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!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

3/29/2011 A Testimony of "The Gift of Tongues"

Hello Family and Friends!

This week started out with FHE with 2 African(one was baptized by my companion) attending. That was fun and one of them only speaks French (I think I mentioned him last week) so I could talk with him which was really cool.

We had "March Maddness" this week which was a competetion among the missionaries. We had to do things like have lessons, do push-ups, get contacts, run, give out book of Mormons, and wall sits.

We had a crazy day where we were laughed at by some teens going to a lesson, got a referral during a different lesson, and got a contact 2 minutes after that lesson ended. Then we were home late because we were taking a black member home(he's been jumped already).

I got a transfer call and will figure out where I'm going on Friday.

Elder Rader is in his last transfer and I'm hoping that I'll go near him.

While we were leaving district meeting a drunk walked in looking for someone to confess all of his sins to. Three of us went up to him because he seemed about ready to hit one of us.

We had a sick day this week where I studied a ton of Russian grammar stuff and one day came back from a lesson where a man started talking to us because he had 3 friends in America.

Then we did a missionary night on Saturday and while we were waiting some people walked in who wanted a blessing on their home and business since it seems to be failing. The missionary night went well though and I got to do a Steve Irwin impression to introduce Austraila.

I went on a 30 minute split on Saturday as well during a baptism to help them contact and we got 4 contacts and 3 Books of Mormons out all this while it was pouring down hail, rain, and some snow.

Then Sunday morning (had daylight savings which meant we were dead) I get a call from the other elders saying that they're bringing an investigator to church that only speaks French and they want my help. So, I ended up translating for him during Sacrament meeting (which is pretty much my testimony of the gift of tongues) and then we had a lesson with him. I had Elder Loverridge look up gospel words in the English Book of Mormon so I could find them in the French one. FUN!

Elder Russell

Monday, March 21, 2011

Update on Borshe Contents

I was a little concerned about our strapping Chris only eating Borshe, vegetable soup, and cookies every day for a week, was anyone else? He clarified that his recipe for Borshe includes a full pound of chicken and a half pound of sausage in addition to the vegetables...YAY, now that sounds like a good meal!

3/21/2011 Ivan and Oleg and Schwietzers, Oh, My!

Hello Family and Friends!

Monday we brought 2 black investigators to FHE with us. One spoke English, French, and Russian and the other only spoke French. It was African French so it's almost impossible for me to understand. I did have a conversation with a black man who only spoke French(he had a canadian accent) who was baptized on Saturday. He told me I need to work on remembering my French so I can teach people like him (a canadian taught him).

We had another lesson with Ivan and taught him the Plan of Salvation. He took a BOM and we gave him a pamphlet to read about it.

Oleg is another investigator we met with 3 times this week. We talked with him at his house, brought him to a fireside (president and Sis. Schwertzer spoke), and he came to church with us.

We also had a day this week where we gave out 5 books in 3 hours or so. Wow!

Zone conference was this week and we were told it started at l0 so we showed up an hour early to make sure we'd make it and it actually started at 9!

We had the 70 over the East area missions in Europe come and speak to us, visit families, and give a Fireside(The Schwietzers). he spoke in May 2010 conference. It was awesome! Then afterwards we waited for our landlady who wanted to do family history work (she never showed up) and saw a USSR Convention with CCCP balloons.

A man also came up to us and asked what my opinion was (all in English)( of the nuclear radiation getting to the West Coast from Japan. I'm thinking I'm missing some details.

I managed to completely forget about St. Patty's day.

We played chess with the old branch president again. I found out his name (alekcallgep kadaukulob) is the same as the guy who make the AK47(Russian made machine gun).

Then we took the sacrament to a member last night and talked with them. He says that missionaries need a piece of home every now and then. He had us fin our houses on Google maps... Ours was taken at 7:52 am on a Tuesday in fall/winter is my guess (the picture).

Love you all,
Elder Russell

*A note from the mom--Thanks to all of you who fasted on behalf of the missionary work in Ukraine; Our family is excited by the increased success that Elder Russell has seen over the past two weeks. Our testimony of the power of fasting with purpose has become even stronger.

Monday, March 14, 2011

3/13/2011 Blessings From Our Fast

Hello family and friends!

