Sunday, August 7, 2016

The time that never comes

Week of August 1-7, 2016
This is a blog that we thought would never come but here it is.  Today is our last official day as missionaries in the Odessa Area.  Tomorrow morning we are leaving the mission field. It will still be several weeks before we set foot in America.  We will be traveling around enjoying some places here before we return home.  But today marks the day that we will start a new page in our lives.
This is how we feel right now.  Cast a drift in the sea of life
Life is all about moving forward.  Sometimes it is scary and we are unsure of which direction we should go.  At other times the path is clear and we barrel forward with confidence.  For us the last 18 months have been a mixture of both types of experiences.  This past week even testifies of that process.
We have been working with the Gibbons for the past 12 days and have gained a testimony that the Lord directs the work.  They have come here ready to make a difference and as we watch them interact with people we know that Heavenly Father is directing the work.
The Gibbons are going to make the YSA activities a blast

last district meeting

Out shopping for those needed items.
I believe this is a Merse (man purse)
The two sisters out shopping away

Did I mention it was hot on the buses?

We love the 7K Renok


I will miss this building I love its design!
We must publicly apologize to the Gibbons.  In the past week we have put a lot of miles both on foot and public transportation.  The miles aren't so bad but it has been very hot and humid making it all the more difficult. I hope that we have given them a base that they will be able to continue on with.
We had a chance to visit all the missionary apartments and church buildings, we have taken them to our favorite stores,  renoks, restaurants, and even street vendors.  It has been a whirlwind tour for them.  Now they can settle in and focus on the work they were sent here to do.
We had another first this week.  President Packer's youngest daughter, two years ago after visiting the Black Sea, announced to her family that she wanted to be baptized there.
President Packer and his family

Enjoying the beach

What a blessing these two missionaries are to this area
The tall one is the Branch President and the other, his first councilor

Gathering treasures to remember her baptism.

Little Sophie we love you!
We love Kolya. He  is the mission secretary and mission driver.
He works so hard to make everyone happy!
 Well, yesterday that took place.  We had the opportunity along with many of the senior couples to travel to a very nice beach and participate in her baptism.  What a wonderful way to end a mission watching someone take upon themselves the covenant of baptism. We watched as her two older brothers bore testimony of the importance of this ordinance and also shared with her their testimony of the Holy Ghost.
Sophie and her dad

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a wonderful blessing in our lives.
Through the miracle of technology grandparents in America were also able to attend. So if you are worried about serving a senior mission because you will miss out on family celebrations, it is no longer an issue.  You can even be on a beach with your grandchildren enjoying her baptism from anywhere in the world.
This is everyone that attended the baptism all but Kolya he
is always taking the pictures 
Only so many sea shells will fit in that bag!
This girl is an angel!  She invited me to be one of the witnesses
for her baptism. What a great honor!

The Packer boys what strong young men they are.
Yesterday Sister Mikkelsen and Sister Gibbons hosted a Relief Society training meeting to help the sisters in the branches here to fulfill their callings.  All the local branches were represented and they were given some very inspired counsel and direction.

Sister Vardanyan translated for Sister Mikkelsen.  She did a
great job. Six months ago she spoke no English.

Some of the sisters that attended the training

We love the missionaries here.  The office couple, the Mitchell's,
are standing just in front of me
missionaries leading a role play situation

 I stand in awe of my wife as she moves forward blessing the life of everyone she comes in contact with.  She continually helps me to see where I need to improve and does it with all the love of a tender Daughter of God.  Let me just say what a blessing it has been to work so closely with her on this mission.  I have grown to love her even more than I thought possible.  Imagine an eternity with your spouse.  If in 18 months my love increases just imagine what an eternity of time together will do for each of us.  Families are forever!
A bonus this week was having 8 of the mission couples come to our little neck of the woods to be part of the baptism.  The Gibbons and we had the opportunity to take them around to some our our favorite places and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know them better. They are amazing people and are blessing the lives of so many people, especially ours.
Couples bless the mission field

