Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We left Salt Lake City at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday August 18 and flew into Denver. We left Denver around 6 p.m. to Frankfurt, Germany. That was an extremely loooong flight! We arrived in Frankfurt Wednesday afternoon. We flew on Luftsana Airlines. It was a comfortable flight for the most part. Each seat had their own headset with personal tv screen that they could choose from several different movies to watch. Joe was able to watch educational movies most of the way over, however, I could not watch movies so close because it caused me to feel dizzy. I tried to sleep most the way to keep my stomach calm. When it became dark outside it was easier to sleep. I think we both got about 2 hours good sleep and then we had flown into a new time zone and the sun was out in all its glory. We flew through several time zones. We are just now feeling like we are on normal sleep patterns again.
We had a 2 hour lay over in Frankfurt then boarded a bus from the terminal and it took us out where the planes were parked. They don't park them like Bellingham or Seattle at a terminal, they're sitting out on the tarmack. the bus followed a line on the cement while other vehicles seemed to have their own lines to follow. We departed off the bus and walked up a flight of stairs into the plane. Joe and I don't even remember leaving the ground, we were both fast asleep as soon as we were buckled in our seats.
We arrived in St. Petersburg a couple of hours later. We had to fill out a swine flu form to turn in to the airline personnel before departing the plane. We also had custom papers to fill out as well as immigration information. Once we entered the terminal (much smaller than we expected) our luggage was already on the conveyor belt. We loaded up a cart and had to go through immigration and get a special orange stamp that is part of our very important papers we have to keep on us at all times.
When we came out of the terminal onto the sidewalk there were 4 young elders there to greet us. We were soooo happy to see other Americans. We greeted them with, "Family!" They laughed and happily greeted us. Elder Holm had been temporarily handling the finances and was soooo happy to see Joe! We loaded into a van and our driver, Igor, sped through the streets to the church building so fast I had to hold on to a handle. There seems to be only one speed - as fast as you can go. We've seen many cars drive on the sidewalks to get through traffic jams. So we watch before we cross a street - and - walking on the sidewalks.
The Neva River runs directly in front of our building. Our apartment building is next to the church building. Each building is very tall. (Again, pictures to come).
Joe and I have spent each day walking about 5 - 10 miles to get food and/or money from the ATM to cover expenses. Our first Saturday here when we went downtown to see a bit of St. Petersburg, we had walked 10 miles. (I miss my chiropractor!!!) We both feel better otherwise by all the walking we are doing.
There is a large bridge going over the Neva river that most of the times we've crossed over a newly married couple are in the middle of it being photographed while cars are speeding by. I guess its a popular wedding ceremonial thing.
Joe and I discovering more and more of our responsibilities in the office and our minds are spinning a bit more today. It's coming along though.
Please email us if anyone has questions that we're not including in our blog. I'm sure we're not covering everyone's curiosity, so please let us know.
We send our love to family and friends.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The people here at church and the office are so warm and welcoming. Walking on the streets is different. People don't look at you or smile. We walk everywhere and/or take a bus or the metro. To take the metro you walk down a short flight of stairs from the street and it seems like your walking through a lighted corrider at Fort Casey, then you walk down another short flight of stairs, buy your tickets for the underground metro and take an escalator down about 300 feet! A bit daunting! (The good thing is we've already lost several pounds!) Because we have to walk to get groceries as well, we don't buy much and cook everything - no more eating fast food! That's a good thing.
The young elders and sister missionaries are awesome! We admire their strengths and postive attitutes! They walk everywhere as well and can usually only try to teach people on the streets because you cannot go into any of the apartment buildings. All homes are in the form of apartments. You need a special magnet key to open the heavy metal door to enter the building, then another magnet key to open your personal metal door, and then a regular key to open a wooden door to your apartment. The building we live in and the surrounding ones were built during the communists era. The apartments downtown St. Petersburg are quite elaborate. We live about a 45 minute walk from downtown.
We have to make sure we carry our passports and other important documents in a special purse which we carry against our body under our clothes. We have a photocopy of all these documents that we carry more accessible in case we are stopped by police on the streets to see our documents. You see police and/or military personnel on the streets frequently.
It has been a culture shock for both of us, but there are other senior missionaries that have taken us around a little bit to help orientate us to the surroundings. One couple took us on a boat tour through one of the canals through downtown St. Petersburg. I will post pictures later.
We've been surprised that most people we've come in contact with speak some broken English. But for the most part we really feel out of our element because we have no idea what people are speaking.
We have been learning our responsiblities in the mission office. Joe oversees the finances and I need to keep track of all the missionaries coming/going and travel arrangements, etc. We presently have close to 50 missionaries. Their are more missionaries arriving soon. The visa process is getting a bit easier allowing more missionaries to come.
We really miss everyone! Our anticipated release date is 3 July 2011. Until then, we'll keep posting. Keep those prayers coming!
