Thursday, August 22, 2013


We have been blessed with a wonderful landlady Jane. She doesn't look like I would imagine a landlady in Russia to look like. She is not older, or dumpy or a babushka in a baggy dress and sagging stockings with a bandana around her head (sorry but this what I envision a landlady to look like here) and some of them do. :0)
Jane is young with a husband and two lovely little boys. She is very pretty and has been a joy to deal with. (unlike some of the landlords or landlady's that our missionaries have had to work with).
When appliances broke down (like the washing machine and the refridge), she had them fixed, she helped us get the television working, she made sure the living room floor was repaired after water damage caused some major buckling.
She was pleasant to work with and she and I became friends along the way despite the language barrier. She does speak English) We laughed as she tried to find the right word in English and we were absolutely no help with our limited Russian. She and Dave had a good relationship as well.
There were times when a lot of waiting was required. It was during these times of waiting for work to be done that a sense of humor REALLY came in handy. I have heard that Russian people don't understand our sense of humor, but Jane did and it made her laugh. She told me she appreciated my sense of humor. We had fun together even amongst frustrating times of waiting for service or repair.
We introduced her to the Meilstrup's yesterday and I gave her a big hug when she left.  She has been a blessing to us here. Our lovely apartment will be a safe haven for our wonderful replacements as well and I hope it will not take long for it to become home. I will miss her.

Saying goodbye is hard

Our wonderful replacements have arrived. Alan and Leslie Meilstrup will be the new office couple. They are excited to be here and raring to go! We have acquainted them with the apartment, showed them briefly around the office and a little of the neighborhood which will be home for the next 18 months. There is no doubt that the office will be in good hands. What an incredible and wonderful journey they are embarking on.
The closer the time comes to our departure, the harder it is. Where did the time go? It seems as if we just got here. We have grown to love Russia and our service here so very much.
I know that it is time to move on. There are adventures yet ahead, family to connect with and life in the United States to get back to.
The friendships we have made here are precious to us and the memories will bring a smile to our faces for the rest of our life.
Now it is time to get down to business and we have 5 days at the office to help Elder and Sister Meilstrup "get up to speed" with the running of the office. (we couldn't do this by ourselves). We are blessed with wonderful office elders, our two Russian sisters, Diana and Luba who "help keep us legal" by handling visa matters and so much more! We love our office family, our mission family, our Zelonograd Ward family, our missionaries SO much.
What a blessing it will be for them to serve with President and Sister Borders! And as we love our dear President and Sister Sorenson, we have grown to love President and Sister Borders in the short time they have been here. What a great blessing they are to this vast mission.
 I am looking forward to hugging my mom again, meeting our new granddaughter, baking with Abby, playing with Kyler seeing my children and friends. I do know that it is time to go home. But it is still hard. We will never be the same after experiencing life here in Moscow Russia as part of the Russia Moscow Mission, playing the tiniest part here in helping the work roll forth in bringing the light of the gospel to this people. Taking care of the needs of 130 (give or take) missionaries has been an honor and a joy.
My sweet husband declared a couple of days ago, I'm not going home! I can truthfully say that as we leave, we leave behind a part of our hearts and a great love and respect for the Russian people. May God bless them! May God bless our great mission!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I just called to say I love you....

We caught the number 460 bus to Zelonograd this morning. It is a brand new bus, very nice. There was music playing softly in the background. What was it? "I just called to say I love you." It seemed funny to me to be in Russia listening to this tune in English.  As we zipped along past little homes with gingerbread shutters, long expanses of green meadows and trees, I was drinking it all in. This view, so familiar to me after taking the same route for the past 18 months. I remember that we will be making this trip only one more time. As I softly sang along with the song, I thought of Russia. I do love Russia. I will miss Russia. I know that I will never hear this song again without thinking of Russia.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Church in Russia

