Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy New Year!




Good Morning Family,

I can't tell you how good it was to hear all of your voices this past week! After we got off the phone I cried a few tears and the poor elders didn't know how to react, then we went out and sang Christmas carols to some of our investigators and members! I was a Christmas to remember that is for sure! We sang to a woman with Cerebral Palsy. She is a member but she is not able to leave her apartment. Her bed was decorated for Christmas and we went and sang a few songs to them. I don't think I have ever seen a bigger smile in Ukraine. It was an amazing experience and I hope that i never forget it. I felt like I could save the world that night.

Mom, it was so good to talk to you. I felt like a little kid again waiting for your phone call. I even took the phone an hour before you were suppose to call because I knew that dad gets up early and I thought maybe Christmas would come a few minutes early. It sounds like you and dad need to learn how to relax. I used to be pretty good at it. I have a few hints for you. If you go down into the basement and get the big yellow blanket and lay on the couch you can stay there for hours. Also your phones probably won't get service so you could maybe get a nap if you take the house phone off the hook. Also those little puppies love to sleep a lot. But I think Dakota might be jealous if you let her curl up on your lap.

Dad, Thank you for the prayer and for all of the advice, and for the Christmas present in my account! You are amazing! It was fun to hear about your Christmas Eve in Germany in 1975. Ours seemed kinda similar. Lena got sick and was laying on the floor in the church on Christmas eve. After the elders gave her a blessing, we spent most of the night looking for a taxi for her.

Brynn, I am so proud of you! I want to hear about your experience yesterday! I am sure that you are pretty drained after all of it. I remember being really tired after my blessing and just wanting to eat and take a nap. It sounds like it was a pretty wonderful day! It also sounds like both of us have some family history that we need to do. Maybe you can help me light a fire under my butt and get some of it done!

Chase and Ashley, It was good to hear from both of you! I hope that you had an amazing time at Ashley's on Christmas. I am sure it was fun to watch all of those kids open their Christmas. Tell them all thanks for waiting for you to talk to me! I can't tell you how happy I was to hear your voices! Congrats again on your interviews and everything with your schools!

So to the rest of this week was crazy again. On Saturday, we had planned to do a missionary activity in the morning with the members. We set up a table to give out free information about the church, in an area where there are a lot of families but Americans are not allowed to sell or proselyte there, so we were really relying on the members. Only 3 members showed up and so we sang in the cold and froze. I hope that we at least helped one person to get some information that will bring them closer. After, we rushed back to the church for Lena's baptism which was really great. 5 or 6 members came but she really enjoyed it. She asked me to give a talk about baptism and I hadn't had any time to prepare. I was shaking when I stood up and I just rambled in Russian. I am not sure if anything that I had said made sense but I hope she understood the meaning and the love that I wanted to portray.

On Sunday, the ward had a big Christmas celebration. We watched the 1st Presidency devotional in Ukrainian, had lunch, and a concert/skit! It was a lot of fun and we had a lot of investigators there, and everyone really enjoyed themselves. A lot of the members also invited their neighbors and friends so it was a big finding day for us. We were a little overwhelmed because one of our investigators got sick and then she offended one of our other investigators. It was a little crazy but in the end it was a great Christmas activity.

Well I will write you a letter on New Years because we have to be in our apartments all day, so I am guessing I will have some extra time. I love you all and wish you a Happy New Year! Make some good resolutions!

Sister Larsen

Ps. I will think of some puppy names and email them next week.
Pss. Tell the Andersons and Martins Merry Christmas and tell Melon hi for me!

Monday, December 21, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!



Good Morning And Merry Christmas!

I am sure that you are all just busy getting ready for Christmas this week. Thank you for the emails and pictures! It made my day to see all of the pictures and the house looks amazing as always!! I received my packages on the 18th :D Thank you Thank you Thank you!! It has been a serious struggle to save them for Christmas.

Mom, I am sorry that you have been sick all week!! It is never fun to be sick around the holidays but I am so happy that you are feeling better and back to celebrating the holidays!! You are doing all of the amazing things that you always do. ........ The fireplace looks very empty with only two stockings.

Dad, You seem busy as always! Thanks for the pictures and for all of the hellos! You will have to pass on a hi back from me. I am glad that you have had the singles filling your house again. I hope that you didn't hang mistle toe all over the house again so that everywhere you walk you have to kiss someone. (Editor's note: Of course we hung mistletoe all over the house--part of Teresa's more kissing campaign) I told my companion about that and she just laughed. Thanks for the letter that you sent to the YSA's it was really good to read.

Brynn! I can't tell you how proud I am of you!! ......... I can't wait for you to go do baptisms and to hear all about it on Friday!! I want to hear every detail! Also I think that your gingerbread house looks a million times better this year!! Although the woman looks a little sketch from a missionary'point of view--- hahaha! I love it! Tell Ben hi and Merry Christmas

Chase and Ashley, You are both hopefully done with finals and just relaxing/ working for the holidays! I can't believe that school is either over or very very close to being over!! I am sure that it will be a relief when all of your finals are done. How are the two of you going to celebrate? Are you going to start any new traditions for the two of you? Chase I still want to hear about your night with the missionaries? Did you have any cool lessons?

So we found out transfer info on Saturday night and I will be staying in my same area with Sister Movchanyuk. We are going on for round 3 which is unheard of for sisters. .............. (Editor's note: Let's just say Brooke is learning from a challenge and experiencing the ups and downs of having a 24/7 missionary companion). But anyway we have had a lot of success in this area together and so we will try and keep it up so that we can continue to help this ward prepare for the temple opening.

We have our baptism on Saturday and I can't wait. Lena came to church yesterday and was participating in all of the lessons and she signed up to bring something to the Christmas lunch next Sunday. She is so cool! We were talking to our MCL and she just walked up to him and asked him if he would baptize her without really saying anything else. We also got to hear Svetlana testify about Joseph Smith on Sunday and she prayed at the end of Relief Society. It is so awesome to see the people that we meet continue to progress and to become part of this family.

We also had an older woman come to church. Her name is Natalia and we have been teaching her for a while with little progress. When she came yesterday and said that she feels like she has found a new family. She lives alone and is very lonely so it was great to have to sister at the ward exchanging numbers with her and inviting her to come and do things with them! I love our ward so much.

So for Christmas we are giving up most of our p-day again to have lunch together and then probably have a lesson or something in the evening after our PHONE CALL!! yay! We are also having a "large transfer meeting" on Christmas Eve, President wanted to have a Mission conference but you have to have a general authority here to do that. He is bringing all of the missionaries into the area to have a large meeting to make a push for these last two weeks of the year so that we can reach our goal. We still have a long ways to go but with a few miracles I can see it happening! Well I want to send some pictures of all of the snow here. It hasn't stopped snowing almost all week. Today has been the first sunny day in a long time but it is still -17ish. Man it is dang cold! I have 3 pairs of socks on, usually 2 skirts (only one today), 2 pairs of gloves and about 2 shirts, a sweater and my downcomforter coat! We do what we need to inorder to stay warm. I also sent this weeks letter from our mission president. I thought it was a really neat story that you could share with your ward or just read. It helped me to remember that we are all really searching for the same love of Christ in our lives.

Well I love you all and look forward to talking to you on Friday.

Love, Cecmpa Larsen

Monday, December 14, 2009

Editor's note

The last two posts are out of order. I posted her email from this morning first and then realized that I had not yet posted her letter from last week. Enjoy!

Mike

Good morning from Kiev!

Hey Family,

First things first before I forget. I told the office that you would be calling at 4:30 my time and 7:30 your time. We are not moving.. I don't know what I said in my last letter but transfers are on the 24th and we don't find out until a week from this Saturday if we will be transfered. We then won't find out until the 24th where we will be going and who our new companion will be. There is a very good possibility that either I or Sister Movchanyuk will be transfered. I am guessing that I will be transfered but I don't know, it is just a guess!

Mom and Dad, It sounds like you will be having a lot of fun this week! I hope that you are both safe and having a blast! The ship sounds amazing and I can't wait to see pictures! And Happy Anniversary!!

Brynn, your title to your letter was amazing! I laughed out loud and I could see kota's little scratching face in my head. I am sure that you are loving staying with her! Congrats again to you and Ben on the big 1 year! Sounds like you had a lot of fun making the gingerbread house! Tell him hi for me!

