Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Easter! 4/25/2011

Countryside in Bila Tserkva

More countryside in Bila Tserkva

Child's playground in Bila Tserkva
More playground in Bila Tserkva  

Easter here is a pretty big deal. Ukraine is basically a land of holidays, always celebrating something and Easter is no exception. Here are some of the things they do to celebrate it: first off, there is a special greeting that you use in Ukraine only for Easter христос воскрес (Khristos Voskres) which means"Christ has risen" and when people say that  to you you respond by saying бо істинно воскрос (Bo istunno Voskres) which means "For he really did rise". People get really into that. It's pretty cool. That's a greeting that everyone uses on Easter. Other Easter traditions are the Easter cake that they sell... everywhere. Elder Carnes and I bought one and tried it out. It wasn't too bad. Anyways, there was kind of an Easter miracle that happened. First off, when we arrived at church there was no one there, except for us, the branch president, and our investigator, Vadim. It stayed that way for a while. Elder Carnes and I thought, wow.. this isn't gonna be much of a Sacrament Meeting. But then like right at ten(when church starts) everyone came flooding in. Weird. Anyways, the cool thing was a random man came in halfway through Sacrament Meeting. Right after the meeting was over he promptly got up and headed for the door. I ran after him and stopped him and started to talk to him. His name was Nikolay. He seemed pretty interested and said he wanted to meet. He gave me his number. Other than that, the streets were pretty empty that day, which didn't make much for contacting.

So, as for a car? We do have a mission car. I have no idea what gas prices are here. Probably ridiculous because no one in Ukraine drives a car. Like the majority of the people, we walk and take public transportation. I kinda forget what it's like to drive a car.

This week has been pretty difficult like last week. We dropped basically all of our investigators. We've been trying hard, but we just can't seem to find anyone new. We haven't even found a new investigator this transfer. But we remain optimistic that we will find someone this week. Well, Bila Tserkva use to be the 2nd most dead area, right behind Lutsk. But to everyone's shock and dismay, Elders Marsaw and Woodberry got a baptism in Lutsk this last week. Now, Bila Tserkva is the 1st most dead area in the mission. No one thought it could be done in Lutsk. But it was done. I guess it stands as a testimony that you can baptize anywhere.  But, I'm not sure what I'm lacking. It sure has been a very trying transfer.  Today we had to do service, so that's why this e-mail is a little late. We went out to the village to help a member plant potatoes. It was a day full of back-breaking manual labor. Digging up the earth, filling it full of cow manure and shoving a potato spud in there. It took us all day. Our Branch mission leader, Pasha, was with us and joking and laughing at us by saying "Wow I'm proud of you.  You guys are shoveling poop and planting potatoes like true Ukrainians!" At the end of it all, Sister Vira, who was the owner of the land where the potatoes were planted, made us a giant feast. We had this potatoe borsch, some coleslaw, chicken sandwiches, and little pancakes. Oh, and for dessert we had herbal tea, cookies, and cake. I'm stuffed and dead tired.

Well,  I hope you all have a good week.
Love you!
Elder McEntire

Monday, April 18, 2011

Back to Square One 4/18/2011

Ping Pong game at church party in Bila Tserkva
Statue near the university in Bila Tserkva

Statue near the big white church in Bila Tserkva

Church  in Bila Tserkva

Another church in Bila Tserkva

Bila Tserkva

It's been warming up here. It has been raining this past week, but not too bad. It's really nice today. The sun is out and it's pretty warm. We are planning on going to Kyiv today for P-day. We are going to get lunch at McDonalds because we haven't had it in a loooong time and then we are going to meet up with some other missionaries to explore some more of Kyiv. So it should be a good P-day.

The rules here aren't that strict for music. As long as it's spiritual and mellow and focuses on the Savior we can basically listen to it. We usually listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir most of the time and EFY cds but we also branch out to other stuff. Have ever heard of a man named Alex Boye? He sings in the Tabernacle Choir but also does his own stuff. We listen to that and also to some Josh Groban, instrumental hymns like hymns on guitar(those are usually my favorite), and then a couple other acoustic artists like Jon Foreman and others. We don't listen to it a lot because we are usually out of our apartment most of the day.

