Monday, April 29, 2013

A delightful day at Church

We have been in our Zelonograd Ward for just over 13 months. Today one of the members, a big bear of a man with an always-smiling face, Igor, came up to Elder Sutton and wrapped his huge hand arround his and spoke to him in Russian with a smile and  and moved on. A misisonary standing close by said that this brother had said, "you are my hero." The missionary smiled and said that Igor frequently said that to any missonary he saw. He loves the missionaries!

I was standing near the front door as members came in and Luba came up to me and pointed to my knees and said something with a concerned look on her face. I immediately got the gist of what she was saying because Sister Snyder, one of our young missonaries has been suffering from a lot of knee pain. Luba had heard about the knee problem and thought it was me. She was concerned about me.  Sister Snyder was stanidng close by and explained that it was her, not me with the "bum knee." Anyway, I was touched. Especially due to the fact that it was this sweet sister, who for the first 10 months of our mission, totally ignored me. No acknowledgement at all. I think I could have stood on my head in front of her without getting any response at all. Then, one day Maria, the 88 year old babushka who I greeted every week with a hug and kiss on the cheek, was able to convey to me that Luba was her daughter. One day, I tentatively approached Luba and told her how much I loved her mother, Maria. That seemed to break the ice because from then on I was greeted with a hello. When Maria died a couple of months ago, I gave Luba a hug. Now I am greeted with a hug AND a smile. Luba has become my friend.

Alexy is back. He is a 20-something young man who attended English Group months ago when Elder Sutton and I attended. He was not interested in learning about the Church, but was interested in getting to know us and practice his English. He came to church a couple of times, but it was for social reasons only. How delightful it was to see him back in Church today with the missionaries. He is now taking the discussions and reading the Book of Mormon.

Even though language is still a huge barrier at Church,  Dave and I feel totally accepted. I know where families and individuals sit. I look around to see who is there and who is missing. Little 5 year old Slava runs up to greet me and wrap his little arms around my knees with a  BABOOLA! BABOOLA! A smile and he scampers off and returns a little later for another hug. He helps me miss my grandchildren a little bit less.

Sweet тайциа (Tyeetseeya), who is now 88 years old gave me a photograph of her so we wouldnt' forget her. She is the lovely lady who gave us a cassette of her singing several songs. She greets me with a hug and and a huge smile as she calls me Bar  Bar Ah Sutton! (most missionaries go by Sister Sutton). We are on a first-named basis.


There are others we have drawn close to. I love the young women (9 - 21 years old) and get hugs from many of them, Masha, Anna Galia... Ksenia, (Soosha) is a young 19 year old that I have grown very close to. We have spent ime together from time to time as she has asked for my advice and  confided in me now and then.  Sometimes she sits with us in Church. I have grown to love this young woman very much. (Fortunately, she can speak English) so I am able to understand her.


Here or back in Ludlow MA. the lessons taught and the hymns sung are the same - just in a different lanuage. Our wonderul missionaries take turns translating forus. We read the lessons in English. I love knowing that Relief Society has service projects, visitng teaching conferences, and holiday parties like back home. I love hearing the topics that are discussed in sacrament meeting and Sunday School I love hearing the litle ones singing the Primary songs.

Even though the Ludlow Ward in Ludlow Massachusetts, Springfield MA. Stake, is where we will return, for now our ward is the Zelonograd Ward in the Moscow Russia Stake. Bishop Mocholov is our bishop. While it will be nice to listen to lessons in English again and to be able to take part, I will always hold a special place in my heart for our wonderful ward family here in Moscow, Russia.

By the time we leave in a few months time, I hope to know a few more names of the special people who have become part of our ward family so far away from home.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

PS to the grumpy blog post

We have a beautiful day here in Mitino. We both slept in and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. After lunch we plan on walking over to a dollar store we heard about that sells everything for 38 rubles or less. Lest you think we do not live in a nice area or a nice apartment complex, I wanted to let you know that when Dave arrived home from the office last night, 2 short hours after I got home (and tentatively asked me before he came in if I was still grumpy), I was happy to hear that the toilet was no longer there. Our apartment complex is old, but well maintained and not a junk heap. :0). In fact the outside just received some major sprucing up with new paint, and the grassy areas are raked and well taken care of.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A grumpy day

I should have known that maybe it wouldn't be my best day today when I left my brush at home. Hat hair in Russia is a pretty popular ailment, and today I really suffered from it! (even though I wasn't wearing a hat.).

Shortly after arriving at the office my husband wanted to know where the "stats" page was for the mission history we have been working on for weeks.  I couldn't find it. I questioned whether it had even been given to me because it wasn't where it belonged and I don't remember seeing it in the first place.