Chase and Ash, Congrats on getting into Boston and Temple! I think you should go to Boston, but I know that my opinion counts very little against budget and Ashley. Although it would be really really nice to have you close so that we can see you a lot more often. That is awesome though. Thanks for the updates on everything! I hope that I get to talk to you both on Christmas morning. I know you will be with Ash's family but maybe we could do a conference call again or something. I think it is awesome that you are helping out the missionaries. We are always looking for people to come with us on lessons or to let us have lessons at their houses so that our investigators will realize that mormons are normal people. And that to be Mormon you don't have to live like a missionary. I decided a few weeks ago that I will have the missionaries over to my house (when I have a house/apartment) several times a month, because they really really need the help. Thank you for being willing to help!

This week was full of dogs. We had an amazing week planned with 25 lessons and several member referral lessons with the members. We only had 13 lessons this week and none of them were with members. Our members are awesome and they are always looking for opportunities to share the gospel. They are always handing out pamplets and fliers for us and this week we had two families invite us over to teach their friends! It is always great when you get a phone call from a member that says, "hey come over tomorrow night and teach my neighbor at my house. I have been talking to them about you and they want to hear more!" After that call I couldn't wait to get to work. It ended up that one family went to the Orthodox church this week and the other neighbor was "sick." Also a lot of the lessons that we had planned didn't show up and wouldn't answer their phones. We call that "being dogged." That, I think is the most frustrating thing ever! We actually are dropping several of our current investigators because they just aren't keeping commitments and moving forward.

Anyway, on a happier note, we are still working with Lena. She is doing well, still not progressing like we want her to but she is trying. We decided not to drop her because she told us that she is really scared to come to church on Sunday. We told her that it is a big change but if she would just come and see what church was like she wouldn't be as scared. She did come to a baptism that we had at our church this week though and she liked what she saw. We will meet with her tonight and see how things go.

We had exchanges this last week and again this week. The sisters from a city about an hour away came here and we all worked in our area. I was with sister Anakashan. She is from Armania and barely speaks any English. We spoke all day in Russian. I was actually surprised at how much I both understood and could say. She was speaking very easy Russian but sometimes we would both be sitting their with our Dictionaries, mine English to Russian and hers, Armanian to English. It was nice to work with someone new and see the way that
she teaches. She is really nice and has an awesome story. This next week I will be going for a day with Sister Movchanyuk's first trainee. It should be fun to see and work in a new part of the city.

The temple is looking amazing!!! They have almost all of the trees in and they are starting to take the scaffolding down!!! you can see the full back side of the temple and it is beautiful! Most of the windows are in and they just have the stone on the upper part of the outside. While we were walking out of the church one day we ran into the Architect and he showed us pictures of the inside. They are putting in the wood work and it looks so beautiful. He said that they were already starting to do finishing work on both the inside and the outside! We have had such great weather that they have been able to do a lot more then they planned on doing. It is 3 Degrees today and we saw some of our first snow flakes today but it still isn't sticking!!! Heavenly Father is still helping align my will with his by degrees :D.

I love you all and hope that all is well with you! Have a good week and I will talk to you all in a few weeks! By the way, I am expecting some letter letters soon:D. I know you sent packages already but letters are really really nice:D just a hint. I love you all dearly! Thanks for the emails and the support! Tell everyone hi for me!

Sister Larsen

Winter Has Arrived in Kiev!!!








Hey everyone!!!

Welcome home Mom and Dad!! I am glad that you had a wonderful trip! I have been thinking about how nice and toasty you have been these last few days and I realized today that it finally happened.. my tan lines are completely gone!!! I am very very very white!!

Mom, Thank you for the email!! I am glad that you are both home safe and that you had so much fun!! It sounds like an amazing trip! . . . .

Dad, I am sad to hear that you will be released soon. I was hoping that the YSA ward would be able to take care of you while I am gone . . . .

Brynn, I can't tell you how proud I am of you!!!! . . . .I also want to see one of your christmas cards! You should send me one if you have an extra! One last thing.. I was thinking about the time that Mom and Dad left and the fridge broke and was flooding the kitchen. You just have all the fun times when you are watching the house. I am glad that you didn't blow-up or freeze to death.

Chase and Ashley, . . . ..

So this week has been interesting both good and bad but I think that is every week on the mission. I have been struggling with my teaching and I have been feeling very homesick this last week because it just doesn't feel like Christmas at all. There are no lights, no trees, no Christmas music (except where there are missionaries), . . . .). There is no Christmas spirit. The big holiday is New Year and Christmas is secondary. But finally this week turned around. We taped up lights on our window and one of the senior missionaries gave us santa hats that we wear while we are planning and eating at night. The members decorated the church and a Christmas tree. It is feeling a little closer to the Christmas spirit. I read in the Liahona about a family that didn't have much to give their friends for Christmas so they and sang Christmas Carols to their Landlord. It helped me remember that the spirit of Christmas isn't the decorations or Santa but it is Christ, how do you forget that as a missionary? It is about loving the people around you and helping them feel the love of the Savior.

The bad news of the week is it dropped to the negatives this week. Right now we are at a toasty -7 Celcius :D. It is cold. It hasn't really snowed hard here but there is always a constant flurry of snow. There is snow on the ground and those pee puddles that I told you about are now ice and slightly scarier. It seems that the colder it gets the taller the boots get, higher the high heels get and the skirts keep getting shorter.

The good news is that Lena has decided to get baptised on the 26th :D. She came to church yesterday for the first time. She has been to stake conference but not sacrament and she was so excited about her decision. She cried most of the meeting and she was telling all of the members after about her decision. It has been a long confusing road with her but she is amazing and she is going to be an awesome member. The night that she decided on a date she was asking a question and she kept bouncing back and forth between "Is it your, I mean our, Your, our, your, our church? She finally decided that it was no longer just our church but it was her church too! It made me so happy!

Some other good news is that I bought a fur hat :D, but I feel really dumb wearing it. I wore it one night but I just feel like a poser. It is a real fox fur hat and I think it is pretty awesome though! I am thinking about making it the new fashion in Utah because it is dang warm. I will try and send a picture. Well I can't wait to talk to you next week and I can't believe that it is next week! I will let you know what is going on with transfers next week. I will be sad to leave this area because our investigators are awesome and the ward is amazing!! But it could be fun to spend Christmas eve on a train! We will see what happens! I love you all.

I hope that you still have to country code that I sent 2 weeks ago because I don't remember it and if I look it up right now I will lose my letter but here is the rest of my number: 050 353 59 78.

It is a cell phone and we are told that we really only have 30-40 minutes but if you are really insistant we can talk longer... I do have two requests though.. think of some things or questions that you might have and write them next week so that I can have some answers for you.. and second, I love you all very much and I miss you very much but if you can try not to miss me too much in your letters I think it would help me not feel so homesick. Thanks for your support and help! I love you all so much!!!

Love,
Sister Larsen

Monday, November 30, 2009

Moving into December!!!



Hey family!!

Dad, Thank you for not falling off the roof completely!! I would have been very upset with you! I am very upset with you for playing bball!! I swear you weren't supposed to be doing that anymore?! Be careful!

Mom, I am glad to hear that you are busy as ever, and that someone will make you rest for a few weeks! I am excited to hear about your trip after you get back.

Brynn, Congrats on all of your feats this last week! I have been telling stories about the two of us together and have been thinking about you a lot, especially today. I was thinking about our drive back from Vegas after the Alicia Keys concert and singing Wicked as loud as possible to stay awake. We have had a lot of fun these last few years. I think Ben would really like the gift you suggested! Tell him Hi and congrats to both of you for 1 year!

Chase and Ashley, It is good to hear that you two are having fun and that everything is going well. Pass on a congrats to Gordy and Allen and their wives. That is nuts!!! I can't believe that they are pregers ha. Thanks for the details on the game too! I have been dying since Friday to know what happened. I have to confess that yesterday in church my mind started to wander because the teacher was speaking in only Ukrainian and I couldn't understand a thing.

