Elder Christopher Russell, Donetsk Ukraine Mission July 2010 - July 2012

Christopher Russell was found worthy to serve a proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, and received his mission call from President Thomas S. Monson to serve in the Ukraine, Donetsk Mission.

Chris will spend the first twelve weeks of his mission at the Mission Training Center in Provo Utah learning, Russian.

On October 13, 2010 he will start his journey to the Ukraine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

5/9/2011 "m-oh-j-na" It's okay - Yes?

Hello Family and Friends!

We had a split this week which was good. Elder K(the Ukrainian) elder and myself were back together again and it felt wierd not knowing so much Russian as my companion.

then we were going to do some work on the ward directory and while we were waiting, I played chess with Bro. Kalashnikob(released branch president; I love that guy.

We had a good week with 4 lessons on one day followed by 5 lessons on another day which made the day fly by.

Elder Rader, Elder Russell's trainer, is gone now he left on a train yesterday during Mother's Day calls and is on his way back to America. We got our goddbyes in a couple of days ago.

When I was fixing the screen (on the only window worth a screen) I noticed a bad smell outside and when I was finished I looked around and found a dead cat right underneath our window. It had been there for a few weeks from the looks of it. It's just like a cat to die under OUR window.

The day with 5 lessons was awesome because as we were walking to lessons people approached us and we were able to teach them more about the gospel. It also rained that day and we got pretty soaked and at one of the lessons a grandmother took a towel and dried my hair vigorously. We felt very good after that day and i think I'm starting to get the hang of being senior.

We bought sugar on Saturday and the sign said it was on sale (usualy 66 tpk now 16tpk) and when we took it to the lady and it rang up (it came to 63 tpk) I explained that the sign said it was 16tpk. This was a bad thing to do since she proceeded to yell at me for 2 minutes about why there's no possible way that that could be right and that if I don't want it I don't have to buy it. I'm pretty sure in America they would have to give it to you for that price.

The new word is MO jme ho pronounced "M-oh-j-na" and it pretty much means "is that okay" but is also the response as in "yes that's okay" it's the most useful Russian word I know.

Love you all! Loved talking with you! Happy Mother's day! Elder Russell

5-9-2011 Mothers Day Phone Call Recap - Thanks for sharing Missionary Mom!

So, for all of the important women in Chris' life, I give you the Mother's day phone call.

First off, Chris has a happiness in his voice and a bouncy energy exudes over the phone wires. So, I know that he's truly happy.

He has been sick for the past week and a half. It sounds like he has been fighting sinusitis. We talked about the drugs he's taking and I added a nasal saline spray into the list which he will purchase on his P day.

He is enjoying ALL boxes that come his way and the contents they hold. Thanks to all who have sent boxes.

He also enjoys the financial gifts that he receives and he loves the fact that the $ is so strong in this country. About .50 for a large kilo of cookies.

His mission President has an interview with him last week and told him that he is keeping him in Kharkov and sees him in future being a leader in the mission in that area. Chris is thinking he'll be district leader in the not to future. The mission loses 8 missionaries within the next two months. There are 8 coming out and he is in training to be a new trainer.

Chris' mission began the "new mission" program a few months back. (if you haven't attended a meeting where this will be explained, your stake's should be having one in the not to distant future). The missionary discussions have also changed and they now teach the plan of salvation in the first discussion.

His shoes have a few holes but he feels that he will be fine with his old ones until October. He will then get out the half of his mission clothes he's been saving for his year mark and get rid of the yucky shirts.

The water in the Ukraine is full of minerals so he says that his shirts and everything he washes gets stiff and hard and is not ver white.

I asked him what he liked most about mission life and he said learning the language. I'm impressed by this because i know first hand it can be frustrating at times to 24/7 be dealing with a language that is not your first. He says he studies all the time. I'm envisioning him being an MTC instructor when he returns. We could really benefit from the extra income it would bring in for his schooling and it would benefit him to be surrounded by missionaries for a small chunk of time each day.

His primary need is INVESTIGATORS! So We need to continually pray for him to find people to teach and for him and his companion to listen to the spirit as they are directed to interact with people.

The church has taken a new avenue towards getting our name out there with "Mormon Helping Hands" and Chris mission does alot of community service and individual companionships take on service projects of there own. One example was the tree uprooting that
took place a week or so ago.

Here is more information on the Bulgaria trip that I mentioned last week. Evidentilly all missionaries have to exit the Ukraine at their year mark(Sept. or Oct. for Chris). He will travel with his MTC friends all the way to the mission home in Bulgaria. There he will be collected by the mission home and taken to a set of apartments that are kept for the Ukrainian missionaries. They have to remain in Bulgaria for one week. During this week's period of time, they are not allowed to contact anyone but they are allowed to sight see and frequent the mall that is nearby. Everyone evidently enjoys this "half way mark" vacation and it's hyped up by those that have gone before. At the end of the week, they are given updated passports and are placed on a train and returned to their various cities. Pretty interesting!

