Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tchaikovsky Concert Hall

On March 21 we were treated to a musical feast as we attended, with several other missionary senior couples, the RUSSIAN NATIONAL FOLK INSTRUMENT ORCHESTRA. This group of talented men and women have entertained audiences around the world.
Barb with some of the past conductors in the background.

The Tchaikovsky Concert Hall was established in 1921 and seats 1600 people. It is home to the State Philharmonic, the oldest symphony orchestra in Russia.

The conductor, Vladimir Andropov, has also conducted in the famous Bolshoi Theatre. You could tell how much he loved what he was doing. The orchestra performed flawlessly.
This concert gave us another first experience as we immersed ourselves in Russian folk music.
They are dressed beautifully.
The conductor Vladimir Andropov and Vasily, a wonderful entertainer w/ a beautiful voice.

Our ears were truly treated to a festival of music unlike any we have ever heard before. (REALLY!)
Well,  first of all, the music this large orchestra played were Russian pieces, some of which were composed 1000 years ago. We hadn't heard it before.
Second, the instruments were unusual and unlike any we had seen before. There were many stringed instruments, a couple of accordians, a piccolo, drums. I don't have names of the stringed instruments, but the music was lively and lovely.
Have you ever seen instruments like this? WOW.

Not only were there instrumental numbers, but we were treated to some very talented singers and folk dancers as well.
They sang like angels. Their dresses were lovely.
They danced a little too.
They were joined by four young girls who danced up a storm!
The men and women in this number were dressed in
                                        traditional Russian folk wear. So beautiful.

It was a night to remember! The very last number was the only one we recognized. It was very fast and perfectly done. As we have immersed ourselves in Russian culture, we are aware of what a privilege it is to be here amongst a people with so much talent!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I LOVE being a missionary

Where has the last year gone? It flew by. While I admit freely that I would'nt want to relive those first 2 1/2 months for anything upon arriving here, I LOVE being a missionary. I LOVE working in the mission office.
When we put in our papers to go on a mission, we decided not to ask for anything or anyplace. We answered the questions on the detailed questionnaire and sent it in on October 17 2012. BUT neither one of us wanted to work in an office.
Well, guess what? We were called to work in the Russia Moscow Mission Office for President and Sister Sorenson. And guess what else??? WE LOVE IT. We are loving our service in the mission office.
It has been mentioned before that there are many, many different kinds of missions.
As time has gone by we have both realized that our missionary responsibilities have to do more with our missionaries. We have the blessing of meeting and greeting and orienting them. We have the blessing of rub shoulders with them when they come into the office for various reasons. We have the blessing of serving them, of helping them. We have the blessing of serving our mission president and helping him in whatever way we can to make the load on his shoulders a little easier.
Especially now, that the mission has become so huge, it makes Elder Sutton and I feel good to know that President Sorenson can go about his widespread responsibilities and know that the office is in good hands.
Yes, I am still struggling a bit with my lack of organization,  BUT I am improving. :) Dave, who is not come from a financial background has worked very hard to learn his responsiblities in the office and serves as financial secretary, office manager and as President Sorenson's executive secretary. I am the office secretary.
We LOVE what I am doing. We LOVE our missionaries. We LOVE serving them, both the young missionaries and our incredible senior couples. We love our missionaries in the Zelonograd Ward. We have them in our home twice a month for dinner and to enjoy district meeting with them and share with them what we can.

"Sister Sutton, you are an angel; Thanks Sister Sutton, you're a diamond; I love you Sister Sutton; you do such a good job taking care of us, Sister Sutton; thanks for all you do; Sister Sutton, am I still your favorite missionary????"  I love the hugs I get from our sister missionaries. Yes, I DO LOVE MY MISSIONARIES!

and Dave also is blessed to have a close relationship with the missionaries.  The other day one of his elders whom he loves as a son, came up to him ad hugged him and said "thanks for being my dad in Russia." A young elder came up to me and said Elder Sutton is so awesome. I love him so much!"

Being able to be close to our missionaries is a great joy to us. Serving our mission president and his dear wife are a joy to us. Our friendships with the senior couples are a special joy to us.
AND I get to serve with my best friend! Dave and I have drawn closer together as we have served in the office together. I love him dearly and am so grateful for him and his strength and his example.
We have been blessed with good health. We have been blessed a desire to serve. We love being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We love serving our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. We love the many wonderful Russian people we are meeting at church and in daily activities.
We are working hard. Dave mentioned the other day that he can not remember a time when he was every busier.