It was so good to hear from all of you this morning!! I am so happy that you all had an amazing Thanksgiving, even though some things weren't the same as we are used to. We have been talking a lot about Thanksgiving this last week in both our English lessons and with our investigators. I am always reminded that I need to be more thankful every day. I have been blessed with so much and I really need to remember that. We also talked a lot about Football because nothing goes better with Thanksgiving than family, pie and Football!! For Thanksgiving Day we got together with our district and had a very large lunch! We had a lot of pie to top it all off, but it wasn't as good as at home with mom's homemade rolls.

Other than that our week has been filled with work. We found a few new investigators who are going to be really fun to work with and who seem to really interested in knowing truth. We have been struggling with one of our main investigators this week. She is scared to come to church because she thinks she will have to change everything about her life, even not being able to exercise. We might have to drop her next week and focus on those who are keeping their commitments. That will be really hard. I don't want to just leave her but she is not really making much of an effort anymore. We will see what happens.

........

So more about life here. Our apartment is actually really nice inside, it was just remodeled and it has kind of an Asian feel to the inside. I sent pictures of it. Most of the apartments here are really, really small. One, maybe two rooms and a kitchen. I realized about 2 weeks after being here that every couch or chair that we sit on usually turns into their beds. I am amazed how they fit more than one family into one apartment. We are really blessed with our apartments here.

Also my companion and I get along really well. We have a lot of fun together and we teach well together. Mostly she teaches and I teach a little part or testify with everything that I have. She helps me a lot with the language and we try and speak only Russian when we are on the streets, at night when we are going home I get really lazy. The Language is coming. I am able to say a lot more then I could when I got here and I know a lot of it is because the Lord is really helping me. I am still struggling with a lot of the vocab because there is so much to learn in so little time. I am understanding more everyday and I find myself being able to know when someone is speaking to me in Russian or Ukrainian which helps a lot, because it happens a lot. I am also learning a few words in Ukrainian here and there. Here people tend to mix the two languages so it is good to know both. I am not trying to learn Ukrainian yet!!!! I am understanding a lot more of what I read which is really nice because then I can know what they are talking about in a lesson if I get lost. I am still carrying around both of my scriptures so when I am really lost I resort to my English set. I know that eventually I will be able to function as a normal person here but it will take time.

Well I should get going! I love you all and thanks for the emails and updates! I hope all is well! Have an amazing week!

Sister Larsen

Monday, November 23, 2009

SQUID!!!!!!

Hello family!

Thank you for all of your emails and support! It was a very, very long week but we are pushing forward hoping for a second wind.

Dad, Thanks for taking care of everything for me with this money stuff. . . . I am glad that you are finding a little down time to spend with mom and Kota. Sorry you had to jump into hypothermia water to save the boat and my dog. I remember Chase doing that once—ha ha.

Mom--always busy. I am sorry to hear that you were released yesterday! You were the best Presidency ever! You were always so much fun and you made Young Womens that much better. You really gave it your all and I know that the girls really do appreciate all of your time and love that you put into your calling. I know that whatever comes next you will do the same, and go the extra mile, because that is how you are. I am excited for your trip with Dad, you both deserve a break after all of the events and work that you have had lately.

Brynn . . . . I am glad to hear that all is well in your world. How did your crazy week go last week? Did everyone love the boxing matches and names? How is your new roommate?

Chase and Ashley, I loved hearing about your cousin campout! It looked like a lot of fun and it reminded me of when Al and Derrick used to have all of us over. It sounds like you had a lot of fun but are pretty worn out. I can just imagine all of them. Chase good luck this week with your interview I hope everything goes well.

So updates for this week. Quarantine is finally over!!! I guess that this happens almost every year because everyone gets some kind of flu so the schools just pile on the homework for the kids to do through the 3 weeks that the schools are closed.

We have had an eventful week but it seemed like it was a never ending week. The mission has had a big push to get new investigators and baptismal dates so that we can hit our goal of 100 baptisms over 6 months by New Years. The mission is exploding with work. One companionship received 5 dates last week. They as a companionship have more standing dates than some zones. It is crazy how the faith of the Lord's servants can lead them to where they need to be. We had a harder week in our area but we are hoping that our work will pay off this week. We have so many people that we are teaching that you can just see how close they are. Their minds are really thinking about the things that they are learning and reading about but they just need that last push, or that first step of faith in the dark to reach the light.

Lena is an investigator who I think I have told you a little about. She is so close and she knows that Joseph was a prophet; she knows that the Book of Mormon is true but she doesn't know if she wants to make the commitment of baptism. She had an idea this last week of making borsht together at the church. We invited 2 or 3 members to come and join us. As we started making borsht members just kept coming to the church. We ended up with about 15 people including kids. The members shared conversion stories and how they decided to be baptized. It was really awesome. We called it our super Member present lesson. Lena, I think, felt a little awkward at first but then she really warmed up to the members. It was really cool! One of the members, Sister Lyba, started teaching her about the importance of the Sabbath day and keeping it holy. I tried to give her my name tag afterwards because she is a better missionary then I am.

Now to explain the title of this email... later in the week, we visited a mother and daughter whom we have been teaching English. We have wanted to try and teach them more about the gospel. We were talking with the daughter and she offered us what looked like shredded cheese... Definitely wasn't... Yep, it was squid! Dried Squid!! And I ate it!! TWICE!!! She kept offering it to me and I couldn't say no, I didn't know what to do so I ate it again. I had to buy food after so that I could try and get the chewy gross taste out of my mouth. We met up with the assistants after, because they were helping us with a lesson, and they said that they all love it! It was gross! Brynn I know that you would take my side on this! It was especially bad because I was expecting cheese not fish. haha Sister Movchanyuk and the Elders were laughing so hard at me because I wanted to get the taste out of my mouth so bad.

The lesson we had with them afterwards was actually really good but really draining. The elders helped so much and I am so happy they stayed for the lesson. They really know how to teach by the spirit and testify of the spirit. I think that what they said had a huge impact on our investigator and I think that she might be ready to really accept a date after being asked 4 times to be baptized. She said that she has a plan and I think that she wants to be baptized before Christmas, which would be awesome.

Alright, well, I am just rambling now. And we have to go because we are giving up our pday today so that we can have a Thanksgiving lunch with our district and then go to a museum on Thursday :D. But, I love you all and I hope that everything is good and well. By the way, we still don't have snow:D and I am not freezing yet! This is a good sign for me and for the Temple. As long as the weather stays good they can keep working on the outside and they are really close to having the windows in and the rock on the outside! It is so exciting. Oh and they have started to plant trees! So cool. I will send you pictures next week! And I will try and send a Christmas letter/pictures today or Thursday--Don't open it until Christmas because it is all I can send!

Have an amazing Thanksgiving! Tell everyone that I say hi, and cut down a pretty Christmas tree:D. And I want to hear all about it! Love you all!

Have a good week and know that I love you!

Sister Larsen

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cold Water Doesn't Dampen Baptismal Spirits!











Hey everyone!

I finally got my pictures last tuesday! thank you thank you!!! I think it just takes a really really long time. :D And Dad all of the rest of the Atm transactions were mine. I used all of that money to buy a coat, boots, gloves, hat, and things that I needed for winter.

Dad, it is good to hear that you are home and congrats on winning your trial!! .........

Mom, I don't know how you do it all! I would be tired after just one of your projects. They should send you over here and help out with the work! I am sure that we would reach all of our goals if you were over here! I am glad to hear that Neil's funeral was nice, that is still just so sad!

Brynn, good luck this week with the United Way Campaign at the firm! Weren't you in charge of it last year too? They just can't get enough of your work! I love the boxing idea and the names, you and Chase know how to give the best nicknames! And hey now you get to show off your amazing boxing skills to all of the lawyers. Maybe they will be afraid of you after you knock someone out!

Chase and Ashley, Hey I think that you have some interviews coming up either this week or next week so I wanted to wish you good luck!! I hope that everything goes as you want it and that you travel safe. I hope that school and work are going well and that you are getting a chance to go to some of the games every now and then.

