Monday, February 28, 2011

"So....I left my passport in Vinnitsya!" 2/28/2011

Baptism day for an eight year old child in our Branch

Elder Carnes with "Shrek" playing the accordian in Kyiv

Our shower in Bila Tserkva is the best ever!

Graffiti by the church in Bila Tserkva

Just kidding about the title! But I do have a story to tell, and don't worry, it all ends well. So, I thought last week was chaotic..but this week was really a mess. I was running ragged everywhere this week. But now I do feel a little more settled here in Bila Tserkva. So, I guess it's not that unusual that I got transferred out of Vinnitsya. A lot of people told me that President doesn't usually keep missionaries in their first area for very long. Elder Munzer was in his first area for four transfers (six months) so I just thought I would be there for a little while longer. Well, I think I'm probably gonna be here in Bila Tserkva for a little while. I think about three transfers. I'm pretty sure I'll stick with Elder Carnes for about two transfers and then he will leave Bila Tserkva and I'll have another companion for one transfer and then I'll leave. That's what I'm guessing. It should be summer time by then, like the end of June.  I'd like to spend the summer in a big city like Kyiv or L'viv.

Anyways, this is Elder Carnes' ninth transfer in the mission field. He will hit his "year in the country mark" in a week or so. So, I am still junior companion. There is a term that missionaries use for your second companion, the one after your trainer. It is called a "weaner". So, your first companion is your "trainer", someone who trains you on how do do mission work in that specific field, how to speak the language better, how to relate to the people of the country, and etc. The "weaner" helps you to learn how to deal with different companions, since you kinda get use to doing missionary work a certain way with your trainer. They help you lean how to do missionary work with different people. Obviously, President doesn't use this term.  It's just a missionary term. It's a little bit of a change, going from serving with an Englishman to a guy from the dirty south. But I'm lovin' it, regardless. Elder Carnes is a lot of fun. Sometimes I do feel like the senior companion  though, cause Elder Carnes kinda just lets me do a lot of the work. He's not a big fan of Bila Tserkva.  He has served in the west his whole mission, in areas where they speak nice clean Ukrainian, and then he got transferred here where they speak a lot of what is called serjik.(Which is a mix of Ukrainian and Russian and really difficult to understand to most missionaries.) Bila Tserkva is the Serjik capital of Ukraine. I heard a little bit of Serjik while I was in Vinnitsya, but it wasn't this bad.  Somehow Ukrainians can understand it, but foreigners have a harder time. Elder Carnes isn't hesitate to admit that this isn't his favorite area, but he says he still has fun regardless. We definitely still have fun.

Alright, so this week the assistants (assistants to the president) called me and said that I had Visa problems, so I would have to go back to Vinnitsya and sort it out this week. They told me to go to Kyiv that night. This was on a Tuesday, and that I would be on exchanges with Elder Hill, who also had to go to Vinnitsya for his Visa.  Elder Carnes would stay in Kyiv with Elder Pulliam. So we left that night for Kyiv.  We left at about 8, got into Kyiv about 9/9:30. We got to the metor and got off the stop, but neither Elder Carnes nor I knew our way around Kyiv, so he called Elder Pulliam cause we were staying at their apartment that night. He told us which Marshrutka to take and we did take it. Well, the Marshrutka was crammed.  There were like a million people on that thing, and I got pushed to the front and Elder Carnes got pushed to the back. I just stared at the door waiting to see when Elder Carnes would get off. Well he got off and I failed to notice and the Marshrutka drove on by.  Half an hour passed and I finally realized that Elder Carnes was no longer on the Marshrutka. So I decided to get off and look around. I did and I basically realized what I already knew.... I had no idea where I was. I decided to take a video for fun.  It's too long to send to you, but basically it was me thinking out loud and I basically said "Well... it's 10:36 at night right now and  I've lost my companion.  I'm on the edge of Kyiv in the middle of nowhere and I have no idea what to do..... awesome."  A thought came to my mind to backtrack and just hope that I would either run into Elder Carnes or some missionaries that were, hopefully, looking for me. After twenty minutes of walking and constantly praying, I ran into Elder Hill and Elder Pulliam.  Apparently I got off six stops after Elder Carnes had gotten off.  So we walked back, met up with Elder Carnes and got to their apartment. It was midnight when we got there. Elder Hill and I had a taxi coming to pick us up for Vinnitsya at 4 in the morning. So I got, what felt like, half an hour of sleep before Elder Hill came and woke me up. We got dressed and got into the taxi. It wasn't really a taxi, just a member driving us.  Also in the car was the lady who was in charge of registering the missionaries in Ukraine, Lena Butsenko, who is also a member. Elder Hill and I were under the impression that we were gonna have a nice smooth car ride to Vinnitsya. Well to our surprise we got to the train station and the man said "Good luck, have a nice trip." We got on the train and arrived in Vinnitsya at like 7. Elder Hill had served in Vinnitsya before, for like 4 transfers. So we knew our way around fairly well. We got to the Registration Office and they said that they weren't handing out passports until ten,and it was now only nine. So we left and Sister Butsenko stayed at the office. We went to get breakfast. We got back at about ten. Come to find out, Lena Butsenko was the typical impatient Ukrainian lady and thought we were late and just told us to stand in line, and then got mad when we didn't go right into the office. We had to explain that there were a lot of people in there. So basically, the only reason I had to go to Vinnitsya was to pick up my passport. I gave it to Lena Butsenko so she could register me. (She could of sent it to me in Bila Tserkva.) We got our passports, She had to get a photo copy of our visas and then we got on a bus   back to Kyiv. We got in Kyiv at about 4:30 and Elder Hill and I both turned to each other and asked "What was the point of that trip?!" We met back up with Elder Carnes and Elder Pulliam and then we got packed and had some dinner at Visyvio's,  a pizza place in Kyiv. (Some of the best pizza I've ever had, so I'm not complaining.)  At least the trip ended on a good note. We headed back to Bila Tserkva, and I'm so glad to be back.

