Monday, May 26, 2014

Babushka comes to church

Here's a miracle of the week: there's this darling orange-haired babushka named Galina that we like to visit. She's in her 80s, has about no memory, and shows us the same 3 picture albums every time we go over there, but she's happy and delightful to be around. Anyway, she hasn't been to church in years because she can't handle the public transportation getting to church. This Sunday though, guess who walked in? Galina. Some young lady helped her carry groceries home and the whole way Galina talked about church. Anyway, the young lady was so touched that she cared so much she offered to drive her to church Sunday. So she came and sat with her. I talked to her after and she was like "yeah, I'm not going to keep coming because I don't really want church for myself, but I was glad to come with her today." Isn't that the kindest little act of service?

I went to the temple again this week. A family I worked with in Житомир invited me to their sealing. (Remember Andrei the friendly giant and Katya the RS president?) Anyway, it was the first time I've been to a sealing of any sorts, and I was actually surprised to understand most of it, since it obviously wasn't English. It was really nice to be there, anyway. Their two daughters looked beautiful and it was just so neat to be there with them. Totally what missionary work is all about. 

We went on exchanges this week (this whole STL thing leads to lots of exchanges). We were in this little city close to Chernobyl called Chernigiv. It's just the most beautiful place. It was SO HOT though. Generally speaking, all of Ukraine is SO HOT right now and it's not even June so I'm just not even going to think about July and how I'll go on. The good news is that my apartment has the insane luxury of an air conditioner. Literally unheard of in these parts, so it's awesome. ANYWAY, exchanges were awesome. I was with Sister Powell who is just one of my favorites. We ate curry and talked about life. We talked about the thing that happens where people go on missions, try to meet every expectation perfectly, and lose their personality and laughed over how imperfect but still full of personality we are. Also we did missionary work, which included playing volleyball with investigators, doing yoga with a recent convert, and talking about repentance, which is my favorite thing to talk about. 

We had our last interviews with President this week before he goes home (except he's not really going home because they're moving to Moscow because he's now in the are presidency). It was a good interview. We talked a lot about repentance - how to apply it and how to teach it. And at the end he was like, "you know, I've said it before and I'll say it again a righteous man looking down (meaning not repenting) is wicked. A wicked man looking up is righteous. It's all about the direction you're in. And you're direction is beautiful." And that was probably the nicest thing anyone's said to me in a long time (not because people don't say nice things to me, just because that was awfully nice).

President asked me how long I'd been out and how I was different from the person who walked into the MTC 10 (yikes!) months ago. While the list is pretty long, I think there are two "biggest" ones. First, I'm kinder. I can be softer with people and more tolerant. I can pardon and forgive and move on more quickly. I love more quickly. Second, I've found within myself that "invincible summer" Albert Camus writes about. I have a new-found and unearned ability to roll with the punches and stay happy. Whatever waves come though the day, it's not hard for me to say happy. But, I suppose, of course it's that way. How could you not be happy when you get to be a missionary? Missions really are the best.

All the love,
Hannah

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Exodus

Well, it was kinda the most traumatic week of my mission. 

RECAP. Like a month ago all of the missionaries in Donesk Ukraine got evacuated to our mission. So things were really tight with 10-20 missionaries per ward and 4-6 missionaries per apartment and it was rough, but also good. The two missions mixed really quickly and we all loved each other. We transfers were done such that one Kyiv missionary was companions with a Donesk missionary and it was awesome. Then, Tuesday morning we go to zone conference and President stands up an announces, "The area presidency has come to the conclusion that this is too many missionaries in one mission, and we need to decrease our numbers. So there will be early releases extended to every missionary with 3 months or less left." He then read a list of 15 or so missionaries who just found out their missions were ending. Then he continued, "also, all former Donesk missionaries will be leaving Ukraine and will be serving in their native country." The next day, Wednesday, we got a text saying they were all leaving Friday morning, but needed to be ready to go by Thursday, the next day. So we packed all day, and had a final evening as a missionary in Ukraine. Then Thursday afternoon we dropped them off and by Friday they were on their way to America. So it was a pretty fast exodus.

And it was just a little traumatic to realize how very fleeting a mission is. I don't think I understood just how quickly things can change; you can get a call on Tuesday and be on a plane to 'Murica by Friday. It's a little bit terrifying. I was somewhat surprised to realize that in no way did I feel "finally, we get our mission back," but rather a kind of bewilderment that I was the one who was allowed to stay. I don't feel any more entitled to serve here than the 75 missionaries who left, and I know better Russian speakers and better missionaries than I got on a plane last Friday. That is pretty humbling. It's funny the things that become a privilege when you're faced with losing them. Speaking Russian is a huge one. I complain about it, and whine about it, and hate it, but the thought of not getting to speak Russian every day literally breaks my heart. There are others: grumpy people, people laughing at my name tag ("Pugh? What a funny name!) but then always remembering me and my name, carrying around a book that says Книга Мормона on the front, having a temple across from my mission office, laughing at all the things that just don't work quite right because it's just a little bit ghetto here, blue and yellow ribbons on the purses of all the patriotic women, riding little buses everywhere, griven, borscht, babushkas, and of course putting on a tag that says Сестра Пью every morning. 

I really do love this place and these people with all my heart. I know that someday I'm going to have to get on a plane and fly away, and whether that's 1 month from now or 9, it's going to kill me just a little. But for now, I am ever-increasingly grateful to be here. For now, I am a Kyiv Ukraine missionary and it is the best. For now, I pray for Ukraine and trust that things will be well here.

All the love,
Hannah