So this week I had two splits one with an Elder Zoemberg and the other with Elder Loveridge. The one with Elder Z was just waiting for our companions to finish "Leadership Training" as it only lasted a couple of hours.

Then from Friday to Saturday night, I had a split with Elder Loveridge. We spent a lot of time contacting in a park and finally got a book out! But their phone "was turned off" so they wouldn't give us their number.

As far as success goes, on Tuesday we had a lesson with Susanto and his friend came in and asked if he could meet with us too!! yes!! He's from Kena(the friend) and we have a member from another part of Africa that we can use when we do lessons with him.

We also met with this kid about our age named Ivan t pronounced ee-v-ah-a) and taught him some English as well as a spiritual lesson. He's really great and sincere and I hope that he starts progressing.

We were looking for less actives the other day and we found this address for a dorm complex...She wasn't there anymore but now I know what Ukrainian dorms look like.

We had a "brothers night" this week which consists of English speakers to get together and talk about spiritual things in English.

This week we watched the Joseph Smith film, then we had church this week without investigators.

Elder Kon... and I were asked to give a spiritual thought in primary so we talked about faith growing from a seed to a tree. Then Elder kont... asked the district president's son if he wanted to be big like me and he said, "my dad's big." Okay, primary.

Then we went to priesthood where the branch president taught this week about the Lord's law of health. We got about half way through when the family history guy stood up and listed off all the food storage that he has telling everyone that they need to prepare for what's ahead.

I was also told that a 8.9 earthquake hit over in Japan and caused a 33 foot tidal wave. The same person told me that US l0l in California had a section shut down.

I'm hoping Trent is alright.
Elder Russell

Wide Butter = Maslenitsa - Thanks Missionary Mom!

It turns out, that all of the traditions that Chris has been celebrating are for the one holiday Maslenitsa, also known as Butter Week, Pancake week, or Cheesefare week, is a Russian religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated during the last week before great lent--thjat is, the seventh week before easter. Maslenitsa corresponds to the western christian carnival, except that Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday. The Orthodox date of Easter can differ greatly from the Western Christian date.

The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is "bliny" (Russian pancakes), popularly taken to symbolize the sun. Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition: butter, eggs, and milk.

Maslenitasa also includes masquerades, snowball fights, sledding, riding on swings, and plenty of sleigh rides. In some regions, each day of Maslenitsa had its tratiional ctiviity. The mascot of the clebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Lady Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma.

As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evenings, Lady Maslenitsa is tripped of her finery and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining blintzes are also thrown on the fire, and Lady Masleitsa's ashes are buried in the snow(to fertilize the crops)

3/7/2011 International Pancake and "Wide Butter" Day

Hello Friends and Family!

This week started with me still being sick, but towards Thursday I was all better.

I had two splits this week one with Elder Brady, who is just like Elder Beck, and one with Elder Rader, my wonderful trainer. Those were great!!

Borris, the one who had the stroke, has a new roommate which makes it hard for lessons to be taught to him.

I haven't seen pickled bats here, but I think a member tried to feed us pickled tomatoes once.

My little primary friend was sick last week so she wasn't at church or FHE but I think she's better now.

As far as the cold weather goes, I'd like to remind everyone that I began wearing my heavy coat in October and have STILL needed to wear it.

The branch had several parties. one was for International pancake day, when they made a ton of Ukrainian pancakes and had a large feast. Then they had a game night thing on Saturday in celebration of March 8th which is women's day.
I also went to a talent show with Elder Rader on Friday celebrating the same thing. Two teenagers sang "9 Crimes" by Damien Rice in English...SKETCHY!!

They also have this holiday where they make scarecrows and light them on fire. This is symbolic of them "burning" Winter away. And there is a day called "wide butter day" or something, I don't think it translates well.

Then on Sunday there were 6 investigators at church! 4 of them were the other Elders and two had to leave after the first hour but still! Then the 2 we had left went to priesthood...where the guy talked the entire time about family history...again.

I'm hoping Krista is okay by now, I know that these letters have some delay getting to me so it's been a week or two.

Thank you for all of the love and support that you give me and all of the letters!

