starting to freeze back over. Which is cool cause that means we can now walk on it again.  That also means that we can save some money on transportation. As far as teaching young kids.. yeah I do. We have an investigator, Nastya. She is ten years old. We found her through her Grandma, Sister Chalikh. She had a baptismal date for Feb. 11, but we had to drop it. She hasn't been coming to church, and well... you can't be baptized into a church that you never come to. She just can't get up early for church and we've been trying to get her grandma to help her, but she doesn't want to force anything on Nastya. I guess she thinks waking up Nastya is like forcing her to come to church.  She always tells us "Elders it's not my desire. It is Nastya's desire to get up and come to church."  And I was thinking to myself "It should be your desire too! She is your granddaughter!"  But I can respect that she doesn't want to force anything, but she isn't being a huge source of encouragement for Nastya. They read the scriptures and pray together, which is good, but we just need her to come to church. So we are postponing the baptism until we can get her to come. One time Elder James and I went over to teach her and we did a little FHE with them.  The plan was to teach the commandment: follow the Prophet. I brought over a Primary hymn book and we sang that hymn... "Follow the Prophet".  But Sister Chalikh didn't know it and Elder James couldn't really read Ukrainian very well, because he is a Russian speaking missionary. So it was basically me serenading a ten year old girl with Primary hymns. Oh, Elder Munzer was in Kyiv when that was going on. We give her these origami things we make because Nastya loves origami. We gave her a paper origami airplane that Elder Fudge made.  Sister Chalikh was playing with it the whole time during that lesson. I was like "So, Nastya, Jesus Christ commands us to follow the counsel of the prophets. Why?...." And Sister Chalikh was  playing with the airplane, making engine noises and acting like she was a little kid again. And I was like "Uh... ok. Anyways..."  As far as a Primary class... we used to have a Primary class, but not anymore. People don't really feel comfortable bringing their little ones. We have a couple of families, but the only full family that comes are the Madys. Katya Mady usually takes her kids outside in the hall to play. The Primary room is more like a babysitting room rather than an actual Primary. 

I brought up at our District Meeting last week that I feel like we are just teaching a bunch of crazy people. This week has been pretty discouraging. Elder Munzer was in Kyiv again with Elder Fudge for most of the week. So there was only one companionship in the area, Elder James and myself.  I got sick this week, so I wasn't very helpful either. We tried to give baptismal dates this week, but people just aren't taking them. I had one lesson with a Gospel English investigator, Alexander.  We started off talking about the importance of God and families. I asked what he thought about families and how his family has blessed him and he went off talking about dogs and monkeys and evolution and Darwinism and how in some animal families the parents eat the children to survive and I thought... either my Ukrainian is really bad or this man is totally insane.  Lena was there and her mouth was open in disbelief of what this guy was saying.  She was laughing pretty hard, too. We had him read the Restoration pamphlet in English and he just responded with "hmm... interesting" every time he flipped a page. I thought that that idea was going no where, so I started asking him what he thought, if this was possible and he starting talking about how your brain can make things exist and how some people really can have super powers. We talked about faith and then he started talking about how people used to think the earth was the center of the universe and then about radio waves. I decided to give him a baptismal commitment anyway.   I asked him if he would pray tonight to know if Joseph Smith really was a prophet, and if he knew it was true then would he be baptized. He was like "I have my bus in 10 min." Bummer. I double checked with Lena to make sure  I heard him right about all the things he was saying. And yeah, I heard right. So he was just crazy. Makes me feel batter about my Ukrainian at least....

So yeah.. that's my week. Not very productive. Everyone was either dogging us or at work this week. And with only one companionship in the area, we didn't get a lot accomplished. Anyways, my health is doing good and  Elder Munzer doesn't have Diabetes... which is good. 
Love you!
Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another week in Vinnitsya 1/24/2011

At the train station buying tickets to Khmelninski

This week has been good. As for the weather.. it's been pretty warm lately. Right now it is -2 C. This week and last week it got up to like 5-9 C, which is pretty unheard of in Ukraine for this time of year. People tell me it should be like -25 C right now. It has cooled a little bit and snowed a little bit more too. But not too much. People are saying that it will get cold in February. January and February are usually the coldest months.  Mid March is when it starts to warm up more.  