Now, that's a surprise. As hard as I have been working since arriving here over 13 months ago to get more organized, I haven't quite accomplished it yet to the degree I want to.

It put me out of sorts all day....Here I had lost something I didn't even remember having or receiving in the first place. It didn't help my mood any knowing that Elder Law had to retrieve the information again (which took him over an hour) and he did it with a smile on his face!

When I left the office to come home, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were budding...and it's the weekend. You get the picture? I decided I was through being grumpy. In my defense, this has been my first grumpy day in the mission office since we came on our mission. I don't think the office elders noticed but of course my better half of over 41 years noticed.

We are both looking forward to a nice weekend. Maybe take a walk, read, relax, do some baking for our office elders (just in case they did notice I was grumpy) and just enjoy some downtime. And to top it off, walking up the sidewalk to our apartment, there was a new lawn ornament. A toilet. hmmm. Need I say more?

Have a nice weekend everyone. I plan on it. I hope to be my cheerful self on Monday and get this report done! Dos vidonya.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why are we here?

We have been in Moscow Russia for over 13 months now. We have been serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Sants. We were called as the office couple when the mission had 50 missionaries and included cities in the Moscow area. The time has gone by very quickly. We have had experiences we never would have dreamed of, seen things we never would have thought to see, and met some of the most wonderful Russian people and missionaries in the world.

Three and a half months after arriving, the Russia Moscow West Mission and the Russia Moscow Mission were consolidated.  We now have over 110 young missionaries and presently over 15 senior couples. Our mission boundaries expanded to about the size of the United States.

We have worked as hard as we ever have. We have been exposed to a new culture, difficult language, have dealt wih an extreme learning curve. We are away from our mothers, friends and children, have grandchildren we miss and a granddaughter we haven't met yet. So, why are we here?

We love the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been so blessed in our life with good health, financial security and a desire to serve.  Our mission is helping to keep us young! We have been given so much, it is time to give back! And oh! what a ride it has been thus far! Bumpy at times, but it makes the journey more interesting than a smooth ride.

Our prophet, Thomas S. Monson and Gordon B. Hinkley before him, have encouraged senior couples of the Church to serve a mission if possible.  The need is great, the benefits beyond imagining in the most wonderful way.

We know that our family has been protected and watched over in our absence. We have seen miracles happen in our family since we have been here. We do not believe it is coincidence.

The Lord is hastening His work. In July 2013, 58 new missions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will open throughout the world. That means 58 new office couples will be needed this summer (along with others who are being released such as Elder Sutton and I). And many other couples will be needed to help these new missions get started. These 58 new missions are joining the approximately 350 missions the Church has worldwide already!

It feels good to play a small part in watching the Russian people blossom as they learn of the gospel and Heavenly Father's love for them. We have watched with awe as our young missionaries work hard to serve the Russian people. They have dealt with hostility as well as kindness. They have experienced joy as they are able to share the gospel with them and see Light come into their lives.

This experience is one we will always cherish. We have made eternal friendships here.

I ask you to please join your prayers with ours that the needs of the Russia Moscow Mission will be met. Needs that can only be met with our wonderful senior couples. The need for senior couples here is important to help the work move forward.

Why are we here? Because we love the Lord and we want to serve Him. We didn't ask for anything in particular when we turned in our papers. We left it up to the Lord. We know that Moscow, Russia is  where he wanted us to be, where he needed us to be.

Thank you for your love and support. It means more than you could possibly know.

Until next time, dos vidonya and God bless!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Our wonderful missionaries

Twice a month we have our Zelonograd district for dinner.How we love these young missionaries!
We have had the privilege of getting to know many missionaries over the past 14 months. They get moved around to different companionships and have a chance to serve in different areas.

They take a bus to us and back home and even though Zelonograd is only about 35 minutes away from Mitino where we live, the bus ride generally takes much longer with the heavy traffic and road conditions.

We have a nice dinner. (boy can those missionaries eat!) We love listening to the six of them chat amongst themselves.

The meeting starts with a hymn which is sung in Russian. Our district leader Elder Atteron conducted the meeting.  The purpose in training is to learn how to be a better missionary and be more effective in missionary work. The district meeting is a place to show support for each other, share their succeses and challenges. They district also sets goals together.

 Our missionaries work hard. The language is sometimes a barrier. They meet with hostility at times, (our sister missionaries were kicked off the bus this past week for simply talking to passengers they met on the bus). They also meet people who are looking for Light in their lives and are very interested.

Our hearts are filled with love and gratitude for these young missionaries who are spending 18 months to two years of their life in spreading the gosepl. They put their lives on hold to share this great Gift with others.