So the good news of the week is that Svetlana was baptised on Saturday!! And it ended up as an amazing day with a very bumpy start. We woke up and got ready really fast and headed over to the church to start filling the font and getting everything ready. When we left I had a feeling that I was forgetting something and that something wasn't going to go the way I wanted. We got there 30 mins after we had wanted to so we ran and started filling the font so it would be full by the time that the baptism started. We went to the kitchen and started getting the programs ready and cleaning the kitchen. We went back to check the water temp. and then ran to the store to buy cookies. We got back after the water had been running for an hour and a half and went to set up chairs in the baptismal room. We opened the font and there was still only 3 inches of water in the bottom. We had forgotten to close the drain!!! It was Sister Movchanyuk's first baptism here too and we didn't know how to work the font. We started filling buckets and dumping them into the font. The water was freezing because we had let all of the hot water drain out. We went back to the kitchen and started boiling the biggest pot of water I have ever seen. Two companionships of elders showed up an hour before the baptism to practice a musical number that we wanted to do but instead they started helping us fill buckets from the custodial closet and cleaning the water with a giant ladel because some sticks had gotten in the water from out buckets and shoes. Thirty minutes until the start and the elders were still carryin water and we greeted Svetlana with a smile. She laughed and didn't mind that the water was freezing she was just happy to be there. The Baptism started with the font almost full. After the talk and as everyone was walking into the room the Elder dumped the pot of boiling water into the font. Everyone laughed and Svetlana walked into the font with slight nerves. She was smiling the whole time and we turned and waved to her husband. She was baptised and as she walked up the stairs she turned and looked at everyone smiling at her. She found me and sister Movchanyuk and gave us a huge smile. She brought her whole family and two friends to the baptism. The members didn't let the friends leave until they had a Book of Mormon and every pamplet that they church has printed in Russian. It was an amazing day!

The rest of the week was good too. We had Zone Conference and President talked about pushing through and playing hard through the fourth quarter. Three transfers ago the mission set a goal of 100 baptisms before the end of the year. The numbers for baptisms in a 6 month period have been going down for the last 10ish years and we didn't just want to break the trend we wanted to double it. We are now in the fourth quarter of this goal with only half of our baptisms that we need. They showed a highlight clip from the Holiday bowl where BYU came back from a 45-25 game against SMU. It really got us all so pumped to reach our goal. And man that was an amazing comeback!

Afterwards Sister Steinagel made us a Thanksgiving dinner with stuffing and lots of pie! It was nice and reminded me of Thanksgiving at home! I can't believe it is already that time of year. We haven't had any snow yet but it is just a little colder than cold. I think I am starting to get used to it a little more. Ukraine is still under quarentine for another week but I think it has calmed down a little. People are still wearing masks and won't really talk to us on the buses but it is getting better slowly.

Well I love you all and I hope you have an amazing, relaxing week! Good luck with everything this week and I hope that everything goes well! Tell everyone that I say hi, and Chase if you see Liz Lambert will you tell her happy birthday for me. I haven't had a chance to get her a letter out yet but I want her to know that I didn't forget.

Love you!
Sister Larsen

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I made it through transfer 1 untouched!

Hey everyone!

I made it through my first transfer and we will be staying here together.

It was good to hear from all of you! I am so sorry to hear about Mary's husband! Please send my love when you see their family! I can't even imagine how hard that would be for them.

Dad, thanks for everything and for watching out for me! I kinda saw it coming actually. I had a feeling 2 weeks ago that is why I asked if you could send me updates on how much was in my account each week. I was nervous to check on these computers here because I didn't know how secure they were so I had no idea what was going on. But I am glad that your trial is going well and that you are enjoying it! Hopefully you will be able to go home soon and see mom and skin. :D (Editor's note: Ukraine is notorious for stealing credit card numbers and selling them on the black market. Brooke's was obtained somehow by these crooks and soon people around the globe were depleting her checking account!)

Mom, I am proud of you for hitting your PR eventhough I don't really know what that means ha. good job! I tell people all the time about your crazy running group and how amazing you are to run so many marathons! I hope that things are going better in the technology department and that you are figuring things out.

Brynn, Thanks for the email! I always love reading your rambles it makes me remember all of the times that we chatted on facebook while I was supposed to be doing school stuff. I miss our little chats a lot! ...........

Chase and Ashley, So I was listening to Elder Bednar's talk from this last conference with a member and his parents that we just started teaching and it made me think for the times that we used to read scriptures together as a family and you would put your finger really close to my face and say "I'm not touching you." It made me laugh as we were listening and I had to explain to the parents that is how we were. How is everything going with you two? How are your church callings and the end of school coming? Keep me updated. ............

So it has been another amazing week! Svetlana was not baptised on Saturday but she is having her interview with President this Wednesday and things are looking good. She finally met with us after not wanting to meet for a week and things weren't really looking the best. She and her husband weren't talking she was struggling with her health and things just seemed to keep coming up. We were nervous that her husband wouldn't give his permission for her to be baptised. Well last week we were in a lesson and a member called with some great news. When we called her back she said that Svetlana had a really bad day and was just feeling so lonely. She was crying and knelt down and prayed that Heavenly Father would soften her husband's heart and that he would talk to her. She called him and told him how much she missed him and loved him and then she just waited, after a few minutes of silence he said that he missed her too! They made up and she told him that she wanted to be baptised. He said that he was really happy for her but he wasn't ready yet. They watched the Restoration together this last week and he is helping her to prepare for Saturday! She said that she has seen the Lord blessing her life already! Her health has improved and she is really happy. I can't wait for Saturday!

We are working with some amazing people. I don't know if I told you about Nelya and Anatoli.. They are an older couple that we found in the area book. They are awesome. She really wants to be baptised so we are working with the husband mostly. The first time we were there he didn't really want to talk to us but each time he opens up a little more. This last week when we arrived he had a huge smile on his face and he ran to get his Book of Mormon and place it next to his chair. He was ready with questions to ask us and I think he really enjoyed reading, they even asked for another homework assignment. He really wants to meet you, Dad. They said that they want to meet all of you and they invited us all back to their house when we come back! They are awesome! I can't wait for you to meet them.

I am trying to think of other things that happened this week. It is really cold! Everyone has started wearing their fur coats and fur hats! I really didn't think that people wore them but they do! And they always match perfectly! They don't celebrate Thanksgiving here and Christmas is in January along with a really really long New years! They get 2-3 weeks off of work!!! And we have to go in early because it gets a little crazy at night during the New year holiday. The swine flu is still here and everyone is still sick. We are feeling fine. We have been going to bed a few mins early to try and fight off anything that might come our way. The schools are still closed and church has only been an hour. It is hard to get some people to meet with us and do things with us because everyone is terrified. One of the members said something smart the other day though. She said that we can't just lock ourselves us and sit in a room. We need to take steps to protect ourselves and be comforted in the knowledge that if we do our part the Lord will help us to do our work on the earth and when we are done it is our time to go. I think it helped the members to not be afraid of moving forward with whatever they need to do and to not be afraid to meet with us.

Well I love you all and hope all is well! Have a good week and good luck with everything you have going on!! I was going to send pictures in the Christmas package I was going to get ready and send next week but I will just send the letters sorry again. (Editor's note: In an earlier email exchange addressing the stolen banking card, she realized she would have no access to money to purchase any of the items she wanted to send home for Christmas). I guess you will just have to wait till next Christmas for my amazing idea!

Love you! Sister Larsen

Ps. Kilee I can't email you back but I will try and write you a letter soon!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The swine flu epidemic has hit Ukraine!

Hey everyone,

Dad, I was going to be so mad at you if you left me hanging in the top of the 9th tied for an entire week! But thankfully Chase updated me and then you finished off the score. I actually really love the sports updates! We don't get any news here about anything and our DL is a huge U fan... so that is all I hear about. Good luck this week with trial! I know it isn't your favorite thing but just remember that I am arguing with the grandma's here at the same time :D.

Mom, I am not surprised to hear of a car load of projects! You amaze me every week. Always looking for some way to improve yourself. I was actually thinking how good it would be to buy a new set of scriptures myself. I have loved having my Russian scriptures because they are marked with all of the lesson scriptures, all of the basic docturines. My English scriptures have a lot of things that I have marked for a lot of different reasons and now when I read them I always read the scripture the same way with the same meaning. It is nice to start over every once and awhile and take a new look at the scriptures.

Chase and Ashley, I am glad to hear that everything is going well. I am actually really curious who was the cat and who was the mouse? I want to see pictures of all of these costumes. I am glad that school is going well and that work is good, that drive is killer when you have to do it everyday! I couldn't open the picture that you sent. I think you have to send it as an attachment.

Brynn, I kinda already wrote you a little note but I love you and have thought about you a lot!

