Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gorky Park

Yesterday we visited the famous Gorky Park in the heart of Moscow. We went with two sets of senior missionaries.
Gorky Park is the place where Russians go to escape the city life. It is a place to go and enjoy lounging in the grass, playing sports, listening to entertainment, boating, roller blading, bicycling...a place to just have fun away from city traffic and the confines of small apartments and steaming sidewalks.
Here is Jeannie Pierson, Barb Sutton and Carolyn Pierson.
Just having fun at Gorky Park together with our sweethearts

We knew when we went here that this was a park for Russian families, not so much for tourists. As we walked along the Moscow River and observed the different activities, we definitely felt the difference.
There were huge orange bean bag chairs where many were resting, reading and snoozing in the shady grass. We came upon a race where the individuals were rollerblading but they were using poles like when one is cross-country skiing. They were flying!
There were families enjoying a ride in canopy-covered buggies that were driven by a man pedaling. We saw young families pushing baby strollers, babies learning to walk in the grass, toddling from one parent to another on wobbly legs, large sprinkler systems where little ones were screaming in delight as they played in the cool water. We saw a large stage where entertainers were singing or dancing. I wonder if this is where the Beatles performed so many years ago. There have been quite a few famous entertainers perform here.

This is the Blizzard. It is a prototype of the Blizzard, which was Russia's answer to the space shuttle. However, the Blizzard was never used, as the hangar in which it was housed, collapsed on it and another one was never built. If you look closely at it, it looks like it has a face. :)

There were paddle boats on the water and little cafes and restaurants sprinkled along the walkways, mingled with ice cream carts available with a cool treat or cold water or soda.
We stopped to rest our feet (it was hot and we walked a long way) at a rollerblading park. We sat on benches and watched the young people on bikes and skates perform and do tricks on the jumps. It was fun watching them work on their techniques. They sure were working up a sweat, but were having a great time.
The full name of the park is Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure. It was nice to see the Russian people truly relaxing and just having fun.
We enjoyed being together with our wonderful couples, Ken and Carolyn Pierson who will be leaving for home in July and work with the single adult program here in Moscow. AND the new Pierson's, Dick and Jeannie, who will be working in CES also (Church Education System).
It was a nice day and we topped it off by going to a very nice mall which has a great food court where we all had dinner.
After a fun day together at Gorky Park, getting acquainted with
one set of Piersons (on the right) and getting ready to
say goodbye to another set of Piersons :( ,
we enjoyed dinner out at a really nice food court in a
very nice mall off Kievskaya metro stop.
What a blessing good friends are. and to think
we never would have met Ken and Carolyn Pierson
if we hadn't come on a mission to Moscow Russia!

Gorky Park has been opened since 1928 and has gone through a lot of changes over the years. I think it is wonderful that there is a place to go and get away from it all for a little while. Remember, there are millions of people in Moscow and most of them live in apartments. What a nice break to have this lovely park to go to, summer or winter (ice skating is a favorite activity in the winter) and just play and have fun!!

A one-sided conversation

Last Sunday before we got off to the bus to go Church, I recognized one of the babushkas. I asked her if she needed help w/ her bag. (no). I started walking with her. She was happy for the company and started talking - in Russian of course.  She was pointing things out to me, laughing, and chatting happily. Now she knows I don't speak Russian, but she didn't care. I did ask her what her name was and I didn't get any response. I know most of them by name, but not hers. Anyway, for 10 minutes she talked and laughed and I nodded and smiled. When we got to the Church, she thanked me and we went our separate ways. She just needed to talk and I guess she figured I wouldn't interrupt or talk back. She had a good time and so did I, even though even by the end of meetings I still didn't know her name.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Starting to say goodbye

Has it really been 15 months since we arrived in Russia? I have had a relationship with the girls in the prodooctee (convenience store) which is a two minute walk from our apartment,  since we arrived. Almost every time I have walked in to get some fresh bread or eggs, Zarina has  been there. Our relationship went from cordial to friendly and comfortable. Initially, Zarina was with Margo, a pleasant older woman from Armenia. Then, one day about 5 months ago, Margo was gone and Lola had taken her place. Lola and I clicked right from the start. Despite the language barrier, a friendship blossomed and we have always been comfortable with each other, speaking in our prospective languages and nodding to each other as if we understand. (and sometimes we do). They are both so helpful, even carrying my grocery bag to the counter once it is full if I am still shopping with a second grocery bag.

I have learned that Zarina is married with two children and I have briefly met one of Lola's little boys. Zarina and Lola and I pass each other as I am on my way to the office and they are on their way to the store. The girls both know we are missionaries and that our "raboata" (work) is on Muravskya Street.