There was a very sweet spirit last night in our home as we witnessed the love of these missionaries for each other and those they serve.

We are grateful to play a small part in this wonderful work here in Moscow. We don't proselyte. We take care of our missionaries and their needs the best we can. We serve those whom the Lord has called to serve.

We have many "sons" and "daughters" to love for a while and it makes us both very happy.

We wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tretyakov Gallery

Today, after a long winter, we resumed our sightseeing excursions. Today we went to the Tretyakov Gallery, a famous Russian museum in Moscow. It was founded by a Russian merchant by the name of Pavel Tretyakov who donated his collection in 1882 of paintings by Russian artists.
The Gallery is in a beautiful, very spacious building.

It took us 2 1/2 hours to go through both floors and that was moving along quickly.
Our office elders, Elder Bryant Law and Elder Hayden Simmons went with us.

The museum is full of icons, masterpieces, landscapes, portraits created over 1000 years time. The oldest piece we saw was created in 1062. WOW. It had been created on wooden boards that were once a part of a building. There were several of those. The most beautiful (in my opinion) was on a door that also had the sideboards and top board all attached together.
There were  paintings on canvas and on wood and tapestry, giving the painting a nubby look. There were sculptures of wood, marble and bronze.
The paintings  represented  the Russian culture and way of life, and history going back into the 1100's. There were paintings of a political and religious theme. The history of Russia, as you know, included many wars and much political turmoil and many of the paintings reflected that. Many of the paintings were dark and reflected great sadness. Many of the pictures showed how difficult life was.  This sadness and harshness is reflected in the faces of the people in the portraits and pictures.  Many of the paintings were, literally, dark.
There are many, many religious paintings. The icons of the Savior and angels and the Holy Family are all similar in facial expressions. There is a profound sadness. No joy. There is much about the dead Christ but little about the living Christ.
However, there were some beautiful countryside paintings, lovely flowers and scenic paintings.
My favorite was one depicting the 12 year old Jesus who stayed behind and was teaching the religious scholars. It is a beautiful picture. It shows his mother Mary and Joseph as they come to the temple and find him. There were a few paintings depicting New Testament times that were of a more joyous feeling.
There was a painting of Ivan the Terrible holding his dead son whom he had killed in a fit or rage. The look on his face was truly one of great remorse. Since Ivan really did live and really did kill his son, I found this picture interesting and very real-looking.
There truly is a lot of talent here in this great land of Russia and we are happy to have been able to spend some time in this famous museum.
In order to see some of the paintings, I suggest you go to Google and put in Tretyakov Gallery.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Russian Language

I've talked before about how difficult the Russian language is. It is hard to speak and ard to understand. I can read it, though and that helps in the metro or grocery store. BUT I don't always know where the emphasis goes on a word. For intance the word flour. Mooka.  I have been pronouncing it MOO kah. Eler Simmons informed me today that it means torture. Flour is moo KAH. same spelling, different emphasis. HMMMMM. I wonder how many times I have asked where the torture is?? :0)

I need your help!

It is hard to believe that we have already been in Russia  for 13 1/2 months. We have seen many changes in the mission since then. In July our mission doubled in number of missionaries. There were 50 missionaries when we arrived and now we have 112 young missionaries! We have more than doubled in size. Before we were in the Moscow area and now our mission includes many oulying cities and we are about the size of the United States.

Many of our outlying cities such as Voronezh, Yaroslavl, Nizhny and Ryazan, have been blessed to have senior couples. They are "mom and dad" to the young missionaries and are helping the little struggling little branches of the Church by providing member leadership support. Others, like Kaluga, Dzerzhinsk, do not have a senior couple.

Many of our senior couples will be going home, beginning in May and many of the outer cities are going to be sorely lacking without the leadership and guidance of senior couples.

Also, as our mission here draws to a close, we are anxiously awaiting word on our replacements here in the office. The mission cannot run without an office couple to handle the finances, travel, orders, etc.

I AM ASKING FOR YOUR PRAYERS in replacing our invaluable senior couples who serve so valiantly here in the Russia Moscow Mission. We hope to have a couple of weeks with our replacements to orient them.

I appreciate your prayers in our behalf. Dos vidonya.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What do I see?