Well, this week has been pretty rough. I knew Bila Tserkva would be hard, but I didn't know it would be this hard. We got dogged by everyone who we tried to set up a lesson with, except a few members. We finally met with an investigator this week, one of Sasha's friends, Ponzer, and we tried to give him a baptismal date. I was praying hard for this one and was so psyched cause I really thought it would happen and make up for the terrible week. But he shut us down hardcore. He just wasn't interested. Then we watched Conference with the branches this weekend. They showed Conference, but we went into the computer room in the church and watched it in English as a district, while the branches watched it in Ukrainian. On Sunday, they had all the little kids put in one room and no one was watching over them, so they were out of control, running up and down the halls , yelling and going crazy. We had to do some damage control because the parents were wathcing Conference and not doing anything. It was crazy. Then the some of the members were leaving early, saying that they were tired and didn't want to stay. Maybe they decided they needed to go put their kids down for a nap.

So, that's basically the week. We still have a baptismal date for the 30th, Vadim. But it doesn't look like it's gonna happen. We'll probably have to push it back a week or two... or three. We've had to drop a lot of investigators, so we are basically down to like two investigators that hardly meet with us. Kinda like back to square one. We haven't gotten an investigator yet this transfer. Maybe it will happen this week.

I hope this week goes well and you all are safe. Easter here is a pretty big deal. Everyone is gonna be partying here in Ukraine.
Love you!
Elder McEntire

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pray for Four 4/11/2011

More graffiti

Zach goofing around in fake glasses

A lucky frog statue--you throw a coin into it and rub its nose for good luck.

Wooded area
I'm glad that we don't get snow anymore here in Ukraine. The winter and cold here was definitely very hard to deal with. It's kinda cooled down a little bit. It has been raining a little too. Not too bad. I hear it has been down pouring in Western Ukraine areas though. In Bila Tserkva it hasn't been too bad.  It has been very windy lately, with a little bit of rain and temperatures around 6 - 9 C. Not too glamorous, but not too bad.

Missionary work this week has been kinda slow. We've gone this week without planners because our District leader, Elder Hirt, forgot to get Ukrainian planners for us at Transfer meeting. It's kinda hard to do missionary work when you don't have a written plan. I feel like we have been doing aimless work this week. We are planning on going into Kyiv today to the office to pick up planners, so that should change.

We had Zone meeting on Friday. It was fun to go into Kyiv and meet up with other missionaries for this meeting. We talked about the things Elder Lawrence spoke about at Zone Conference. President Steinagel also spoke about symbolism in the scriptures and the symbols that point towards Christ and his Gospel. The Mission is definitely becoming more unified in our goal of 200 baptisms in 2011. President Steinagel as been putting all of his ideas into motion. We have a Mission song, a Mission banner and we all got these cool little cards that say 200 in 2011 and have four slots for baptisms. President Steinagel and the assistants want each missionary to get four baptisms on their missions. It was weird cause prior to these I did a little activity during personal study. I thought about the things Elder Lawrence said about establishing a goal and exercising the faith to hit a goal and being willing to sacrifice whatever we need to. I thought about the goals I want to accomplish on my mission. There was this activity in Preach My Gospel that said something like "Think about your last day in the mission field.. then answer these following questions: What do I say I have done as a missionary? What do I want to say I have become? What differences do I want others to notice in me?" I wrote down a huge list of things. Then I made plans on how to accomplish these goals. Some of them were a list of souvenirs I wanted to buy, feeling like I mastered both Ukrainian and Russian, know the standard works really well and etc. But at the top of the list and the most important goal to me on that list is to achieve four baptisms on my mission. Then I heard all this talk about every missionary getting four baptisms on their mission. I thought about what I needed to do to achieve this goal, about what sacrifices I needed to make. I kept hearing the slogan or phrase "pray for four".  Elder Lawrence talked about the need to always pray for our goals. He said that the Lord will grow weary of hearing our pleas. So, basically, I 'm asking you to pray for four for me. Please help me and pray for me that I can achieve this goal. I have confidence and faith that it will happen.

In other news, after we returned from the meeting we discovered that our water had been turned off. The city water that is. So we had to turn on and use our water heater. We now have warm water, but it does smell a little funky and we run out and have to wait for it to reheat from time to time. We think that our landlord isn't paying the water bill. Last time we payed rent he complained about the water price going up and asked us to pay him more, because he soon wouldn't have money to pay the bills. He said it was still a reasonable price for the apartment(he asked for a thousand hryven increase, which brings the price of our rent to 4000 hryven, which is like 480 dollars). We knew he was lying through his teeth because no Ukrainian can afford an apartment for 4000 hryven. Just because we are Americans he charged us more. It's not that big of a deal, since it's still a pretty good price for an apartment, compared to good apartments back home. The apartment we have is way nice... hopefully the water will get turned back on so we can go back to city water.

