Monday, August 30, 2010

Mission Photo

Culture Celebration and Temple Dedication

This weekend was one of the best of my life. Saturday night was the culture celebration. I loved it so much. Everyone was there at a grand auditorium. There was a storyline that followed the religious history of Ukraine, and the part where LDS missionaries entered the country, the choir sang, "Hark all ye Nations" and all of the missionaries walked down and onto the stage, singing and waving all the way. At first I thought that it was silly and unnecessary, then when all 100+ were up there, people started standing up and clapping. I saw people with tears in their eyes and I realized how much missionary work means to these people. The church has only been here for a short time, so every single member has been taught by missionaries, and they love us as much and maybe even more than we love them. Then the spot light was shown on the the balcony where President Monson, President Uchtdorf and Elder Nelson were standing up for us, and they were clapping and had tears in their eyes as well. I cannot describe the emotion I felt at that moment to feel a part of such a marvelous and wonderful work. Then each country surrounding Ukraine performed for their country, each as fun and exciting as the next, the last was Ukraine and there was such a roar from the audience and I knew that I was serving in the best mission on earth!
The next day was the temple dedication. One of my favorite parts was just being able to laugh with our prophet. During the cornerstone ceremony he was laughing and just being himself. He very easily transitioned from the humor to the spirit with out any difficulty. They almost went hand in hand for him. I am thankful for his example of lightheartedness and his dedication to the Lord in carrying out His will among everyone throughout the world. This has been an experience I will never forget.

-Sister Howell

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Life-changing Gospel

The temple open house is over. Visitors asked me when the next time the tours would be for the temple. I said there wouldn't be any more, that after the dedication, the temple would only be open for church members. They seemed very disappointed. Hopefully that will give them enough interest to meet with the missionaries and learn more about what the church is all about. Already so many people have been though and now want to be baptised. Hopefully it was not said in the spirit of the moment, but will be something that will stay with them for their lives and into eternity. For the entire two weeks of the dedication I have been looking forward into running into Halina, who was baptised last January in Voskresinsky. I knew she signed up to volunteer for six days, but, I didn't know when. It seemed that either she was there the hours that I wasn't or vice versa. Then, on my last day there, we were looking around for something random and Sister Garff comes up to me and she says that she saw Halina on her way out of the church and I better run in the rain to catch up to her. And I did. I finally caught up to her in the parking lot in front of the temple, and we were so happy to see each other. She was there with her fiance who was baptized last month - they are getting married in October, right before I go home. I sure hope that I can be there for their wedding. And next year, they will be sealed for eternity in the very temple that will be dedicated this week. I am so happy for her. After not having seen her since last January, I was pleasantly surprised to see how different a person she is inside and out. Having the Holy Spirit with a person really does change them from the natural man into the spiritual man. It is quite evident with her and other people that I have seen on my mission. Including missionaries. We come into the MTC all bright eyed and goofy- and at the end of our missions we have grown so much in the Spirit of Christ. Sister Garff and I were talking about that this morning. How just from serving a mission, how much better mothers we will be. Now that we have had experiences that have weighed us down, lifted us up, and made us stretch in ways that would have taken so much longer to do outside of a mission, if at all. I love this Gospel so much, I have no idea what I would do without it.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Back at the Temple Again

This has been quite a week trying to go back and forth to Kiev as quick as possible so we can still have our lessons and help bring people to Christ. It is so unfortunate when people don't show up for lessons after running to get on the marshutka back to Bila. We did have a few interesting lessons though. One in particular was about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it started off so splendidly, then she had a non-related to the lesson question, and after that we couldn't get her to stop talking about how "God is one". I still have hope for her though. I know that she has felt the spirit in previous lessons, we just need to help her realize what that means.
Working in the cultural hall, it is interesting to meet people from all over Europe. Sometimes when people from Russian speaking countries speak to me and I respond, it takes me a second to realize that they don't understand Ukrainian! So I have to use my best Russian-sergic with them.
I love to hear people's stories about coming to see the temple. We were talking to some people who came from Belarus, and had ridden in a bus for over 14 hours. When they finally saw the temple on the horizon, they all were overcome with tears and celebration. There was also a man from England who is investigating the church and when he heard that there was an open house in Ukraine, he made special plans to come and see it. He even made his trip a bit longer than needed just in case he ran into any problems. He loved the temple so much that he spent all day at the site, going on the tour more than three times, and sitting in the cultural hall for a while just to take it all in. This is definitely an experience of a lifetime and I am so grateful to be apart of it.

