Thursday, November 29, 2012


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We are in the midst of our first big snowstorm. It started snowing last night and hasn't stopped. Sure glad to have my new winter boots as they came in handy walking to and from the office today.

We are starting to see signs of Christmas. Besides the snow, we've seen one large Christmas tree in Zelonograd, the malls and stores are Christmasy as well. I LOVE Christmas. I LOVE to decorate for Christmas. Our little apartment has a few decorations here and there. Two adorable Christmas stockings, a cute little 2 foot tree, some snowmen I brought with me from America, two Father Frosts, a Santa nesting doll set and a Russian nativity set that we bought here. I haven't had a lot of success in finding cute decorations or anything with the nativity but will keep looking.

Today I spent a few minutes decorating our mission office with a little 3 foot tree, and a few other little decorations and maybe will decorate a little more tomorrow.

Our office elders, who go on mail run once a week have looked like Santa Claus the last couple of weeks, bringing to the office 24 packages last week and 22 packages today. I think that with families wanting to send a little Christmas cheer, the packages will continue to come throughout the month and into January (for the packages which are sure to be late).

How fun it was today to receive two packages. One from our condo family and one from a young woman that I have watched grow up and is now preparing to get married. Thank to our wonderful condo family for the wonderful treats. Samantha's package will be brought home tomorrow night.

We received our first Christmas card today, from our condo family.

We are looking forward to experiencing a Russian Christmas. We will share details as time goes on. Until then, dosvidonya.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Russian Thanksgiving

Who would have ever thought that we would be spending Thanksgiving in Moscow? In the kitchen after dinner our two Russian sister missionaries took the bull by the horns and were cleaning up a storm!

Our Thanksgiving day is coming to an end. Russians don't celebrate Thanksgiving or have any day similar to it; however, our American missionaries appreciate having a home cooked meal with their senior couple and having the day off to celebrate the many reasons we have to be thankful.

As we celebrated Thanksgiving with our 4 elders and 2 sisters I thought about last Thanksgiving. We were in Bath NY with my mom and sister and friends. At this time we had learned where we were going on our mission and would be in Russia for Thanksgiving. Here we are already. Time is going so fast!.

This year I have thought about what our families would be doing as they prepare for their Thanksgiving feast. Kev and Caty are enjoying a Thanksgiving at home this year with dear friends . Mike and Kristy are hosting Thanksgiving and will be joined by our son Tim and Stacy and their new baby girl Sophie. Mom will be spending the day with her boyfriend Harold French in Rochester with his son and their family. Daughter Shauna and sister Diane will be preparing now for the holiday as well, even though I don't know exacty what their plans are.

Elder Anderson and Elder Ricks came early to peel potatoes for dinner. They peeled two large bags of potatoes. The turkeys in the stores were scrawny and very pricy. We had chicken breast instead. (our friends the Luekenga's bought what they thought were turkeys and found out that they had bought geese.) We had chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade stuffing (which the elders loved), different breads, homemade applesauce and desserts brought by the missionaries.  Elder Urmston and Elder Samuelson presented a Thanksgiving message on gratitude. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of eating, a lot of love.
                                                                      Elder Anderson
                                                   Elder Anderson and Elder Ricks
                                    Elder Ricks, Elder Anderson eating a raw potato, and Barb
                                                      Elder Ricks whipping potatoes

The missionaries bring a very special spirit into our home.

Next Thanksgving we expect to be back in Bath NY with Mom and celebrating her 85th birthday surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Family is what it is all about. This year our family consists of our wonderful missionaries. Dos Vidonya. Don't eat too much turkey!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Primary Presentation