A few weeks ago Zarina told me that she was going away on vacation and wouldn't be back until after we had left to go back to America.

Today was the day I said goodbye to Zarina. I was surprised by how hard it was to say goodbye to this friendly young woman who has become my friend.

Today I gave both of my friends a Book of Mormon in Russian along with a pamphlet about families. They were both pleased with their gift. I was pleased to by their response. They know I care about them. They have known from the first we met that I am a missionary and sometimes Zarina would call me Sister Sutton and other times, just Barbara.

I will miss her.

There are more goodbyes to come, but for now, I will take it one new friend, or one sweet missionary at a time.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sister's Meeting

On June 15th, the senior sisters joined with women from the Moscow Stake at the Central Building, for an inspired morning of being taught by the wives of our visiting general authorities.
Sister Sorenson traveled by metro together. It is most likely the last time I will have one on one with this special lady, as they prepare to return home to Salt Lake City at the end of the month.
It was a spiritual feast. I sat in a row with several of our senior sisters. These special women have grown so close in my heart. It was nice being together for this special occasion.

I would like to share with you some of the things that I learned from these wonderful women. (wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson, wife of Elder Suarez, presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy and our area presidency's wives, Sister Lawrence and Sister Bennett, and our Sister Sorenson and a few closing remarks by our Stake President Yakov Boiko.

1. - the power of good music to affect and change lives was brought once more to my attention.
2 -  screaming doesn't help but soft and kind words do.
3 -  never give up on someone you love.
4  - being holy doesn't mean being perfect. I came away from the meeting with a greater desire to
      strive to be the best woman I can possibly be, one day at a time, and striving to become a more
      holy woman in my thoughts and actions.
5 -  don't go through life being a life-sized puppet. Who is pulling YOUR strings?
6 - "The Lord will not force you to learn. You must exercise your agency (free will) to authorize the 
       Spirit to teach you."
7 - Stop comparing yourself to others.
8 - When we came to earth, we each had our own "scroll" attached to our spirit, things that we were
      expected to learn, to do. We are not to measure ourselves by someone else's yardstick. We each
      have our own set of circumstances, challenges, talents......
9 - The lost tribes of Israel will come from the North countries. Russia is one of those countries.
10 -  turn off the computer and television and turn to Jesus Christ and to the scriptures.
11 -  the more often we say thank you the happier we will be. Consider keeping a gratitude journal.
12 - "to give up on a child is to doubt the ability of Heavenly Father to perform a miracle."
13 - Wouldn't it be great if children came with an instruction manual? They have! The scriptures
       are that manual!
14 - Faith requires patience.
15 - things are not always as they appear to be.

I ca m

Icing on the Cake - a most precious gift

Today, June 14th, Elder Sutton and I received a most precious gift.
The mission meeting we attended was a joyous occasion as we all came together to hear the inspiring words of God's chosen servants, hear the testimonies of precious missionaries who, after faithfully serving here, are on their way back to their homes in the United States and Sweden, to resume their life, go back to school, marry and raise their forever families.

Two of our sweet sister missionaries, Sister Prows and Sister Pope, came up to me before the meeting and said they needed to meet with Elder Sutton and I right after the meeting was over.

After the meeting was over, they were acting a bit mysterious. They led the two of us to a quiet room where we would not be disturbed and closed the door.

They expressed their love for us and said they had prepared a little musical number for us.

From the Sound of Music and to the tune of the song Doe a deer, they sang the following song sweetly to us:\\

Doe, the money the Sutton's give us
Ray, the light you bring in lives
Me, the one you help so much
Fa, you live so far away
So, we love you both so much
La-tvia the place we go
Tea, a drink with sadushkey
that will bring us back to doe, doe, doe, doe

Doe me me, me so so
ra fa fa . a tea tea

When your back account is fraud
he will call to let you know

Doe ray me fa so la tea
do so do!!

with love,
Sister Heidi Prows and
Sister Sarah Pope

They sang like angels
Our hearts were full of gratitude and love for these sweet sisters

It truly was the icing on the cake to a day we didn't think could be any better! But they made it so!