So to start off, last week when mom told me how to protect myself from the swine flu I just kinda laughed and didn't really pay attention to it. I thought to myself, how could the swine flu get me all the way in Ukraine? Well, the good news is I am not sick yet with the swine flu but Ukraine is practically shut down. All of the schools and universities have been shut down for the next 3 weeks and we are not allowed to meet in large groups. Everyone has bought those masks that mom bought to take to Spain and everyone wears them everywhere. When we try to contact people on the bus or on the street they just cover their mouths and walk away. Also everyone has cancelled their appointments with us because they are afraid of the Gripe, haha. I think it is really really funny actually. But as a missionary, there is no rest for the weary so we are pressing on with the work :D.

This last week has been a lot of fun. We went to the Ballet last Tuesday with Ulya and Annetta, a mother and a daughter that we have been working with. It was a lot of fun but our seats were aweful. We are allowed to go to one cultural thing a transfer so we went to Romeo and Juliet, the ballet for about $3.00 US. It was awesome.

We have had a lot of good and bad this week.

Cvetlana agreed to meet with us again and things are going so well. She quit smoking on Saturday and she has had a big increase of faith these last few days. It makes such an amazing difference when a member is helping her. We have again hit a little bump in the road because of the flu and she is nervous to leave her house so we are going to try and work with her a little over the phone and see if we can still make her date for this Saturday. She said that she would be okay if we moved it to next week but we will see what happens. I am really excited for her, she has made some really great changes and you can see the difference.

They don't celebrate Halloween here at all and no one really knows about it. So we had a harvest fest for all of the members and our investigators. The bishop cancelled it because of the flu but he said that if we still wanted to do it we could without the support of the ward. That made things hard but we had already told a bunch of people about it so we still had it. It was fun and a few members came along with some of our investigators. I think they all had fun and our investigators were able to meet some of the members. It was nice of them to come and support us even when they were afraid of getting sick. It turned out okay in the end.

This week we are starting a consecration week. We are putting all of our efforts into making sure that we are working hard and keeping every rule to the letter. We are going to have a hard week with everyone cancelling on us so we will just try to do our part. I liked a quote that mom wrote in the book she sent me. "Pray as if everything depending on the Lord, and Work as if everything depended on us." That is my motto! Well, I love you all and hope all is well. Have an amazing week!

Sister Larsen

ps. it is better to just send letters to the office because we don't even check our mail. You can send letters directly to the office or in the pouch and I still get dearelders through the pouch. I have heard from Holly and Grandma and Grandpa Crookston so far. It has been fun to hear from them. Tell them hi for me. Love you!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A long but fast week

Hey family!

So this week has flown by and we are running a little late so this letter might be a little shorter then the rest. We have had very long week but the time seems to be going faster. We haven't been able to meet with Svetlana this week. It has been really frustrating to try and meet with her. After we gave her the baptismal date for the 7th she has had a lot of problems. Her husband doesn't really approve and a lot of things have gone wrong. We are really hoping that she will meet with us this week so we can try and help her a little more.

So to answer some of your questions, every P-day is different. Last week we went shopping so that I could buy a coat, boots, and gloves. I bought an amazing coat! Everyone here wears the most beautiful coats... I wouldn't say mine is beautiful because they are also really expensive. Mine is a big down black comforter with fur on the hood!!! We aren't allowed to wear the fur hats but I will forsure buy one before I go home! Everyone wears them though! Everyone wears big leather or fur coats it is awesome. It is just what you would expect from Ukraine!

Last week was freezing, I thought that my fingers were going to fall off one of the nights but this week it has warmed up a lot. It is really hard to judge how the weather is going to be because in the morning the whole area is usually covered in fog and in the afternoons and in the busses it gets really toasty. But again at night it gets really cold! Some of the members are saying that it is supposed to be one of the coldest winters here.. Just my luck right. Oh and they just turned on our heat this week! It was really cold in our apartment this last week!

All weekend we have been in the city center. We had stake conference and they rented out a big theater to hold all of the members. It was a lot of fun. One of our investigators took us around a little of the city after to show us some of the history it was fun. We went back today with Sister Clark and Sister Larsen and saw a few of the big churches. It was a lot of fun! Our area is mostly outside of the main downtown area. We are in Borshahevski. It is actually a little ghetto area, but I love it! The members are really amazing! A lot of them invite us over to give them lessons and a lot of them are amazing at missionary work. They will let us come over and teach complete strangers at their apartments! They will usually feed us supper and tea or a treat when we teach with them. They love having us over and are really supportive. Each week they will come and talk with our investigators at church and testify to them of how being baptised has changed their lives and the lives of their family. All of them are converts so they are so amazing to work with!

Our area is also really big. We are assigned to one ward but we work in the whole area because the elders will give us the single women that they are teaching.Our district is also pretty amazing. We work with the Office elders, the Assistants and our district leader and his trainee. They are all really fun and we love doing stuff all together. Each of them adds so much to the area and they are all really hard workers. Our district leader is amazing and so funny! He remembers everything, every little detail about everything and everyone! I wish I had that talent! We also teach a lot with the Assistants because they have given us a lot of the people that they have started teaching or that they find. It is a lot of fun and I learn a lot from them.Also my area is very mixed when it comes to the languages. Almost everyone speaks both Ukrainian and Russian but they have one that they like to speak better then the other. We are teaching a couple where they husband speaks Russian and the Wife answers in Ukrainian but they understand each other. When they realize that I only speak Russian they will speak in Russian so I can understand a little. I think in the city you have to know both, but all of the schools and government function in Ukrainian.

I don't really know what our address is at our apartment. We never write it so I will have to get that to you next week. The Mission Office moved right before I got here so the address that is on the letters that I have sent is the new address. And I have thought a little about Christmas stuff, I was wondering if ...... Thanks!

Well I have to run but I love you and hope that all is well. Sorry if this letter is a little scattered. I hope I got a lot of your questions answered! I love you and hope you have a good week. Good luck with all of the electronics I hope that you can get it all figured out soon.

Love,
Sister Larsen

Publisher's note: Some readers have asked about emailing Brooke. I am not aware of any prohibition against it, so if you want to email her please do. Her address is shown at the top of the blog. Thanks for thinking about Brooke and including her in your prayers. Mike

Tweed, leather and fur and it's only October

Hey everyone!

It sounds like everyone is having an amazing week. Boys I am sure that you are having a blast just please don't shoot each other or at least don't shoot my dog. Also I am sure that Terry is sitting in the back spitting on Ty and Grant's backs.

Thanks for the letters! Mom, of course you are getting a million things done. Thanks for the email. I remember you telling me that story before but I loved hearing it again. I can't tell you how many times that has happened to me here. I will always start teaching and then in the middle of the part that I am teaching I will just look at Sister Movchanyuk and smile.

Dad, ....!

Penny, ......

Chase, ....

Ashley, ....!

So I have made it through my second full week here and my 3rd full month on a mission. It has been a hard but amazing week. The beginning of the week was really hard. Everyone was cancelling their appointments and I felt like we weren't really teaching a lot. Also the people that we were able to teach aren't really progressing and I think they just want to learn english. We had a lesson with Natasha, we taught her about the importance of coming to church and about the sacrament. She said that she would really try and we even offered to pick her up on our way. We also taught Vika again. Thankfully we were able to teach her at the same members house because the other member that we set the appointment up with cancelled on us 15 minutes before! We had a really great lesson. She said that she really wants to believe that it is true but she just doesn't believe that we can have these great amazing blessings. One night we had a lesson with Sasha. She is a woman that we met on the street that wanted to learn English. As we started teaching her she pulled out an Icon and tried to have us translate it and read the prayer that was on the back. We started to teach her about what we believe and she wouldn't let us talk. Finally when the lesson was over we got up to leave and I turned back to turn off the lights and she had placed the Icon of Mary in the corner of one of the pictures of Christ, it made me laugh. We then went to talk to the assistants to get some clothes that the elders had left in the office and Sasha walked in and tried to give an Icon to one of the elders, He told her that it would be really offensive and she stormed out of the church. The whole way home we were extremely jumpy because we thought that she would pop out of the corner. Sister Movchanyuk turned to me and said "something good has to be coming." And the next day something amazing happened.We met with Cvetlana, she is a referral from a member. She has been coming to church for several weeks but she hasn't wanted to meet with the missionaries. She finally agreed to meet with us but her husband wouldn't come. We met with her and sister Luba. We watched a talked from general conference and then we read a few scriptures and talked about repentance. Sister Movchanyuk showed her a scripture on baptism and she started crying and said that she wanted that (that was the only part that I really understood). After a few minutes of talking Sister Movchanyuk pulled out a calendar and we set a date for Cvetlana:D. My heart jumped, and I started crying, she was crying and Sister Luba was crying. I haven't been that happy in a really long time. She has really started taking steps to change her life and we are so excited for her and her family. She knows that it will be hard and that her life will not just all of a sudden be easy but she sees the big picture. This has made all of the preparation and all of the no's worth it. To see one person begin to change her life so that she and her family can be happy. It was a great week.