Well, It was great to hear Chris' voice. he says that he is enjoying being senior companion and he has finally mastered the telephone and being able to converse on the phone with people. All in all, he feels that his language skills are coming along very nicely.

Hope this news makes everyone's day. It certainly made my day to talk to him.

Love you all,

A Child Lifts a Missionary's Spirits & One STRONG Missionary

Dear family and friends,

So this week didn't start off that great. We had a whole day of appointments planed but they seemed to fall through. At the end of the day we were kind of depressed and we were walking in the street and one of the ward member's children ran up to us and said, "missionary, missionary!" He was really happy to see us and walked us all the way home and he made us feel better.

I have also been under alot of stress trying to organize and get approval to help a widow with some landscaping projects on her property. It was really hard to get approval for the things we did. We ended up clipping branches with meat cleavers, uprooting a couple of trees and digging one entirely up. We did this all in about 3 hours and then she planted onions. It was funny.

Our one investigator that speaks French and English didn't have any food this week. So, I also had to get him some food.

Our mission president has made a new rule that we can't do missionary sportss because he felt that there was too much socializing going on.

The worst party about this past week l) for some reason the bread factory closes for Easter/ we love their bread and we haven't been able to buy any 2) I've been sick most of this week and haven't felt good but I've still had to attend Pres. Fry's training sessions. He wants us trained so that we can be new missionary trainers in the very near future.

Love you all,
Elder Russell

4-25-2011 Easter Traditions & Russian to French Translation

Hello Family & Friends!
Trying to explain Easter traditions in Russian is hard. We have a less active who always asks us about American traditions and we tried to explain Easter traditions t to her but I don't think she understood all of it.

We ran into someone this week who came up to us and we were able to talk to him. He thanked us for our service.

Elder Loveridge was sick this week and Elder Kontadslijo was in Bulgaria so we went to the other apartment, and I made cookies while he slept.(From the Mom, it seems that when a missionary gets to around their year mark, they have to travel to Bulgaria to get their Visia's renewed; they travel with their MTC groups to Bulgaria; it's not clear if they have to stay overnight there or if they can do everything in a day trip) We don't have an oven.

We taught a black Catholic, which was interesting, and at the end he prayed with us. Then as we were visiting less actives one of them invited us in and we talked with him. Apparently, he is now Harry Krishna and he tried to "open our minds" to what he believes...which is everything. I just hope he wasn't Harry Krishna when the missionaries baptized him.

Easter was fun. They paint eggs and they bake a cake things called a paska like pascal and they can only eat them on Easter or the following Week.(This is basically a dense bread with raisens baked in it and dusted with powdered sugar)

One member fed us and another told us where to buy the Paskas. They also crack hard boiled eggs together and whoever has a crack, or a bigger crack, loses and I believe gives the egg to the other person. The best part of all this is that On Easter you say "Christ has risen" to say hello to people and they respond with "in truth he has risen". That was fun saying to people.

They don't have a bunny which made it really hard to explain our traditions to members.

A kid near our apartment asked us to play soccer. We talked with him a bit about the Book of Mormon since apparently somebody gave one to him.

We also sa one kid sitting on the back connecter of a trolley-car which was moving, since he didn't want to have to pay for the ride.

On Sunday our investigator, Solmon who speaks French, finally came to church. It meant I was translating from Russian to French for 3 hours which just about killed me, but I'm really glad he came. I only hope that he didn't come just because the place where he works was closed on Easter. We'll see what happens.

Elder Russell

4-18-2011 Patriarch Visit and Elevator Shenanigans

Hi family and friends!

This week a Patriarch came to Ukraine which was really good. Some of our ward members have yet to receive a patriarchal blessing and one in particular. I as very happy to see get one. She's the mother of 4 but only her oldest son and her come to church and her husband isn't a member and doesn't work. Sad...she's great though and has a wonderful testimony.

Yesterday we went to our black investigator's house and he told us that he was mugged on the street and they took his phone and money. Eventually they returned the phone but the money is gone and his landlord comes today for payment.

This week we found almost every less active on our list which was very fun and weird. As it turns out, 2 of them are dead and 5 or 6 others have moved away.

Getting into buildings to knock on doors is kind of hard since they either have a phone which you call and then they push a button and answer the door, a lock with a key hole that you need the key for, or a code lock with l0 numbers on it that you need to press 3 or 4 times to ge in. I prefer the code locks since some of them are very easy to guess the code.