Our good friend Yuri from Vinnistya came and visited us in Odesa

The author Pushkin and company
Lunch time at Olios
On the way to the beach

How many missionaries can you get in one taxi? We had 8!
Well we are not going to promise any further posts on the mikkelsenmission blogspot web site but if we do we will for sure post a link on Facebook. In closing we just want to say we have been blessed by this wonderful experience and hopefully along the way we might have done some small thing to make difference in someone else's life.  Our lives are given to us to come here to learn and grow and to love one another.  We love you and appreciate all of your support while we have served this first mission.  In the future we plan on serving many more times and will perhaps bring the Blogspot back at those times.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is true we are blessed to have it restored to the Earth in these latter days.  It is such a comfort to have a living prophet and 12 apostles on the Earth today that can lead and guide us in these troubled times.
Our hearts will alway be with the people of Ukraine we love them!
Thanks for being part of our weekly ramblings and may each of you be blessed as you continue in your journey in this life.
All of our love Elder and Sister Mikkelsen

Monday, August 1, 2016


Week of July 25-31

I guess you could say, they whitewashed our area.  Whitewashing means taking all the missionaries out of an area and sending in new ones who may never have served there before.  Usually they leave one missionary and just give them a new companion.  The old can teach the new how to get around.  When they whitewash, everything is new and it takes a few days to get your bearings.  They are taking us out of our area and sending in new senior missionaries, but, we get to stay here for a few days to show them the ropes.  Its been a lot of fun!

While at the mission home waiting for the Gibbons one of
our youth, Max.  He has been waiting to head to the MTC
(missionary training center) before going to the Scotland/
Ireland Mission.  So good to see him!!!
Monday we had to do the usual  before transfer day stuff- deep clean the apartment, pack, last minute stuff.  Then Tuesday we took the 5AM train to go pick up the newbies and bring them back to Odessa.

We pass this metal drain cover every time we go from the
Tram-vi to the mission office.  The office sister would
never step on the the cover for fear of dropping in.  She
would always go around.  Looks like she was right.
It finally gave way!
We wanted to show them around the center part of town with all the Cathedrals and Monuments, but the center of town was shut down (roads blocked, metro shut down...) because of a big religious celebration.  10,000 pilgrims came into town for the celebration and many opposition groups were set up to cause trouble.  So, we went elsewhere.  The only things open seemed to be malls, so we went shopping and out to lunch waiting for time to meet the train.

We're here with the office couple.  Our job was to keep the
Gibbons awake as long as we could. 

So many suitcases.  They paid for extra!  You have to get them
on the train quickly and you should have seen the taxi ride
home!  Only 4 would fit in the back.  The rest were on our laps!
then the driver had to wait while we brought ours down so he
could take us to our new room.  This was about 1:00AM

We talked till their brains were numb then played some
5 Crowns until the train conductor made us stop
He thought we might be gambling on the train.  Long ride!
We've broken them in right.  Their second day here they hosted a Family Home Evening at their apartment.  (We had 23 there for a wonderful lesson and some especially sweet and tender good-byes. We were so humbled by these wonderful youth who have become family.  We love them! Many of them left this morning for a Youth Conference in L' viv.  This was our last chance to say good-bye.)
They spoke in Church, taught English class and participated in their first Branch Council Meeting  They've bought groceries, tickets on the marshrutka.  We went to the big Renuk where they bought a bunch of needed items.  Their internet went down and their downstairs neighbor came up to tell them they couldn't let any water down the drain in their kitchen sink so they are washing dishes in the tub (welcome to Odessa!).  They've learned how to use the virtual map on their iPads and phone to find their way around...and there's still so much more.  Their heads are whirling, I'm sure, and all while they are still fighting jet lag.  They are amazing people and we are so glad they are here.

