Sunday, August 26, 2012

Church in Zelonograd

Today was a good day at Church. It is still a bit frustrating not to be able to understand what is being said. Dave sings the hymns in Russian very well as long as it is a slow tempo and gives him time to read the words. I carry my little pocket-sized hymn book and sing the song in English.

Relief Society was especially rewarding today. Natasha sat next to me again and offered to fill me in on the lesson. The lesson was on the parable from the New Testament on the master and the vineyard and the men being hired at different times of the day and ending up getting paid the same. The ones who had worked only an hour getting paid the same as those who had been there all day. It was nice to be able to follow along with the gist of the lesson. And it was REALLY neat when Natasha shared a comment by a sister in the back. Her comment was not something I had ever thought of before. I was thrilled that not only was I able to enjoy Relief Society today, but to learn something I didn't know and look at it with a fresh perspective. IMAGINE. Learning something new in a Russian Relief Society!

Primary children, 10 of them, came in at the end of the lesson and sang a familiar Primary song. I loved hearing their sweet voices and seeing them act out the song just as the little ones did in our Primary back home. (You may be familiar with it too. - The wise man built his house upon the rock)

AND, perhaps best of all.....There is a woman named Lubov (pronounced Luba) who I have been trying for weeks to "get through to." Today it happened.  YAY. She smiled and responded to me. I'm pleased to have broken yet another barrier. She is the daughter of the little babushka Maria that I love and look forward to seeing every week.

This next week looks like it is going to be extra busy. Until next time, dos vidonya.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Our wonderful missionaries

One of the great blessings we have as being the office couple is the chance to rub shoulders and get to know our office elders. I was sad when Elder Brown left, sadder yet when Elder Everett left, and now we are blessed with Elder Ayers who will soon be joined by Elder Stegeby, a Swedish missionary, who we look forward to getting to know a we work together in the office.

Elder Ayers, a young man from Canada whose family now lives in AZ is one of our office elders. He is always willing to lend a hand and is very thorough. He and Elder Sutton have struck up an especially sweet and special relationship, referring to each other at times as Dad and Son. What a blessing to know these wonderful young men who are setting such a wonderful example and who have come thousands of miles to serve the Lord.

Elder Ayers current companion is Elder Anisiforov, a native Russian. He is a whiz at fixing anything that is broken (like Elder Luekenga's iphone) and the laminating machine which was on the fritz for the 3rd time. He does a wonderful job of ordering train transportation when needed. He has made phone calls for me when I couldn't communicate due to the Russian barrier. He will be leaving this week and finishing up his mission with his best friend, and fellow Ukrainian, in opening up a new area! Very exciting. (That is when Elder Stegeby will coming on board).

Even missionaries who do not work in the office are often coming in for one reason or another, or they call for help or advice. It is a blessing to be able to nurture these missionaries, elders and sisters both.

We are especially lucky because we get to meet the new missionaries when they first arrive from the States. Because I work on their arrival packets, I see their pictures and "get acquainted" with them a little before they even arrive. How wonderful it is to finally meet them after months of waiting for their arrival. I have established a few special relationships among these special young missionaries, elders and sisters alike.

AND we can't say enough about the senior couples we get to work with, play games with, have dinner out with, and learn from and enjoy!  They are a special blessing in our lives. Especially the two other couples who work in the mission office, the Naegle's and Luekenga's. We love them and are so grateful for them!

Babushka Maria

The ward babushka Maria is 90 years old.  Her 4 1/2 foot frame is bent over with age. There are many wrinkles on her sweet face. I have always loved older people and she was one of the first ladies I approached when we first started coming to church. We arrived on her birthday and the sister missionaries told me how to say Happy Birthday. Since then, I have looked for her when she comes on Sunday morning to greet her with a hug. She comes in the door, straightens up briefly to all 4 1/2 feet, sees me and smiles widely and waves.

After these months, we both seem to anticipate the hello and goodbye hugs that are warmly given. This morning, when I approached her, after being held in a surprisingly tight embrace from those feeble arms, she held out a gift. Two little bags. One filled with cookies and one filled with candy. She makes my day. Her daughter, on the other hand....her name is Looba. She is a short lady as well, but she hasn't warmed up to me yet. I have to keep working on that. Some Russians are naturally more reserved.