Mission Meeting

On Friday June 14th all of our missionaries came together for a mission meeting. They took trains and planes and metro to come together to hear the words of our General Authorities and to spend some precious moments with each other.We were honored to have General Authorities from Salt Lake City visiting with us. For some of our missionaries, it was the last mission meeting they would attend, as they flew home on Saturday the 15th, or took off with families coming to pick them up and take them home. We had a chance to hear each of these precious young men and woman bear their testimony and share their feelings about the gospel, what their mission has meant to them. One of our dear elders, Ky Raymond who has such a joyful countenance was fighting back tears as he bid dos vidonya to Russia. He didn't want to leave! He and the others have made such a huge impact on the people of Russia and have been such a blessing to our mission that we don't want them to leave either. It is so heart warming to see the love that our missionaries have for each other. There truly are eternal friendships forged here as they serve together in this great land of Russia, dealing with challenges and disappointments, rejection, and joy and experiences never to be had anywhere else!
Many of the missionaries gathered at Moe's after the meetings for dinner. Moe's is a well-known Mexican restaurant. To see so many of these young people that we have grown so close to was a nice ending to the day. And as we left, "bye elder and Sister Sutton. We love you!, sent us on our way with a bigger smile
I feel so blessed to be here at this time, playing a small part in building up the church in this part of the Lord's vineyard. I was filled with joy as I greeted missionaries I have grown to love so dearly. It made me so happy to hear, "thank you Sister Sutton for all you do!, "Sister Sutton, you are amazing", "Love you Sister Sutton! " , "thanks for being my dad away from home"  and "Elder Sutton, you're the man!"" Love you, Elder Sutton."
I know. I've said it so many times and I'm sorry for repeating it so often, but it is such a perk working in the mission office. It is hard work, but our relationship with our wonderful missionaries, young and senior, make it all worthwhile. It also helps relieve the homesickness I feel for my own children, having these special young men and women to love and to make a difference in their life for a season.
The words of our leaders from Salt Lake City were inspiring.
For the members of the Church, you are familiar with the story of the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon, when he shows faith and asks the Lord to light the stones so they don't have to cross the waters in darkness. It was brought up to us that each one of us needs to have the faith to ask the Lord to light our stones, but without the faith and hard work to prove we are trying, the stones will not light for us. I want to work on my faith, so that I can expect light from "my stones" when I need it and that I will be worthy to receive this gift from God.
I tear up as I think of the last hug received from Elder Kirkham as he left with his family. The last picture taken with dear Sister Jolley, a precious and sweet sister we have loved as a "stand-in" daughter for a season.
Before the meeting dispersed, we all met in the courtyard to have a picture taken together. This was the last mission meeting for our dear President and Sister Sorenson who leave at the end of the month after serving in the great land for 3 years. How we will miss them and his gentle leadership and her sweet testimony and love for the missionaries!
It was truly a glorious day. now, let me tell you about the icing on the cake........

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Today we just had fun

Today President Sorenson suggested that we order pizza to enjoy with our office elders as it is  Elder Law's last day in the office.  We had fun together. President Sorenson, Elder Sutton, Elder Bradford and Elder Law, Luba, our Russian registration clerk, and I were chatting and bantering playfully with each other. Alexander, our mission driver, joined us about halfway through and handed President Sorenson an envelope after explaining to him in Russian what it was. He was laughing as he explained. Alexander had a good belly laugh over this envelope. We learned that the envelope contained three speeding tickets which President Sorenson received when he was in Tver, a city about 300 miles or so out of Moscow.
President Sorenson didn't know he had been ticketed until Alexander brought them to him from the Service Center where they had been mailed. He received three tickets within a twenty minute span of time (caught on camera). One ticket was for exceeding the speed limit by about 5 MPH.
That is so laughable.  So he gets ticketed for going a few miles over a speed limit?
Alexander was so tickled by this that he was laughing so heartily that he made all of us laugh. Here you have an ex- fighter pilot who has been driving for the mission for a few years (and sometimes drives like he used to fly). However, all of us agree that we feel safe with Alexander. He has great reflexes.
President Sorenson was relieved when he learned that the combined cost of the three tickets was only 900 rubles or about $30. He will pay this fine before he leaves to return to America the end of June.
It was SO much fun, being together as an office family just enjoying each other's company.
We will miss Elder Law. We will miss President Sorenson. But today we were altogether and just had fun.

