Sunday, January 27, 2013

Secret Santa

Something quite lovely happened the end of December when 3 large boxes arrived in the office from America. The boxes, sent by a Secret Santa, were filled with Christmas stockings which were filled with wonderful treats for 20 missionaries. I was the lucky one, who with President Sorenson, chose the 20 missionaries who would receive these stockings from America. We made sure that each of our Russian missionaries received one and it was not easy deciding who would get the others. All of our missionaries are so wonderful!

The lovely lady from America who put these stockings together has a missionary here in the field and wanted to share with those who might not otherwise get much for Christmas.

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa and he showed up in Moscow Russia and brought a smile to some of our precious missionaries.

Uneventful weeks

I haven't posted, because life here has been uneventful for the past couple of weeks. It has been very cold and our weeks have been busy and when the weekend comes, we just want to stay put. We don't have any desire to go out and so sightseeing when it is so cold and it just feels good to have time to relax at home. Even though that does include grocery shopping, cleaning and ironing.

We welcomed a new couple to our mission. Elder and Sister B are wonderful. They are going to be serving in Voronezh, the farthest city away right now where we have missionaries. They have been helping us here in the office while they wait to go down to take over for Elder and Sister C who return home on Valentine's Day.

The B's have been wonderful in helping us in the office get caught up on things we haven't had a chance to do. Exciting sorting through 4 first aid kits and consolidating them into one large one. It's nice to have it available in case sick missionaries come into the office. Things like cleaning out drawers with old records that needed to be destroyed.  They have also been wonderful about taking care of the mail for me for the past week and a half. It's a process and my time was freed up to get caught up on a few other important projects.

The need for senior missionaries is great. Our young missionaries do so much better if there is a senior couple close by. We currently have a few cities that don't have a couple. :0(.

Until later, dos vidonya.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy birthday!!

Dave was grinning from ear to ear when he came home from the office tonight despite the cold temps. I asked him what was up.  When Dave was coming around the side of the apartment building, Santa Claus was walking in front of him. They both came into the apartment building together. They got on the same elevator. Dave was surprised when Santa got off on the 10th floor with him. Immediately, Santa started talking to him in Russian and Dave made it clear that he couldn't speak Russian very well. Santa broke into song, Happy birthday to you in English and then sang it in Russian. He indicated that he was going to a birthday party in the building and kept singing Happy Birthday in Russian. Then Santa pulled out his cell phone and wanted Dave to take a picture of the two of them together!  It came out good. Santa was pleased. Then Santa said he was going to apartment 162 (Dave understood what he was saying.) The Santa costume was very beautiful and his hat was typical of Russian St. Nicholas. His beard was not real, but very nice. Dave wished he had his camera. So do I. It's not every day you get to meet a Russian Santa on the elevator on his way to a birthday party! ESPECIALLY in January!

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Thank you."

There is a very attractive woman at church who sits with her daughter and little granddaughters every week. She is quite outspoken and keeps things lively in Relief Society meetings (women's meeting). She has never spoken to me before. Today she said "good morning." Later she approached and using one of our sister missionaries to help her translate even though she does have some English), thanked Dave and I for our service as missionaries and wanted to know how long we are going to be there (8 more months).
I've stated before that we don't participate much in our ward because of the language barrier. David can sing many of the hymns in Russian now, but we have not been asked to give talks or asked our opinions in class which we could do with some translating help from our missionaries). However, we have established some friendships and feel welcomed and comfortable in our ward. We love our ward. We love the people.
Yesterday Tyeeceeah one of our 80-something babushkas saw me and stood and waited for me to come over and give her her hug. She doesn't call me Sister Sutton. She calles me Bar-Bar-ah and kisses me on the cheek. Luba, who's mother Maria is the 90 year old babushka that I love, and I have become friends FINALLY. Maria doesn't come anymore, due to health issues, but I am able to communicate with Luba through sign language and a few Russian words, and it works.
Many of the wonderful women I greet I still don't have names for, but as stated we both LOVE our ward. David has established relationships as well with a f ew of the fine men in the ward. We love our bishop, Bishop Mocholov. He is a fine man and we love that he speaks English!
But those words, Thank you, today, from a new friend, who is yet nameless, made my day.


