Monday, December 9, 2013

Tundras

Well it is officially here - the winter of Ukraine. And you know what? It's not that bad. Cold wise at least. But lets just say that the roads/sidewalks are more like ice rinks. So you can imagine how that's going for me.... ha ha. BUT I'm loving the snow and it's perfect for packing snowballs :) So no worries.

On Monday we had an FHE with this young girl from out branch and we made Christmas advent calendars! Just over 2 weeks left - I can't wait!! Plus Yulia is the cutest/coolest thing in the world. She's about our age and Sister Walker and I could hang out with her all day. If we weren't missionaries fulfilling our callings, that is...

Tuesday we had a pretty awesome good Samaritan moment. There was this woman who got off the metro in front of us while we were walking by with blood all over her face, and then as she was walking she was stumbling all over the place. Then she fell to the ground right in front of us. We helped her up as everyone walking by just stared, or looked away and walked fast. We found out she was pretty drunk, and since we're not supposed to talk to drunk people, we just helped her up, let her go, and followed her a little while to make sure she'd be okay. Soon she fell again. So we helped her up again. Then again. To the point where she could hardly walk anymore. So, not being able to talk her into sitting down somewhere, and not wanting to leave her sitting on the ice in the middle of the sidewalk, we each took an arm and started walking (well, more like dragging really) her down the path. We weren't really sure what to do, because we didn't know where she lived or if it was bad to be dragging this stranger around, but I just couldn't stop thinking about the good Samaritan, and how when the man was abandoned on the road the levite and all the other holy people passed him by. Not these missionaries! So we dragged her down the path for a while and finally someone who knew her saw us and shocked asked "Sveta, what happened??" "You know her?" "of course!" "Thank goodness!" So we passed her to familiar hands. It was a cool experience, but so sad to see how many people just passed her by...

Wednesday we went to Babushkas house to run her errands and she yelled at me a lot for my coat not being warm enough. (Happens every day now - these people don't understand Northface technology!) and then she gave me this ugly tweed skirt that was supposed to be warmer, and said "Put it on right now!!"
"We're running late and we have an appointment after this..."
Sister Walker: "nah, we've got time. Put it on! You'll catch a cold!" So I gave in, put on the skirt, and got to walk around while people judged us all day for looking like Amish people. That Sister Walker...

Thursday we met with Wally again and followed up on a Word of Wisdom lesson we had taught earlier in the week. He really loves Tea, and didn't understand why we wouldn't be able to drink it, but we just promised that as he lived the word of wisdom he would notice a difference in his life. Sure enough, when we met again he told us that as soon as he went home, he started the hot water and was about to drink some tea when something inside of him just told him - You don't need it. So he left it. So cool! Wally is Solid, I love him so much. 

Friday we went to a members house and I unknowingly tried caviar for the first time. After Sister Walker had taken a bite, when the man had his back turned he gave hers to me saying I can't eat this I'm going to throw up. SO I had to shove the whole thing in my mouth before he turned back around. Yeah, I don't think I like Caviar very much... Then we went to English practice and afterward had a huge snowball fight with our district. Who says sisters aren't fun?? ;)

I hope everyone else had a great week too and is enjoying the snow! 2 more emails and I'll be talking to you!! As sister Walker and I always say "Psh, too easy!" ha ha I love you all and I will talk to you soon!

Love,
Sister Willerth

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Double diminutive...

Happy thanksgiving!! (belated) for those of you wondering I had the BEST THANKSGIVING EVER but we will get to that in just a bit :)

Monday:
We had a really fun FHE at a members house where we played Jenga and likened it unto the great apostasy. The tower was the church and as we took out blocks, one of the members started naming actual specific doctrines people changed with the fall of the church of Christ. Things got pretty intense ha ha - it's kind of sad how much some people here hate the Orthodox church. BUT the reason I mention this is because it reminded me of reading about the apostasy in Jesus the Christ. If anyone wants to read some really critical literature - I recommend some sassy James Talmage. 

Tuesday:
We had an awesome lesson with Wally, but I'll be talking about him in a bit.

Wednesday:
We had another lesson in Garden house! I wish the picture could fully depict it's majesty... Also Sister Walker and I started working on a rap. Our Elders wrote one and said that Sisters can't rap so.... stay tuned to hear some QUALITY work ;)


Thursday:
WOOO THANKSGIVING!! We began the day by teaching Vladimir, who is SO awesome and sincere. The lesson was so great too - the first time I've felt that it was just a lesson by the book, the way they're supposed to be. He listened, asked questions, felt the spirit, recognized it, and accepted an invitation to be baptized! Sister Walker and I danced around the apartment when we got home - we were so excited!! THEN we got to go to Thanksgiving lunch with the zone! President and Sister Lochhead had even come up from Donetsk, so there were actually REAL turkey and pie! I ate so much food, and even MORE pie (probably twice as much as any of the Elders... but really...) and then I went down to get my mail. To my great delight, CHRISTMAS PACKAGE was waiting for me! woooooooooooohooooooooo!. So we had the Elders carry that thing back for us, opened it, used some of the stuff inside to deck them halls, and headed out for another lesson with Wally. The lesson was awesome as always, and he also accepted the invitation to be baptized! we;re having 2 baptisms this December!

Friday:
The day of all the repentance. Ohh man. We had a zone conference, and President Lochhead cracked down on us for lots of exact obedience stuff. Not that we had been disobedient, but there were a few things (like going a little over time on meal hours and talking to everyone on the street everywhere we go - my biggest weakness. ugh.) that we needed to improve on. So we felt really guilty, repented, and moved on. Look at that - atonement in action! The rest of the Zone conference was really great though - we got in the spirit of Christmas by singing some Christmas carols, and then the Lochheads let us know that as a Christmas present, they will be taking all of us to see the NUTCRACKER! oh man I could not be more excited! An original Russian ballet performed by world-renowned Ukrainian ballerinas. Once in a lifetime experience. We are so spoiled :)

Saturday:
Got some Christmas lights and did some more decking the halls! Christmas!!!

