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.