When it's zero and snowing and there's snow packed ground beneath you, one would expet it to be slippery. Well, on the way to church yesterday, no problem. Sidewalks were clear. HOWEVER, when we got on the #10 bus  at Z-grad to go to our bus stop for Church, we certainly did not expect an ice skating rink on the bus. It was a slippery mess. We sat down in the first available seats and I helped a babuska (by lending her a hand literally) as she went sliding by). A man sat down facing us and he noticed me watching the people boarding the bus and then watching how they handled the icy floor and smiled and he started talking up a storm. We smiled and nodded as he went on and on. I wonder if he figured out we didn't understand a word he was saying. we did understand the gist of what he was saying though).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A little sign language goes a long way.

Choot choot Rooseeya  means little Russian. Our mission driver Alexander is wonderful but he knows little English and I know little Russian. He came into the office today just as I was wrapping things up for the day. I recognized that he was getting ready to go and REALLY wanted a ride home. So I quickly started my boots on. (as a hint of course). He had started heading down the stairs but glanced up and saw me putting on my boots. He asked a question (which I thought said are you going home?) I said da (yes). He said something else I didn't understand (which I thought meant, I'll give you a ride home). I said ha ra show Spah see buh. which means good. thank you. He then said something else which I assumed meant I'll meet you downstairs. I shook my head and said spah see buh again. I got my coat on quickly, met him down at the van and hopped in. He knows the way to our apartment. It is only about a mile to the apartment, but I was carrying a big bag and it was cold so I thought to myself a ride would be really nice! I  asked him "zhenah?" which means wife. He pointed to his throat and I said "Oozhis?" which means awful? He responded da. So, with just a few words and some sign language, I got a ride home, learned that he was fine, but his wife was sick with a sore throat.  Not bad for a 3 minute ride. Dos vidonya.

Monday, January 7, 2013


HO HO HO, MERRY CHRISTMAS! Or should I say Snowvem Godem! Today, January 7th, is Russian Christmas. How fitting that we would be able to come home from the office and open the Christmas gift that our daughter Shauna, Jeff, and Kyler sent us.  Thank you Jeff and Shauna for the great gifts and the graham crackers! Can never have too many graham crackers! (we didn't have any). Once again, when it got dark, we heard popping sounds outside the window and we were treated to yet another fireworks display. It's been going on every day since New Year's Eve.

On our way to the office today, we passed a couple. I said "snowvem godem". She looked very surprised and didn't respond, but Dave said he saw her smile. I didn't see the man's response.

We've enjoyed a respite in the weather, with milder temps in the high 20's and low 30's. It has been delightful. Tomorrow, temps are going to plunge again.

May the new year bring you joy, love and a renewed appreciation for the gift of family. DosVidonya!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Language of a Smile

It is January here in Moscow Russia. It is cold. It is dark a lot of the time. The sidewalks are often slippery. This winter has been the coldest in 70 years. (Even though it has warmed up the past couple of weeks into the low 30's which is absolutely delightful!) The winds drop the chill factor to way below zero and it feels like your face will freeze off.

Am I more comfortable on the metro? Yes. Will I go on it alone? No. Am I comfortable walking around Mitino doing our shopping? Yes. Walking to and from the office? Yes. Do we think of our family and loved ones back home? Of course we do and we miss them, but we have been blessed with a family here. A huge family of 140 missionaries and our president and Sister Sorenson.

The days go whizzing by so fast. There is so much to do. Sometimes it is a bit overwhelming. It certainly doesn't help when the computers (which have been replaced with new ones) are acting up and programs we need disappear and the Russians who serve at the Service Center are not around to correct the problem.  Our two printer/copiers are older than Moses and tend to be a bit unreliable at times. Being fixed is temporary at best.

So, how am I feeling these days? ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL. We are both very happy. We're very happy to be here in Russia. We are very happy to be serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here. We are happy to be serving in the mission office where we take care of the missionaries and are a resource to them and to our wonderful Mission President, President Sorenson and his wonderful wife. We love them both so much. We love our missionaries, the senior couples and the younger ones. We deem it a privilege to be here with them.

We are truly experiencing a different culture among a very special people.

Our Christmas Conference was delightful as I have already posted. One of our dear senior couples shared some great insight that I would like to share with you. The Craythorns are a well-loved couple who will soon be on their way back to the States. They have been a source of joy to all who have met them. The young missionaries who have served in their district love the Craythorn's so much!!