One of our very favorite  Sundays is the week when our Primary children (age 3 - 11) are the program under the guidance of their Primary teachers. The Primary program is under the guidelines of the Church, so all the programs are the same throughout the world. The teachers start preparing the young ones weeks ahead of time.
I remember when our children were small and were in the program so many years ago. Shauna, so shy and Kevin smiling and waving. I remember our program in the Ludlow Ward last year and these precious young ones (I was one of the teachers) were the Sacrament program.
It consists of talks ( 30 seconds to a couple of minutes) with lots of Primary songs sprinkled in between. The Primary class in the Zelonograd ward is small. Each child introduced themselves before they gave their "talk". They are beautiful children.
Some of the children sang solos. One little guy sang I Am A Child of God in English. What a pleasant surprise that was. He and his family had previously visited in America.
Their names included Yevah, Malina, Krisinia, Timothy, Roman and Kirill (instead of Kaileigh, Elizabeth, James and Max back home). Some were more confident than others, some had memorized their lines, some hadn't, just like back home.
How I love the music. Even though the words were Russian, the melody was the same as these little ones sang Choose The Right, I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus and the Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock along with the hand motions that go with it.
It is a source of comfort to us to know that even though I mayh not get all the words, either in Sacrament meeting or Relief Society lesson, the lessons being taught are the same in Ludlow MA. as in Zelonograd.
Every week that we attend we draw a little closer to this wonderful congregation of Russian Saints.
It was a joyful day.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Apartment Inspection

One of our responsibilities as a senior couple is to inspect the apartments of our young missionaries. Today we went to Zelonogradand checked the first one. Elder A. is going military and the apartment, though a bit dingy was clean and tidy. We told them to buy 2 new kitchen chairs and 2 "study" chairs, one new mattress and a new vacuum to replace their broken one. The apartment is in a good location. Our sister missionaries in Z-grad are in the process of being moved to a different apartment. We learned of a mold problem, a broken refridgerator that the owner refused to replace or fix and UGH! cockroaches. We have Constantine, a member of the church who is a realtor, looking for a new apartment for the sisters. We don't want our missionaries living in dangerous (mold) and dirty (cockroaches) conditions.
As I was going through some old cookbooks that I found among some articles left behind by some of our missionaries, it was interesting seeing the recipes. One of the recipes was cockroach bait. GROSS. We don't want our missionaries to have to deal with that!
The way landlords view their apartments is definitely different than in the states. For one thing, it is not uncommon for them to leave things behind; sometimes LOTS of stuff that they don't want to take and it takes up a lot of room in the closets, etc. Plus, sometimes the landlords decide they want to be paid early. (that doesn't happen. - because the missionaries need to wait until their cards are funded with the rent before they can pay for it in cash) so the landlords have to wait.
Anyway, next week will inspect the second apartment. I wonder what we will find??

Sister's Conference

On Friday November 16th all but 5 sisters in the Russia Moscow Mission met at the Central Building for the day. Siste'rs Conference takes place once a year. This was my first time attending. It was wonderful.
It offered a chance for the sisters in the mission to spend the day together, to be spiritually fed, to have fun visiting with each other, renew old friendships and establish new ones. Oh, how I wish I had mycamera. I would have gotten some great pictures of the hugs and love that I witnessed between these wonderful women, younger and senior alike.
The missionaries get a chance to live with many different missionaries in the course of their 18 month mission. Transfers take place every 6 weeks. President Sorenson mixes and matches the companionships and gives the missionaries a chance to work with different missionaries in different areas.
There is definitely sacrifice to come. Some of our missionaries were on an overnight train for 10 hours to attend. It was nice for our 4 new missionary sisters to have a chance to get acquainted with most of the mission family sisters.
Sister Sorenson encouraged the sisters to be professional and yet feminine and went over the rules with the young one. For instance, no flirting. We are on mission to serve and spread the gospel. Flirting doesn't fit into this at all. She referred to us as the Lord's angels bringing the gospel to others. Making the covenants we have made is an experession of a willing heart. Keeping the covenants is an expression of a faithful heart. We are modern day Mary and Martha's, eager to choose the good part.
It was interesting to learn that it was in 1898 that the first single sister missionary served in Great Britian.
Elder Turner, one of our fine elders who will soon be on his way back to Georgia where he lives, spoke on contacting. As mentioned before, missionaries here do not go door to door. Contacting takes place on the metro, on the street, on the bus, at English group.
There was a little glitch with lunch when Subway delivered 55 12" subs when we had ordered 55 6" subs. Our dear office elders had accidentally ordered double what we needed. It took some scurrying to come up with the money to pay for it. And the extra sandwiches were enjoyed or taken back on the trains.
In the afternoon, Sister Sonda, who takes care of the mental health of our missionaries and throughout much of Russia, spoke to us on the importance of not only loving our neighbor, but loving ourselves. Shr brought up that it is importnt to balance a desire to do all we cn to help others with the wisdom to be prudent in meeting our own needs to retain our power to serve.
It was a long day. I left the apartment on 6 am to go with Sister Sorenson and help her set up, and we returned at 6 pm. WONDERFUL DAY.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