We laugh every day!

Our missionaries are having some experiences they would never have anywhere else. Our senior couples don't have the language down the way our young missionaries do. Sometimes the language barrier can definitely be a challenge.
For instance, the couple in Nizhny arrived at their apartment to discover that the water filtering system was hooked up to the bidet in the bathroom! There was NO way they were going to drink THAT water, filtered or not. It took 4 months of drinking bottled water before the system was installed in the kitchen where it belongs.
The couple in Voronezh say they laugh every day. Keeping a sense of humor definitely is a good idea. (when you take the wrong bus, when you buy food but find it is not what you thought it was once you open the can!), trying to get a replacement part for the refridgerator or getting a repairman to come over to look at your washing machine - when neither of you can speak each other's language.  It does make for some interesting experiences.
Amidst the challenges of living in a foreign country are MANY reasons to be happy, many reasons to laugh. What a great blessing we are having here in this wonderful land amongst a choice people.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Our last visa trip

We took our last visa trip on March 4. Everything went very well. Our driver Yuri (who were borrowed from the area presidency) took us at 6 am since our driver Alexander had a committment with President Sorenson. The traffic wasn't too bad that early in the morning and the weather cooperated and we reached the airport in good time.

The flight to Riga, Latvia also went very smoothly. It takes about an hour and 40 minutes. We had breakfast at Lido's and had plenty of time to people-watch and read until we boarded the plane for our return to Moscow.

Riga has a whole different feel than Moscow. There are quite a few people who speak English and there is just a more relaxed atmosphere.

This, too, went very smoothly. Alexander picked us up and we were home by 5:15. Sometimes our young missionaries don't show up at the mission office until 7 or so, so we REALLY made good time.

The next time we board a plane at Sheremetevo will be when we return to the States in late August.

A nice surprise

I was sitting in the office at my desk when Sergi came in. He works in the CES office next door to the mission office. He is a soft-spoken man who also serves as bishop in the Rechnoy Branch. Elder and Sister Naegle are the CES missionary couple in the mission and he is their boss.

He came into the office with several beautiful long-stemmed red roses. He handed me one and explained that March 8 is International Women's Day and he wanted to express his love and gratitude for the service Tatiana, Diana, Svetlana and I perform.

Thank you Sergei!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Good-bye Suzie

I learned today of the passing of a friend back home. Susan Rachel Shultis. Sue has been my friend for about 40 years. I met her when Dave and I moved to Springfield MA and we attended church there. We attended the same congregation together over the past 40 years.
Suzie could always be counted on to help, whether it was to substitute in Primary with the little ones, or to share in Relief Society or Sunday School.
And my! How she loved to talk! How she loved to laugh!
Suzie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer right about the time we came out on our mission a year ago. She has fought a good fight. She did everything she could to live. She had an upbeat attitude. She didn't give up. She didn't whine. She didn't mope or feel sorry for herself.
She used the time that God gave her to the best of her ability. She prepared herself for her return Home. She set priorities to get things done before she left her family to join her Dad and others who were waiting on the other side.
Suzie had mellowed over the years. I remember the first time we met 40 years ago. Our first meeting in the church lobby didn't go very well. She was definitely a bit feisty. We have laughed about that over the years that we definitely got off on the wrong foot.
What have I learned from Sue? She was a hard worker. She was a devoted daughter, mother, grandmother and friend. She didn't judge people. She looked on their heart. She had a strong love of the Savior. She was a very nice person and I loved her.
Suzie is an ordinary woman (or so she would say) who gave the world an extraordinary gift. Her blog, is one of the last gifts Suzie left. As I read her posts here on our mission, I was constantly inspired and uplifted by the humor and truth in her blog as she related what she was doing, how she was preparing, and what she hoped to finish before she was called Home.
What is this extraordinary gift she gave? In her blog, she taught us not only how to live with the hand that we are dealt, but also how to die. She bore a strong and powerful testimony of who she is, of her unwavering faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atoning sacrifice for all of Heavenly Father's children. Suzie was not afraid to die. Suzie knew why she was here and where she was going. She knew that there was something beyond the earthly life that she was leaving. I don't think she was anxious to leave her family and friends behind, but she wasn't afraid either and she accepted the Lord's will without murmuring.
Her parents have always been dear to me. I asked her to give her Dad Harold a big hug from me when she saw him next. Her mom Rachel, is a very special lady and has been a wonderful example to me over the years. She is a strong woman with a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and she lives what she believes and knows to be true. I love her and my prayers are with her at this sad time. And yet, Rachel knows that Sue is now free from pain. She fought a good fight. She has earned the right to rest. And I am sure that Rachel knows that now her daughter and her husband are watching her over her.
I pray that her blog, her testimony and her life will continue to be a legacy to her family and friends. Her son Frank was with her this morning at 6:30. She called out to her Dad, reached up and was gone. She has gone ahead. OH! I can only imagine the joyful reunion she is having.
Rest in peace, dear friend. Until we meet again, Dos vidonya. I love you.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A very nice Sunday.

