Last Message!!!!!!!!!

The time has come! I know I can't believe it at all still. It still feels like in a day or two I'll board a train and go to my next area.

Last night, on Monday, all of the missionaries going home--my MTC group, Elders Kauffman, Lewis, Jacobs, Stagg, and myself; Elder Campbell, who came 6 weeks after us but due to plane scheduling came home on the early transfer with us; and Sister Mills--met together at President Steinagel's apartment, ate a big dinner, and had a testimony meeting about what we've learned from our missions. After that, we realized that we wanted to do something really special to end our last night, so with permission from president we all traveled down to where they're building the Kyiv Temple (which, by the way, is looking very impressive and looks a lot bigger in real life). Arriving at about 11:00 at night, we all gathered around and sung hymns, said a prayer, and had a moment of quiet meditation gazing at the temple. When we were ready, we returned to the mission home and stayed up talking until about 3:30.

Dad arrived this morning and we started going around the city sightseeing and talking. Tonight we're leaving for Ivano-Frankivsk, where we'll be until Thursday, when we head to Chernivtsi. Friday night we head back to Kyiv to sightsee a little more and go to church in one of my former areas, and then on Monday the long flight begins.

I can't wait to see and talk to everyone again! I love you all!

--Elder Hurst


Hello again everyone! We had a FANTASTIC week as a zone. On Wednesday we had our mini zone conference, which was a huge success, and then on Sunday, when we reported in our numbers, my part of the zone found twice as many new investigators as usual, had more than 3 times as many investigators at sacrament meeting, and overall we did great. It's been great.

In other news, on Saturday--which, by the way, was the 11th of October, or in other words, my 2 year mark as a missionary--we took a branch trip to two little tourist towns in the Carpathian mountains, Vorokhta and Yaremche. The Carpathian mountains are beautiful in the fall! They're covered with trees, and so the mountains are spotted with green, yellow, red, and orange. Several mountains are bright green with random bright yellow trees, and some just seem to glow orange. I took a ton of pictures. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I officially love the Carpathian mountains.

Speaking of love, I love you all, and I hope you all have a great week!

--Elder Hurst

Lutsk, Religious Conference, and Chernivtsi 600...

Hello everyone! We just finished up a pretty packed week...

First of all, last Tuesday we went off to the little northwestern city of Lutsk for an exchange. Lutsk is a tiny little city with very little that's interesting except for a pretty cool castle that we got to see. There's a really nice restaurant right near the castle that served some of the best borscht I've had in Ukraine, as well as a really good Caesar salad and actual fried ice cream. It was a good exchange.

We got in on time to help set up for a large community religious meeting, which was held in our church. Every year the ministry of religion for the city of Chernivtsi invites all the local leaders of the local churches together for a meeting on how to promote religious tolerance and cooperation to help solve local social and community problems, and this year they chose our meetinghouse as the meeting place.

Several local religious leaders spoke about social problems that their churches are working to improve, including a Catholic priest, a Baptist pastor, and the local Seventh Day Adventist leader. Representing our church was President Malonos, the second counselor in the mission presidency, who talked about the abnormally high divorce rate in Ukraine and the need to help the family remain sacred. In doing so, he talked about our belief in the centrality of the family in the plan of God, and the necessity and importance of eternal marriage and families, mentioning that he himself had been married in the temple for time and all eternity. While the crowd had been relatively quiet for all of the other speakers (many barely even paying attention--one young pastor in a really expensive suit read a newspaper for most of the time), everyone was on the edge of their seats for his talk, and almost as soon as they opened the floor for questions everyone tried to challenge his claim on eternal marriage, asking him to show bible verses proving that doctrine. He told them that he wasn't here to convince them whether or not our church is true, but rather to share an important social problem and the revealed solution to it. He bore testimony of Joseph Smith and the Plan of Happiness, and in the end, everyone applauded and commended him on his talk. The Spirit was present in a very strong, literal sense.

This weekend was also the 600th anniversary of the founding of Chernivtsi, and they had a huge celebration for it. We got to wander around a little and take a look, and it was really amazing. Everything was remodeled and made to look really nice, and a lot of little additions had been made, including a street with sidewalks lined with the name "Chernivtsi" written in Ukrainian, Russian, English, Polish, Romanian, and Hebrew. It was a lot of fun, and a really great experience.

Well, hey, thanks for all the emails, and I hope you all have a great week!

--Elder Hurst

Banana bread tastes better with baking soda

Hello again! This week was definitely interesting. We had some really cool lessons with our members, trying to get them all ready to start doing some missionary work of their own. We've been doing a little program with them were we read a few scriptures about the atonement, have them make a list of friends and family who aren't members, then pray to see who on that list is ready to hear about the gospel. After that we have a few simple steps like do service, mention you're a member of this church, invite them to meetings, and invite them to talk to missionaries.

So, we decided to make banana bread for someone this week, and we decided to do it with the other elders because...well...they know how to make banana bread. So, we've just finished everything and have had it in the oven for about 10 minutes when someone suddenly realizes that no one added baking soda. Thinking quickly, but not clearly, he pulled it out of the oven and tried sprinkling baking soda on top and kind of mixing into the batter. Despite the well thought-out premise, it actually didn't work, and turned out to be really gross (bubbles of baking soda don't taste very good). The only parts of it that tasted normal were the outside edges that didn't get the soda treatment; they just weren't as fluffy as usual.