I'm very grateful!!
Elder Russell

A note from Elder Russell's mom:

Thanks to all who fasted for the Donetsk Ukrainian missionaries last Sunday. I will keep you posted with the blessings of the fast.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2/27 Getting Organized in the new area...

Hello Family and Friends!

This week was a lot of area work. Since my new companion was sick, we were confined to our apartment for a couple of days. So we finally made an area map, figured out where our boundaries are, made a list of all the people in our area, talked with our branch mission leader to figure out who's active and cleaned the apartment.

Then on Sunday, the other elders had an investigator come so we took him to gospel principles. The teacher for this class happens to only come to church every 3 weeks or so because of work and didn't prepare. This meant he was reading from the manual a lot. Then, in priesthood, the teacher started the lesson by saying, "I know we're supposed to study this conference Liahona thing, but I'd like to do something else. Any objections?" Then someone said that he was the teacher and could teach what he wanted so we had an hour long discussion on how to do family history work. The whole time the other elders have given their investigator a Liahona which he was reading and not listening. I'm sick now, by the way so your prayers would be nice.

Tonight we have the Katusov family for Family Home evening which should be fun. I'm thinking that my Russian is getting better but I'm being told that I need to speak up so that people understand me. Going to have to work on that.

We need more investigators too. The only one that we're meeting with right now is Sri Lankan and speaks perfect English. We need more natives, which I'm hoping will come with a weather change. Silly groundhog. Hope you're all doing well!

Elder Russell

2/21 fuka(Vika) -and New Companion Elder Kontsedaylo

Hello family and friends!
This week I actually have a picture of fuka(Vika), the little girl who loves me and simultaneously wants to hit me every time she passes by.

Just so that everyone feels better, we got stuck in an elevator too. Four of us walked in, the doors closed, the lights turned off, and nothing happened. The difference is that I ripped the doors open with my hands and we could get out fine.

I beat the old branch president at chess after a lesson with him and I think he wants a re-match.

We met with Sister tamara this week and she has a great testimony. I could feel that and when Elder Beck gave her a blessing it was even stronger.

We had to move Elder Beck, so on Thursday the ZLs and us took the 3 suitcases and extra bag(that's the size of a suitcase) through the metro. It was fun.

Then on Friday we went on a bus at 7 in the morning and I stayed with the ZL for the rest of the day until we found out who companions were. Right now I'm with Elder Kontsedaylo who lived in Kiev until he was 9 years old and then he moved to Austrailia. So he knows English and Russian pretty perfectly.

We baptized someone the following day so I went to that. The man is from Africa and speaks English, French, and some Russian.

On Sunday I had to give a talk and I used a Liahona general conference address that I didn't know was written by Russell M. Nelson until I was on the stand. Really weird saying Elder Russell said, probably one of the few times that will happen.

They don't really celebrate Valentine's day, they have a different one for that.

We cannot eat fish here (I wouldn't want to either) and as far as I know, there is no church sponsored scouting program here in Ukraine.

When missionaries aren't teaching lessons, we are usually contacting, eating, preparing food, setting up appointments, or it's P day. In the last case I've done bowling, ping-pong, Risk, Monopoly, napped, shopped, hung out, and played both kinds of football.

As far as how I'm doing goes, I'm great! I love my new companion and he has high hopes for the area. The work is hard but we carry on and I believe that our work will pay off. And Russian is going fine, my companion says I have a good accent.

Elder Russell

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2/20/2011 - No Compassion from Chris

I wrote Chris this week and mentioned how cold it has been here in California, you know, down into the 30's and not getting any warmer than 50 degrees - no compassion at all here's what he had to say.

I can't really feel too bad for your terrible Californian weather since it's still 30 degrees warmer than here. glad that everything is going well though!

2/19/2011 Chris gets a new companion

News of the week, Elder Russell will remain in the apartment he opened last month. His new companion is an Elder Kontsedaylo, we're not sure what kind of name this is, and his companion is the district leader for the Soltivka, South area.

Have a great weekend.


2/13/2011 A Surprise Trip to the Metro Police Station

As the mom, I feel that this story is one that will increase everyone's testimony that the prayers that we offer on behalf of the protection of our missionaries are heard and answered.