Geting to know the youth
They decided it was their turn to be in charge of
dinner!  She was in charge of bringing the
vareniki and pelmeni!  Soon good.  
Maria promised a Napoleon cake.  She made it!!!
It was soon good!
Her shoes were behind the door.  She said, "Sister!"
I looked and she had her foot next to Ned's shoe.  She
couldn't believe how big it was!  She said, "How
can you live with that!"  Such a cutie!
Dish duty in the tub!
Our YSA President took the Gibbons on the "Welcome to Odessa"
tour.  She is a GREAT guide!  Took a pic with this statue.
They look so "Statue" and then they move!  Fun!
Always the coolest cars around Odessa?
...and they learned to slam!  Very important!  These missionaries stopped
by for some lesson help and brought Super Conte's with them.
We got to try them for the first time in hot chocolate instead of
plain milk.  It's like slurping chocolate cookie syrup!
I have to say, we are ready to go home, but when I think about leaving, I have to stop or I will cry.  It seems like we just got here and there is still so much more to do.  So, I will think about it another day and end with these scriptures.  So many times this week they have been on my mind.
5 ¶Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Prov 3:5-6
And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift...And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you...
33 Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.
35 Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.
36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
88 And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.
I know our Heavenly Father has a plan for us.  I know that if, day by day, we try to be like our Savior, our hearts can be at peace, our righteous dreams can be fulfilled, our struggles can be turned to stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks, and we can be happy when all around us in turmoil!  His way is simple- His yoke is easy and his burden is light!!!!!  A young man at English class this week told us that God has told us all we need to know.  Now we just have to do it!  Easily said.  Now, can we make it easily done?  One step at a time! and we'll make it just like Igor's size 15 jig!

Have a great week!
Love to all
The Miks

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Beginning of the End

Week of July 18-24, 2016
It is the beginning of the end, the winding down, the packing up- no stop it! We still have three weeks. But yes, this week we spent quite a bit of time cleaning and packing things to send to Kyiv to await us till we leave country on August 26.  In two days we will travel to Kyiv and pick up the new couple Elder and Sister Gibbons.  So Tuesday morning we will be leaving our wonderful apartment and moving to a Hotel for eleven nights.  It is a wonderful opportunity for us to spend time helping the Gibbons get oriented to the area and their responsibilities.  Both times on our mission we were dropped off in the area and they wished us luck as they drove away.
OK we are "Seniors"
Of Course there were always missionaries we could call if we got in trouble but that would be a lot like reading an owners manual. What fun would that be.  Sister Mikkelsen is looking forward to not having a kitchen of her own for the next month.  And me, how will I ever get my hands clean if I don't wash dishes a couple of times a day.
He that hath clean hands and a ..... 
One of the blessings of being a missionary is that the Lord qualifies those He Calls!
We have seen that so many times on our mission.  There have been many times when it was not us that was making the decisions. We were just following the direction of the spirit.  This is the Lords work and we are blessed that we have been called.  Yes, there are times when we wish we could be with our kids or grand babies, YES, our little Riley just tugs at our heart strings every time we talk to her.
Our little Riley is reading to her friend
ignore the fact that the book is upside down
But what a legacy is being set when your children and grandchildren see that serving a mission is important.  We have a wonderful opportunity to work with some of the best young people in the church.  Just this week we have taught with them, prayed with them, played with them, traveled with them, felt the spirit with them, and have been taught by them.  They look at us as a Grandma and Grandpa.  I keep reminding them that I have a son on a mission the same age as they are. There is nothing better in this mission than to have one of them ask our advice about different situations and questions they have.  They humbly bless our lives each day.
Missionaries are a blessing to us
This week we had a wonderful zone conference. We provided the lunch, which we love to do.  We love to spoil our missionary Kids.
Us with our kids at Zone Conference they come in all shapes
and sizes
They spent the morning on a contacting scavenger hunt.  They were given a list of challenges, were to go out and contact people to fulfill those challenges and then take pictures as they did them.  I put together a 5 minute video of the pictures they took.  345 pictures were taken by 9 sets of missionaries. I used 71 photos orchestrated to "Called to Serve" and "Hark all Ye Nations".  The balance of the day was spent in additional training and spiritual direction.
Pictures from the Zone activity

This is one of my personal favorites 
The Sisters are such a blessing they touch people that
Elders just can't reach

Sister Johnson is getting the blank stare on this guy
notice the shiny nose touch it for luck!