What has been our purpose here in this great land of Russia as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
There are senior couples who serve in different ways and have different responsibilities. Some of them serve in the wards and branches in our mission strengthening the still new church. Others provide humanitarian services, such as wheelchairs through the whole land to those in need. Others serve as auditors .....the list goes on.
As has been previously mentioned, our responsibility has been to make sure the mission runs smoothly through our service in the office.  Ordering supplies, preparing for returning and departing missionaries, funding cards and seeing that apartments are in good condition and that rent is paid on time and that the phones are in good condition and that each missionary in Moscow has a metro card and keeping up with mission history, water filters (we use water filters because the water here is not good and we want each apartment to have filtered water), among other responsibilities.
Why are we here? Why do couples and young missionaries come to Russia?
Christianity was introduced to Russia 1025 years ago. Despite 700 years of Soviet atheism, many of the Russian people  turned for spiritual nourishment to the Russian Orthodox church and others  to other Christian faiths brought to Russia in the 19th century.
In the late 1980's and early 1990's, some of the Russian people began to direct their spiritual quests towards a study of religious faiths just entering their country, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). It was in 1989 that the Church was authorized to bring the gospel to the Soviet Union. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles dedicated Estonia for the preaching of the restored gospel and offered a prayer of gratitude in a spirit of rededication in  Leningrad. (In 1903, Elder Frances M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated Russia for the preaching of the gospel).
In 1989 the first full-time missionaries visited Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). By 1990, there were 156 Russian members, 7 of whom were in Moscow.
Now in our mission alone, we have 19 wards and branches of faithful members and about 106 young missionaries and several missionary senior couples. (our mission is vast, as before mentioned, covering approximately the size of the United States), but there are many cities and towns without members of the Church.
Our missionaries share with us that people are hungry for the truth and light that the gospel can bring into their lives.
Shortly before we arrived, the first stake was created. Now a second stake has been created in St. Petersburg. The first stake in Armenia was just organized and we are close to having a couple more stakes. It is thrilling to see the Church take hold in this land and in the surround republics. We are blessed to have a wonderful young missionary elder serving in Moscow from St. Petersburg and another sweet sister, who just left to serve a mission in St.Petersburg. It is wonderful to see young Russian people serving missions in their own land. We also just welcomed our first Russian senior couple to our mission. They will be working in Public Affairs in the Church here.
Why are we here?  All of the missionaries here are helping move the Church forward in this great land and making available the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will listen.
As the office couple we have had the privilege of serving those wonderful missionaries who are sharing the gospel with the Russian people.


It doesn't seem possible that in two short weeks we will be back on American soil. The countdown, of necessity, has begun. We will be greeting our replacements, Elder and Sister Meilstrup on Tuesday. They relayed their excitement to us in email. I remember how excited we were for our journey to begin as well. Wasn't it just yesterday that it was us who were packing and preparing and finding ourselves on a plane that brought us to this great land , dropping us off at the Sheremetevo Airport? It sure seems that way. I can remember clearly how I felt when we were greeted by President Sorenson and the feeling of disbelief as we zipped by large highway signs that I couldn't read. I remember the dreary, gray, cold snowy day.  (Unfortunately, about this time the jet lag set in and I don't remember much very clearly for the next three weeks with the exception of snippets here and there).

Are we getting trunky we are asked? No. We definitely have mixed feelings about our departure. We have family and a life back in the United States waiting for us. We have also had a family and a life here. At times it has been hard, but we always ALWAYS have loved what we are doing. Our missionaries, our Zelonograd Ward and our mission president and wife have been our family here. And dear Svetlana, our cleaning lady who keeps the mission office spotless, Diana, the visa clerk and we will miss them!

It will be very hard to leave them. And our apartment has become home, Fameen and Lola, Zarina, and the others who work in the little convenience store have become our friends, and yes, believe it or not, I have learned to LOVE the metro. I will even miss Svetlana, our sometimes cranky (OK, almost always cranky)  concierage who takes her job so seriously, but who, to my delight, has greeted me with big smiles and a pleasant greeting, the past couple of times our paths have crossed. (I wonder if the candy bars I pass her way have anything to do with that?)

We are very busy trying to get things written down for our replacements and to do as much as we can to make the transition easy for them and our wonderful mission president and dear wife, who has become my friend. We also hope to show them a few things around the office as well in the few days we will have together.

Getting our apartment ready to "turn over" to them, meeting with our landlady Jane and introducing her to her new tenants.............there is still MUCH to do and so little time.

