Friday, July 26, 2013


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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Week Before July 1....

Not much to say about this week. The weather is hot (100+ almost every day), and I am tired and happy and busy. Lots of stuff happened of course, but nothing too interesting. Therefore, I sent pictures. Worth a thousand words, right? ;) Thanks for the updates on home everyone! I hope everyone's enjoying their summer! Eat some hot dogs for me this 4th of July!

Much love,
Sister Willerth

I just realized I haven't sent any pictures yet! These are my lovely companions. Here we are, experiencing Shaurmas for the first time!

 This is our apartment! Not too shabby, eh? Totally mismatched, as promised ;) But I love it, and it's home :) 

After having already eaten probably fifteen meals that day, we went to a member's house and she fed us yet again. Luckily I have been raised to be able to eat whatever's in front of me, not matter how much there is or how much I like it. I'm aquiring a taste for everything though, and packing on the pounds (as you can see, I weigh about as much as my companions combined.)

This is us with scarves on our way to check out one of the orthdox temples! The second picture is of our district. They are awesome Transfers are coming up and I hope no one moves..  

This was us with some members at this huge conference we had.The second picture is of the night we learned to make Borsch! This lady is SO awesome

This is basically the feel of Makevka. Either you're in a little area with dirt roads and tons of private little houses (more like cottages) or in the more populated areas, this is what the apartment buldings look like, also mismatched, also with dirst roads, and always with some clothes hanging out the windows on clothes lines. 
. I love it :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Last Weeks Post (Just a little late :)

Sister Willerth here, reporting on what has probably been the best week of my life. Also I never got to finish talking about last week, but I'll try to cram everything in with the time I've got.
The two big things about last week were 1 - we got to do this really awesome service project and this lady's Dacha, where we pretty much just helped her clean out her garden and then picked enough cherries to make even Deana sick. It's a great time of year for cherries, they are everywhere and SO CHEAP. Anyway, it was a really fun experience to just be at this little cottage in the middle of nowhere (the town's population is 25 people) and sit and relax and see the animals.
While I'm on the subject of animals- everyone is scared of them here! Granted they are a little sketchy and dirty, but so are the buses! My motto is, if you always have some hand sanitizer on you, then you've got nothing to worry about.Plus there are so many kittens right now! They are so cute, I just want to steal them and take them home. But unfortunately, pets are нелзя so I just have to play with the ones I see and gross out my companions. жалка.
Speaking of companions, it was Sister Reece's birthday last week, and so we all went out to eat at New York Street Pizza. Yup, authentic American grub. really though, it was pretty dang good pizza. I haven't been away from home TOO long, but it's still nice to taste some greesy cheeze. Also, it's great having a companion with a birthday because you do everything with them, so it's basically your birthday too. It's kind of weird spending literally EVERY second with someone, but I love my companions so it hasn't been a problem.
We have a few black brothers in our branch, and one that we're teaching, and let me tell you - they are probably the most spiritual people in the world. One of them has the most amazing story - he left Nigeria when he was 17 to escape gang connections, and hasn't seen his family in almost 10 years. He's lived in India, Singapore, Egypt, China - you name it. And he met missionaries his first week in Ukraine. What are the chances of living in so many places, having so many experiences, and finding the church here? I just can't believe some of the things put in my path sometimes.
Like I said though, these guys are so cool. One came on a lesson with us and was preaching all about how people who read the book of Mormon and say it's not genuine aren't Christian. He just kept saying "How can you say a book about Christ isn't GENUINE! This is GENUINE!" Woooaaaah there take a breath man haha. (although we really do love the support when we can get it. A testimony means so much more coming from a peer rather than a missionary). Sister Reece and I haven't been able to stop saying "genuine" ever since.

I've been learning to cook all kinds of new cool stuff, not the least of which was some AMAZING борш! We met with a lady in the branch who taught us and it was sooo good. I couldn't stop thinking of Mr. Walsh... Does he make борш? I would love to try his, or teach him how it's done when I get back.
Oh, and the Chameleon face is still doing me good. The other day some lady stopped us on the street and was convinced we had talked before. (We hadn't, I DEFINITELY would have remembered her.) She was so funny though, a self-proclaimed "псих" which from what I understand is a lunatic. A fitting word. I hope we get to meet with her. She loved my name though. People here are so funny, they just blink and fall backward a little when they read my tag. They all say "Oh, American names are so different and beautiful..." My name and the fact that I'm from Chicago are like the only two "cool cards" I have to play.
Also have I mentioned that I'm the relief society pianist? Yup. I'll admit, using "I'll never be a missionary" as an excuse to not practice has come back to bite me. But it's a really good opportunity.
Speaking of opportunities, I had probably my favorite experience so far this week. We live above a bakery and we walk by smell it EVERY day. The other day we were on our way back in for dinner after a meeting, and we just decided to walk in and ask if we could help, and they let us right in and taught us how to make all these awesome bagels and rolls and crescents. it was SO fun. We were all working on different things, so it was just me alone with some lady trying to understand what she's telling me to do and her questions about my life at home and her telling me about her family. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a movie.
Speaking of Movies, probably most of you are not familiar with the district videos they have us watch, but for those of you RMS out there, I've got a funny story. First, I have to tell you about Tamara. She is the sweetest, most wonderful thing ever. We invited her to be baptized, and she enthusiastically accepted, but when we tried to put her on date she hesitated. She was saying that she still had lots of friends that were orthodox, catholic, etc... After talking with her, we realized she thought that as a Mormon, she couldn't have any other friends. We assured her that we could (and did personally) have many friends of other faiths. She could not believe it. She threw up her arms and cried "слава боже!!" haha I felt so bad for the misunderstanding, but I couldn't help but think of German, and how he "broke it." I hope at least someone out there appreciates this story. But for everyone else it's still exciting, because she will be our first personal baptism. Woo! I love her and am so excited. She also didn't want to come to church because she didn't have any nice clothes, so we told her we'd give her some. I was being so dumb, because I was so hesitant to give some things away. Then Matt 10:8 came into my head and I decided to just put myself aside, and give. I have never seen anyone so grateful for anything as she was when we gave her our clothes. I really need to just remember that none of our material things are as precious as the lives we can touch by giving them away. I'm so grateful I am able to learn that lesson here and now, while I'm still young. I hope I can remember all these things when I come home too.

Okay for a funny story: we've had lots of encounters with drunk men lately. One tried to follow us home the other day, which would have been a tiny bit scary except for the fact that as soon as we started to run a little, he tried to too and fell over. haha. Plus Sister Helsten is so hard core. One tried grabbing my hard while we were on the bus the other day and she all out karate chopped his hand away. Don't touch my greenies!! haha she's so hardcore. I'm glad I've had at least some experience with people like this because it doesn't bother me so much, but Sister Reece is a little less used to it. The funniest part is that yesterday some guy grabbed her hear and tried to kiss her and sister Helston just jumped in front of her and slapped his head away. So that's what we're doing here: Kickin butt, and takin' referrals.
Well this has been a pretty hefty update, so I'm sorry that I can't write more individually. But I'm thinking of and praying for you all and know that I love you!! I'm so grateful to be here and every day be having these life-changing experiences. Thank you all so much for the support and love as always!
сестра виллерф