Alright, so the week ended with a baptism! It wasn't a missionary baptism. It was a Branch baptism of one of the young kids who had just turned eight.  It was good to see a baptism, even though it wasn't ours. The Sisters took a bunch of pictures and I forgot my camera so I'm having them e-mail some to me and then I'll send them to you.

So, yeah. I'm excited that February is over.  It's been a difficult and trying winter for sure. But I'm excited to see what March brings. It should be a good month. We have Zone Conference in Kyiv, Mission Conference, a couple of really good P-day trips to Kyiv planned, spring, and transfer meeting at the end of it all. Oh, and we got a baptismal date this week! His name is Vadim.  He is a real polite guy.  He's been coming to church like every week.  He used to live in Kyiv and met the missionaries there, but he got fired so he moved to Bila Tserkva and was passed to us. He has a date for April 30th.  He has a smoking problem, but we have a lot of time to work with him.
Love you!
Elder Zach McEntire 

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Bila I come!" 2/21/2011

Apartment kitchen in Vinnitsya

Elder Munzer and Zach's "Last Supper"
Brown pasta, cheese, beans, corn, and sashlik sauce--pretty much what Zach has eaten for the last three months.

Man, it has been a crazy and chaotic week. So, remember how I said we were certain that Elder Munzer was being transferred and I was staying in Vinnitsya. Well... Surprise! I got transferred! It was crazy. None of us were expecting it because Elder Ewart knew the transfer info before any of us and he was hinting that Elder Munzer was leaving, but I guess he was tricking us. When we got the call from the zone leaders I yelled into the phone "What do you mean I'm being transferred?!  I just got here!"  Well, yeah. Elder Fudge and I got transferred out of Vinnitsya. He is now in center Odessa and I am in a city called Bila Tserkva.

So here is how my week went....
We got transfer info Tuesday night and transfer meeting is on Thursday. Which only gave me a day to pack and say goodbye to the members. We spent all Wednesday doing that. We got on a train for Kyiv at 3 in the morning, Thursday morning. We had to hurry cause we scheduled a temple session for 8 that morning, but we were a little late, so we missed it and instead got breakfast. Trains always wreck, especially early morning ones. I wore my glasses that day and I felt a little gross cause I didn't shower at all that day or shave. So we find out at transfer meeting where we are going. I found out I was going to Bila Tserkva, which was a total surprise cause I didn't think President would send me there. We then spent the rest of the day in Kyiv doing this "scavenger hunt" that the Assistants had planned for us. We had a list of things we had to do like ask people for their clothes or if we can buy their clothes, ask people for old Ukrainian folk songs, try to get a phone number without using any words, try to get a recipe from an old lady, talk to someone in a vehicle, and so forth. Oh, President did tell us about the new president. He is from Germany and his wife is from Russia. They both know Russian perfectly. When President said that, a lot of us were yelling "What about Ukrainian?!" I guess not... but he will probably pick it up. My new companion, Elder Carnes, and I left for Bila Tserkva that night around 7.