We are experiencing our "lasts."  Last District meeting, last zone conference, last walk to the office, last walk out back into the woods. (we have yet to find the lake that is back there somewhere!)  So many more "lasts" still ahead. :(

But still, we are going to enjoy these last two weeks  we have here  We have already said goodbye to some of our missionaries who we will not be seeing again. Tears have been shed, words of love and appreciation shared. A piece of my heart goes with each of these young ones I have grown to love.
One young elder said, "Sister Sutton, you have been like a second grandma to me."  OK,I admit I would prefer to be a second mom as to a second grandma, but I will take it.
 Among the  senior couples, everlasting friendships have been forged that we will always cherish.

I get teary-eyed just thinking about leaving. I can honestly say that I will be leaving a bit of my heart behind in this country. Yes, the countdown has begun..............I don't know if I'm ready (and I know of a surety that my sweet companion struggles with this as well.)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

This great land of Russia

It is becoming more real to us that we will soon be leaving this great land of Russia. We are in awe of the vastness of this land, of the diversity and the culture of the land and the beauty and goodness of its  people.  We are just now getting a clue as to what these people have been through and the challenges they have endured and conquered as they have lived under the heavy thumb of Communism and were so long denied the freedoms we take for granted in the United States.

I have started reading a book called "The Silence of God" written by Gale Sears. It came highly recommended. I am learning more about the growth of the Church here in this land.

In 988 AD Prince Vladimir of Kiev brought Christianity to Russia. In 1037 his son Yaroslav the first laid the foundation for the "Holy Wisdom of God Cathedral" in Kiev, which still stands today. Since that time the Orthodox Christian churches have kept the light of faith alive.

But some are finding that the Orthodox church is not enough. They are looking for more truth.

In June 1844 the prophet Joseph Smith was planning on sending  Elder Orson Hyde and Elder George Adams to Russia. He saw the empire of Russia in vision.  However, shortly after, the prophet was murdered and they did not come.

In 1895 Tsar Nicholas ll issued a "Proclamation of Freedom of Conscience", meaning that the people would be able to "look about for truth." This was truly a miracle.

In August 1903 President Francis Marion Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the land of Russia "for the preaching of the gospel and that religious freedom might be given so all can worship without persecution."  Alma and Johan Lindholf, the first members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia (having been baptized in Finland which was part of Russia) were present at the dedicatory prayer of opening this great land to the preaching of the gospel.

Elder Lyman petitioned the Lord to send servants "full of wisdom and faith" to declare the gospel to the Russians in their own language.

Here we are serving in the Russia Moscow Mission office, having the privilege of serving 106 young missionary elders and sisters and senior couples who are doing just that.  They are declaring the gospel to the Russian people in their own language. These dedicated young men and women are sharing the light and opening doors to these wonderful people who have been waiting.

It is incredibly humbling to have played the tiniest part in seeing this come to pass. For Russia truly is blossoming as a rose in freedom and knowledge.

David and I can truthfully say that this experience in Russia has been a highlight in our lives and we thank God for blessing us with this chance to serve in this great land of Russia.

As we prepare to return to the States, we do so with mixed feelings and great love for those we are leaving behind.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Last visa trip group

Sadly, we are beginning our "lasts" as we are in our last month here in Russia. Today was our last visa group. For the last time, I got out the bread I bought this morning fresh from the productee, the peanut butter and jam, sliced some bananas and left them for our hungry missionaries to enjoy when they returned from their migration/visa trip to Riga Latvia. They turned around shortly after arriving there for the flight back to Moscow.

For the past many months, we have provided peanut butter and jam, nutella and honey for our missionaries to munch on when they come into the office  to have their documents scanned. food on the plane isn't always the tastiest, and thanks to Samantha Michalczyk, who sent me 16 jars of the nutty treat a year ago, our missionaries have enjoyed this snack when they come into the office. Several months ago, the productee started carrying peanut butter (at almost $10 for a small jar) so I was able to continue providing this after I ran out of Samantha's peanut butter a few months ago. They love it and they appreciate it.

What I love is the interaction with missionaries I don't get to see very often, some coming into the office from the outer cities. Today I bade farewell to Elder Potter and Sister McDaniel among others whom I will not see again. How I love these young men and women! They have become so dear to Elder Sutton and I as we have helped provide them with those things they need from the office.