Sister Craythorn shared what she referred to as the "Language of a Smile." They are both a bubbly, friendly and warm couple who exude love. As I have shared before, the Russian people generally are not used to friendly salutations. The Craythorns shared that when they see someone on the street that they smile broadly and say  Zzdrrawzvicheh! which means good day. More often than not the person doesn't know how to handle that because they are not used to speaking to anyone on the street that they do not know, let alone be greeted by a big smile!

She mentioned that when they would see the same person day after day, that they greeted them cheerfully and even though they initially didn't say anything back to them, the Russian would look expectantly at them as if waiting to see that smile and hear that greeting! Eventually, the person would respond in kind.

Do you remember us mentioning this in a prior post, about seeing the same man on our way to the office, his surprise at our greeting, and then as days went by he would look at us as if waiting for us to greet him. THEN came the day he smiled broadly and greeted us back.  That is what Sister Craythorn referred to as the Language of a Smile. How fitting.

My goal this year is the smile and greet no matter the response. It may just make someone's day. :0)

And now to share an experience tha Elder Craythorn had. He was sharing about what happens when he wears his name tag which identifies him as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, he has been stared at coldy. (so have we). Yes, he has been told to go home. (so have we). Yes, there has been friendly curiosity and yes, people have approached to ask questions. (we too have had these experiences).

The church in Russia is the Russian Orthodox Church. For many many years that was the only church. The priests, Provaslonee priests, are distinguishable by their long dark robes and long beards. Some of them have looked at other churches as a threat, to include our church. One day, Elder Craythorn was on the metro with a Provaslonee (spelling is wrong I'm sure) priest and he noticed that the priest was staring at him, after reading the name tag which identified him as a missionary. Elder Craythorn felt very uncomfortable as this priest did not avert his steely gaze from Elder Craythorn (who looks totally harmless - he reminds me of the Star Wars character, Toe-doe. (He's just so cute you want to hug him!!) He has the sweetest countenance and the most radiant smile!) I can't ever imagine ANYONE viewing him as a threat. Well, anyway, he was finally prompted to do something He smiled at the priest and winked at him!!!! THAT sure surprised this priest who then broke the long stare. However, when he was getting off the metro, he turned to Elder Craythorn and waved as he got off the metro!!

DO NOT EVER UNDER ESTIMATE THE POWER OF A SMILE. Until next time, dos vidonya and HAPPY NEW YEAR. Or as the Russian people say this time of year,  SNOVEM GODEM!!

Friday, January 4, 2013

What is sharma?

At Christmas Conference today, Elder Everett asked what we were having for lunch. Senior couples brought in a variety of salads and cookies. The main dish was provided. SHARMA. When I told Elder Everett we were having sharma, he thought I was kidding. The missionaries LOVE sharma! They have been warned against buying it from little shops that sell it on the streets, but it is very popular and well loved. I have to admit, walking down Music Alley on our way to the Central Building in Moscow, there is a sharma shop. It is a huge piece of meat cooked slowly and then shaved off and added to vegetables for a delicious sandwich. There were 142 of these sharma sandwiches brought in for lunch today and the missionaries were in heaven. (It is just important to buy it from a reputable establishment;otherwise you can get VERY sick). Since Elder Sutton and I ar vegan we did not have any sharma but enjoyed the variety of salads available.

I think my son Michael and son-in-law Jeff  would LOVE sharma. Maybe if Shauna comes to Russia for a visit, she can try this Russian delight!

The Christmas Conference

Today was our Russia Mosow Mission Christmas Conference. All 142 missionaries were in attendance. How wonderful to all be together. /There were lots of hugs and laughs shared as missionaries saw other missionaries they hadn't seen in months (or weeks). Our newest missionaries who arrived December 18th had a chance to get acquainted with some of the others. There was wonderful instruction, great Christmas music and of course, lots of good food.

Let's talk about the morning first. A few months ago President Sorenson requested all of the missionaries to read the Book of Mormon and finish by New Year's Eve. The theme was "Faith to Perform Miracles."  At the conference, President and Sister Sorenson both spoke of their love of the Book of Mormon and then turned it over to the missionaries to share their insights and feelings as they read the Book of Mormon. Several of the missionaries shared their favorite verse or how certain verses affected them or their favorite story and how it related to experiences they had or how it made them feel. It was heartwarming to see many of the missionaries we love bear their testimony about this sacred book, which goes hand in hand with the Bible and is another testament of Jesus Christ. Sometimes people feel that the Book of Mormon REPLACES the Bible. That couldn't be further from the truth. I have read the Book of Mormon dozens of times over the years and I get some new insight every time I read it.