Last week, as Chris and his companion were walking the streets of his area, they were stopped by two policemen. The policemen asked them for their identification papers. Chris pulled his papers out and presented them. They were carefully read and handed back. Chris claims that they didn't really converse with him after this point.

The police officers requested that Elder Beck hand over his papers, they were told by Elder Beck that he didn't have his identification papers with him. Elder Beck Told them that he was Elder Russell's companion but the police took both Elder Beck and Chris to the Police Station that was located in the nearby Metro Station.

At the police station, the police grilled Elder Beck as to what he was doing in the Ukraine, etc... After some time, they came to believe his story that he was a missionary, he then was raked over the coals for being on the streets without his proper paperwork. The two elders were then released.

As a mother, I feel for both young men and the scariness of this whole situation. Before Chris left for the MTC, I felt prompted to speak with him about the importance of ALWAYS carrying proper identification; I also went over how important it was to comply with the requests of the police if he ever had any encounters with them.

We are thankful that Heavenly Father was mindful of these two missionaries and enlightened the police officers with the sense that Elder Beck truly was working for the Lord in a missionary capacity.

A special thank you to all our dear family and friends who pray for our son and his safety and success. Elder Russell and our family, truly appreciate them.


2/6/2011 Year of the rabbit - It's been positive celsius outside!

Hello family and friends!

This week wasn't too exciting, but everything is melting here. Not only that, but the winds have been pretty crazy the last 2 days.

We met with Susanta(our investigator) this week. He's from Sri Lanka and grew up budhist. We're trying to get him a testimlny of Jesus Christ. He just seems too caught up on the facts.

We also met with our Landlady and read a pamphlet with her. She's nce... a little odd, but nice.

I made another batch of cookies this week and they're already gone.

On Wednesday, my companion made me senior for the day and had me do all the phone calling and such. It was good for me but a little on the scary side.

Then we had a split the next day where I visited an investigator in the hospital of the elder I was on splits with, the man had had a stroke. We also visited a less active's home and she had some inappropriate pictures on the wall along with some budhist art..yeah. She went through my photos and she saw the one where Ashlyn is holding a rabbit and said how cute it was, that it's the year of the rabbit, and that eating them is bad. I withheld the fact that we raise them all for meat.

This Friday we get transfer calls so that will be intresting. Kharkov had 6 branches that were combined (so now there are three) and when an elder asked President Fry when he was at our district meeting last week something about transfers he said, "Sometimes 1 + 1 doesn't equal 2.), which he took from me at our district meeting with him.

This week we're planning on making a huge pot of borshe that will last us 4 days... that will be good for the digestive system. But hey! It's been Positive Clesius outside!!

Love you all! Have fun out there!
Elder Russell

1/30/2011 Hospital Horrors and Loving Primary

Hello Family!
This week started out with a family night where the non-member boyfriend of the district president's daughter was basically told every bible story there is. All the while, I've got a four year old climbing all over me.

The next day, we went to a hospital. We first went to someone's house, literally picked them up and walked them down 4 stories, put them into an ambulance, followed the ambulance, unloaded the man from the ambulance onto a stretcher, unloaded the man from the stretcher to his hospital bed, and waited for paperwork to be filled out. All doctors wear these tall white hats like a chef and the hospital looked like a horror film. And the guy's house, had wooden tikis everywhere.

Then we had a district meeting with Pres. Fry and interviews followed by a split. I was with Elder Loveridge who is being trained right now. My Russian during that time was the best that I've had in country and my confidence really improved from that. We did some contacting, taught two lessons, and were supposed to teach a third.

This lady wants us to help her daughter with English homework but we waited for l1/2 hours because, even though we tried to get the daughter while it was going on, we didn't start until the end of a Relief Society thing. We went to looked for the girl and the Relief Society saw us and gave us food... The lady did say I had a Kiev accent though.

We visited the old branch president and he seems to be doing better.

The Reeds gave me things for my shoes which are awesome! Hopefully, I won't fall again.

Then on Saturday Elder Beck scheduled 2 meal appointments back to back and the first lady fed us so much food we didn't think we could do the second one.

Then, we taught primary again and the same four year old mentioned above was sitting on my lap, grabbing my ear, nose, and nametag, and randomly hitting me. I love Primary!