Sunday:
"The day of wildin Babushkas" as Sister Walker would say. But it began with Church! So Wally only speaks English, and our entire branch is Ukrainian. SO guess who got to translate for him? This sister. That's right, 2 hours of translating. (The third he went with the Elders) I had a huge headache by the end of it all, but it was really awesome and so worth it! We were so worried that he wasn't going to like it because he didn't know what was going on, but at the end we asked if he had any questions, and how he was feeling and everything, and he said "I've decided I want to go through with the baptism". Best moment ever! THEN we got to go to Babushkas and sing with her again. Was as hilarious as always. We've also decided that she's a vampire because she hates the sun, and people. But really, we do love her despite her crankiness :) And finally we had a lesson with a senile old lady who repeated the same 2 stories 6 times each before we decided to just go. She sure was sweet though :)

As you can see, Sister Walker and I are having as much fun as ever. She'll be cutting my hair today, and we'll be doing some more hall-decking, so we will let you know how that goes :) THANK YOU mom and family for the Christmas present. I am so spoiled! And in every other way I am doing well and having a blast. Hope everyone is having a great December!

Love you!!
Sister Willerth

REPENT! (From Nov. 25)

Oh man, where to begin on this week...  Monday was awesome. We spent it playing some (American!) football and practicing for the turkey bowl this week!  (We won by default, since sports were banned in the mission not long ago. But that's a different story...) Then we had FHE with Yulia, who had found real American peanut butter somewhere here! I guess it was at some French store in Kiev but there is hope yet! Anyway Yulia is from Russia, and our age, and so cute. We played Uno, and it was grand.

Tuesday we had a zone conference and made cookies. (Sister Walker and I eat cookies every day. We've got a good thing going :) )

Wednesday we had a lesson in garden house! One of our investigators lives in this house of bunches of windows with tons of plants. It reminds me of our living room in the wintertime :) By the way I don't even know what our house looks like anymore! Someone send me a picture!

Thursday we met Wally! He's from Nigeria, and he's been studying here for 4 years now. He's SUPER sincere and asked awesome questions and is really just ready to do whatever God wants him to. Doing a lesson in English was pretty awkward seeing as I haven't had to make small talk for about 6 months now, and the only English speakers I ever talk to these days are all teenage Americans, so I sound like a ditz (true, sad fact) but it was cool because Sister Walker is still the best and she saved us both! Whew.

Friday we went and ran some errands for this really old grandma who lives nearby. She can't walk, but wont simplify her life and so she makes everyone else get her groceries for her. This sounds mean, but it's really just honest - when we were out at sisters conference, she couldn't wait a day to get her milk and cheese so she stood out on her balcony and yelled until someone came by and went to buy it for her. Ha ha she's the grumpiest most vain old lady in the world and it's hilarious. When she met  Sister Walker and heard about her big family she looked at us and said " you and your huge families! What a nightmare! That's horrible! I can't imagine!" But the BEST part was when we started to sing hymns with her, and she's way tone deaf and was singing super high and all over the place and sister Walker and I LOOSE it laughing, and she didn't even notice. She couldn't hear us. So she finished the song her self, while we laughed ourselves to tears.

Then came Saturday. Ohhh man. Well we were on a former investigator hunt, and we get to the house of this guy who had been an investigator FOREVER. He is practically a member, he knows EVERYTHING (and I do mean everything - including things he really should not know if you know what I mean...) but he couldn't ever stop smoking so he's never been baptized. WELL when we get there we didn't know what to expect but he answered and was so nice and let us in. He said "oh wow sisters, I've only ever met with Elders before!" and then started asking us the craziest questions about women and the temple and stuff! Ahh! Changing the subject we asked him about his work and he was telling us about how he is some sort of Internet councilor and how he helps people find their goal in life and usually he points them towards God. Well, Sister Willerth sees that this could go a good direction and asks a perfectly innocent appropriate question - "So what would you say is your goal in life?" To which he responds - "Well, I want to go back to Chicago and marry you." euhhhhhhh.... "Whatever ha ha funny." Lesson ends there! We close it up and are about to leave and he says wait! goes into the next room and comes back with a ring! Takes my hand, puts int on my finger, and insists I keep it(he has a matching one just like it). "I can't take this. That's not right. That's inappropriate. NO thank you." Him - "It's fine it's fine! I promise it doesn't mean that I have to go back to Chicago with you. It's not made of gold, I won't make you pay for it, it's a sign of our friendship, I won't take it back, if you really don't want it, throw it out on the street - just don't tell me about it." Okay so were out of there. We leave, and he's standing by the door as we wait for the elevator to come. Our backs are towards him and Sister Walker is saying "we just have to wait for the elevator to come... then we can freak out..." Elevator comes, we get in, the doors close, and she starts screaming and jumping up and down - "YOU'RE ENGAGED!!!" (She still won't let me live it down, days later). Oh my goodness what a nightmare!!! Needless to say, we will be passing him.And That's probably the craziest thing that has happened to me so far here. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Things we're still looking forward to: We'll all be doing thanksgiving together as a zone, so it'll actually feel like a real holiday :) The weather has been surprisingly nice for this time of year - between 5 and 10 degrees all the time (hopefully this means a mild winter - fingers crossed!) and Sister Walker and I are preaching repentance right and left and making Holiday chains for every event we can think of. 30 days til Christmas!!