Women's Day is March 8. Eastern Europe, Russia and the old Soviet Bloc countries celebrate it. Over the years it has become a mixture of Valentines Day and Mother's Day. I imagine I will see a lot of action from the flower shop downstairs from our office that day. Anyway, today we enjoyed a wonderful Sunday with our ward family in Zelonograd- Tyeetzeeya (pronounced like) gave me a hug and a kiss when she came in the building. She is one of our babushkas in the ward. She was talking to me a mile a minute. In Russian of course, and of course, I missed most of it. She didn't seem to mind.

Slava came in about this time as well and came running up to me...."Baboola!" I enjoyed a nice hug from him and he enjoyed some tickles from Elder Sutton.

Our wonderul Elder Samuelson translated in the meeting today. It was fast and testimony meeting. This is the day set aside also for the blessing of babies and small children. We have 4 tiny babies in our ward now and little Alexandra was blessed by her father today. In the Church, small children are not baptised, but they are blessed and given a name. It was wonderful to see that the Church is the same the world over. Even though we can't understand most of the meeting, the programs are the same and the Sunday School lessons follow the same schedule and lesson material. Luckily, we have it in English and can read the lessons and stay current that way. Several people stood to share their feelings about the gospel and bear testimony of the gospel in their lives

.After Sacrament meeting was over, Natasha, a lovely young mother who befriended me shortly after we came to Russia, sat down next to me. She speaks some English and she told me that she and her family had been to UT in February where they had enjoyed some serious skiing in some of the popular ski resorts there, to include Park City. She said that they had visited with the Wrights, who were the mission couple about 4 years ago and that she had also seen two of the missionaries who had shared the gospel with her years ago. They had quite a reunion. Then, she said she had a present for me, She brought out a painted wooden spoon. She said she bought it in Siberia where her family is from. She wanted to give it to me as a gift for Mother's Day (International Women's Day.) She thanked me for my friendship (it was I who should have been thanking her!) It was very touching and I am looking forward to bringing this special spoon back to the States and finding a place of honor for it in my kitchen.

A young sister in her 20's that I hadn't met yet and who had only been coming for a month or two came over and introduced herself as Marina, a Ukrainian girl working here in Russia. She served a mission for the Church in Ohio and knows really good English. She helped translate in Relief Society today. In fact, I had Marina on one side and Sister Snyder on the other side. I was in good hands!

It was another bitterly cold day here but it was wonderful to wait only a minute for the bus taking us to Z-grad and the same on the way back. With the icy winds and icy walkways, it was good to be on the warm bus in record time.

THEN, once we got home, I put the finishing touches on the dinner I had made yesterday for tonight's dinner with our wonderful office elders. We enjoy them so much! After some homemade vegetable pot pie and homemade chocolate pudding, we asked each of them to explain a scripture that we picked at random for the Scriptures. We were well taught by these young men from the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of revelations through the prophet Joseph Smith. These revelations were given in the 1800's to our latter-day prophets and contain revelation pertinent to our day.

Now our day is drawing to a close and we are settling down together to have our own scripture study together, which we do every Sunday, reading from the Book of Mormon.

Tomorrow we are off on our last visa trip to Riga Latvia.

Dos Vidonya and good night.