As for this week, we were in Khmelninski on Tuesday for Zone Meeting. Our train left at 2 AM and I didn't sleep at all. The only sleep I got that night was for 30 min on the floor in the Zone Leaders apartment in Khmelninski. We went to the rinok, outside market, and did buy a few ties. Zone meeting was great. President was fired up and ecstatic as always. We talked about the importance of bringing people to church and promising people blessings for coming to sacrament meeting. ( Like receiving answers to prayers, making friends, taking the sacrament, etc.)  We then thought of all the investigators that didn't come to sacrament the previous week and practiced teaching to them. President then had a presentation about our goal for 2011: 200 baptisms. He titled it 200 in 2011. He also said something that I thought was really cool.  He said  "Look outside.. can you imagine a Ukraine where everyone keeps the commandments of God?  What would people be like, or this country, if everyone kept the Sabbath Day holy or the word of wisdom?" This was after reading the story of Enoch and how God had a plan for him to teach and preach the gospel. His faith was so strong that mountains and rivers were moved and eventually a whole city was taken up into heaven. I thought about a lot of people I talked to, complaining about the politics of Ukraine, or members struggling to get enough money to even buy food. People who always are walking around with a bottle of vodka in their hands complaining how they've got nothing else in their life. Then I read a section in Preach My Gospel saying that when people don't keep the Sabbath Day then all areas of their life are negatively affected. I wondered just how different these people would be if they kept these commandments. We shared this thought with a lot of the members after we returned back to Vinnitsya.  Some members marveled at this thought while others thought we were insane! Others joked and said " It would be like Utah!" and then saying that it would be a cool thing to see happen. Well, I think after that meeting, even though being totally sleep deprived, I thought a lot more about what really could happen this next two years that I'm in Ukraine. I think I'm starting to catch the vision that President has.

Speaking of visions that President has... he told the Zone Leaders in the mission to tell everyone that he wants us to invite people to be baptized on the first lesson, like the first time we meet with people. He told us with confidence that it would work. We thought to ourselves that president has lost his mind! But as we thought more about it, it made sense to us missionaries. And well, if he says it will work then I guess I believe him. 

So about missionary work, This week was a little bit slow. A lot of plans fell through this week. Only one investigator showed up to sacrament meeting. But this week we are just going to go out and commit everyone to baptism.  Of course, explain it first about what baptism means and its importance. I suppose it makes sense... people don't get baptized unless you ask them. I can't believe I just figured this out!

So in other news, Elder Munzer bought a mini DVD player a couple of weeks ago and when he tried it out.. it didn't work. It wouldn't read his hard drive. He tried taking it back but the people said that you need a Ukrainian passport to return stuff. He tried going back with Gena on Saturday but the man at the front said "Sorry we don't return things on Saturday." It was frustrating enough for Elder Munzer just to buy it because everyone was like "Don't talk to me.. talk to him. I'm not in charge of that... talk to the other person." After we return the player successfully, I don't think we are ever going back there.

 Oh, I was wondering if you could tell me more about my actual baptism experience. Since I have been asking everyone here (everyone in Ukraine is a convert) about their baptism experience and how life has improved I thought more about my conversion experience and the steps leading up to going on a mission. The only things I remember about it are being dunked twice because I didn't go under the first time and it was at our Stake Center in California (Dublin) right? 

So yeah, everything is good here. Love you!
Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, January 17, 2011


A ram at the local zoo

Gena feeding a camel at the zoo

I'm alive and doing fine. Things started to pick up a little this week.

