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!!