Hopefully unrelated, we had a case of stomach flu in our district. Thankfully it's all over, and thankfully I didn't get it as bad as some of the others did, but it wasn't fun. I think that throwing up at 2 am would probably be one of my least favorite mission memories.

Well, other than that, things are great! Thank you all for your emails, I love you, and I'll write again in a week!

--Elder Hurst

Cool things ahead

Hello everyone! Well, we just had zone conference again this past week, and it was really amazing. We've talked a lot about doubling baptisms, and our president, President Steinagel, is just the man to do it. He has a great vision for the missionary work here, and he really knows his stuff. This next transfer will be a really good one.

We have a lot planned for it that'll be really cool. Here's our schedule:
WEEK 1 (this week): 2-day exchange with the other elders in our district to help them boost their numbers and get some work going for them
WEEK 2: Exchange in Lutsk, a city I've never been to before
WEEK 3: Exchange in L'viv with the other zone leaders
WEEK 4: Mini zone conference (something I've been organizing for my part of the zone, Ivano and Chernivtsi; it'll be a scaled-down version of zone conference specifically for us and our situations. If it goes like I'm planning, it'll be a great way to train and, most especially, keep everyone excited for the last half of the transfer--most of the time, people are great after zone conference but it kind of wavers off after that)
WEEK 5: Exchange in Ivano to help them with a big Open House they're having
WEEK 6: Exchange in Kyiv, Ivano, Chernivtsi, Odessa, and Kyiv again before a transfer to Boise, Idaho....

It should be a good transfer.

Congratulations again to Mom for her big win! That's amazing. I hope everyone else is doing great, and I'll write again next week!

--Elder Hurst

It's officially fall now...

Hello again! Well, the weather's begun it's usual downward spiral here. We had some great weather for a long time--really hot and sunny. Now, though, almost overnight, the weather's become cold and rainy. That's one thing that's always been interesting about Ukraine--there's no gray area between seasons. On Thursday it was summer; on Friday it was fall. There's no mistaking it.

Well, our week was a little uneventful this time around. President Steinagel decided to help me have a little more time for doing missionary work (imagine that!) so I've been released from being the second counselor in the branch here. I'm very, very grateful for that. It was nice to be able to sit with investigators for once.

Well, I'm running a little short on time again...I love you all, and I hope you all have a great week! Good luck with everything!

--Elder Hurst

Miracles from the ashes

Hello everyone! This past week has been absolutely amazing. It has stood in stark and utter contrast to last week, and it reminds me constantly of all the many scriptures and quotes that speak of how trials and suffering purify us and sanctify us in order to receive the blessings of the Lord. Our last week was probably one of the hardest of my mission emotionally, but it was all in preparation for this.

Our week seemed fairly normal until Thursday evening at about 7. One of the girls in our branch, a recent convert named Tonya, had brought her friend, Marina, who had come to English and church a few times but never really seemed too interested. After English we had a spiritual thought about baptism, where one of the sister missionaries here, Sister Muradyan from Armenia, talked about everything that baptism represents and means, especially talking about 2 Nephi 30 and how Christ was baptised although he was perfect and sinless. After, I shared about how baptism was like a contract that had to be stamped with the proper authority; just like how an important contract isn't real until the government places the proper stamp on it (at least here in Ukraine), so baptisms must be not only done properly, but by the proper and actual authority of God in order to be real.

After the spiritual thought, Tonya came up to me and said that Maria had a question for us. This question turned out to be, "How and where did your church get the proper authority?"

This is one of those "golden questions" that missionaries always wish their investigators would ask.

We went aside to the next room and taught her about the priesthood in the church of Christ's time, then about the loss of authority that came with the great apostasy following the deaths of the apostles. We finished by telling her about the restoration of the priesthood to Joseph Smith, and the fact that that allowed for all the necessary ordinances--like baptism--to be done once again. Maria sat there quietly for a little bit, then said, "I know your church is true. Tonya's told me all about it these past few months. I'm going to be moving to Italy in about four days. Is it possible for me to get baptised this Saturday before I go?"

After a little bit of stunned silence, we jumped into action. Friday was spent almost entirely teaching her all the lessons from 1 to 3 and all the commandments; her friend, Tonya, had done such an amazing job being a member missionary that I think we taught her 2 principles she didn't yet know and believe. When we asked her what she already knew about the Book of Mormon, she gave us an answer so complete that we had absolutely nothing to add. We just kind of said, "Uh...yeah...yeah, that's exactly right. Um...moving on."

On Saturday, Maria Dmytrivna Sorochan received the ordinance of baptism and bore her testimony of how this church is truly a living church--about how that's not just a story, not just a legend, but a true actuality. On Sunday she received the gift of the holy ghost and is now a member of the church, almost exactly 40 hours after agreeing to be baptised.

This kind of thing absolutely never happens in our mission. This is definitely the greatest miracle I have seen on my mission, and it's one of the biggest miracles I've seen in my life.

I hope you all are having a great week as well! This has been a week of miracles all over the mission, and I hope that it extends to all of you as well.

--Elder Hurst