I love you all! Thank you for everything, and have a happy thanksgiving!
Love,
Sister Willerth

Bokep! ( Sorry - This is from Nov. 18)

Well transfers have come and gone, and we have the most EXCITING news! I will now be serving with SISTER WALKER! If you are thinking "that sounds familiar... Did she talk about a sister Walker in the MTC?" Then you would be SPOT ON! haha she and I will be serving together for this shortened transfer and HOPEFULLY (fingers crossed!!) President will just keep us together for next transfer and Christmas!! Best Christmas ever! haha I really love this new companionship though, it's nice to be a little more evenly yoked with someone and every day it feels like we're just kickin it and having the time of our lives together on this escapade in Ukraine. So yes. Living the dream. :)

So this week we had a lesson with Salim, who I think I have mentioned in the past. He is 20 years old and a bible PRODIGY and basically just a way cool kid. Anyway he has all these crazy questions (that he just asks to spark conversation - but he already knows the answer) and he is SO smart and an amazing teacher and every time we talk to him I really feel like HE's the one giving US a lesson (reinforced by the fact that at the end of the lesson he made us review everything we learned. haha.) Anyway so after getting WAY off track about the thing we were originally talking about (prophets and the apostasy) he goes to Genesis and says "in the beginning God created light... but he didn't create the sun and stars until verses later. So what did he create in the beginning?" And  he asks us where God lives and so... we start talking about Kolob. But it's fine, because he whips out this analogy and somehow he's known about Kolob all along (he just didn't know that he knew) through his own studies of the bible. He is awesome, I love him.

We also went on a gypsy hunt, Sister Walker and I. We had this old form of there people who used to be taught by missionaries and it had 3 addresses and the number didn't work. So we embarked on a grand journey to find Ludwig and Luisa! Unfortunately, we did not find them, but we met some VERY interesting people in the mean time: Ok Dima! (we asked about Ludwig at his door and he pointed to the shirt he was wearing that said "OK!" on it and said, no no I'm not Ludwig - I'm ok Dima!) Judas Kisscariot (A Jehovah's witness that stopped us on the street, said we were going to burn because we were a cult, asked for some money, and after all of this we having never said a thing, just looking at him speechless he laughed and kissed us both! Betrayed with a kiss!) and this really tough guy wearing fur on the back of the trolley, who we assumed was a part of an organization that I will not here name, for fear that the filter will block my email. But yes - you probably know what I'm talking about ha ha.

We also got to sit in on a ward thanksgiving activity. It was really cool hearing them tell the story of how thanksgiving got started and then having this "feast" of some Ukrainian food. (I don't think they understand how much we eat.... ha ha. But I did want to take a nap afterward, so I guess that's kind of the same feeling!) I loved it though. Gratitude across the world:)

In other news the skinheads are gone and all the danger is totally over for all the international people. So no worries there :)

Well I think that's about it, other than getting way pumped for Christmas! WOO :D Anyone else excited?? I am!

Well I love you all and as always thank you for your support and you are always in my prayers!! Happy holidays!

Love always,
Sister Willerth

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trouble's a-brewin!

Hey there friends and fam! Long time no talk! ha ha... guilty. Sorry about that. But now I've finally got some good updates for y'all.


Sister Beaudin got a transfer call :( She'll be leaving and I'll be getting a new companion this Thursday! Scary! But I'm grateful for the time we got to spend together here in 'little America." Best Buds forever :)

Speaking of little America. Today we did out grocery shopping at a supermarket that is basically Walmart. They have EVERYTHING! (including brown sugar!!!) SO we stocked up on some essentials and now our apartment really does feel like America. Probably not exciting to any of you, but I feel like the richest person in all Ukraine! :D

I guess since I haven't written much about this transfer at all I can talk about some of the highlights:

There was this man on our records named Alexay who was GOLDEN, but his number didn't work and when we stopped by his address they people there told us he didn't live there. All we knew were a few random facts about his family, like that he had a giant white dog. A week after we had given up hope, we were looking for someone else, and sat down on a bench outside this Dom to call and confirm our plans for the night. Just as the lady on the phone was cancelling on us, this giant white dog runs up and jumps into Sister Beaudin's lap. The man walking him was super nice to us and said, "are you the Mormons? Oh, how wonderful!" We asked his name, but I already knew the answer - it was Alexay! And by a total random coincidence, in a city of millions of people, he found US. Miracle of the transfer for sure.

Another highlight of this transfer was teaching a Muslim man. We taught him in Russian mostly because obviously we don't know Arabic and our Russian was a little better than his English. However, when we asked him to say the closing prayer, he asked if he could say it in Arabic. Of course!! Never thought I'd be able to hear someone just offer a prayer, in their own words, in Arabic. Somehow serving in Ukraine is like serving multi-nationally. Whenever we go to the Bazaar here, people from all different countries always come up to us and talk to us in English, its so cool.

We also had a really awesome Sisters conference (pictures soon to come). It was just like a giant sleepover with all the sisters in the mission at President and Sister Lochhead's house. 25 girls on one floor, ha ha. It was way fun though, despite the fact that I ate more than probably ever before in my life, and got pretty sick. But that didn't stop me from celebrating Halloween the next day! (Don't worry mom, after suffering an entire week from sugar withdrawals, I have improved my eating habits...)

We had another funny lesson with a man named Feodor. He has this vision of how to make the world a better place, and basically it is just to give to all the youth what our church has. He gave us his plan on how we could incorporate the society that our church has with good morals, activities, and education into the lives of these groups of young people he's working with. He even invited us and the member who came with us to speak at a seminar they're having soon! Ha Ha.  I don't think he understood that our goal is the same... And I guess it really would be a perfect world if everyone had what the church does.

Well I will close there. More to come after transfers, I'm sure. I love you all and keep up the good work. Stay warm and stay happy and carry on!

Love always,
Sister Villerz

Selfy Sunday with Sister Beaudin
(and a photo bomb!)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nuff Said...

We did helping hands and saw tons of miracles. Nuff said.

(Okay we did more than that but not much- I promise to actually write a mass email update soon!!)

Love you!!

Just So...

Well, I am both pleased and dissappointed to report that there is not much to report on here. Still starting from scratch and doing LOTS of finding. But it's good - we're starting to get real creative with our approaches (handing out candy to kids on the street - that's not creepy is it??; going door to door with a restoration video - hey wanna watch this with us?? and one time I even saw this old guy with really long, curly hair and said hey! we're like twins. No better way to start a conversation with a hippie :) )

I'm really loving the area though - it's SO beautiful and it's just a completely different experience. AND best news of the century - almost all of the sisters in my MTC district are serving here! I got to see them all yesterday and the day before when we watched conference. Speaking of - WHAT A CONFERENCE. I'm kind of biased as a missionary and all, but I hope everyone got to see at least both the Saturday sessions. And you should all just watch them again, просто так.