Elder Atterton asked when we were going home and when I said the end of the month, he gave me a "look."  "Sister Sutton we don't want you and Elder Sutton to go!"

Part of me will stay behind with these wonderful missionaries and the experiences we have had here will stay with both of us for a lifetime.

There are more "lasts" ahead, and we are taking them one at a time. As nice as it will be to see our family again, leaving Russia will most definitely be bittersweet.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Don Quixote

August ,5 Dave and I, along with 5  other senior couples attended a ballet in the little theatre next door to the famous Bolshoi. It was called "The Theatre of Young People". It is in an older building, not nearly as elegant as some theatres we have been into: nevertheless, it had a homey feeling. There were fans and programs for sale. The theatre is not air conditioned and can get quite warm' thus, they sell fans. I bought one, but where we were sitting, there was a cross breeze from an outside window and we were very comfortable. We had great seats.
We have never been to a ballet before and neither one of us was quite sure what to expect.
The program spelled out what was going on in each of the scenes. The performers were cast perfectly!  What a wonderfully delightful experience it was. The performers were very professional and the costumes they wore were beautiful.
There was humor and not only was the dancing superb, but they were great actors as well. We enjoyed ourselves so much.
It was a perk being with our wonderful friends and fellow missionaries. This may be the last or one of the last opportunities we will have in Russia to attend a performance such as this.
A delightful evening.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


August 3 was a BEAUTIFUL day with temperatures in the 70's with a little breeze and sunny skies Elder Ken and Sister Jeannie Pierson, Elder Paul and Sister Shirley Millar, Elder Dean Smart and Sister Carolyn Sonda and Dave and I went to see the "wooden wonders of Kilomenskoye."
Kolomenskoye is a former royal estate in Moscow, Russia. The ancient village of Kolomenskoye  was first mentioned in 1339!

We arrived early and decided to take a walk around the park.  And walk we did. We walked for almost seven miles around this beautiful estate to see the sites! As we walked along, we saw the Church of the Ascension built in 1532  in white stone to commemorate the long-awaited birth of an heir to the throne, the future Ivan the Terrible. Behind it you can see the Moscow River.

We passed many apple trees, cemeteries sprinkled throughout the grassy areas of residents who used to live here. Sadly, many of the little homes were ordered destroyed  within the past 100 years.
We passed this horse drawn carriage as we were walking
This was a beautiful carriage we tried to get a picture of (but they moved it)

We walked up 100 plus stairs and down to continue our tour of these vast grounds. We passed an overlook where we were able to see for miles into Moscow and the Moscow River.

As we continued along we had another 100 stairs to climb and down again. we made our way around to the highlight and the main purpose of our trip today. The Wooden Palace.

In 1640, tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich ordered the construction of a luxurious wooden palace. It was built entirely without saws or nails and had 250 rooms and 3000 windows. Peter the Great spent part of his youth there. The palace fell into disrepair and Catherine ll refused to live there and had it demolished in 1768. A wooden model of the palace survived and a full-scale reconstruction of the Wooden Palace was completed in 2010. It is spectacular.

It is referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was built also without saws or nails. It also has 250 rooms and 3000 windows. WOW. The furnishings are either original from the period and in some cases replicated.

We enjoyed our tour very much. It is very beautiful. It is a nice change of pace seeing wooden buildings because most of the buildings in Moscow are cement and glass.
this is the church where there was a funeral going on. It certainly wasn't an easy place to access. but it is a church used today. Here is the name of the church:
The Church of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner (the Baptist)
the front door was open and the open casket was right inside the door. there was music playing.
This lovely church is called The Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan
the Moscow River behind me
L-R - Sister Millar, Sister Pierson, Elder Pierson, Elder Millar and yours truly in front

                                         there was a red carpet on the stairs leading into the Wooden Palace.
We obviously were not able to go into all the rooms. We did see many of them though. The men and women each had their own "side." There were these HUGE intricately designed ovens used to keep each room warm. We could not figure out how they worked because there didn't appear to be any openings.
in the bath room there was a huge pit to heat large stones to make things steamy. I hope to have pictures later to share.
until then, dos vidonya.