We have many talented missionaries and several of them were asked to share their talents with us as part of the afternoon program that we enjoyed after lunch. A violin was rented and two of our elders played the violin. One young elder played the violin, the piano and sang. We heard young sister missionaries sing like angels, Elder Walker, part of a senior couple, played the saw. Yep, you heard right, the saw and it was hauntingly beautiful as his wife played the piano along with it.

Each zone which consists of about 1/4 of the missionaries, each performed skits, some based on experiences they had. Some were very funny. One of our missionaries  played the part of President Sorenson and you could see the pleased expression on President Sorenson's face, especially since Eler Jewkes did such a great impersonation! It was such fun.

There was such a feeling of joy being there together, 142 missionaries strong. One thing was evident. We are ALL in Russia for a reason. We are ALL in Russia because the Lord called us to serve here amongst a special people. In some ways we are pioneers as we serve amongst the Russian people where the Church is still in its infancy. It is humbling and gratifying and hard, but it is wonderful and rewarding all at the same time.

Pictures to follow. Until next time, Dos vidonya.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The metro

I will soon be publishing more on the metro. I will be posting some beautiful pictures of the different metro stations and sharing with you what it is really like on the metro.

A couple of days ago, our life got easier with the opening of a new metro station, Piatnitskya, within 5 minutes walk from our apartment and 7  or 8 minutes from the office.

Instead of catching a bus to take us to the metro station in Mitino, we can now walk to Piatnitskya and board there and don't have to worry about waiting for a bus in the freezing cold and the 10 to 20 minute ride on a bus. It is GREAT.

As much as I still WON"T go on the metro alone, it is the only way to go. You are underground. It doesn't matter what the weather is. You get to your destination quickly even if you are at times squished like a sardine in a can.

New Year's Eve

New Years Eve and New Years Day in Russia are the biggest holidays, even bigger than Christmas. Missionaries were to be off the street by 6 pm and were able to spend the night with their fellow missionaries, some of them in missionary couples home. Our apartment is too small to allow for that, so it was REALLY quiet for us, at least in some ways.

We watched a Christmas movie on you-tube and listened and watched the fireworks right outside our window. They went on and on and on and on.....and on. Whole families were out there, little ones were sledding at 12:15 am, dogs were barking, men were singing very loudly and off key, I might add, at all hours. Sleep was hard to come by. There were explosions throughout the night. (and the next night and we are wondering how long it will go on.)

Russians go on vacation from December 31st to January 8. It is Russian law. So, our Russian employees at the mission office, Tatiana and Diana, will not be back until January 9, The Service Center is closed and therefore no services for computer ailments (which are ongoing as new computers have been set up over the past couple of weeks, but all the glitches have not been dealth with yet). The banks are closed, but ATM's are open, and of course grocery stores are open as is the metro and buses.

Traffic is much lighter and foot traffic is lighter also. We see more children though as they are off for these days as well.

I LOVE the new year with its promises of fresh beginnings. There are a few things I definitely need to work on! I look forward to the new year with joy and anticipation and I hope that at the end of the year I will be able to look back and see the ways in which I have grown and improved.

It's been a good year. I certainly have been WAY out of my comfort zone, experienced things I never dreamed of, done things I never would have thought I could do (and in some cases maybe didn't even want to do).

Thoughts and prayers are constantly with family and friends. Our love for all of you has grown as we have been away from you. We have made new friends, Russian friends, that are dear to us. We have grown to love our ward family and have a good relationship there, even though language is still a barrier, it doesn't hold us back.

In our own small way, we are making a difference here in Moscow, Russia, as we serve our missionaries. We are loving what we do in serving those who are serving the Lord.

May God bless all of you this coming year. Dos Vidonya.


Christmas day was celebrated with our district of 6 missionaries who joined us for a nice breakfast. They had to travel  about an hour to get here. They enjoyed homemade cinnamon rolls, scrambeled eggs and fried potatoes and fruit salad. David read the Christmas story in the New Testament in the book of Luke, we  sang Christmas carolswe visited for a while and sent them on their way with some gifts that we had for them after a word of prayer. These 4 young men and 2 young women, one a Russian girl, are very special. It must be hard being away from their families at this time of year. It was our privilege to be with them.