The holidays in Ukraine are now over and people are going back to school and work and the normal routine. It was the Old New Year this past Thursday, but we still got some meetings this week. We had a plan of giving two baptismal dates this week, but it didn't happen. We tried to give a baptismal date to one investigator, Zhennya. He met with the missionaries back in 2005 and he's been meeting with missionaries ever since. We came across him in the area book. The last elders got frustrated with him and dropped him because he wasn't really going anywhere. We decided to give him a call though, because the last time he was taught by other missionaries was like a year and a half ago. His biggest problem is that he has an alcohol addiction.  He has been making progress, but he doesn't want to accept a date until he has conquered the addiction.  He hasn't been drinking for a while and he came to church yesterday for the  first time in years, so he's making progress. We wanted to give another date to another investigator who lives in the celo, Olya. She was a referral from one of our members, Sister Prakobovich. She's doing really well.  She reads the scriptures with Sister Prakobovich and she introduced her family to us. But she doesn't really come to church unless Sister Prakobovich comes and she works a lot now which makes it hard to meet. She told us she was going to come to church yesterday, but she didn't show. So, we couldn't meet. And there's Karina. She was a former investigator.  The missionaries just lost contact with her. I found her teaching record and called her up a couple of  weeks ago and she said she wanted to meet. She is from Ecuador and is here in Ukraine studying medicine. She has been taught the restoration a million times and she accepts it really well.  She has also read a lot in the Book of Mormon, but she hasn't been taught much else. She knows Spanish, Russian, and a little bit of English. She can kinda understand Ukrainian, but she keeps asking me to speak in Russian. I basically just speak Ukrainian and replace it with what little Russian words I know. The first time we met, she actually though I was Ukrainian because I wouldn't speak with her in Russian. Anyways, she can be a little flaky. We were going to give her a baptismal date yesterday, but she didn't show up for the lesson... bummer. It seems to be the trend here.  Whenever we get to the point where we want to give baptismal dates to investigators, we lose contact with them or the investigator just drops of the face of the earth.

As for our one investigator with a baptismal date, Nastya... she hasn't been coming to church. Mostly because church starts at ten and she can't wake up that early... mostly cause she is ten years old. Her Grandmother is one of the strongest members in our branch and always comes every Sunday. We found Nastya through her, since they live together. But she just won't wake up Nastya! Really annoying. I called Sister Chalikh, grandma of Nastya, Sunday morning to make sure that they were both awake and coming. Sister Chalikh replied "Nastya is sleeping, but I will wake her up and we will both be there. We will." But only Sister Chalikh showed. We asked her what the deal was and where Nastya was and she replied "Oh, she was really tired and sleepy, so I just let her rest." And in my mind I thought to myself "That is the WORST excuse I have ever heard in my life!" So we are thinking that there is a bigger concern behind this. It might have to do with Nastya's mom. But we are going to figure it out this week. If we don't then we will either have to move Nastya's baptismal date back or just drop her as a investigator. So either there is some bigger reason that is keeping Nastya from coming to church or just an extremely kind Grandma. If this really is the reason why Nastya isn't coming to church,( by the way this is like the fourth time this has happened) then I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or be really pissed. Especially if we have to drop Nastya simply because Sister Chalikh won't wake her up and bring her to church. We might go over to their place next Sunday and wake Nastya up ourselves.

So, this week we are going to Khmelninski for our Zone meeting tomorrow. We are getting on a train at 1 am and arriving there at 4 am. We are pretty excited about it though. Khmelninski has a really nice tie shop that is super cheap-- like a dollar a tie(10 hriven). So we are probably going to get some ties while we are there. This week seems to be looking pretty good. I have a good feeling about this week for some reason.
Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, January 10, 2011

Don't Worry.....It's still the Holiday season here 1/10/2011

The frozen river we walk on everyday.  It makes travel cheap.