So about Sister Movchanyuk. She is from Harkov, Ukraine. She has lived in Italy with her mom for the last 5 years and she speaks Russian, Ukrainian, Italian and English! Russian is her native language but she speaks atleast 3 of them almost perfect. She is really short but she is the fastest walker I have ever met in my life! I feel like I am constantly out of breath and running to keep up with her. She is really nice and we get a long. We sing as we walk around the city from one place to another. Last night she was really mean to me! We went to visit Lena and we were on our way home for the night. We were sitting on the Marchuteka and I was closest to the window. She stood up and let a really really really smelly man sit next to me trapping me in the seat. Then the man infront of me closed the window and I was dying. I really don't think that I have ever smelled anything so bad in my life. I was trying really hard not to gag. After 2 stops it was so bad that sister Movchanyuk decided it was enough and we got off the Marchuteka 4 or 5 stops early and waited for another bus. We both put handsanitizer on our hands and sat and smelled them until our lungs felt like they had cleared out a little. We laughed all night about it. Well we should get going but I love you all and hope that all is well at home.

Give my Skin (Dakota) a berry berry big hug and a kiss! I hope you all have an amazing week! Thank for the letter and pictures I will look for them!Love, Cecmpa Larsen

Monday, October 12, 2009

First Full Week--Lots to Learn

Hey family that I love!

I hope you all have had an amazing week! Thank you for the emails everyone, it is so good to hear from you, and to hear how everyone is doing!

To answer some of your questions: for transportation we either walk or we take these little buses called marshutekas. They are either small public buses or they are white creeper vans that they have put bus seats in. Everyone piles into these. I am just getting the hang of being able to stay standing in these things. The first few days I could barely keep my balance. We eat lunch at home or we take it with us to the church, it is usually rice, noodles, buckwheat, or eggs and vegis and Bread, there is always bread. It is actually not too bad.

My companion is actually a really good cook and she was wondering if you could send a few recipes? Maybe swedish pancakes, and some easy soups?

Mom congrats on the marathon! Everytime I tell someone that you run marathons they are amazed! It really is an amazing accomplishment to do just one let alone many! Wow! .......

Dad, ....... Hunting should be a lot of fun and I sure that both Kota and beverage boy are looking forward to it. .......Tell everyone that I say Hey!

Brynn, ..........

Chase and Ashley, .............

So this has been my first full week. I have learned a lot. One of the most important lessons that I learned is that if there is standing water on the ground it is probably not rain water or water from a broken sprinkler. Don't Step In It.. bad idea. haha. Thank goodness I didn't learn this through my own mistakes. I have been avoiding all of the puddles for obvious reasons-- I don't want my shoes to be soaked all day-- but last night I saw a man just peeing on the side of the road. ha lesson learned.

I have had a lot of ups and downs this week. Conference was an amazing up that I am still hanging on to. We have listened to Elder Holland's talk twice already. I love how powerfully he speaks. I want to testify like he does. I can say that I know that Christ lives and that the Book of Mormon is true but the way that he testifies just pierced my soul. There were a lot of amazing talks, but I haven't heard all of them yet. On Saturday we listened to the first hour on a cd that we have of conference in English but then we went to the church and the whole first session was in Russian, I could understand a few words here and there but really I didn't get anything. We then taught a mother and her daughter and they stayed for part of the second session. One of the Elders in our ward had printed off the talks already so he let me read them as they were given. Sunday I was a little smarter and I brought Sister Movchanyoks Dvd player and listened to them in English as everyone else watched it in Ukranian.

We also taught Vika this week. She is someone we found through English classes and we taught her the second lesson on the plan of salvation. We taught her at an amazing member's house. They all sat and participated in both the English lesson and the gospel lesson. I taught my part and by the end I was really frustrated that I couldn't understand anything at all. I thought that the lesson had gone terribly wrong and that we probably wouldn't teach her again. When we left Sister Movchanyok said that it was an amazing lesson! I started crying out of frustration but now I just have to laugh because I had gotten myself all worked up for nothing. That is how a lot of my day goes. I will introduce myself on a bus and they will start talking so I will motion for Sister Movchanyok to come over. She will talk to them for a minute and get their number and I will be so excited and then when we get off the bus she will say that they weren't interested at all. It is really funny, sometimes I feel like a silly dog that gets all excited to go in the car when in reality she is going to the vet. ha.

We spend a lot of our day tracking or teaching. For tracking during the day we will hand out private English fliers and try to talk to people in the park. We get shut down a lot more then we teach when we are tracking. In the evenings, before or after appointments we will knock on the doors in the apartment buildings. This is the most terrifying thing because the hallways in the apartment buildings are not very well lit and they are old with spray paint and then you are waiting for someone to answer the door. They are usually these little nice baboshkas (grandmothers). Most of the new investigators that we have found have been through English classes and through the Area book.

This area has just been opened for the sisters so we have taken a lot of the contacts from the elders' area book and we have been working on finding them. Last night we went to an address and it was a lot of fun. It was the older couple and they are amazing! They welcomed us in and gave us slippers. They had a lot of questions since they were last taught by the missionaries and we talked a lot about families and the temple. I am excited to teach them again this week.

We have a lot of investigators right now but none of them are progressing really fast. Valentina is a woman that has a baptismal date for next weekend but she in so busy that she hasn't been able to meet with us. She is also really hard to teach. She is very much stuck in her ways from the Provaslavian church (Everyone here belongs to the Provaslavian Church, it is really frustrating). We are really hoping to help her progress this week. She came to all of conference yesterday and loved it.

So there is a tradition here that I have had to just tell myself to suck it up. You all know how much I love feet! Well the tradition is that when you enter a home you remove your shoes promptly and normally they will give you a pair of slippers to wear while you are in their home. It really is a sweet gesture but oh man the first few days I struggled to keep my mind on the conversations and not on my feet, which is really hard since I don't understand anything that is being said anyway. ha

Well I love you all and hope that you are having an amazing week! Good luck with everything this week!

Cecmpa Larsen

Monday, October 5, 2009

First letter from Kiev!

Hello my family!

It was so good to talk to you all this last week. It sounds like you are all doing amazing! I hope that everyone enjoyed their conference weekend and I hope that the race went well!

Mom that is funny that you talked about a first for me this last weekend because yesterday I went through and listed all of my firsts that I had just yesterday. We left the MTC on Tuesday and we arrived in Kiev on Wednesday! The entire flight to Vienna I spent talking to a woman named Elizabeth. She is from Vienna and she had been living in the states. I started out talking to her about the church and why I was going to Kiev. I asked her about her own religion and after awhile she told me that she was Buddist. I went silent and that was the longest minute ever as I sat thinking "oh, man they did not tell me what to do in this situation." We talked for a little about religion and then we just talked about life in general. I just decided to get her with kindness. As we started to get off the plane I offered her a Book of Mormon and just asked her to read it and see how she felt. This was the first time I got rejected. But she was really nice about it. We exchanged emails and she hugged me goodbye. I had to say goodbye to Sister Burke in Vienna which was really hard but also exciting knowing that there were a lot of new things to come. Our flight was delayed in Vienna and we were all so tired that we could barely hold our eyes open. But we did get to talk to some people and somehow everyone we talked to didn't believe in God and that made it really hard. Let's just say we got rejected a lot :D.

When we got off the plane in Kiev it was really cold. The wind here is amazingly cold. We got our luggage and mine had been broken, the handle at the top was broken off. But an elder from Armaina found his bag sliced open and torn apart. They had put all of his sand covered clothing in a plastic bag. I felt really bad for him.