Moscow River cruise

We chose a lovely day to go on a boat trip on the Moscow River. The weather was beautiful and sunny, without being too hot. We enjoyed going with our friends, Elder and Sister Richard and Jeannie Pierson and our wonderful office elders, Elder Bradford and Elder Bugg. We were able to sit up on the top. There were a lot of visitors from America. We heard English on every side of us. Drifting down the Moscow River we could see the Kremlin, Red Square and other beautiful buildings. Their architecture is so lovely. There is so much beauty in this vast land!
Our office elders, Daniel Bradford and Adam Bugg
Building with a face  
Jeannie and Dick Pierson and yours truly
Peter the Great
Side view of the space shuttle
Christ the Savior Cathedral, largest in the country
Russian flag with Christ the Savior Cathedral in the background
One of the Seven Sisters (one of seven buildings that look the same scattered throughout Moscow.)
St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square
YO! Our elders enjoying the cruise
Interesting sculpture

Our last fast and testimony meeting in Zelonograd

The first Sunday of the month is almost always Fast and Testimony meeting in the Mormon Church. It gives members a chance to stand and bear their testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It allows us to strengthen each other. Since we will be leaving at the end of the month, this was the last one we will be attending in our Zelongrad Ward in Zelonograd, Russia.
Due to the language barrier, our participation in our ward has been limited. Sometimes one of us would make a comment in Sunday School class (we attended the Investigator's class which caters to those who are "checking out" the Church.) One of our young missionaries would translate for us. But for the most part, we have not been able to take an active part.
Anyway, today being Fast and Testimony meeting, I decided to ask our Sister Nielsen to translate for me so I could share my feelings with the Zelonograd Ward, which has been our home ward for 17 months.
I was taken by surprise by how hard it was standing up there looking out at these people whom I have grown to love . It's true that I don't know all their names, but I can tell you where they sit in Sacrament meeting. I can tell you if they are missing from church. One of those most dear to me is Tyeetzeeya, a babushka in her early 80's. We have always seemed to have a special connection and she has given us gifts which I will always cherish. (She used to be a singer and she has given me a cassette of her singing that she put together especially for Dave and I).
She told me before Church started that she was going to bear her testimony and that she would probably cry because she loves the church so much.
Because we haven't had a chance to share much, I didn't want to leave this country without this ward knowing how I felt about them. I wanted them to know that it had been a privilege to play a small part in helping the church to grow here in this great land of Russia. I wanted them to know that I loved serving in the mission office serving our missionaries who in turn served them and so many others. I wanted them to know I loved them.
I don't remember exactly what I said, but after I spoke a couple of other members who shared their testimonies, thanked us for our service.  After the meeting was over I had two different sisters, Natasha and Olga come up and give me gifts (of Russian chocolate). The missionaries we share this with will be most grateful :0).
One sister (I don't know her name) came up behind me and gave me a big hug and kept whispering spasiba, spasiba (which means thank you.) Another sat next to me and put her arm around me ad said spasiba, spasiba. One brother who has always been very friendly, came up and wrapped me in a big hug and kissed me on the cheek (not normal behavior for the normally reserved men). A big hug from Luba and warm smiles from others let me know that they understand how we feel about them. 
I played peek-a-boo with Ina, a toddler I have known since birth, 7 year old Nikita ran up to us as we walked to church from the church and wanted us to walk with him and his grandma, little Slava, while no hug today called me baboola. (means grandmother) Both of these little boys 7 year old Nikita reminds me of our grandson Kevin and little Slava  makes it a bit easier to be away from our precious grandchildren.
One sister wanted to know when we were coming back and offered her home to us to stay if we came back for a visit.  Through some help from one of our missionaries she shared that even though we weren't able to talk to each other, she enjoyed the smiling spirit that I shared with her.
It was one of our nicest days in Z-grad.
It will be hard to say dosvidonya.
I want to say to them spasiba, spasiba....thank you for your example, for your dedication and for making our stay in a foreign country so much more pleasant.
Next week I will be taking pictures of our wonderful ward family and will share them on FB and the blog. I don't want to forget the faces of these incredible people.