A very nice surprise

I had the nicest surprise on my way home from the office today. There on the corner of Muravskaya and Piatnitzkaya was Alexander's van with all of our wonderful missionaries who are returning home tomorrow. They were there all together! I had the opportunity to visit with each one for a couple of minutes and there were hugs all around. Saying goodbye to this amazing young woman, Julene Jolley, and our wonderful elders (Elder Stegeby, Elder Starr, Elder Jones, Elder Raymond, Elder Law and Elder Kirkham) was bittersweet. I have gotten to know and love them over the past 15 months. Requests for new name tags or ordering new Book of Mormons, letting them know they had received a package from home or talking to  them about their flight home and whether or not I should add de-worming pills to their departure packets (not THAT made for some interesting conversation)!  They thanked Elder Sutton and I (remember, he is the one who put money on their MSF card every month) for everything we had done. Serving in the office is a joy. It is far more than sitting behind a desk all day. They have been such a blessing to US. We love them for their dedication and service and  commitment here in the land of Russia, having put their education on hold for a season to serve the Lord. They are an inspiration and a wonderful example to us. They have done more for us than we have ever done for them. It has been said many times over that you learn to love those you serve. And we do love these young men and women dearly! We are looking forward to staying in touch with them through FB. and pray the Lord's blessings upon them as they return to their homes to pursue their education, get married, and embark on their careers. Yes, it really was the nicest surprise and happy ending to this day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Unwelcome visitors

On June 9 our missionaries in Kakhovsky Branch had an unpleasant experience at the South Building during Sunday School when the adult Gospel Doctrine class was interrupted rudely by 12 Provaslanee missionaries (from the Russian Orthodox church) who came barging in, uninvited and unwelcome. The teacher stopped teaching and the 3 women and 9 men  circled around the several members and started bombarding them with questions and being very confrontational. Our missionary elders, Elder Starr and Elder Kirkham, both of whom are going home this week, along with Elder Ben Sehnert, asked them to be quiet and listen or to leave. That didn't happen. They said they had been invited to come by God to call the sinners to repentance.
The elders recognized a few of these men from Voronezh, many hour's distance away. The missionaries were harassed there by them for close to a year. Now it appears that they are "making the rounds." It was learned that there is an MTC (so to speak)  near the South Building where the Orthodox Church meets and upsetting the members of the Church was on their agenda for the day. Hmmmmm. It was only after over 2 1/2 hours that they finally left. No one was hurt, and the missionaries do get harassed from time to time, but it still made for an uncomfortable situation and is definitely not a good thing for the members of the church to deal with. Because the Church is still so new here in Russia and the Orthodox church was THE church here in Russia for a very long time, it can be disconcerting for members whose faith and knowledge may still be fragile.
Don't get me wrong. Everyone is invited to attend Church, no matter what your beliefs are and members of the Orthodox church are certainly welcome, as are Muslims, Jews, and anyone else of any denomination. However, it is also expected that they will be courteous and polite, as we would be if we were visiting them in their church. These Provaslanee missionaries were definitely out of line.
This behavior here in the Stake was the first of its kind to take place in church. However, there is every reason to believe that it will happen again.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Little miracles in a vast country

Elder  Michael Roberts shared an experience he and his companion Elder Dillon Brown had as they were traveling to three different cities to meet with some referrals and to attend a baptism. While they were on the metro, he asked a man standing next to him if he was interested in learning about the gospel. The man, named Demonte said yes and they exchanged phone numbers.. The conversation lasted only a  couple of minutes as the missionaries were getting off at the next stop.

Later, Elder Roberts called Demonte and asked if he would like to meet with the missionaries, as they were visiting in his city of Kursk. Demonte said yes and they met at a little cafe. The missionaries learned that Demonte had been investigating different churches and had blonged to a Buddhist church for a while but stopped going because it didn't have what he was looking for.  Later, he joined the Orthodox church after he married, because his wife insisted on it. He wasn't happy with that church either.  After his divorce, he continued his search for a church. Demonte asked which church the missionaries belonged to and when they told him Mormon, he said, "I have heard of the Mormons. My friends daughter moved to Virginia where she joined the Church. Her brother Artyom visited his sister in the US and joined the Church too. He lives here in Kursk."

The missionaries know Artyom, who is the only member of the Church in Kursk. What are the chances of meeting a man on the metro, crowded with rush hour passengers, who is looking for truth who just happens to be friends with the father of a man who is the only member of the church in the town of Kursk?

 He believed everything the missionaries taught him. He wants to learn more. The missionaries will continue going to this city a couple of times a month to meet with him.  Elder Roberts has come to the end of his two years and will be heading home to UT later this week. Because of the connection he has with Demonte, he will stay in touch with him through Skyping.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Saying good-bye