President Steinagel and the APs picked us up and took us around the city. They took us to place in Kiev where Ukraine was decicated and opened to the church, and he read the dedication prayer. The APs then walked with us around the city center and we took the metro back to where the van would pick us up. We went to President Steinagel's home (which looks a lot like the homes in Salt Lake) and they made us dinner. We talked for a little and all of us were going cross-eyed trying to keep our eyes open.

Thursday we walked to the new temple being built, and it is so amazing to see it in person. We met our companions at the chapel right next to the temple. Sister мовчанюк is my companion. I don't know how to spell it in English letters. She is originally from Ukraine but has been living in Italy for the last several years. We work in the temple area so we get to walk to the temple every day. She is amazing; she is a hard worker and she is an amazing cook! That first night we taught English class and our first lesson. I didn't understand one word once English class was over. But I did get to testify about the Book of Mormon, I hope she understood anything that I said. Friday and Saturday we spent teaching English classes and a few lessons. The APs took us to two lessons that they are giving to us because they are mostly girls. We are teaching four girls English and we are going to teach them the first lesson this week. They have also been working with юля and her family. She is really hesitant because she had been meeting with the JWs and she didn't like some of the things that they were teaching and she thinks that there are a lot of similarities between the two churches. We are teaching her this week as well and I hope that we can pray with her so that she can feel the difference.

Yesterday we meet a lot of the members and they are amazing. They are almost all converts except for a lot of the little kids. There are not a ton of full families and most of the families are part member or only member families. We had fast Sunday because we watch general conference next weekend. I am really excited to watch it and to see валентина's reaction to it. We are really trying to work with the members and their families to bring the rest of their family and their friends to church.

Well I should probably get going. I love you all and I hope that all is well with you! Oh, by the way, President Steinagel said that the best way to send mail is to get a US postal service box and to send it through regular mail. When you write the description on it be honest but really vague and general in your descriptions, like "personal items" or "used clothes" something like that and that takes about a week to 2 weeks. Well I love you and miss you a lot! I hope you all have an amazing week!

сестра ларсен
Sister Brooke Larsen
я люблю теба

p.s. I ate Borche for the first time yesterday and man it was amazing! I don't think I will do too badly here after all :D. Also, Chase, you might be a little jealous but there are Mercedes and Bentlys everywhere... I don't know where they get the money but maybe they are all mobsters. I will try and get a picture with one soon and send it with to you:D

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Brooke's Arrival in Kiev!!!!



Greetings from Kyiv Ukraine! As you know, Sister Larsen arrived here safe and sound. We have attached a picture of her standing with us, as well as with her group in front of the Kyiv Temple which is under construction.

We have had orientation and soon the missionaries will be off to their areas of assignment. Sister Larsen's new companion is Sister Movchanyuk, an experienced and cheerful missionary who has a strong testimony. The will be serving in Borschahivsky which is in the outskirts of Kyiv.

There is a letter from your missionary on its way to you; however, it may not reach you for about two weeks.

We are certainly happy to have Sister Larsen in our mission!

Sincerely,

President Lane O. and Sister Jennefer Steinagel

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Count Down to Lift Off Begins....

Hey everyone,

The count down is officially started. Thank you so much for the watch and cookies!! We took all of our food out that night and put it on the floor and took pictures in our gluttony! It was amazing!

Mom, Thank you for the note of encouragement. I am so excited for you race! When is it? I hope everything goes well with you knee. I love that you have made enough food storage for the ward! It sounds like you are good for a while! I am excited to talk to you too! There have been so many times that I have thought while I have been here, man if I could just talked to my parents.

Dad, you reached your goal, you made me cry and laugh in the same letter. Sister Burke and I were looking out the fence on Saturday trying to see if we could see you walking to the game. I heard it was awful!

Brynn, I have been thinking about you a ton too! I wish I could have you as my companion some days because I know that we would have a blast out here! I wish you had been at the meeting we had last night, you would have died hearing about some of the bugs that missionaries get.

Chase and Ashley, Thank you for the note and for the article about the temple. You have no idea how excited that makes me! We heard about it yesterday but it is amazing to see the pictures! Congrats on your interview. I hope that everything goes well. Both of you--thank you for the letters this week; you have no idea how happy I get when I hear from you!

So this week has been filled with exciting things. On Thursday we received our flight plans and from the day on we have been a totally mess mentally. We made some goals on Sunday to try and put us back on track. We are all just so excited to go it is hard to stay focused. We are flying through New York and Vienna which will be a lot of fun. Our flight leaves Salt Lake around 8:30 and then we will have another 2 hour layover in New York. I will try and call in the morning but if not I will in New York for sure! I am so excited to talk to everyone!

On Sunday we heard a conversion story from a girl that was amazing. She was completely disowned and her family took everything from her when she was baptized. She was adopted by her chemistry teacher and she decided to serve a mission. Her mom came to her farewell and it was the first time that they had talked in 2 years. She found out that her mom was diagnosed with cancer for the 2nd time in her life and it is not looking good. Her family has been asking her to come home but she was promised that her family would come unto Christ through her mission service and she doesn't want to give up that blessing. Every eye was wet in the meeting. She inspired us all and I am so grateful that that was not my trial. She was giving extra strength to be able to do that. I realized that I have had a very easy life. We were also released Sunday night and the new Coordinating sisters were called. It will be nice to be able to study on Sunday before we head out.

Tuesday we heard from Elder Holland. He came and gave the devotional. It was amazing! I love him so much. He talked a lot about being a missionary even after you return home and how Preach My Gospel was written to help convert the missionary first and then you will be able to convert others. We can't go and change the world when we don't believe in what we are teaching. I have seen that so much since I have been here. I can now say that I am truly converted. I know that God lives and I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I know that every word in the Book of Mormon is true. I don't just think that I know these things, they burn in my soul. My testimony has grown so much since the day that I walked in here. Today I was sitting in the temple and I saw a picture of Christ with His arms open to who ever would run to him. I started crying thinking about that day. We had an amazing day in the temple today.

On a less spiritual note... We had a terrifying meeting last night about everything that we need to do so that we stay healthy. I learned that lettuce is the worst thing that I can eat and meat is probably the safest... I am a little nervous. They also talked about how many rats will be over in Ukraine. I haven't thought about that yet. I knew the streets would most likely be covered in urine and dirt but I hadn't thought about the mice. Well we walked out of our classroom building to go to our rooms and one of the elders stopped and said look, I looked and there was a mouse running towards my feet. I may have screamed, and I realized that I am in trouble. This should be fun! Ha-ha.

About things to send. I will need my black winter coat for sure I forgot about that. The purple Jacket would be very nice. I am a little worried about my weight limit. I really am going to try to not go over. Sisters are wearing a lot more colors then I expected but I heard that clothes over there are pretty cheap so if I decide that I need anything else I could probably get it there. If you do decide to send some stuff, I could use more long sleeve or wool things; even just long sleeve t-shirts to wear under things. But I think that is it. I think I am pretty set. I will probably send a box home on Monday of stuff that I don't think that I will need. Oh man it is crazy to think that I will be living in Ukraine? For a year. Man I will miss you. I feel like I haven't really said goodbye yet because I still feel like I am in Provo. Well I love you all so much and I will talk to you soon:D. Thanks again for everything!

Love,
Cecmpa Larsen :D

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"I swear I was born here [MTC] and will die here!

Hey family!
I am glad that the OC Tanner job went amazing!

Brynn, your flowers are so beautiful! I have been showing everyone around me the pictures that dad sent. You are amazing! ........... [Editor's note: I am omitting some of the personal family stuff...just know that she thinks we are all amazing. Mostly she wants us to keep the letters coming so she says lots of nice things to us.]

Mom, thanks for doing everything for me!! You are amazing! When is the marathon? It should be coming up soon! ........

Dad, you are a machine!! ..........

Chase and Ashley, how is school and work going? I heard BYU won on Saturday. .............

So this week has been really really long. It has been one of my longest weeks. We just started doing 100% Russian yesterday and it is so hard and so frustrating. Every day I get so frustrated because I can't say what I want to say all the time. Sister Burke has been counting down the days which actually makes them seem longer. I want to leave but it is really scaring knowing that I will be in UKRAINE and I don't know the language.