Christmas in Russia is not celebrated on December 25th (except members of the Church who join the world in celebrating Christ's birth on December 25th). It is celebrated on January 7. So December 25th was a work day for our missionaries. Their plans after leaving was to go and find some Christmas miracles.

As for us, we enjoyed a couple of quiet hours together before we left for President and Sister Sorenson's lovely home in Rosinka for dinner with our good friends and fellow missionaries, John and Carolyn Naegle. The Sorensons are very special people and we have grown to love them. Serving with them and for them is a privilege and a blessing as they tend to the needs of a large mission.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and sang Christmas hymns around the piano. We made some wonderful memories of a most unforgettable Christmas in Russia which we will hold dear to us in years to come.
                                  our little Christmas tree. It took us 5 minutes to decorate it.
                                       Dave (Elder Sutton)  making the potatoes for Christmas breakfast
Sister Snyder, Elder Tracy, Sister Glazacheva, Elder Ricks, Elder Samuelson, Elder Urmston and me!
                         all bundled up Christmas day and ready to go out and spread the gospel!
                Dinner at President and Sister Sorenson's home. Here we are w/ Sister Naegle
 Elder Naegle gives the best massages. How do you like those slippers? Mom gave them to me for Christmas!
Sister Sorenson having a little fun with Elder Naegle and giving him a massage that she learned at Girl's Camp! Fun but not nearly as relaxing as the ones Elder Naegle gives. He can get the knots out when you didn't even know you were tense!

The Messiah

What a treat this past December 28th to go with many of the other senior couples to Moscow to the Dome Musica, a beautiful concert hall, to witness  and listen to Handel's Messiah in its entirety.

What a treat! What professionalism! There were about 20 people in the instrument section, with instruments ranging from a piano, 3 basoons, trumpet-like instrument, violins, flutes, etc. To say there were wonderful is such an understatement.

The choir consisted of about 20 individuals along with 4 soloists, a bass, tenor, and alto (all men) and a soprano. They sat to the right of the choir and when it was their turn to perform, they walked to the front of the stage and sang. Magnificent!

We were seated on the second tier and we had a birds eye view of the band and choir and the very energetic and entertaining director. He knew every word of the production and it was fun watching him. Everyone was in total sync with each other. It was a sight to behold.

The most amazing and surprising thing of all was that this talented, professional group of Russian individuals sang this in flawless English. What a treat to hear it in our own tongue. It sends shivers down my spine as I remember the Hallelujah Chorus. All of the missionaries stood as it was being sung and about 1/3 of the audience joined us as they sang of the Savior's birth.

What a beautiful tribute "The Messiah" is to the birth and life of Jesus Christ. It was truly a most wonderful way to celebrate this sacred time of year. As these people sang, I wondered if they really understood what it was they were saying as they bore testimony of Jesus Christ through song. I imagine they must have felt something as they praised God through song.

Three hours of heavenly music. It made the icy sidewalks and difficulty getting there and back all worth it! MERRY CHRISTMAS Everyone.

Snow Removal

I've mentioned that we don't see many snow plows. NO big ones have I seen, just little ones. No snow blowers to take care of the sidewalks, just lots of workers who work around the clock shoveling. In Zelonograd this past Sunday we saw a snow plow like none we have ever seen before. It was good sized. On the front of the plow there was like a huge dust pan which had two large sweepers, one on each side. These sweepers worked in sync with each other bringing snow up from the road ahead onto this large dust pan which was attatched to a chute in which the snow traveled up and spilled into the back of a dump truck. VERY interesting.

Guess who's back?!!

I sure was surprised when I went to the fruit stand at the productee this evening and THERE WAS IVAN. It was so nice to see him again. Hope he's back to stay! He was happy to see me too. :0)

Walk Like a Duck

How does one keep from falling on icy sidewalks? Walk like a duck. That's right. feet spread a bit, placing one foot down flat and then the other. Go slowly...Several of our missionaries have already fallen on the ice. I am walking like a duck. I look like an old granny, very cautious, but so far so good. At least here in Moscow workers shovel the sidewalks. Not with snow blowers, but they do a pretty good job. Our goal is to get to the office and back or to the metro and home again without taking a tumble. We'll see how that goes.