We had a wonderful and busy day as we welcomed 6 new missionaries from the United States and had a chance to orient them and get to know them. What a blessing they are going to be in our mission.
As we welcomed these 6 exceptional young people, I also said goodbye to two of our missionaries who are returning to the States after serving an honorable mission.
I haven't known Sister Amy Daniel as long or as well as I would have liked to, but I have seen what a fine person she is and how well loved by the other missionaries.  She has served honorably and is now returning to her father in CA. Amy followed in her mother's footsteps serving a mission. Her mom died a few years ago and it was a hard thing for her dad. We have communicated a time or two. Now she is returning to him and her family.
Elder Goddard will be flying home as well. We have known and served with Elder Goddard for about 6 months. We have seen his energetic spirit, enjoyed his sense of humor, enjoyed having dinner with him and his companion, watched him interact with Russians who are learning English, and we have come to love him.
I called Amy and Kayden today with a message from President Sorenson and used this time to say good bye to these two wonderful young people. Before hanging up, Kayden said, "Sister Sutton, I love you." You know, it just doesn't get any better than that. Dos Vidonya.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Today was a very busy and wonderful day at the office. We greeted and oriented our 6 new missionaries from the States and enjoyed getting to know them. There was plenty to do and the day flew by.
The office elders had gone on mail run early hoping to be back around 1 for the pizza from PaPa John's and the homemade cookies that Sister Sorenson always sends. It was around 3 when they showed up with LOTS of mail. Three huge Santa-sized bags filled with 24 packages for missionaries. WOW. The most ever. Now the mail center REALLY looks like a post office with packages everywhere. I imagine that it will continue to be busy until after the first of the year as families mail packages to their missionaries.
It took me a while to take them out of the bag, label the city they are to go to and start the process of letting family back home know their packages to their missionaries have arrived safely. Now it will take a little while to figure out how to best get the packages to their destinations. I rely on missionaries coming into the office for one reason or another, to take packages to their cities.
That is definitely a blessing of working in the office. We don't have to wait for our packages. We just carry them to our apartment. :o) (the elders offered to help me, but I wanted to do it myself). It provides a LITTLE exercise anyway to be moving around more than I generally do in the office.
Is it really possible that Christmas really is right around the corner? Is it really possible that we have been here for nearly 8 months? Wow.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Zone meeting

A couple of weeks ago we attended Zone Conference. The mission is divided into 4 zones - Voronezh (the one farthest away), South Zone, and North and East Zones which meet together. We are in the North Zone.
Dave has attended three out of the four conferences and handed out new phones and phone numbers,  HUGE undertaking. It still is not completely done. His own phone is not working! (as of today).
Anyway, the purpose of these conferences is to be spiritually fed and it is wonderful to see many of the missionaries that you don't get to see to often. I love seeing the joy as they see each other, the hugs and back slapping.
It is easy to get attatched to these missionaries. Especially certain ones. One whom I love and was with him from the beginning, Elder R, came up and said Sister Sutton I love you!! The elder behind him said Mama Sutton!
It is true that one of the things we do is become substitute parents on occasion. Remember, these young ones are far from home. It is a joy for Elder Sutton and I, along with other senior couples (who love "their" missionaries as much as we do, to be there for these precious and strong young men and women. One of our sweet Russian sisters, Sister G who has been with us in our district for the past 6 weeks or so, shyly asked us to write her a letter. We hand out letters to our missionaries and she doesn't get as many as some. Dave wrote her a nice letter and I am going to do the same this week.
What a blessing for us to be around these missionaries. How we love them! Sometimes it makes it a bit easier being away from our own children and grandchildren.