But during our adventures we managed to get stuck in one elevator and were scared to death in the other. Some of the elevators here are large to bring furniture up and when you step in them the floor drops an inch so that the furniture doesn't leave without you. But they made all kinds of freaky noises and getting back into it on the 15th floor wasn't pleasant.

As we were walking one day a lady dropped a bunch of potatoes and we picked them up for her and she was so grateful she gave us some tissues.

In priesthood we were talking about honesty and our branch president talked about copyright laws and how Ukraine has a hard time following these rules. He said he himself needed to work on things like "torrenting"*. Funny!

Love, Elder Russell

torrenting=Making copies of cds and selling them to others

4-11-2011 SYLing - in Ukraine

Hello FAmily and friends!

This week started out with a Family Home evening. That was fun, but using balloon animals was a bad idea given everyone wanted one and they were loud...

We had a day where we were "dogged" twice on completely different ends of our area, so we walked alot.

We've been SYLing(speaking our language,Russian) on the street which has been helpful. I feel as though my Russian is progressing faster than ever.

We also went to the boo pullok(reenk) which is basically a bunch of stands selling books. Elder Loveridge wanted a Ukrainian dictionary and I wanted to look at some books.

We also went inside some Russian temples which were very interesting. There were candles everywhere, smoke in the air, people kissing things, and more people crossing themselves than I've ever seen in my life.

We had a lesson with some members this week one of which was terrible because the woman was basically asking our advice on whether she should divorce her husband... just awkward.

Then I had to give a blessing to an investigator in russian which I'm hoping went well. What helped me get through the day was being at Fuka's (Victoria's) house waiting for her mom, and boka just being cute.

We had a baptism on Saturday which was a husband and wife and Elder Loveridge baptized the wife. They have 4 kids so we're hoping they get baptized soon too. We've been working with someone from Nigeria named Solomon who seem to be avoiding baptism for various random reasons.

I got Shelley's box on Monday and it appears as though everything made it just fine.

Conference was good although I kind of feel like Adam in the Garden of Eden being commanded to hurry up and get married and to remain celibate for the rest of my mission. Anyway, conference was good and we had a good week overall, I'm just trying to cope with being senior companion and all of the th
ings I didn't need to worry about before.

Love you all!

Sorry if I'm missing birthdays!

Elder Russell

4-4-2011 Mormon Helping Hands - The New Senior Companion

Hello Family and Friends!

So This week started off on Tuesday with a 3 investigator lesson we started out with just Susanta who is our main man from Sri Lanka, and then his friend from kenya named Philip and then somewhere in the middle of that his Ukrainian friend named Anton came and so that was cool. It turned out that all four of us were trying to convert Susanta to christianity.

And then we had a lesson with a member and before we actually got around to starting the lesson his x-wife showed up because they actually still live together and she was a little crazy but since she's not a member and he is we got a member/present lesson. Hopefully we can work on her.

For our District meeting one of the things we did was watch the temple cultural celebration that the countries that were going to be benefited by the Kiev temple did and that's really cool if you can ever find it watch it. We watched it in Russian but it was orginally done in Ukrainian. There's an english translation that's really good.

This week was transfers so I spent a lot of time packing. I got all my stuff in when transfers actually came, what's surprising is that I'm still in the same part of the city of Soltivka and I am even in the same Branch and I went to Elder Loveridge who was in my last district. He's going into his 3rd trsansfer and I'm going into my fifth. He's 2 younger than me and I'm now Senior companion. Hopefully I know enough Russian to get by. So his apaprtment was in my area last transfer so we ended up taking a metro and taking a bus down here with all my luggage which wasn't too bad.

By the way, we have awesome juice here which we drink more often than soda because it tastes amazing! My trainer joked that the juice is so good because it needs to be a chaser for all the vodka around here.

We had a service a project that was a big thing(helping hands) they do this once year where every branch in the Ukraine has their own service actiivity to do and they all go out on the same day and complete their service activity. And for our service acitivity we were picking up leaves from a local kindergarten, putting them in a pit and we were then burning them so they weren't there anymore.

This really annoying thing happened because I'm senior companion now which means that I have the phone and I have to answer the phone when someone is calling and so far I haven't had very good experiences with the phone. One time this person called and they were speaking so fast I couldn't understand. Another time, apparently there are local young women in their 20s who have our phone number and like to call us randomly and they called us up and just started tgalking in some kind of English and ununderstandly Russian. They called back 3 times and I kept hanging up. Oh zut!

Yesterday Pres. Frye called and that scared me but he wanted to talk to my companion about someone he's baptizing on Saturday. Which reminds me that my companion is baptizing someone on Saturday, should be pretty awesome!