Well I love you all and you are always in my prayers and thoughts and everything else that a person can be considered "in". Wow, I'm getting really weird...

Love you!!
Sister Willerth

Monday, October 7, 2013

Baby it's Cold Outside

Well it's begun. The snow started on the first of October. And there's no sign of it getting warmer from here. Bring on the winter!! I'll be spending the first half of it in....

KHARKOV!

That's right - been transferred to the promised land. I've heard so much about it since being here but I didn't realize how beautiful it was. It's a super old city, and during soviet times was the capitol of Ukraine - so it's really well developed too. It almost just looks like the rest of Europe! I love it. Also in my new area is "Barb"!! The second largest street market in the world! (next to somewhere in China). When we first got here, we spent the next day there getting winter clothes for the 2 brand new elders in our district (woo greenie power!!) and dear Sister Beaudin! My new companion is from Texas and I don't think she really knows what a winter is. Luckily she got to come to Ukraine THIS year, which is rumored to be the coldest for over 50 years. (of COURSE that would be the one winter I spend here...) More on her - she's just a transfer younger than I am on the mission, and she has an AMAZING voice, and she's a tiny little thing (4'11) with a great big personality. And so far we re getting along just fine :)

Little victories: People keep telling me I look Russian! It's that time of year again where I get reeeeeally really pale, and they just love it! ha! Take that to everyone who has ever made fun of me for how pale I am.

But what's even better than looking Russian is sounding Russian. I love it, because Ukraine is known for having kind of a lazy accent, so if they hear you speaking clean Russian, even if you have an accent, sometimes they think you're from Russia. It's especially good being here, because people always try ripping you off at the market when they know you're an American. Next goal - learn to barter like a Ukrainian!

As far as the missionary work, we're kind of starting from scratch... There wasn't too much happening in this area when I got here, but that's going to change real fast. It's a good opportunity to step up to the plate and see what I'm made of. And I'm excited to see what happens. I love my companion, I love our district, and I love this area. (I'll try really really hard to love the winter, too.)

Stay warm!
Love
Sister Willerth

P.S. Identity crisis! I am now known as Sister "uillerc". Hopefully that'll be a little easier for these people!



Before they turned the heat on in the city!


Matching Companion PJs


Monday, September 30, 2013

Whispers

Hi Fam!!

Big news first:
After 4 months in this area (and our 6 month anniversary on the mission - what?!) Sister Reece and I both received  a transfer call! We will be whitewashing out of Makeevka. At this time next week I will have a new area and companion!! I'm excited of course, but super bummed to leave Makeevka! Confession: for the first 2 months of my mission, I hated this area. (ha ha blogs private now so all the truth comes out!) But after time and learning independence and finding my own groove as a missionary, I absolutely fell in love with this area and the people here this transfer. I really thought I was going to stay here forever. So this week mostly consisted of saying some of the hardest goodbyes of my life... But, I guess the bright side is, that now I get to go meet even more people, that it'll be just as hard to say goodbye to. And such is the life of a missionary.
Turns out big news is only news because we're out of time already. But just a few highlights so you know that it wasn't a boring week:
We went to the doctor to get sister Reece's mole removed! Just she, I, and our trusty Russian-English dictionary! talk about an adventure - lets just say she's a lot braver than I am.
Got kissed by one of the guys from English club when we told him we weren't coming back. (Wow, I think that story is almost better without an explanation ha ha)
Well I love you all! Have a great week and I'll let you know about all the changed next week!
Love
Sister Willerth
P.S. I'd say you're making progress in a language when you can talk with someone in Whispers. Woo! Take that Russian!

I Have It All !!

The word "possess" in Russian is kind of funny - they use it in lots of ways. One of the most common ones is about talents and abilities. If you can't draw, you'd say "I don't possess it" or "I don't have it". If you want to ask someone if they can sing, or play the piano, you say - "Do you have it?"
This is how we were talking with our recent convert (and very favorite person) on the subject of our (still broken) refrigerator. She says "You are children! You don't possess to live without a fridge!"
"But YOU live without a fridge."
"I'm almost 100 years old - I have it all."
Of course, in this context, she was actually saying that she possess the ability to do anything, but I kind of like the second message - I'm almost 100 years old. I have it all! I think the same applies as I get more experienced on my mission.
After being in Makeevka for so long (and honestly, starting to feel like I would die in this area) this week I realized - I really wouldn't mind being here forever. I LOVE it here. I love the branch, I love the people, I love living in the Suburbs close to a big city - it reminds me of home. And as I finally get to a point where I can understand and communicate with people I realize - we have the coolest members in the ward! I've lived here for 4 months now, and they're my family! On Sunday we said hi to one of the members who always helps us and he just pulled us into a group hug before we could do anything about it. (And I thought I wouldn't hug a man for another year still.. psh.) Point is - I LOVE these people.
And on the subject of understanding people more now, I had a really cool experience the other day - we had a lesson with a less active in our branch and we didn't have a super solid plan what we wanted to teach yet. But talking to her about what was going on in her life, my mind kept going back to the exact thing I read during personal study. So that's what we shared with her. And because I understood what she was saying, I could relate it to her life and her situation. And it meant so much to her! I mean, the work will go on no matter what - we will never be perfect instruments and God will do with us what he needs to do. But finally feeling like you have some ability to personally contribute to the work - it's a good feeling! Never mind that it's only happening almost 6 months into my mission...
Woahhh 6 months?? Who said that! That can't be right?! Can anyone else believe how fast it's already gone?? That's it's almost October?? Conference is already next week. Whoa.
The weathers been getting cold here real fast and I'm already busting out the fleece tights and leggings!! Woo! I know I know, I'm probably babying myself and I'm in for a rude awakening when winter ACTUALLY comes, but I just hate the cold so much! Plus, it makes it really hard to do missionary work. People here are a tad bit superstitious so if it's cold or rainy they just don't even leave their house at all. If you get wet, you're wet all day! This happened with a member - we saw her and she explained how she couldn't come help us because she was wet.
"How'd you get wet?"
"I forgot my umbrella on the way back from work this morning."
"That was 5 hours ago - and you changed your clothes."
"Yes, but my spine is still wet."
ha ha ha okay okay whatever you say.