We have also been having a hard time teaching this week in Russian. My confidence has been taken down to the floor which is actually kinda a good thing because now I will have to work hard these last 2 weeks to try and get it back before I get taken down again in Ukraine. haha but it is good here as always I am learning so much everyday, I just think we are ready to get out of here. I can't wait to get on that bus.

We have a few interesting things happen this week. The first I wanted to tell you about is Cectpa Loboda, I will send you a picture of her. Last week when we went to the temple she was so sweet. She got all ready in her white clothes and was looking in the mirror she then ran back into her change room and got a white ribbon out of her bag that she has had for a long time. She tied it around her head with a bow and she sat and smiled at herself in the mirror. She was so happy the whole day. You couldn't take the smile off of her face. It made me so excited to go and start this work.

I talked to a man named Derek this week on the phone. He had met the missionaries and was calling the number on the pass along card for a free movie. I got to testify to him of the love that our Heavenly Father has for him and that he was doing the right thing. I testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and it was an amazing moment. He agreed to read the Book of Mormon and to find out for himself. I am so excited for him to meet with the missionaries and to discover for himself the great blessings that come with the gospel.

Well we are starting to count down. We get our flight plans this week and we will start packing next week. Sorry I keep asking for things but there are a few things I need before I take off. ...................

I love you all so much and I hope all is well. Last thing, I was wondering if you could either talk to some of my friends and send me a few dearelders or something. The mail during the week really helps the days go by. Thanks again for all of your support. You are amazing and I love you! [Editor's note: I think Brooke would love to hear from folks via letters during the week. She loves the emails on Tuesdays but would love something the rest of the week if anyone gets a chance to write her.]

love,
Cecmpa Larsen

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hello dear family!

Sounds like it has been a happening place in the Larsen home the last few days! My family is so crafty I love it! And I am so proud of the big worker men for getting all of those crafts done! I got a great letter from grandma and will you tell her thanks. I am going to try and write her today and also tell carol gee thank your for the picture.

Brynn!! I can't believe that this job is next week! I am so excited for you and I am just imagining all of the amazing things that your are doing with glittering trees and walls of flowers! I want to see pictures! You better now forget to take pictures of these or else I will never let you forget it!

Mom, sounds like you have had fun cleaning out all of the old closets! I have no idea what this story is that everyone is talking about! I want to read it, maybe you could send me a copy! I am glad that no one has lost any fingers through all of the craziness! Oh and Sister Jones was our coordinating sister when we first got her! She is amazing I love her! I miss her a lot too! She is awesome!

Dad, sounds like you will be in and out of slc for a little. I am impressed with all of the amazing work that you do and that you still manage to help all of us out with all of our stuff!

Chase and Ashley, I think I need a letter for you two explaining all of the craziness that you have had with knifes and brownies?? Sounds like you have had the most eventful week! How have your first few days been with school? And I want to hear all about your interviews!!

So this week has been eventful for me as well! We got all of our new missionaries last week! And things are just starting to get interesting. I think everyone has started to get comfortable and things are starting to come out that haven't surfaced yet so I think this next week will be long. It has been really fun to get to know them! They all have such great stories and are such amazing sisters! They have changed the welcoming process a lot so we have spent a lot of our class time in training meetings for the orientation that is now on Thursday nights with the branch presidency. It went a lot better than my orientation because they weren't like deer in the headlights. They listened to a lot of what we were saying and they will all be great missionaries.

Elder Scott came and talked to us on Tuesday and he gave us two amazing blessings. He gave us the gift of tongues and also an apostalic gift of protection. All of my worries have completely left since that night. I will write you more about it!

We also had a surprise last friday night. Two of the native Russian speaking sisters came in to the MTC really early. They were suppose to go stay with friends but they got swept up with a group of missionaries and got checked in. They have been good sports because the MTC won't let them leave to go be with their friends. I feel bad, they were so excited to see Utah a little before they came in. One of the sisters speaks really good english and the other sister doesn't really speak any english. The one that speaks english has a rough relationship with her family and I think she is here against their judgment. She has great faith and she has a really strong testimony! She knows it is true more then anything! They were able to go and do baptisms today. They haven't been through the temple but they will go next week :D. I can't wait to go with them! We took them up to the temple on Sunday and they were taking pictures of everything. They took pictures of the don't walk on the grass signs, homes, random groups of missionaries, everything! They are just so excited to be here and to be so close to the church! Their enthusiasm is contagious! I am excited to meet the rest of the Cecmpbl tomorrow! They will be so great!

.......

I think that is pretty much it! I love you all and I am so happy that I got to hear from you all! A few things... I checked on my flight status and it is tentitively (?) sept 29 at 8:35ish am... So if I have time I think I am going to try and call home. It will probably be around 7ish. :D When we checked our flight information we got really excited know that we are actually going to leave. I love it here but it would be nice to be outside a little.

........ One last thing... it might be a little much but I am dying for some homemade rolls?? They just aren't as good here. Thanks!

I love you all and hope you have a good week! I will send a letter and some pictures today hopefully!! Thanks for the support!

cecmpa Lapcoh

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Halfway thru the MTC!!!

Hey amazing family!

How is everyone doing?? So on Sunday we hit our half way mark! We are so excited because we have our first set of new missionaries coming in tomorrow! We are getting 8 new sisters and a total of 24 new missionaries in our branch. There is also another Russian branch that is getting about the same amount! It is crazy how many Russians there are here right now. Then next Tuesday we will be getting the Native Russians, Which I can hardly wait for.

Things are really great here! I am trying to work hard and I am always tired and I am hoping I can stay that way my whole mission! I love being a missionary so much!

Dad wanted me to explain a little about our day so here it is.
They have just started a new program here so a lot of things are changing.
We wake up around 6:30, sometimes at 6 because they have the gym open for sisters in the morning. We will usually run a mile or two and stretch. I have started just going down and dancing on the basketball court in the mornings and it is amazing! [Editor’s note: Brooke takes Hip Hop to the MTC and causes chaos among Elders] Most days we get ready and have breakfast at 7:00 and start class at 7:30-11:30. Most of this class time is done by the teacher and we will usually teach a lesson of some sort. We have lunch at 11:30. Sometimes we have gym right after lunch for 50 minutes, but it is random every day. We have class from 12:15-4:30, dinner and then class again from 5:15-9:00. One of the blocks of class is our own study time where we do not have a teacher. We do personal study, companion study and then Language. They have a computer program that we use here called TALL. We don't use it as much as we should but most of our language time is directed towards our lessons and tasks that we have to do each week. Every Wednesday we teach in the TRC to Volunteers which I look forward to every week!

I hope that helps a little. Every day is a little different. For gym we usually run and then do abs or lunges. Last Saturday morning we played softball which was so much fun! I am still a little sore though! It has been forever since I have thrown a ball! It reminded me of playing catch with everyone out on the front lawn. I really loved it and I will say I am not as bad as I thought I was going to be. :D

So yesterday Sister Burke and I went and taught the first lesson to a teacher to get some feed back on our teaching in Russian. We struggled through it and it wasn't too bad. When we got done I realized that as I was teaching about Prophets and the different dispensations, I forgot to teach how prophets have the authority to teach the words of God. I forgot to teach about the priesthood power that is giving to prophets. I knew right when I finished my section that I had left out a really important part. That knowledge of the Priesthood authority that was giving to Joseph Smith is what makes everything work so perfectly. It gives us that authority to baptize and perform other ordinances. I realized how important that authority is to us. I know that through that authority we have the right to ask for the blessings that are promised to us. Because I had forgotten to teach that principle the lesson didn't really flow until it had been taught. It amazes me how much better the lesson started going once we had taught about the priesthood authority. Even though it was just a practice I learned so much from that lesson about how powerful our message is.

Lately I have been reading about the armies of Moroni and Helaman. I love how much faith they have in the Lord that everything will work out for the best. In a letter to Moroni, Pahonra said that he would do whatever the Lord asked of His people. I want to have that kind of faith. That is one of the big things I am working on is my trust in the Lord. Sometimes I rely too much on myself and not enough on the Lord.

Well I hope all is well with all of you! Sorry I didn't get to write individual messages this week. But I love you all so much!

…..
Thank you so much for everything!! I love you!

Cectpa Larsen