Monday, October 11, 2010

"Last Will and Testament"

I always knew I wanted to serve a mission. It took me longer than I had anticipated to raise enough money and do all the paperwork that needed to be done so I could serve. By the time I finally got my call letter I was so very excited. I was ready and willing to go serve anywhere in the whole world! But if anyone asked me to name just one place that I did not want to go, I would respond, Ukraine. So when I opened my letter and read that I had been called to serve in the Ukraine Kyiv Mission, I thought it was a joke. Had there not been twenty plus people there, I would have broken down into tears. I thought that a mistake had been made, and I seriously considered saying "No" to the First Presidency. It took much prayer and pondering to realize that the Lord was testing my willingness to serve. Like Nephi, who was commanded to go and get the brass plates, a seemingly impossible task, but he knew that the Lord would prepare a way. So I did as he did and took a blind leap of faith, trusting that the Lord would help me.
Now that I am at the end of my mission and look back on all that has happened, I can't imagine serving anywhere else. My companions, my mission president and his wife, the members, and people I've met on the street have greatly enriched and strengthened my life as I am sure no other group of people could have. True, it has been extremely hard and I have felt more weak and worthless than ever before. But, as I have learned, that is a natural result of coming unto Christ. And it is ok, because now I know better how to improve myself.
The greatest lesson I have learned is that God lives and that He loves me. He wants to be involved in every step of my life and it is up to me to invite Him. I know that it is His greatest desire for us to be happy. He helps us know how to be happy through personal revelation from scripture study, prayer, and temple service. He blesses us when we follow His commandments. I know that He loves us so much that He suffered and died and was resurrected so that we may be clean and receive eternal life. I know that He appeared to the prophet, Joseph Smith and restored His church through him. I know that He leads and guides our church today through His living prophet Thomas S. Monson. I know that the Book of Mormon contains His words and we can feel His Spirit and come closer to Him as we study it.
I am so grateful that I put my trust in Him and served where He called me.

-Sister Howell

Last Week of the Mission

Who knew that the last week of my mission would be the best week? I didn't, so I was pleasantly surprised to have it be that way. Last Tuesday we went to say goodbye to Sister Larisa. She is such a sweetheart, I will never forget her. Then we went into Kiev for a zone meeting. It was great; President Steinagel spoke a lot about what he did after his mission, which really helped me a lot. Afterward I went to the Temple for my last time here. I was so happy there and I got a strong feeling that the Lord is going to help me with whatever comes next in life. Thursday we were trapped inside all day due to some crazy remount in the kitchen, but I was able to fully go over Billa Tserkva with Sister Helelyan, so she knows more about what to do when she goes back. Friday we met with Anya, a sweet girl who has a desire to get baptized. Saturday we watched General Conference, then afterward went to Halina and Andre's wedding. It was so much fun! Never a dull moment! I was so glad I could be there. She was so happy. Sunday we watched General Conference and I sat by Halina during the Relief Society session. Yes, Halina and Andre were at church the day after their wedding! I have no fear of them falling away. Afterward we met with three of my favorite families in Ukraine. All of which included either an in-active member there, or an investigator. Why couldn't this have happened more often? It was very bittersweet to say goodbye to all of them, and to Ukraine as well. I hope to see everyone again and know that we will, if we all stay firm in the faith. I am still in denial that I am actually leaving, I think it will settle in somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

-Sister Howell

Monday, October 4, 2010

How many companions does it take to kill Sister Howell?

Excuse the missionary slang. Because this is my last transfer I am "dying" as a missionary. I started out the transfer with Sister Clark in Odessa, then I came back to Billa with Sister Kovelenko. Last Saturday Sister Kovelenko went down to Odessa and Sister Helelyan and Sister Movesardian are with me now. On Wednesday, we will go Voskresinsky in Kiev (my first area) and on Saturday something else will happen. I don't know yet. The assistants like secrets. All I know is that I will be on a plane next Tuesday and I am trying not to think about that, while everyone else keeps reminding me.

Last week we were visiting Bobushka Anya. She is paralyzed on one half of her body and because of that, when she speaks, it is in hardly understandable Russian. Since I'm Ukrainian speaking I can only understand about 10% of what she says. So, she was in a very talkative mood that day and went on and on telling her life story. Occasionally she would stop and pause for understanding. I didn't want her to repeat herself ten times, so I said, "pravelno," which means: correct. Then she would keep on talking. Later, as Sister Kovelenko and I were walking to our next meeting I had her recap on what Anya said. She said that in her life she has had three major concussions and once, her son-in-law tried to inject her with something in order to kill her, so that he could sell her apartment. After her last close call with death, her daughter said that even the dead world will not accept her. What a horrible thing to say to a person! After a few seconds I said in shock, "I hope that was not one of the times when I said "pravelno"!" Sister Kovelenko was laughing so hard that I thought she would fall to the ground. But she told me that no, I had said pravelno after Anya said that the Lord must have an important purpose for her to keep her alive so many times. Wooah, I need to be more careful!

-Sister Howell