I love their ideas on these types of things. Everyone I talk to is SUCH a character, like they come right out of movies. And don't even get me started on all their ideas for sickness! I've had a cold for over a week now, and every one's got an idea on how to cure it.
Stay at home and don't get out of bed for 10 days!
Drink onion and sugar juice!
Smell garlic!
And then all other sorts of recipes and tea and remedies from tons of people. I'll keep you posted on what works best ;)
Well I hope every thing's going well and that the weather's warm there and that no one is sick or left handed! (bad omens, both.) I love you all, and don't forget your umbrellas!!
Love
Sister Willerth

Monday, September 23, 2013

We're going private

Just wanted to let everyone know that this blog is going private so contact me via email (willerth11@aol.com) if you are still interested in viewing Diana's posts.  Thanks

Beggar's Pizza (Sept. 9)

We had a baptism!! Decided to take the occasion to send home some pictures. Unfortunately that means it'll have to be a quick update.
This week was MUCH better. We've been able to work with more members and we're kind of starting over in this area, but there's lots of potential here. Stay tuned!
Also it's been cold and rainy every day. I love the summer and the sun and everything, but sometimes you just need a change. Sister Reece and I are totally taking advantage of fall, making soup and tea every day and wearing scarves and sweaters and doing yoga inside in the mornings. It might be vain to get excited about new wardrobe options or dumb to be so happy about tea and yoga but it's those little things that remind you that you're still a real person.

ALSO, landmark: today marks a full week - and officially the longest period of time - I've lived without a refrigerator. Stopped working last Sunday night, and landlady says that the new one won't come until next Sunday. We've been getting really creative with meals here. Once we fried onions and cabbage and put soy sauce and sugar in it, and called it stir fry. Another time, we ate these pre-made pizza crusts with butter and garlic on top for sauce, and then onions and tomatoes. We're starting to keep a record of these, what we call our "beggar meals." It's opening a whole new level of creativity I never even knew I possessed.
I love you all and hope school and everything is going great! Jump in some puddles for me! And don't forget to notice the little things :)
Love,
Sister Willerth



A Members Cute Chinchillas




Garden "Neverland"



Cinnamon rolls and Companionship Dresses

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Perfect Storm



Here's the thing about God's sense of Humor.
He gives you a situation, and you think, "Oh, this is great! Woo, I hope things stay like this forever!"
 Then something happens. And you think "Woah, this is tough. But, it's fine! I can get through it. Things will be the way they were." And then something Ironic happens while things are hard, that makes them harder. And you think "Well, I just HAD to say how good things were. God sure has a sense of humor. But at least this must be the worst of it" Which is kind of like the moment in the movie, where the hero says "Well, at least things can't get much worse..." And then it starts to rain. For the hero, this can seem terribly frustrating. But what he doesn't realize is - he's in a comedy! It might not be that funny to him, but to those of us watching, we are just laughing at the irony - because we knew the rain was going to come the second he said things couldn't get any worse. And that's how God's sense of humor works. He watches and laughs, because He knows exactly whats going to happen. But it wouldn't be funny if things didn't work out in the end. So as heroes of our own stories, we can take confidence in the fact that we're living in a comedy, and when things get bad, someone is laughing - so we might as well laugh with Him.
Here was the theme of this week:
Plan at night the next day. A day packed full of teaching and awesome plans. Next day, EVERYTHING falls through. Stay in spending hours calling people on lists of former investigators. (We found a few huge piles here and we're trying to work through them.) Maybe, MAYBE get something set up. With a man. Can't go without a Woman. Call EVERY woman in our branch. ALL busy. Call back and cancel, or give the lesson to the Elders. Spend the rest of the night contacting and finding less active members. Repeat.
That was the theme of this week. It was pretty stressful being responsible for calls and setting up all our own stuff and constantly worrying when the phone rang, haha. Not to mention frustrating spending so much time inside. But in between the lines of this less-than-encouraging schedule, there were some pretty great gems:
We had a lesson with Ludmila, a less active we've been working with forever and we spend the whole night laughing. And we became her friends. That sounds so simple, but I guess you have to know her - she doesn't really warm up to people, and I'd be understating it if I said she didn't like us at first. But this week, she became a dear friend to us.
Anatoli. An old man we found on a list. One of 2 lessons we had this week, haha. Mostly he just wanted to talk to a couple Americans. He knew so much about American Sports and History, and then he started talking about Jazz. Do you know Duke Ellington and Luis Armstrong? Psh, Do I know Duke Ellington and Luis Armstrong?? hahaha Oh Anatoli. And right there, he starts scatting this old Jazz ballad for us. His smile/laugh afterward left a picture in my mind that I don't think I will ever forget. If I didn't know it before, I'm realizing now - it's all about the moments.
And Makeevka day!! We walked out of our district meeting into a giant carnival/parade. It was so cool! Sister Reece and I got to watch the parade, which started out with a huge line of motorcycles (shout out Dad- you would have loved it) And then tons of little girls in awesome costumes and I've never seen so many children in one place all dancing and playing! But the best part was, though it had the same energy as a regular American parade - the music was SO different! The marching band was playing classic Ukrainian music, minor and kind of haunting. Also, no one clapped or cheered as the parage passed. SO interesting seeing a celebration like this in a different place. But it was so fun. And then when we were in for the night there was a firework show right outside our window, and a concert going on with all sorts of Beatles and Michael Jackson covers. Just when you start to miss music too much... :) Tender Mercies. Also, Rasputin (the classic JD2 song) played several times. That was a weird, full-circle moment for me, haha. Some things just follow you wherever you go.