-Sister Howell

Monday, August 9, 2010

Temple Open House

Last Thursday we had just returned home from our morning walk-about, when we received a call from our district leader for us to get to Kiev- and to hurry like we had to be there thirty minutes ago. We had no idea what was going on. We knew that there was a special open house for the VIPs but we didn't think that they would need missionaries for that event. Because of the urgency of the call we called a taxi and got to Kiev in an hour and a half, to find that they needed us to replace sisters serving in the cultural hall who needed to go on a lunch break. I was kind of disappointed that it wasn't more exciting than that, oh well, I think eating is important too I guess, but I wanted to go in the temple! So we stayed in the cultural hall for the rest of that day and on Friday too. And on Saturday too. They just want us there to answer questions and help people if they ask for help. We are not allowed to hand out literature or to proselyte. The VIPs had a catered buffet, and when the temple opened for the public, they get a mini pie/cookie and a juice box. No one has asked me very much, usually they ask for a Book of Mormon, that we can not give them, only if they fill out on the comment card and request for one, then some time in the near future, missionaries in their area can deliver it to them. The most interesting question I received was from non-members who asked about polygamy. I simply replied that that was a long time ago and we do not practice it anymore. It has been fun to try to spot the Americans from the Ukrainians or the non-members from the members. And then try to find out if I'm right or not. Can you tell I get kinda bored? But I don't care because this is what I have been waiting for my entire mission! The temple open house and dedication! So if I get to be a part of it in just a little way, I am grateful. I will be working there every day this week except for today and Wednesday. So that is a two hour hot marshutka ride to and from every day. I was telling a visiting American couple this, and they were amazed, and said that I would be blessed. I can see the blessings already. Finally after our shift on Saturday, we waited around a little bit longer for our Billa Serkva branches to arrive so we could go on the temple tour with them. I am so glad we waited because along with some of them, my former companion, Sis. Visotska, and her son were on the tour with us, as were Lena, Ira, and Tonya from my first area. The temple was more beautiful than I had imagined. They had a hard time finding carpet in Ukraine, so most of the flooring is stone, there are so many hand painted details and classic Ukrainian hints in the design as well. For example, patterns of wheat on the walls, blue and yellow in the stained glass, and even a little bit of the Ukrainian cross stitch shown in a few places. My absolute favorite part of the tour (that was unexpected) were the member volunteers who stood at several places on the route of the tour so that people don't wander off. They stand so reverently with smiles on their faces and a sparkle in their eye. They nod their heads when you say diyakoyou (thank you) and I feel the spirit so strong from them. They love their temple so much and I am so, so happy for them.
Back to Billa! On Sunday a lady who had come to church with her member-friend last week came again and this time, without her friend. I sat by her during Sacrament Meeting and during one of the talks, where the member was reading from the Book of Mormon, she leaned over to me and asked, "Can I read that book?" Of course! Right after the meeting I ran and got her one and set up a meeting to tell her more about it tonight! Pray for her please!

-Sister Howell

Monday, August 2, 2010

Devine Guidance

Last Wednesday we were going to give a lesson on the Restoration. Without even thinking about it, I started leaning more to the Plan of Salvation, how God is our Loving Heavenly Father, how we lived with Him before this Earth, and how we are given families as a blessing to help us learn and grow. Sister Garff barely started teaching about prophets, when our investigator said that her husband passed away two years ago from heart complications. Then we were able to easily talk about Christ and His Resurrection and how we will all be resurrected and through Him, we can live together as families. I think that she felt the Spirit and she wants to learn more. Before I came to Billa tSerkva, the sisters had an English lesson with her seven year old daughter, then showed some clips from an info video on missionary work and the temple. The daughter said that she was interested, and the sisters thought that it was about family history work that she was interested in (when it probably was about the eternal nature of the family). How sad it would have been if we had only presented a pedigree chart and taught her daughter how to make a family tree. I'm thankful that we are led by God, and not by our own understanding. He helped us share the correct lesson that she needed to help her feel His love in her life.