What do I see as I look out our apartment window 10 stories up. A couple of weeks ago, I saw people cross country skiing and lots of snow. Men were constantly shoveling to keep roadways and sidewalks clear. What do I see now? SPRING! SPRING IS REALLY HERE! Temps are in the low 60's instead of in the  30's. I see children on skateboards, roller blades, toddlers pushing toy strollers, kids on bikes, kids skipping rope, little ones playing on the playground on the swings and sandbox, Moms sitting with a book while their little ones play, older kids playing tag, dogs scampering joyfully around. People are coming out of the woodwork to welcome spring. It is truly delightful.
After the snowiest winter in 100 years and the coldest March on record, I say it is about time! There has been warmth in the sun's rays, there is no more ice or snow on the sidewalks. YAY!
To be honest, kids use the playground year round and dogs scamper in the snow as well as in the grass, but you get the drift of what I'm saying. Goodbye winter coats! Goodbye winter boots and scarves!
As we were enjoying a brief walk yesterday afternoon, we saw buds on the bushes (if you looked hard enough), new grass was pushing through the muddy ground, birds were singing and it just felt like spring.
As I sit here at the computer, the windows are open to let in the fresh air and the sound of children playing and dogs barking float up to the window. It is a beautiful sound.
I AM HAPPY. I survived the Russian winter totally in tact without falling or freezing. Looking forward to long days of light (and I mean really long).
I love spring, with its renewal and promise of new life. I was beginning to wonder if this beautiful time of the year would ever come. I urge you to go outside and enjoy the warm breeze and look for new signs of life everywhere.
Until later, dos vidonya and HAPPY SPRING to you!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Saying goodbye

Our wonderful neighbors and friends, John and Carolyn Naegle, CES (Church Education System) missionaries are leaving this week for their home. When we arrived in Moscow a year ago March, they took us under their wing. They live in the apartment next to ours, work in the same building, same floor. They helped orient us to our responsibilities in the office. The office couple before us, the Gronnings, left wonderful notes which helped immensely; however, they were not there.

Fortunately for me, Sister Naegle has excellent computer skills and was able to help me get on board. She and Elder Naegle filled in when the Gronnings left a month before we arrived. Carolyn was so patient with me and so kind in showing me (more than once usually) how to do something. In fact, before they leave this next week, she is going to show me how to do one more project on the computer that I don't have any idea of how to start.

We have not only been missionaries together, we have become very good friends. They took us around Mitino and showed us how to buy a bus pass, where to grocery shop, how to use the metro, they had our apartment all ready for us, cleaned and stocked with food and took us on a couple of sight seeing trips. Many weekend evenings we have played games together, enjoyed a meal together and laughed together.

When I was really sick, they were both there for me.

They have been a great blessing to us. We love them. We will miss them. They gave us a great gift. The gift of friendship and love which both of us will always cherish.

We had them over for dinner last night and one more rousing game of Hand and Foot, guys against the girls. Guys beat us again, but it was a close game. We will have to wait until we see them again to play again.

We wish them God speed as they return to their family in UT and look forward to seeing them again.

A leap of faith.....into Spring

Yesterday, Saturday, was sunny with blue skies. Something those in Russia cherish. Temps were in the 40's. Birds were singing, men were busy chopping away ice and snow and hauling it away. Snow banks are shrinking rapidly and whack tails are seen in abundance. What is a whack tail? It is a larger bird here in Russia with a long tail that flutters rapidly in rudder-like fashion up and down, up and down. It is mostly gray. This bird and the robin have something in common in that they are signs of spring.

I took a giant leap of faith yesterday and packed my winter boots away, winter scarf, and LL Bean mittens.  I noticed that temperatures are supposed to be in the high 40's and early 50's this next week. YAY. It appears that there IS an end to the long dark snowy winter of Russia.

Instead of seeing people cross-country skiing, I am seeing kids on skateboards, skates and bikes. It is WONDERFUL.

We are now turning our thoughts to getting out on weekends and doing some more sight-seeing in this beautiful country. Sometimes we will be accompanied by our wonderful office elders and sometimes we will venture out on our own or with another couple or group of couples.

We live on a very busy highway. We are now hearing another sign of spring.  The roar and sputter of motorcycles racing along. They are very noisy.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013


All morning I had seen through the kitchen window, large orange dump trucks driving by empty,  and then coming back in the other direction filled with dirty snow. Where was it going? On its way to the river to be dumped. Where had all this snow come from? I learned the answer later in the day.
as I watched as a small truck with a couple of "scoopers" on the front of it was, as suggested, scooping up the snow in front of it in a scooping motion. It was like two big hands working simultaneously scooping the snow onto a chute which went up over the small truck. The snow was then dropped into the flat bed of a truck who had backed up to it. When the truck bed was full of snow, it drove off and another truck backed into place for the next load of snow.  All of this snow was coming from the side of the road next to the curb. It worked its way down the road until it had to stop because there were cars parked there.

There was A LOT of snow. The snow banks were very high, and the snow piled up on sides of the road were slushy and deep.