SO lesson of the week - be patient. Hope is hard, because it's something you can't control. But if you are patient, knowing that things will work out if you just try your best and wait - is that not hope?
I love you all.
Sister Willerth

Our district at a service project we did


 Our Dear Lidia and Victor (yes, the one with the coins). They are our second grandparents here!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

With the Holiday!

We lost sister Helsten this Friday. Well, sort of. We were actually on the way to drop her off at her new place when we FINALLY got a hold of someone who would do something about our bug problem. Turns out that the chemicals they use to get rid of them meant that we couldn't stay at our apartment for 2 days. So guess who we stayed with instead. Sister Helsten! SO if you were waiting for an update on how it is being alone - we just haven't been able to let go of our trainer yet. Although Sunday we went to or own branch and it gave us an idea of how it's going to be.

This is how it went down - we got horribly lost on the way, and were almost late to church. While we were there, people kept coming up and asking questions. We'd make them repeat it 4 or 5 times until we understood, and then in the end we wouldn't know the answer anyway. Then they'd say "Where's your third one?!?!" We'd keep trying to explain that she's not coming back and that it'll only be us, but I think they really just can't fathom that we're living alone. They always either just laugh or say "I'll call sister Helsten." "Sister Helsten isn't coming back." "Okay, then I'll call her, and she'll just tell you what's going on." Well okay, fine by me. ha ha
It wasn't so bad though - and after church Sister Locchead invited us over for dinner. President was at a meeting so it was just us girls. We had amazing tea and sang together and then ate some chocolate peanut butter cookies. Best day ever? Probably. Then because of Coal Miner's day, we had to be in by 7 o'clock to avoid mischief on the streets. Happy Shackters day!
I swear, these people have a holiday for everything. Last Monday was the day of honey and apples. It was forbidden to eat apples, and in front of all the temples, there were giant honey markets set up. Everyone came to town with heir honey and their stands, and there were bees everywhere, and we sampled so much honey and ended up buying a ton. But it is SO CHEAP and actual real honey. My favorite is the kind where they just leave a bunch of smashed honey comb in the bottom :) While I'm at it I just want to put a rumor to rest - whoever said eastern European food is bland or boring or bad has never eaten in Ukraine. These people pride themselves on their food, and for good reason.
I think that's all the news. Except one last thing - I'm an aunt again! WOOOO another niece! (it's about time, ha ha) Not sure if I actually saw her picture, or if it was just a duplicate from one of the last two kids (they look exactly alike ha ha) but I love the name and I'm so glad everything went well. Prayers payed off! Can't wait to see the little one.
I love you all and I'm glad that everything seems to be going well. Know that I'm thinking of you, and I'm so grateful for all the support as always. Keep me in your prayers!

Love always,
Sister Willerth
P.S. My name is literally impossible to remember. Even the people we've been working with for months just avoid calling me by name because they are embarrassed, but they just don't know it ha ha. POINT BEING. I'm looking for suggestions of a new name to put on a tag. I'm debating on maybe the Russian word for "will" or "Earth". What does Willerth literally mean anyway??

Thursday, August 22, 2013

And Then There Were Two

Hello home! Going to keep this short because I really want to try and get some pictures sent. The only really big news is that transfers are being extended because the next set of missionaries are having visa problems. We were so excited to be together for another 4 weeks, until BAM. President called and let us know that he's moving Sister Helsten to Center Donetsk THIS FRIDAY. So Sister Reece and I will be alone - always! This is not just a usual exchange, where she is away but we can call her every 5 minutes and have her set up appointments for us. NO. We are just going to have to take on Ukraine alone. The members heard this at church yesterday and began to mock a bit. Well, so persecuted they the prophets before us. As for me, I know that the last 2 transfers have prepared me for this incredible responsibility. It'll be humbling for sure, but I've been told and I have a feeling, that transfers like this are when you find something in yourself that makes your whole mission. Already this week, I've seen some of the blessings that come from totally losing yourself in the work. Plus I'm SO excited to be staying with Sister Reece. She is becoming one of my best friends - I can't imagine anyone else being my first single companion.

I'll keep you posted on all of the stories that I'm sure are bound to come. (Quick one - this week I accidentally asked someone if they had cancer instead of asking if they were a doctor.) Keep the prayers coming, and know that I'm sending them your way too. Also, fingers are crossed for baby news soon! WOO!
Much love,
Sister Willerth
P.S. I admit that there are some things I regret being lazy about being here now, but I have to say, writing home on a computer where half the letters have worn off makes me grateful for all the time I spent on the computer during high school and college, "memorizing the keyboard" ;) Had to throw that in, just the mental image of mom rolling her eyes at it was way too satisfying. Have a great week everyone!



We went on a tour of the huge "famous" soccer stadium in Donetsk and this is where the announcers sit. Pretty big deal.




We had a Ukrainian picnic with traditional Ukrainian food and songs (my personal favorite part. These people don't sing with much gusto in church, but you should hear them when they sing their classics!) and a member lent me this shirt. Cross stitching and patterns like this are very traditional here.




Igor is one of my very favorite people in the world. I think he is exactly who Wojtek will be in 30-40 years.





Skusha is a tiny little model who we met randomly in the park one day and after that she just started calling us up all the time to give us these random little things she paints. So sweet.




My very favorite picture of my companions (Just after we smashed coins on the train tracks.) How I love them and will miss them




Also - guess how old the coin is. Bet you can't - IT'S FROM 500 BC!!! Ancient Greece. 500 years before Christ walked the earth. coolest thing ever.



Coal mine/war museum in Donetsk




The A-team, in full (on our Friday morning Tamara excursion)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

POOR!