So about this new city, Bila Tserkva. In Ukrainian it means" The White Church". Oh, by the way, Vinnistya means" The Vineyards" in Ukrainian. Cool huh? Anyways Bila Tserkva is right outside of Kyiv. It is about an hour bus ride out of Kyiv, so not too far. It is in the Kyiv Oblast(Providence). It is a smaller city, not too big. It is in the Kyiv west zone. Vinnistya was in the Padilska zone. So I switched zones. Since it is a smaller city, there is not a lot of public transit to take. We basically walk everywhere, which saves money on transportation. There is the occasional Marshrutka that comes through the city, but that's it. No buses or anything like that, as opposed to Vinnitsya where we took public transit all the time. My companion, Elder Carnes, is from South Carolina. He is way funny and cool. My district consists of the following: Ukrainian Elders (Elder Carnes and I) Russian Elders (Elder Polivka and Hurt) and Sisters (Sister Elelyan and Movsisyan). Elder Polivka is from Colorado and Elder Hurt is from Alaska. The Sisters are both from Armenia. Sister Elelyan knows English pretty well. She basically taught herself English while she has been on a mission and Sister Movsisyan knows a little English, but not a lot. They like to practice their English with us. There is a senior couple that comes down to church here every Sunday, but they don't live in Bila Tserkva, so technically they're not in our district. They are the Mayberrys.  Elder Mayberry is the Mission doctor here. There are two branches here. We are over the smaller branch, the Roas (pronounced kinda like roast without the "t". I don't know how to spell it in English) The branch is cool, I got a really warm welcome. It is a bit smaller than the Vinnitsya Branch. There are about 25 to 30 people who come as opposed to the 40 to 50 people who come to the Vinnitsya Branch. In this branch it consists mostly of younger couples with little kids. The Branch President is only like 30, and he is Ukrainian, not a senior missionary. So there are little kids, but as far as youth go, there is only one, Sasha. He is 17 and got baptized a year ago. Oh, so Bila Tserkva is what missionaries call a "dead area". A "dead area" is an area where there hasn't been a baptism in over a year and there is little to no missionary activity. That's Bila Tserkva. I got here and found out that there was like no investigators to teach and that Sahsa was the last baptism. I've definitely got my work cut out for me. I guess President wants to see if I can reactivate a dead area. We got the ball rolling in Vinnitsya. I was sad to go, definitely. Just cause Elder Munzer and I worked really hard there and got so close to getting baptisms, but we didn't get the results we wanted. We had like three or four instances where we gave a baptismal date, they accepted, but then something happened and it got dropped. We did get some less actives and inactive people to come back to church. So I guess we did get some success there. Well, I guess let's see if my companion and I can bring Bila Tserkva back from the dead!
Love you all!
Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, February 14, 2011

"It just went from pretty warm to totally freezing!" 2/14/2011

Zach with Gena

District Meeting in Vinnitsya

Elder Munzer and Zach with Lena, Zina, and Tanya

As for this week, it was definitely busy but good. Yes, I am familiar with the concept of the "Elect of God". "The Elect" is what most missionaries refer to it as. We pray to find these people all the time. Normal people who are ready and willing to accept the gospel. Combined district meeting was great! We went up to Житомир (Zhytomyr, I decided I am going to type more in Ukrainian) on Tuesday. It was about a three hour bus ride from here to there. It was good. We talked about the Doctrines of Christ: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to End. We talked about how they must be taught simply, but powerfully. We must teach in a way that it  always leads to baptism. President always wants us to talk about baptism. He says he sees missionaries bringing it up when they give a date, and then don't talk about it again until like a week before the baptism. My interview with President was good also. He basically said that Elder Munzer told him everything he needed to know about me, which was that I knew the lessons really well, I knew the scriptures really well, and I already knew the language really well. He asked me what I thought and I replied "Well President, I sure hope that all of that is true!" He said according to our numbers here he agrees. He then asked if there was anythiing I needed and I said no. He then asked if he could tell me elephant jokes. He then told me these jokes that were about elephants for like ten minutes and I just sat there with a smile on my face. He then ended the interview by saying "Elder McEntire, I sure hope you are having fun! It sounds like you are! Missions are suppose to be fun. If you are not having fun then you aren't doing it right!" I am definitely having fun out here in Vinnitsya. Exchanges were good too. Elders Morrison and Doutre came over from Хмельницький (Khmelnytski) and I was with Elder Doutre all day Thursday. He is the District Leader in  Хмельницький (Xmelnytski). It was a good way to know just how much I progressed this transfer.  Since I wasn't around Elder Munzer that day, it tested my knowledge of the city and Ukrainian.  Elder Doutre has only been here once and he speaks Russian. I knew my way around pretty well and I held my own with the language even when the lessons were in half Russian, half Ukrainian. I still have a long way to go, but I was surprised about how much I have progressed and knew. Anyway, this week is transfer week and one of the members, Sister Gavrilyuk, who helps with registration of the missionaries here let it slip that Elder Munzer was leaving.  So we will be going to Kyiv on Thursday.  As for me... I could still go, but I will probably stay here and get a new companion.