Senior Couples Council

Almost every Thursday night the senior missionary couples get together at the Central Building in Moscow, not far from Red Square. There are currently 17 couples serving in various capacities. Humanitarian, law, auditors, medical, ward and member support, (serving in the congregations and teaching leadership skills), CESm, (Church Educational System), working with the young single adults (18 - 30 years old) and office which is us. There are myriad other things which each couple does. Medical, auditors and law serve throughout Russia, not just the mission, so they travel A LOT all over! 

Thursday we had been asked to make a presentation so we chose to share exactly what it is that we do in the office. It was very well receieved ad we had comments such as "I'm sure glad I don't have their responsibilities!"

Each couple has plenty to do and each strives to magnify their responsibilities in serving the people and members in Russia, whether it is supplying wheelchairs to a hospital, teaching the member leadership how to conduct an audit or take care of physical and mental issues.

We have talked before about some of what we do. The bottom line is that we serve the missionaries who serve the Lord! It can be something as simple as  ordering Book of Mormons or toilet paper for the mission office, offering a kind word to someone who might be feeling discouraged or homesick, inviting the district into our home for a hot meal and some touches of home. Our service covers many things.

As I mentioned Elder Sutton handles finances, making sure cards are funded for paying rent. (Russian landlords tend to be VERY impatient and sometimes want to be paid earlier). is phone rings off the hook. I have recently started putting his phone in our bedroom and closing the door so he can eat in peace!

Our mission president, President Sorenson, whose schedule is beyond busy, counts on us to keep things running smoothly in the mission office. He uses Dave often as a sounding board and he acts as his Executive Secretay. One of the office elders is the executive secretary to the mission presidency, another of the elders orders train tickets for those missionaries who need to come into Moscow from the outlying cities.(among their many other responsibilities) and we don't want to forget Diana, our visa clerk, who is truly an angel.

I try to make sure the mail gos to the city it belongs and that changes every 6 weeks with transfers of missionaries to different locations and I call the parents to let them know their packages for their son or daughter has arrived safely. (it may take weeks and they appreciate knowing).

ANYWAY, we heard some very kind remarks about how much our service is appreciated by our senior couples. One sister, Sister Jones, who arrived with her husband within the past three months, came up and told me. "If it hadn't been for you and Elder Sutton, we would have gone back to the States."  ANYTHING that could go wrong did go wrong (through no fault of our own). And when yuour are exhausted from jet lag, don't have a place to live, furniture for your apartment and can't speak the language it can be very stressful indeed We were very distressed that those responsible for taking care of these important things (after we had offered to take care of it ourselves and were told no, they would do it.  Well They dropped the ball.) .But we were able to step in and do what was needed to take care of them and we also learned a few things about how to make sure what happened to them in getting settled here in Russia is not repeated. Sister Jones shared, that they prayed and thanked God for the Sutton's who helped make everything right. And then she jokingly asked about angel wings. Well, we all know that I am a LONG way from being an angel. But knowing that the small things we did for them helped them was a blessing for us.

We are forging some very strong and eternal friendships among the wonderful missionaries we work with and serve here. Some days are very long indeed. However, we came to serve a mission. We are NOT on vacation. (however, we do get to see some truly magnificant sights!)

We put our children, grandchildren, moms, siblings, cousins and friends back in the States in the capable hands of our Heavenly Father and go about what we have grown to love.....our mission, the wonderful missionaries and  loving Russian people.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hospitals and orphanages

Moscow is the showplace of Russia. As mentioned before, it is kept clean, there is much employment and we have at our disposal in the mission a state of the art medical center and dental center. However, many of the hospitals are a far cry from this.

Our two doctors in the mission have the responsibility to check out the hospitals in the whole mission. What they have found is very different. Because most of the money is spent in Moscow, the outlying cities are hurt financially by not having what they need for even some of the basics. It sounds like some of them a person would be much better off taking their chances outside of the hospital. Very sad indeed.

Their description of some of the hospitals brought me to tears as I learned of good doctors who cared about their patients, but didn't have the means to take care of them. Many of the stethoscopes they wear, don't even work. They pretend. There is a great need for the basics to properly care for their patients.