Oh, we also got Conference on a cd. We listened to it on the weekend. I feel like I heard a lot about marriage this conference. Maybe it's just because I'm starting to become that age. I felt like I heard that returned missionaries should make it a goal to get married like a million times. I remember President Monson talking about it both at Priesthood session and on Sunday morning session. Both were good talks, and I also liked Elder Scott's talk on marriage.  I also really liked Elder Anderson's talk in Priesthood about serving a mission and preparing the world for the second coming, and giving it your all on a mission. I also enjoyed the "road to Damascus" talk by President Uchtdorf. I actually read that story in Acts a couple of days before listening to that talk.

Anyways, I hope things go well this week and everyone keeps safe.
Love you!
Elder Zach McEntire

Monday, April 4, 2011

Transfer might be a long one 4/4/2011

Zachary was looking for "salad" in the grocery store and this is what he found. Just rip the leaves off and it tastes fine!

Halinchina yogurt--a popular brand of drinkable yogurt. This one is green apple cinnamon. Zach's favorite flavors are: apricot, wheat, and raspberry.

A raspberry pastry...Yum!

Ice cream pie...tasty!

It's starting to cool down in Ukraine.  It was pretty warm and nice this past week, but today it's pretty cool and it'll probably rain a lot this week. Ukraine really has downpours of rain during April, and spring in general. (Especially in western Ukraine.)  I'm not sure about the Kyiv area, but, I think it still rains a lot from what I've heard.

So, Transfers? I'm still here in Bila Tserkva and so is Elder Carnes. We are going another transfer together. Elder Polivka left and went to Chernihiv and Elder Muir came here and Sister Elelyan left and went to Odessa and Sister Young came here. So our district is Elder Carnes and myself as the Ukrainian Elders, Elder Hirt and Elder Muir as the Russian Elders, and Sister Movsisyan and Sister Young as the Sisters. Elder Muir is pretty cool. He is in his ninth transfer and is from Nevada. Sister Young is only a transfer above me. I saw her in the MTC. She is from Canada. So, it's a pretty interesting district.

So, Elder Carnes was confident that he was leaving Bila Tserkva. We made a transfer board. It's a little guessing game that a lot of missionaries do. They make a little "board" and write down who they think is being transferred and to where. So, Elder Carnes was pretty crushed when we got transfer info. The next couple of days were pretty rough. Elder Carnes was not in a good mood, which kinda made missionary work pretty hard this week. We missed out on going to transfer meeting, which is always a bummer. It's fun to go there and see for yourself who is going where. But we were stuck in Bila Tserkva. So, this transfer might be a long one.

But the week ended on a good note. Elder Carnes felt better and cheered up. After tracting forever, we found this really nice lady named Polina. She saw a Book of Mormon in our hands and basically yonked it out of our hands and asked us about it. After we explained about the book and asked to share a quick message about it, she gladly let us in. Americans gave her a Bible a few years ago and she said she has been waiting for more guidance from God ever since. She said she would read the Book of Mormon for sure and invited us back. Then we had a service day the next day(Saturday). It was a service day all around Ukraine for the saints here. We spent the day with both branches of Bila Tserkva cleaning a park and picking up trash. We then participated in a little festival that was going on in the park. We played volleyball, soccer and other games. We then had to let the Mayberrys(senior couple) crash the night at our apartment. They made us a really nice meal in return and bought us a bunch of food and they let us watch a session of General conference live. We watched the Saturday morning session with them. Then we were forced to the other Elders' apartment.  Sunday was also a good day because our youth, Sasha, who we have been trying to get to the temple (the only thing that has been holding him back is that he isn't fulfilling his callings in the priesthood) came to church in a white shirt and tie! This was the first time I had ever seen him come in a white shirt and tie. We were way excited about that.

As for Conference, I guess I'll watch it on the computer during P-days when I have the time. It was fun to see Saturday morning session. So, that does it for our week. We actually just got off the phone with President right before I started writing this. He said he was really pleased and excited about the progress we have been having in Bila.  He just wanted to thank us and tell us to keep the momentum going.

Oh, and Mothers day is in about a month. I might be able to skype you again, but I'm not ssure. It could be just a phone call. I'll let you know.
Love you,
Elder Zach McEntire