I am delighted with the friendships I am making with the women in this little ward. Natasha, a beautiful young mother of 2 teenagers who helps me understand what is going on in Relief Societ; Ludmilla, a beautiful and bubbly 80 year old, Galina, our music director. How she loves music. It shows in her joyful directing as we sing the hymns. Olga and Natasha, sisters who want me to come visit them in their home. (they live next to each other);

Both of us enjoy a relationship with some of the young women, the 18 - 20 year olds. We have a lovely group of young women who are busy working, as they have finished their schooling.

David is enjoying new friendships as well. He has struck up a friendship with one brother in the ward who speaks little English, he enjoys conversing with a young father (who understands English) and has enjoyed relationships with a couple of the other men. There is always a smile and a word or two. Our bishop, who speaks fluent English, is a wonderful man, a young father of a very gregarious 2 year old named Nikita. His relationships are growing and getting stronger and we feel like we are becoming more a part of our ward family. The barriers seem to be breaking down!

Yes, language is still a challenge. Yes, we still don'd understand 98% of what is said, but we ARE feeling more part of our ward family and we realize it is up to us to contine to work on establishing relationships that will turn into friendships.


The water in Russia is terrible. So terrible and unsafe to drink, in fact, that you will not find any water fountains anywhere. There is no such thing as a free glass of water. In restaurants, if you want water, you will pay for bottled water. Many people are seen carrying their own bottled water (or alcohol, pepsi or juice). Wherever you go BYOB. We are paying a lot for bottled water because we go to restaurants a lot due to our schedule. (there are two kinds - still or gas.) Gas means with bubbles. If you are fortunate, you can get a bottle of COLD water. Russians don't like their water cold.

Fortunately, the mission office and all of the missionary apartments and church buildings are furnished with water filtering systems which we install for safe drinking water. You do NOT want to drink water out of the tap. There will be an excellent chance that it will make you very sick.

One red squirrel

We have been in Russia for 5 months. We have walked to the office daily, passing wooded areas, driven past many miles of woods and meadows, visited beautiful parks and walked for miles amongst the beautiful wooded and grassy areas. In all that time, we have seen one young red squirrel. We see many stray dogs, lots of birds and a few cats. BUT NO OTHER ANiMALS. What's with that?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR! (and other Russian tidbits)

 Things are so different here. Back home, people come to our door all the time. Wanting us to buy something, delivering the mail, etc. Not here. One of the things we were told when we arrived here was not to open the door TO ANYONE. Even the police, unless it was someone we were waiting for. Even then, no one knocks at our door. Friends who come can come up to the 10th floor and use the bell and we can let them in through 2 locked doors to get to our door. I wonder how pizza is delivered.

The apartments are not set up to be friends with your neighbors. There are 4 apartments on our floor. In 4 months we have seen someone from one of the apartments 5 times.

We were also told that nothing is easy in Russia. We have found that to be true more than once. After months, we finally were able to purchase a crockpot which are not well known in Russia. With the help of Diana, a Russian who works in our mission office, found me the crockpot I wanted, ordered it, and had it delivered in a couple of days. WOW. Thanks Diana!

Haircuts are no longer a problem as Goar, a wonderful hairdresser I was introduced to by a church member who lives in Rosinka, a beautiful gated community in Mitina. The problem was getting there. /Even though it is only about 5 minutes from the apartment,there is no easy way to get there other than being driven and that's not going to happen. Plus there is a guard at the gate and  you have to show your card. I don't have one. Anyway, Goar now does many of the senior sister missionaries and she agreed to come to our apartment and cut the hair of 3 of us. YEAH. Now she'll come to us every 5 weeks or when we need her.

Goar is a lovely 20-something Russian girl who speaks English and has been working at her haircutting profession for 10 years, starting when she was 16. (the average age for young people to start work). I showed her the haircut I wanted and she kindly said, "no Sister Barbara" and she explained why it wouldn't work for me. So I showed her a second haircut and she said the same thing. I gave up and said do what you want. While it was a very nice haircut, it is not what I want so when she comes back in September, I will insist on the haircut I want even if she doesn't think it is the right one for me. :)

We have been trying to get connected to English channels on our tv and it has been like pulling teeth. (except maybe more painful). I won't go into all the gory details, but supposedly, there is a Russian technician coming on the 11th to give us what we need so we can be connected with the English channels and enjoy a little tv on a cold winter night (of which there will be many we are made to understand) David has spent hours trying to get this worked out. It is hard when you are not speaking to someone who understands English. Finding English speaking is necessary but has been a challenge to find.