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.