District Meeting right before Elder Hackett left for Moldova

Pragoslavian Church

So this past week has kinda been a slow one. Not a lot of progress. This week was transfer week and Pragoslavian Christmas was this week as well. So pretty much no one could meet. 
Transfer meeting was on Thursday. Elder Munzer and Hackett went to Kyiv while Elder Fudge and I stayed in Vinnitsya. Elder Hackett got transferred to Moldova.  Moldova is a pretty interesting place because it is part of two missions, ours and the Romanian Mission. The only missionaries who serve there are Moldovian speaking missionaries(Moldovian is pretty much the same thing as Romanian from what I hear) and Russian speaking missionaries. Russian speaking missionaries bounce back between Moldova and Ukraine. Since I am speaking Ukrainian, I won't get the chance to go to Moldova. That's alright though. Elder Munzer had to go to the hospital in Kyiv, the American Medical Center, because he has this rare case of Diabetes. It's called Diabetes Insipatese, I think. It's not serious. It's where your kidney receptors don't really pick up water.. so water just goes straight through you. He'll just have to take a pill every day and he should be fine. That's what Sister Steinagel told him. He is in Kyiv right now because he has another appointment. I pretty much spent the whole week with Elder Fudge, because Elder Munzer and Hackett went in early for Elder Munzer's appointment and then stayed a couple days late because Elder Munzer had District Leader training. The new elder here is from Moldova, and the Romanian Mission. His name is Elder James. He has been out for a year and a couple months now. So it's him and me in Vinnitsya right now. Elders Muzner and Fudge will return back to Vinnitsya tomorrow. Since Elder Hackett was the Second Counselor in the Branch, Elder Ewart called Elder James to replace him. So, Elder James pretty much got thrown into it all his first day here.
So, I'm now starting my second transfer... crazy. Now that I kinda know what I'm doing, I definitely want to do better this transfer. I'm starting to teach a lot more, make more phone calls, I kinda know my way around the city. I just want to keep continuing to teach, listen to people, and pay attention to where I'm going. I feel pretty good about how this next transfer will turn out since we already have a solid baptismal date for Feb. 11. We are planning on giving another baptismal date this week. The zone leaders want every district to get 2 baptismal dates this week. I feel like we can do it.
So, yeah this week was slow.. everyone just couldn't meet since it was another Christmas. The Old New Year is this Thursday so we might be getting the same responses this week. 
President Steinagel is making some changes to the Standards of Excellence, which are the standards that he expects each missionary to hit. President Steinagel loves numbers. He firmly believes that the more you focus on numbers, the more you can focus on individuals. We as missionaries are not really sure what that means but that goes with a lot of things President says. We just shake our heads go "Okay President....sure" whenever he says something super profound. As for the standards, he wants to focus a lot more on referrals we are receiving. As of right now, he wants us to get six referrals for each companionship. Which is... a lot. The baptismal goal for 2011 is 200. We got like 145... somewhere around that for 2010.  Being on a mission actually makes me realize the importance of missionary work. I kinda wish I would have given more referrals to the missionaries when they would ask me. It's kinda a long tedious process of obtaining referrals. You just need to ask people over and over, but we noticed that the strongest members in our branch are the ones who were referrals. 
Alright, so I do kinda have a funny story for the week. Men in Ukraine can sometimes be really stubborn and just don't want to turn to anyone for help and don't want to admit that they are wrong. I have two examples of people like this that I have met with this week. One is named Anatoli. We found him through Gospel English class. His initial desire was that he wanted to learn English, but we told him if we were going to speak English then we would talk about the Gospel. He agreed. But through our meetings with him he tried to twist the conversation to talk about things that he wanted to talk about, like America or England. Occasionally it did work. He thought he was pretty clever for doing so. Last meeting we had with him was on Wednesday. It was just me and Elder Fudge. Also a member was there, Lena Chernova who knows English way well. Before we started, Anatoli made the remark, "I think it's going to be hard for me today because Munzer isn't here and I can't understand McEntire's English".  I was like "Good!  Let's speak in Ukrainian then." The meeting was mostly in Ukrainian because whenever he asked me to speak English I spoke really fast so it was impossible for him to understand. So he just gave up on speaking English. We watched the restoration movie in Russian.  He asked me if it was in English and I quickly responded "no".  We tried to get him to commit to pray about it, but he insisted on saying the Lord's prayer and only the Lord's prayer. So we dropped him.  If he doesn't pray... then there's no sense in meeting with him. The next meeting was with one of Elder Fudge's investigators, Olga,  and a former investigator of Elder Fudge's who comes on the lesson, Sasha. Elder Fudge tried giving him a baptismal date before but Sasha said he wouldn't do anything until he got to America.  I guess he thought that we were going to take him to America. On  the lesson Sasha said weird things like Australia  was spying on America, or trying to become like America and we said that that wasn't true.  He said "I have Australian friends so... I'm right." I also think that Sasha was trying to prove that he knew English better than me. He was asking me about English words and then giving  synonyms for those words. Then he was acting all proud and saying "Sorry, I just know vocabulary."  He would show all the words he knew in English and be like "I know vocabulary. Sorry, but it is true." We find a lot of strange people through Gospel English. 
So yeah that was my week. It was a little quiet, but hopefully we are going to shake things up this week.
Love you all!
Elder Zach McEntire