Church is at l0 am every week and is held in the building with the spires(one of the photos).

We have cell phone here and are supposed to limit our phone calls to 5 minutes. We cannot text but other missions, like Kiev, can.

And, the music lady from the old area taught choir.

Until next week!
Elder Russell

1/24/2011 A quick week in Saltovka - Yay!

Hello Family and Friends!

This week went by a lot quicker than most which is good because it means that I'm working!

We had some hamburgers this week using our Mansmith's seasoning. They were GREAT.... aside from the fact that we had Ukrainian meat!

One of the days the hot water shut off and didn't turn back on until 2:30 in the afternoon; Elder Beck waited to take a shower until then. Didn't bother me because i shower at night.

On Wednesday of this week, we have Pres. Fry coming to our district meeting (our district leader told us not to mess it up) and then he will do interviews. Then on Thursday, I go on a split with Elder Toveridge(greenie) who has been here 3 weeks. Should be an adventure.

We visited an inactive who is really nice and has a great testimony, he just can't come to church because of a nerve problem.

Then we had several contacts, one of which said he'd come to church, but haven't seen him yet.

Everyone continues to ask me if I'm related to Russell M. Nelson or M. Russell Ballard and one time, Kurt Russell...which made no sense.

We bought a microwave for the apartment which is great...except we used most of the money we had left for the month to do it and because of the holidays, things are a little slow. So we hope to have the money on our cards today so that we can buy groceries.

They sell things differently here. We picked out the microwave that we wanted and the store clerk took it down, put it on a table asked us to feel a cup of cold water. Then he put it in the microwave for a minute, then took the cup out and had us feel the water again to show us that it was warm. Then he took the same microwave and put it in a box for us.

We got a new branch president on Sunday, but the old branch president (Vladamir) seemed really down in the dumps and he was the same way when we visited him on Saturday. Just pray for him, I think his family left him when he joined the church, he's not working, and sometimes Ukrainians get offended when they are released from callings like that.

Also, we have two contacts that we are trying to meet with, Alexander and Victor.

I'll write next week!

Elder Russell

1/17/2011 Transfer to Saltovka and Flying Fish

Hello family and friends,
Okay, I'm going to try to answer some of the dear elder questions:
1. Sasha, the young man in one of the past pictures, is a convert who was baptized during my first transfer here in the country. I had one lesson with him while I was on a split after he was baptized and talked to him on Sundays.

2.The way we contact people here is similar to other areas: we talk to people on the street, knock on their doors, call people on the phone...it's just a little harder to knock on a door when you can't even get into the apartment building.

3. As far as ethnic food goes we have some pizza places, I've seen some Chinese food places, and I think I saw a Russian restaurant. We also have American McDonald's!

4.The one senior couple, the Reeds, are going home some time in February.

5. The Mission president and his wife go home at the end of June or beginning of July.

Okay, on to this week. We spent all of Thursday moving into our new apartment and getting settled, which was a mess because we needed to move all of the church's stuff along with our own.(the branch is still there but the missionaries were removed from the area) We had a van though so it was alright and only took 4 hours.

This apartment is smaller than the last one so our stuff is kind of everywhere looking for a place to be. I'll send some pictures so you know what I'm talking about.

Elder Beck's l8 months work was on Saturday, so we had pizza delivered and I made about 9 dozen cookies. Yum!

Yesterday we had church and someone in the branch presidency had all the elders shovel the snow off the walkway.

Our new district consists of Elder Beck, Elder Tilgner(he's German), Elder Toveridge(he's being trained now), and I. These are all the missionaries that go to our ward.

So on Sunday, the four of us shoveled snow off the walkway, Elder Beck gave a talk with 5 minutes notice and all four of us taught primary... Yikes!!! Imagine 12 kids, all different ages, in the same room with four elders (two of which don't always understand them) yelling and throwing rubber light up fish everywhere (don't know why the church would have those). Needless to say, we escaped with our lives.

Elder Toveridge is really cool and I'm glad he's being trained in my district; He really wants to work.

We got the conference issue of the Liahona, finally, along with the December one.

Hope everyone had a good week!!!