So the weather here has been pretty crazy. On Saturday, it started out snowing in the morning and it was 5 C. It snowed the whole night before, but because it wasn't that cold, none of the snow stuck. When we left for sports day that morning (an activity where we get together with members and investigators and play ping pong and other sports) there was slush on the ground. After sports day, it was snowing again and dropped down to like 0 C and was windy. We went back home for lunch.  Then after lunch the slush turned into ice because of the wind, and it dropped down to -5 C. At the end of the day, it was -15 C and the ground was totally iced over with the wind blowing crazy in every direction. You could really stand on the ice and just let the wind blow you home.

Love you all,
Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, February 7, 2011

"I still feel like I'm teaching crazies...but it's getting better." 2/7/2011

Sweet Graffiti

Ukrainian Freedom Parade--The flags say "svoboda" which means freedom.
Zach is talking on the phone at church, trying to make appointments.

What???  Someone is speaking really fast in Russian and Zach definitely doesn't understand a word of it.

 This week has been alright. It started off pretty depressing but it ended really well. Since we dropped all of our "crazy investigators", we now have hardly any one to work with. So we spent most of the week trying to find people. Everyone one that we met with was either totally psycho or just dogged our meeting.. didn't show. So yeah, this week was full of no shows and psychos. I'll give you some examples:
On Thursday we met with a former investigator, Igor. His number was in our phone and we had no idea why, so we called him and met with him. He was contacted by the missionaries earlier this year when he went on a business trip to Russia. He seemed pretty normal at the beginning. He said things like he wanted to find a church that wasn't influenced by Government and was God's true church. He has been trying to find God his whole life. But right after that he started talking about communism and how much he loved Nazis and when he was a soldier in Afghanistan and about how many Americans he killed. He then went off about how much he loved to kill Americans and how much he hated democracy. It made me... well a little unsettled to hear that he loved killing Americans. He then talked about his concept that God is everything. He said "God is everything. God is you guys. God is me, and God is this wall." He pointed to one of the walls in the church. He then addressed the wall as God. We then closed in prayer and asked him if he could pray, but he replied "I will sit here and observe you and feel your vibes while you pray." After the prayer he then extended his arm towards Elder Muzner, two feet away from his hand and said "I can feel your energy.  I can feel your hair. I can feel your skin. Do you agree?"  Elder Munzer responded "No. You can't feel anything."  I invited him to church, but after he left I thought "Why did I invite him to church? I hope he doesn't come."  So... we aren't meeting with him ever again. The week followed in that fashion... psychos and no shows. But Sunday came and I fasted and prayed really hard for God's help to find new people to teach and... we found two new investigators! One was a friend of a member whom she brought to church. We met with her after Sacrament Meeting and she said she wanted to know more.  The other was a former investigator that we stopped by to visit and we taught a little lesson and set up another appointment.  It shows that the Lord does grant us the help we need and when we exercise faith God will bless us and reward our hard work.

Another cool story that happened was that during fast and testimony meeting, one of the members, Katya Mady, got up and bore her testimony about the power of the priesthood and shared a story. So the story goes like this: Two weeks ago, Katya requested us to come over and give her family a blessing. She was sick, as was her kids. She has three little ones; Angela, Fate, and David.  The husband, Collins, requested a blessing because he didn't have money to continue school. He needed money to continue to get a good medical career. We blessed him and his family that everything would be alright and that the Lord would guide his family and help him. What we didn't know, and what Katya said was that two days after that happened, Collins' dad called him and said he had money for him to continue schooling and that everything is going to be alright. It was really cool to hear that from Katya. It was also cool that I understood it pretty well. We went to their house earlier this week and helped Katya clean and organize her apartment because last time we were over there everything was in pieces and a mess. I guess when you have three crazy kids running around... you don't have time to clean. So we went and did that. She was really grateful and we felt glad to help out. Katya and her sister Tanya(mini missionary that came back to Vinnitsya with us, remember? She lives with her sister, Katya) really wanted to play Uno for some reason. They fed us lunch afterwards and then Tanya was like "Hey check out my photos!" She showed us photos that she and Zina took together. Then Katya's kids must have thought that the house was too clean cause they then stomped Grechka(oats that everyone in Ukraine loves to eat) into the ground. Oh well...

Oh, by the way... whenever I show pictures of the family, people always say that mom and Erin look like American actresses and that Dad looks like a professor and that Tyler looks like a cowboy/thug.
So the week ended pretty good. We have combined District Meeting this week on Tuesday in Zhytomyr and then the Zone leaders are coming over for exchanges on Thursday. It's gonna be a busy week.
Love you!
Elder Zach McEntire