We need more families in the gospel

 President Packer had one of his companions from his mission with him.  President Hathaway is a stake president in Idaho Falls. He was wonderful as he testified that the mission does not leave a person.  The mantel of the calling leaves but that the desire continues.  He talked about Noah and how the people at that time.  All they had to do was get on the boat.  He then testified that President Packer is the Noah for the Kyiv Ukraine mission and all we need to do is follow his instructions and we will be safe and successful.  So brothers and sisters, lets listen to our local Noah and our world wide church Noah (President Monson) and GET ON THE BOAT!
President Hathaway
On Monday this last week we visited the Odesa Museum of Fine Art. It was very cool. Many wonderful pieces of art were on display.  It was focused on the Ukrainian way of life and culture.  What a fun opportunity to explore the culture a little more.
A scrutinizing art patron

Yes pulling sticks is a Ukrainian thing I wonder how
Joseph Smith would have faired

Even the floor at the Museum was a work of art

The ropes on the horse are very thin pieces of metal

Working in the fields this is where the Ukrainian
Flag comes form the yellow wheat fields
and the blue sky above

We had a special surprise at church today one a family from the Vinnistya area was at church today so we were able to invite them for Sunday dinner.  This is part of a four generation family in the church here in Ukraine.  There are very few of those types of situations here.  We had a wonderful time with them and their kids.  The two of them speak just enough English and our limited Russian it turned out to be a wonderful evening.
We love this family

Of course what would our week be if we didn't have a fun activity with our Young Adults.  On Wednesday we had about 18 kids here at the house and enjoyed a good lesson and fun time together.  We fed them pasta salad and we even had left overs.  That is a rare occasion.  These kids love to eat.
Food helps bring them in
"if you cook it they will come"

Sister Mikkelsen and I took our turn to share a spiritual thought and we used Elder Bednar's talk Bearing up their Burdens with Ease, April 2014 conference. The following is a quote from his talk:
"Each of us also carries a load.  Our individual load is comprised of demands and opportunities, obligations and privileges, afflictions and blessings, and options and constraints.  Two guiding questions can be helpful as we periodically and prayerfully assess our load.  'Is the load I am carrying producing the spiritual traction that will enable me to press forward with faith in Christ on the strait and narrow path and avoid getting stuck? Is the load I am carry creating sufficient spiritual traction so I ultimately can return home to Heavenly Father?'

It's the LOAD
Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness.  Because our individual load needs to generate spiritual traction, we should be careful to not haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most."
There are many different loads that are placed upon us that include trials and  responsibilities.  But also part of the load as I see it is the covenant "Load" we took upon ourself at baptism we promised we would take upon us his name, always remember Him, and keep his commandments. That is part of the load. After we go to the temple we make three additional covenants that each of you who have gone to the temple can review in your own mind. The one that I would focus on now is the promise to give all to God.  Our time, talents, and everything.  That is the load we carry. Sometimes we set that load aside and ignore it.  If we do, will we have the Spiritual Traction to get back to our Father? Let us not be diverted from the Lords load and haul around things that will not give us the spiritual traction.
We love our load here in Ukraine and also look forward to changing loads as we return home. As Elder Holland said in one of his talks there is not retirement from serving in the Lords Kingdom. The Savior said: My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 28:11-13.
Remember a yolk allows two oxen to share a load and pull it easier.  If we yolk ourself to the Savior, part of the weight of the load is being drawn by the Savior and I can't think of anyone better to share a load with than Him.
We love you all have a wonderful week. Elder and Sister Mikkelsen

President Packer

Elders solved the Radio Active Containment challenge

Odessa Zone

President Packer and his two AP's
Elder Christofferson and elder Houston

The Radio Active Jar Fun team building activity