Love you all,
Elder Russell

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Packing Up and Moving Out, and notes from Mom

Hello Family and Friends,

So this week started off with a split on P-day with my trainer. So after we sent our e-mails, Elder Rader, my original trainer, and I went and played Risk at a part member home. That was fun. After wards Elder Rader and I talked. Apparently he's been having trouble with his companion. So, I was a nice change for him. He's now training someone else.

We met with the only family in our branch that has a young kid...he's a fireball, and since Elder Beck wanted me to direct the lesson; I was struggling a little bit. Then after our lesson we ended up playing Twister with their family.

Since Friday, things have been a little hectic. We didn't get transfer calls last week which usually means that we're staying; but we were also told that we were getting rid of the apartment.
So, we called the office to see if we should be looking for a new apartment, and they told us that they would call us back.

On transfer day, we get a call from the Assistant to the President, he says, Elder Beck, you're being transferred along with Elder Nielson" and Elder Beck is confused as well as me. Then the A.P. says, "of, wait, I mean Elder Russell, you and Elder Russell will be going to Soltivka."

So we are expected to be out of here by this coming Thursday. We have to move all of the church stuff too. Things like pots, irons, books, church materials, and two beds... Yeah! We have a member helping us with a van for five hours on Thursday. Hopefully, it will all be fine.

Lots of people are sad to see us leave and the branch president thanked us for all that we've done here. Our whole area is being closed down for now, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

This week I tried on my ice shoes that were made out of wire(they attach to my shoes with shoelaces) and they didn't work very well. Elder Beck says that I shouldn't buy boots because you won't use them for that long and they take up a lot of room in your suitcase.

I found out that there is also a holiday here for "old New Years, going by the old calendar. I'm sad to leave, but Elder Beck is really excited about Soltivka and the area might not be so hard to do missionary work in.

Love to all,
Elder Russell
From the Missionary Mom:

I checked Sis. Fry, the Mission Pres. wife's blog, on Friday of this past week and she had all of the transfers listed. Chris and his companion weren't mentioned.

I am sure that this was a split second decision but one that was prompted by the Holy Ghost, and I know that Elder Russell and Elder Beck have great work to do in their new city. Our family is excited for them and what lies ahead.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Years Meals/Fireworks and Ice Shoes

Hello family and friends!

So this week was pretty slow on account of the biggest holiday of the year being this week, but we still got some things done.

Almost all of the members wouldn't meet with us until after New Years but we got to go to a family's home that lives in a village. It took an hour to get there and it was expensive because we took a taxi instead of a bus (all the buses were full) It was fun though, they have around 8 children so we taught our lesson and the Reeds(the senior couple who came with us) taught theirs and then they fed us(it was a really interesting meal) and then we played a game. It was New Years eve so we needed to be in at 6 pm.

Insert of Meal Description from DeLisa in a subsequent communication she discovered that the meal consisted of the following:
cold soup, cold fish, sala (bacon fat), fish casserole, coleslaw, sausage, bread, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers.
We are grateful that this very large family generously shared their New Years Meal with Chris and the others.

After returning home, we had some dinner, made some brownies, watched the testaments, I made my Lego and my ice shoes, and Elder Beck cut his hair. At midnight, we looked out our window and saw people shooting up fireworks everywhere. The whole city had fireworks going off the rest of the night.
The next day it sounded like a war zone because fireworks were just going off every l0 minutes or so.

One day we were walking this week and contacting, and we talked with someone who actually took a book from Elder Beck's hands and gave us his contact information before we finished talking. We're excited about this contact.

We went to buy some wire so that I could make ice shoes and we got to the hardware store and couldn't find any. But they had a little hook that used the wire I wanted so we asked if they sold more of that there. They thought that we wanted the hook, neither of us knew the word for wire and began to explain they just made it. We eventually explained it and they showed us where it was. We took around 3.4 meters but they sold it by the kilo and what we had was probably 50 grams. So they said "Happy New Years Presents" in English and gave it to us for free.

I got my passport back this week from registration and it said that I was registered to a city near Donetsk. My Zone leaders thought that meant that I was going to be transferred there, but I'm not. I'm staying here in Kharkov where it's awesome!

Love you All!
Elder Russell