In one hosptital the patients have to provide their own toilet paper and food. Hopefully they have family who can bring these items to them. Others don't have sheets for the bed. The list goes on. It is truly heartbreaking.

And unlike America, there are lots of orphanages. They are for certain ages. Such as infant to age 4, "middle age" and older. Many of their needs are barely being met. When asked about adoption, it appears that babies with special needs (such as cleft palates) are available for adoption, but by the time the couple from America is through it has cost $30,000 or so. Elder Storm, who works with his wife in humanitarian in Russia and has done so much good! has said that it kills him to leave these precious babies. He carries them around and how they cry when he puts them down!!

It appears that they want Russians to adopt the children. Sadly, however, the divorce rate is very high and intact families are very often not available.

You never know what you're going to get

We went to dinner tonight with friends. I ordered a marghareta special pizza w/ mozzarella, basil and tomatoes. When the pizza came, it was cut in 8 pieces. On each piece there was one tiny cherry tomato and in the middle one sprig of basil. OK. Basically I had a cheese pizza with 8 tiny cherry tomatoes and a sprig of basil.  (and it wasn't very good - the Papa John's pizza we order every 6 weeks when our new missionaries come is MUCH MUCH better). On the other hand, there was a drink made with fresh orange slices, lemon slices, lime slices, maraschino cherries in a sparkling (they call it gas) water that was very delicious. Live and learn. :0)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It Happened AGAIN!

We left Church today after  Sacrament meeting because we need to be in Moscow by 5. That meant taking the bus back to Mitino and getting another bus to the metro station. At the metro station we plan on taking the blue line to the brown line and going three stops on the brown line to the Novoslobodeskya stop where we will walk 1/2 mile or so to the Smart's home where we are joining them and another couple, the Storms, for dinner.

The windows on the bus are FILTHY this time of year. We literally had to use the front window of the bus to see where we were. When we needed to be let off, Dave pushed the button for Stop. Usually, he goes up and tells the bus driver, ostanovka, which means bus stop. However, there were lots of people at the front of the bus and we thought they were getting off too. But nope. We pushed the button several times and the bus driver kept on going. The button obviously didn't work or he would have stopped. SO, we ride along to the next stop, a good 20 minute walk away. Off we go, walking BACK to our apartment.

Luckily, it was a nice afternoon for a walk, and we were properly dressed for the 40 degree weather. No harm done. A little more excercise than planned is all. We will soon be leaving for Moscow. Hopefully without incident. :0)  Dosvidonya.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Last night after phone calls are no longer supposed to take place, both of our phones started ringing constantly. I ignored them for a while and then begrudgingly got out of bed to answer. The message was that missionaries are under lockdown for Thursday.  We are to stay in our apartments and not go to the mission office, Church-owned buildings (such as the Central Building) or chapels. We were instructed not to go out in public and wear our Church name tags, but to stay in for the day. It appears that there are some demonstrations which may occur at the church buildings themselves going on which could cause some problems.
The Church avoids confrontation at almost all costs.
This request came down from the Area Presidency and included other Eastern European missions as well - Vladivistock, Samara, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk as well as the Moscow Mission.
It really comes at an inconvenient time. Today was supposed to be North and East Zone Conference. Missionaries from these zones, which include some of our outlying cities had been brought in my train (or were going to come in early this morning, traveling through the night). There is expense involved in the transportation  and of course, time. Needless to say, the North and East Zone Conference was canceled and has not yet been rescheduled. The two other zones, Voronezh (9 hours away) and South Zone have already met.
SO, what does this mean? It means that the pile of shirts that needed to be ironed have been ironed (most of them anyway and the refridge got cleaned out). DAvid was able to get the budget done and assist in helping some missionary sisters find a new apartment to move into and he also checked up on some of our missionaries. We also sang happy birthday to Sister O. who's birthday is tomorrow. We are enjoying a relaxing day here in our apartment and will probably get together with the Naegle's later to play games. They live in the next building over.
The word lockdown is scary, but we are not in danger, we are safe. We just need to remember that things aren't handled in Russia the way they might be at home and added precautions are needed to prevent confrontation.
Anyway, I think I can squeeze a nap in before dinner! It has been a day off for us.
Life in Russia is certainly interesting!!