привет мормоны! (My favorite thing to hear walking around town.)
Language update:
I include this because people keep asking me about it. I will use the immortal catch phrase of Sister Helsten here (which happens to be one of my new favorite things to say): It's fine! I'm not fluent, and I probably will never be. I hardly understand when people are talking to me, but I'm about to pull out the main idea enough to respond. I'm struggling at it more than some, and less than others, and all together I really have no idea how to better describe my progress. I know everyone is curious and that's why you ask, but it's funny how it becomes one of the less important things after actually living here for a little bit. So if I don't talk about it much,that's why. It's fine.


Tamara got her calling! She is playing the piano for the branch, and my very favorite part of the week is our Friday mornings when we go over to her house and sing so she can practice playing. She also has been teaching me some classic Russian "romances", and she started calling me her little bird. (Reminders of home everywhere :) ) Then we always go home with several bags full of apples. Yes, apples. Lets go into that. Remember Cherry season? Apple season is even crazier. People give us HUNDREDS of apples in a week, and I swear we have enough to live off of for months, if they lasted that long. Anyone have any creative ideas of what to do with some apples? Tamara is going to teach us how to make some sort of sweet rice thing with them. Her apples are the best I've seen or had here. It's like walking outside and pulling an apple off you tree that they could sell at Costco in America. Her garden is one of the most magical places, I swear.

This has also been a super cool week, because the Patriarch was in town! He travels for the whole East Europe area, but this week he was in the Donetsk mission and so many of our members here were able to get blessings after being members for 16 years and OVER. Such a cool experience for them. And it really helps me gain a greater appreciation of how well developed the church is in America and how many resources we have so close and available to us. USE THEM, PEOPLE!

Now let me tell you about the featured word of the week. We were talking to this lady outside and a man came up, getting defensive because we're Americans and why are we in their country and the usual, and the lady  kept pointing at our shoes and saying something. Later I asked, " Sister Helsten, what does бедные mean?" "Oh, she was saying we were poor." ha ha well, people don't appreciate our style here I guess. That's one piece of advice I have for sisters - if you're serving anywhere but America, the style is different! There's no point in getting trendy clothes, because after a few months, or weeks, even you will be sick of them and then no one will think you're "cute." Only poor. So get over it while you're ahead. It's fine :) I kind of like being considered poor though. The mentality here is so much different than America - people don't really like wealthy people, or those who have earned more money and put themselves ahead of everyone else. The more signs of poverty you display, the nicer people are to you (in my experience so far). It's been kind of cool.
Oh, and I was proposed to this week! The guy was hardly even drunk. I don't think he took rejection too well though, because a few days later, he and a friend of his found out where we lived and came knocking on our door. Luckily I've broken my bad habit of never locking the door. But I am still grateful I was raised not to be scared of really anyone. I think experience like this tend to freak some of the sisters out, but I'm lucky - I can walk away unfazed. I ain't never scur'd!

Well I hope everything is going great and that you are living up your last few weeks of summer. Try a new food this week! Also, write a missionary ;)
I love you!
Sister Willerth

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bandits!

Quick updates!

Monday I got a package from home! WOOOOOO!! I'm making peanut butter cookies!! Brown sugar is like gold here, and while some other sisters were staying the night, I think they teared up a little when they saw our stash. I think I'm the richest girl in Ukraine. 

Sister Helsten had another meeting this week, leaving sister Reece and I alone to reap some havoc on Makeevka. We went on a wilderness adventure to check on our recent convert (she wasn't at church and we had reason to worry) we got lost, naturally, and sang pioneer songs (Sister Reece is a big Utah girl - she would not let pioneer day go uncelebrated) until we finally found her house. No one answered when we knocked, but knowing she had a back fence we went around and tried climbing over all this dead brush (which apparently was meant to act as some sort of fence. How was I to know??) when her neighbor's dogs went crazy. Next thing we know, we've got a Babushka yelling at us and chasing us out of the neighborhood. Probably should have come more prepared to explain ourselves, but as it was we just looked like sketchy robbers. Not one of our finer moments haha. #greenieprobs

We also had another meeting with Viktor. I think I said something about a coin from 1927? well, let me outdo myself - this week I touched a coin from the 1600s! What! It's like a small round rock with some sort of Arabic-looking characters on it. SO COOL. Also he had dimes and quarters from as far back as 1902! It was like being in national treasure.

This week we met the nicest lady in the world, named Allah. She loved our family picture and I mention her specifically because she wanted me to say: "Tell everyone that Allah from Makeevka in Ukraine says hi and you are all beautiful! Hello my puppets!!" The ladies here love to call us "Puppet". I guess it's pretty endearing haha.

We did an exchange this week with one of the newer sisters that came in a transfer after us, and it was really cool to a) see progress that I had made since I've been in country and b) feel like a trainer! I've got a feeling like I'll be training soon. It's scary being this young into the mission and thinking of that responsibility, but I think I would love it. Teaching people outside is great, but I think it's almost more fulfilling the work we do within our own companionships. At least, that's where I've learned the most these last  couple months.


Months!! Just passed the 4 month mark on the mission! Who else can't believe it? I can't!

Also the weather has been amazing this week! Nice and cool, around 20 degrees C all week long. I'm worried for when things get hot again but for now it feels like fall and we are loving it!

Also shout out to Kiki who is ENGAGED!! WHAAAA. Bummed that I'm missing it but so happy for her!

Okay I'm russian (rushin hehe. Picking up Sister Reece's humor) as always to finish this but know that I'm thinking of you and that I love you all! Take care and keep up the good work!

Love,
Villerf

Friday, July 26, 2013

Treasures!!