This past year has been the snowiest in Russia in 100 years and March the coldest on record. I'm happy to say we survived it very well (thanks to LL Bean coat and Siberia winter boots.)

However, I just can't tell you HOW SICK I AM OF WINTER! We have seen a few sunny days with blue skies, but there has been a lot of gray overcast days.

We had an unpleasant April Fools joke when it started snowing hard! It is now April 3. Last year at this time, Spring came very quickly. Dare we hope for the same this year? Time will tell. Until then, even though the snow banks have diminished and the air is a tad warmer, I won't believe Spring is here until the snow is gone, the grass is greening and trees are budding. Who knows how long that will take? Until then, dos vidonya.

Life in Russia

The outer cities met together at the Central Building for Zone Conference on March 8. President Bennett of the Area Presidency addressed us. It was wonderful seeing our missionaries and missionary couples who are serving outside of Moscow. Voronezh is a long plane ride, Nizhny, Kaluga, Ryazan, Smolensk, Lipetsk, Tver and Tula are our also a good distance away. The missionaries in these cities come by train or plane to attend these special meetings. Usually, because Voronezh is the furthest away they have zone conference in Voronezh.
Meeting together with the couples is especially fun. Since we orient them when they first arrive, we develop a relationship with them and we are as close as the phone, of course, when they call for needed supplies or help with funding., so even though we don't see them as often as we would like, we are in contact.
One senior sister said that the first 3 months she was here, she would look out the window and say in amazement, I am in Russia! It truly is a whole different way of life here. We take so much for granted in the United States.
Our dear couple in Nizhny said that when they first arrived at their apartment several months ago, their water filter system was hooked up to the bidet in the bathroom!!! Holy Cow! Well, they bought bottled water for months until it was hooked up in the kitchen where it belongs! However, they did get a good chuckle out of it.
Our sweet Voronezh couple tried to get a new part for their refridgerator and it was a major challenge with the language barrier and all. It was quite an ordeal, but finally was resolved. They mentioned they laugh every day. It is important to keep a sense of humor and go with the flow.
Learning your way around the metro or on the buses has also been an experience for many who get on the wrong bus, or off at the wrong stop and don't know where they are. Our young missionaries to the rescue! Their Russian is ever so much better than ours and they know their way around.

American Cowboys

There are some Russians who own a cattle ranch in Bryansk, southwest of Moscow many miles away. These people hired American cowboys to come and handle the cattle. The cowboys have a three-year contract.

There are currently two "groups" of members of the Church in Bryansk amongst these American cowboys. A group is smaller than a branch. A branch is a small number of members. We have had a few missionaries visit them but they are so far away from other branches of the Church where the missionaries serve, it happens only occasionally. Getting there is a long trip by bus.

I just thought it was kind of fun to learn about these two groups of members living in Russia and working as cowboys. The Russians don't know anything about cattle.

Spanish speaking Russian sister?

Last night we had the opportunity of going to the Sheremetevo Airport in Moscow with our driver Alexander to greet our new Russian sister missionary coming to us from her home in Novasibirsk. As we waited for her at the arrival area,  we were both flooded with memories of when we arrived.  It was just over a year ago that President Sorenson was standing there waiting for us to come through the door. Now it was our turn to greet a new missionary!

We recognized her right away. Lucky for us she was able to speak English.  AND since she has just come from the Madrid Spain MTC (Missionary Training  Center), she even had a few words of Spanish to share!

Alexander drove us to Rosinka where President and Sister Sorenson live to drop off Sister K, a lovely and friendly sister. It was a delight to visit with her on the trip back. We went in with her and also had a chance to meet our American missionaries who had arrived earlier in the day. It was a lovely experience.

Has it been a year already?

Wow. There is only five months left before we return home to Massachusetts. I am not relating this because I am excited and counting the days until we leave. It is just that the time has gone by so fast that it doesn't seem possible that we have been here in Russia for over a year now.

I remember so well that overwhelming feeling of awe as I realized that we were in Russia! (Of course I don't recollect too much of the first two weeks because of the severe jet lag I suffered). I remember a few events in a foggy kind of way.

It has been mentioned to us, "wow, you must be getting excited to leave and go home." No, I can honestly say neither Dave or I feel that way. The blessings of internet has kept us connected with those we love back home. We were called to serve here for 18 months and we want to make sure we stay focused on our responsibilities here.

The time for returning home will be here soon enough. Until then, we plan on cramming in as many wonderful sites and cultural events as we can. We plan on serving in the Moscow Mission office to the best of our ability and being there for President and Sister Sorenson and all of our wonderful missionaries that we are blessed to serve.