Well, I'm being transferred out of Odessa to Zaporozhye. It will be the most difficult transfer for me because I've finally been able to build relationships here, but now I have to say goodbye.
The two hardest goodbyes were to two of our awesome progressing investigators. One of them, Evdakia, is a lady I contacted on the street my first day here in Odessa. I've been able to help teach her for three months now, and in this last month she has made amazing progress. Her testimony of The Book of Mormon is ridiculously strong thanks to some strong spiritual experiences in the last month, and the hand of God has been visible in her life. It has been awesome to watch her progress recently. Unfortunately, we were not able to meet before I left, so we had to settle for a phone call. During it, she said she knew it was fate we had met on the street that day three months ago and that she will make sure to have pictures taken at her baptism! That last part was especially exciting to hear because she doesn't even have a date yet! But I'm confident she will get baptized and continue growing her testimony in Jesus Christ.
The second "awesome progressing investigator" is a 20-year-old, 6'7" guy named Ilya. He is amazing, and as a matter of fact, found us two weeks ago. He saw the sign outside our church, looked the church up online, called the missionaries in Salt Lake City, then called us, and scheduled a meeting for the next day. He is a firm believer that if he searches for truth, God will reveal it to him. We gave him a Book of Mormon about ten days ago, and he is already halfway through Mosiah. He takes notes in his Book of Mormon, always comes to lessons with good questions, and is doing all he needs to do to gain a testimony. I am amazed by him because his questions are ones that we don't have to explain often, and our incomplete answers in broken Russian are somehow sufficient because this kid makes up the rest once we give him even a little bit of information. He is a very reserved kid--he only talks in lessons when you ask him a question and then he gives very sincere responses. He rarely smiles--not because he's not happy but because that's just him.
When he found out I was leaving, he was really bummed. But the next five minutes meant a lot to me because he asked for a picture with me, gave me a huge hug, and was smiling bigger than I'd ever seen before. Towards the end when we had to part ways, he got a bit teary. I was taken aback from all this because I didn't feel like I even did that much. But in his eyes, I wasn't a short American who had difficulty explaining how the Lamanites, Nephites, Mulekites, and people of Jared all related to each other (in Russian), but rather someone who helped him find that which was precious to him. I didn't do that much--he and the Holy Ghost did all the work--but Elder Rawson and I helped him find truth, and for that we'll always be remembered by him. I gave him my email address so he can send me the pictures of his baptism one day, too.
Saturday was a rough day for me. I found out I was being transferred from an area I loved, I lost my camera while trying to take pictures, and not many members or other investigators could meet with us before I left. Not only that, but back home my beloved childhood dog passed away.
But Sunday was the best day of my mission--thanks to getting to speak to Evdakia over the phone and hug Ilya before I left. It was then I realized I had actually made a difference in the lives of people here in Ukraine, and I'll forever be thankful to God that I got to see and feel that love on Sunday.