I can already tell you that I am not ready to say goodbye. There are so many changes going on with missionaries leaving and missionaries arriving.
It has been easy to get close to the other senior couples whom we have had the privilege of getting to know. They are all here because they love the Lord and want to serve His children here. We all serve in different ways as has been talked about before. From traveling around Russia as an auditor, working as a lawyer in Moscow for the Church, providing humanitarian services such as wheelchairs or visiting orphanages, serving in the office (area office or mission office), serving as medical advisors for sick or emotionally distressed missionaries, are only a few of the services provided. Missionary couples are invaluable as they serve in their little branches helping to strengthen the church which is still so new here in this part of the world (about 20 years old). They also provide great support for our young missionaries who are so far from home.
We met together on Thursday to honor our mission president and his dear wife, Stephen and Corinne Sorenson, as they are coming to the end of their 3 year mission here in Moscow. We have had the privilege of working closely with the Sorenson's as we have served in the mission office. Patient, loving, kind, wonderful sense of humor, strong love for the missionaries and for the Russian people are only touching the tip of the iceberg concerning their attributes.
We had a nice dinner with homemade salads and delicious carrot cake, President and Sister Sorenson spoke to us for a few minutes. There was a wonderful musical presentation in their honor written and sung by our talented Elder Bice as he put their life to words and music. There was a beautiful pencil drawing beautifully framed depicting the Savior that was drawn by our wonderful Elder David Cook (who recently went home with his equally wonderful wife Becky), a lovely table runner beautifully made of Russian material and quilted by Sister Donna Jones and Sister Sheryl Storm. The final gift was from ALL the missionaries. I started asking months ago for missionaries to send in their letters of love for Pres. and Sister Sorenson. They were collected over the past few months and a dear young member offered to use her talents in scrapbooking and put them along with pictures in a book of memories for them. It was very lovely and many of the Russia Moscow Mission missionaries participated in this lovely gift for them.
I'm trying not to think that they will be leaving the end of June back home to Salt Lake City. We will welcome our new president and his wife, President Garry and Sister Borders with joy, but how we will miss President Sorenson's soft spoken sense of humor, his love for the missionaries. Some of the missionaries have referred to him as a gentle giant and it fits. Sister Sorenson has been by his side as they have traveled all over this vast mission (spanning the size of the US). She has taken care of the missionaries, fed them in her home, greeted them and loved them as part of a large extended family, has loved them as a mother for her child. Will I miss them? Terribly. I tear up as I think of them leaving. And yet, their service here is coming to an end and it is time for a well-deserved rest. Being a mission president is one of the busiest callings in the great Church of ours.
I'm not ready to say goodbye yet. Maybe I never will be.


How blessed we are to have good medical care back in the States. Here in Moscow, the medical care is pretty good. Dr. S. the missionary over the European area, says that the hospitals in some of the outlying cities look like something you would see in a 1950's movie and that they are about 35 years behind here in Moscow. It isn't because the doctors aren't smart. It has to do with training. Can you imagine staying in the hospital for over a month with a broken leg? Recently we learned of a young woman who had taken a bad fall last winter and waited on the snowy street for a couple of hours before the ambulance came. Then once she was in the hospital, she was on a gurney in the hall for a couple of days before she was properly tended to. Then her stay ended up to be weeks.
In the outlying cities, a hospital stay is MUCH different. A patient must supply their own toilet paper, meals (unless you want cream of wheat three times a day) and bedding. There just isn't the money for these hospitals to furnish these basics.
We notice that here in Moscow that hospital stays tend to be much longer than back home. (Elder G was hospitalized for 5 days for kidney stones) He finally signed himself out.
SO grateful for good medical care and good training.

The way men and boys dress

I have a lot of time to observe people as we sit on the metro. It is generally quite entertaining and time goes by quickly. I have NEVER observed the fashion seen all too often back in the states of the droopy pants that show the underwear and make the men/boys look like penguins as they waddle around with their pants down almost to their knees. I have always found that offensive. I have NEVER observed that here or anything close to it. I see a lot of jeans and t-shirts, suits and ties. I also see that the men and boys are not afraid of color. It's not uncommon to see a guy wearing a bright red pair of pants (that fit) or brightly colored sneakers or shoes. The other day on the metro, a young man in shorts and shirt was wearing these bright cranberry colored loafer-type shoes that appeared to be of a velour material and tassels. Something I would see a woman wear. They really looked out of place to me.(especially with shorts)  I've also seen a lot of pointed dress shoes. Is that popular now back in the States? I'm wondering if the bright loafers are a new trend as I saw another young man wearing bright blue loafers.  Just interesting.


A couple of weeks ago two of our sister missionaries ended up in the ICU at the hospital after ingesting less than a teaspoon of vinegar. How could that happen? Well, here in Russia vinegar comes in different strengths. What they took was close to 80% instead of the 3 or 6% in the States. There had been concern that it had burned through the esophagus but luckily, it didn't and they are now as good as new. I'm not sure at all why they have vinegar here that is so powerful that it can kill, but they do and it does. It is a miracle these sweet young women are ok. The reason they took it in the first place was that they were told that ingesting a small amount of vinegar would keep the mosquitos away.