Hello everyone! Sorry for not writing last week - it's amazing how crazy things STILL are on our "day off". But we're blessed to be busy so we just keep moving! Sister Helsten actually reminds me of Dad sometimes. I don't think she knows the meaning of the word stop. You're sick? You've got 5 minutes to go to the bathroom and we're out the door! You're sad? Looks like we've got to talk so some people on the streets! You're tired? Do a few jumping jacks! ha ha, that's what life is like here. But it's good, because we have no time to think of ourselves. And I think that makes the work much easier to love.
I didn't get to write about it last week, but we had a baptism! Tamara, funniest little thing in the whole world. Her story is awesome - Sister Helsten found her when she was serving here a few months ago but she didn't have a phone number and wouldn't give her address, because of some sort of bad situation with her ex husband. Long, sad story. They taught her a few times and gave her a book of Mormon, and then she fell off the map. UNTIL we got here, and a member from our branch magically found her again. All the time in between, she had been reading and was totally ready when we asked her to be baptized. She is so humble and sweet and ready to listen and change and give up anything she has (which isn't much in the first place). I just love her. We took a picture with her the first night we met, and she said it was the first picture she's taken in 20 years. When we gave her a copy, she told us it was the first picture she's ever owned. She's the type of person that can only be described through the stories I have with her. She is 50, looks 35, and acts 15. She calls herself a hooligan all the time and she always calls me a lady. Says that I am going to be a leader someday (or a news broadcaster. SO me, right? I must have changed since being here, because these people see me so much different than I've ever considered myself.) Anyway, she was baptized and will soon be receiving a calling to play the piano for the branch! Which will be a huge blessing, because she'll be the first person here with musical abilities for a long time. She's trying to give e voice lessons, and she gave me a book full of Russian folk songs. Can't wait to bust that out after the mission :)
Also in the effort to work more with members (as you've probably noticed, I think this is becoming a world-wide focus) we started really focusing on a few part member families. We have been really blessed because the people here have been so prepared. Tons of ladies in our branch have husbands who have never wanted to listen, but somehow we've gotten in the door and begun teaching them. One man we taught named Viktor had his first ever missionary lesson, after his wife's 12 years of membership. When we were talking to him, we found out that he had quit drinking and smoking just the year before. Where has this man been?? Anyway, we bought his heart with a few quarters (he has the worlds coolest coin collection. Some of the oldest coins ever from all over the world. He really liked our quarters with the state pictures on the back) and we have really high hopes for him and his family. (Side note - being at their house felt so much like being at Grandma and Grandpas! The colors, the smell, the way they threw their hands at each others nonsense ha ha. Loved it. Make sure you tell Grandma and Grandpa I'm thinking of them!)
Another success story we've had is all thanks to Sister Lochhead. The new mission president's wife has been taking time to go on exchanges with the sisters and our experience with her was amazing! She has this incredible ability to show people love just through her presence. We visited a part member, part inactive family and she had them all in tear by the end of our visit. They made a goal to go through the temple together, and  we're currently working on a date to get the dad baptized! Our commitment was super simple - just to pray as a family every day - and it's amazing the difference it has already made. Just seeing them days later, you could tell how different their attitudes were, and how much stronger their relationship was. People are really changing their lives here for all of this. This is such an important work!
I don't really know what else to say. I feel like I'm changing, but I don't know how to really describe it. It's good though, I'm happier and healthier than I have been in a long time. I'm so grateful for the people that I've been meeting here and falling in love with. I'm grateful for the culture and the food and the land. I'm grateful for the experiences that tear me down and then build me up again. And I'm grateful for every one of you back home supporting me. I have definitely felt some serious prayer power coming from that side of the world this week. Thank you for remembering me and loving me! I love you all so much and appreciate you more than you know.
Thank you for everything!
Sister Willerth

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Once in a lifetime - New P Day and Greenies go it alone!



I wish that I could have a camera follow me around all week, and that I could just send home the videos. It would do this whole experience so much more justice than just my words.
This week, I was a real missionary. Sister Helsen Went up to Kharkiv and left Sister Reece and I on our own for 3 days. Ultimate greenie split!! It was a week of miracles to say the least.Our first night, we were so busy that we were literally running from appointment to appointment. We would get off a bus and sprint. Running and panting and laughing, we looked at each other and said "Well, this is how it should be, isn't it?" Literally chasing people down to share the message - that's the joy of the work.
Also how could I forget the 4th of July. Bless America! Sister Reece and I made sure to wear our red white and blue and sing America songs all day.  It was funny when we tried to explain to people that it was an American holiday and they asked what it was and we said "the 4th of July!" "Okay, but what's the holiday? ... The name of the holiday is just the name of the day?" Yup, that's what we do in America. Keep it simple. Like our lunch for example. To celebrate the 4th, we bought a huge watermelon each, came home, cut them in half, grabbed a spoon, and just went for it. Best lunch ever. :) Then Sister Helsten got back that night and we did smores. Granted the marshmallows are flavored and there are no graham crackers so we do them on cookies instead, but I never felt like we've been lacking for anything. Except of course peanut butter. Seriously people - enjoy your peanut butter!
Oh, we also got to experience a Ukrainian "Barbecue". Please, let me tell you about it. They have this "meat" called сала (which is really just fat) that they gave to us on a plate and served with Katsup. That's it. You can't not laugh when you realize such a situation. We were all cracking up and wondering what we should do. Then sister Reece said "Welp - once in a lifetime, baby." And we all dig in. That slogan quickly becoming the theme of everything we do.
We also got to meet our new Mission presidents this week! President Lochhead and his wife - they are the sweetest things on the planet! I'm lucky being really close to Donetsk and I've been able to see them a lot already and get to know them a bit. They've already done great things here, and I can't wait to see all the incredible things that come from their service. They are seriously so awesome! Just loving and kind and hard working and great examples. I love them so much already!
Transfers are tomorrow and we're getting new sisters, but I'll be staying here in Makevka to finish my training. I am so excited - I love my companionship and we've got a great thing going! After only six weeks we've seen unbelievable miracles. I can't wait to see what happens in our next 6 weeks together!
Well that's about all I have time for. I hope everything is going well at home! Enjoy your summer and air conditioning and screened windows. And I'll be enjoying the richest land in the world, and all the experiences that go along with it :)
Love you all!
Sister Willerth