Love to all
Joe & Jeanie
Monday, August 17, 2009
Yahoooooo! We are off to Russia Tuesday afternoon. We fly from Salt Lake City to Denver at 1:28 p.m.; Denver to Frankfurt, Germany 6 p.m.; Frankfurt to St. Petersburg at 2 p.m. arriving at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday in St. Petersburg. We've packed and ready to go!!
We had lunch with a senior couple today that served with the Herr's (senior couple we are replacing). They just had lunch with them this past Saturday and discussing Joe and I in replacing them in St. Petersburg. The couple just arrived in the MTC today to go out as humanitarians in another country. They've been home from their St. Petersburg mission for a year.
They served with the Herr's during the 18 months they served in St. Petersburg. We thought it remarkable that with over 2400 missionaries in the MTC they arrive today and just happen to sit next to us at lunch! We learned a lot about what the city is like and the work the Herr's did in the office. It sounds like I won't be seeing much of Joe - Elder Herr worked late each day and most Saturdays. Since Joe will be overseeing financing ... I'll just see how much I can contribute to make things speed along!!
We'll let everyone know of our safe arrival when we get set up.
Joe and Jeanie
Friday, August 14, 2009
Here is a photo of the group of other Senior Missionaries we studied with here at the MTC.
We're being sent all over the world. Some of the places are: Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Philippines, Cyprus, Italy, Figi, New Zealand, Finland, and of course Russia. Some are staying in the U.S. with assignments to Temple Square (Utah), Nauvoo, IL; Washington, D.C.; the church genealogy center in Salt Lake City, Utah; Megan, Georgia, and Lubbock, Texas.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Joe and I have completed our office training. We will not be leaving for Russia tomorrow as initially planned because our visas have not arrived here at the MTC. We expect them Monday. Tomorrow we are going to attend a Russian language class with the younger elders and sisters. They are provided a more comprehensive language training program then the senior missionaries.
We have some great websites to share with you that explain where we came from, why we're here, and where we are going. Also, they have beautiful messages and music.
God Bless all of you!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Hello Family & Friends
Joe and I have a much slower pace this week. We are learning our duties as Office Specialists. Joe will be overseeing the finances and automobiles for the mission area and I will be the personal secretary to the Mission President which includes managing all the other affairs of the office.
We've been learning the latest upgrades on Microsoft Word and Excel and will be learning IMOS (Internet Missionary Operating System) the rest of the week.
Very interesting information on the inside workings of helping the missionaries in the field as well as teaching the importance of respect for others and being honest in all dealings with our fellow man.
We're not sure if we will be getting our visas this Friday as planned. The travel department just received the information from church headquarters about our leaving for Russia two months early and told us to get a hold of them tomorrow. They've submitted the information to Russia for our visas. If they don't come in, Joe and I plan on staying here at the MTC to continue training on other worldwide services the church provides, such as, welfare and humanitarian services. We will also work in the call center by answering phone calls from people around the U.S. requesting church materials.
We have been enjoying the MTC and the Holy Spirit we feel here. It truly feels like a slice of Heaven.
I'm going to end with a story that was told to us this past Sunday evening.
The speaker told of his story when he was a young man needing to make one more flight using only the instrument panels in his plane, fly through a Idaho canyon and land the plane, in order to receive his pilots license. His instructor, Dave Smith, was at his side. The young man put on the blinders and piloted the plane for about 15 minutes. All was going well. Suddenly, Mr. Smith grabbed the yoke and spun it causing the plane to go into a downward spiral. The young man threw off his blinders and grabbed the yoke and managed to put the plane back where it belonged.
The young man was confused as to why Mr. Smith would do such a thing. Mr. Smith asked, "Did you know that you were off course by two degrees?" The young man replied, "Yes." Mr. Smith asked, "And that's ok with you?" The young man replied, "Yes, it's alright with me, I don't see it being a problem."
Mr. Smith then told the young man that if he felt it was ok to be a few degrees off course that he would never entrust his family in any plane he flew because they would never reach their destination - they would be miles off course.
The speaker concluded that this true story relates to all of our lives here on earth. If we give into living our lives forgoing just a few of the gospel principles to show us the way home to live with our Heavenly Father again, we will never reach the destination. It is important to strive with all diligence in learning what Jesus Christ teaches all of us in His Holy Scriptures on how we can live like Him and return to that Celestial Glory of living with Him again.
We loved that story. We love all of you and testify that we know that Jesus Christ knows each one of us personally. He suffered all of our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and knows what pains, suffering, and fear we have and ever will experience. He will always be there to comfort us and help us. We need to remember to always pray to Him and let go of trying to control our lives on our own.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
The address is:
Elder Joseph Luna
St. Petersburg, Russia Mission
2005 North 900 East
Provo, UT 84604-1793
August 8, 2009
We have had an amazing week here at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah!
We arrived Monday, August 3, 2009. We arrived 15 minutes late for our first class (due in part that our mission departure date moved from October to August and the flights available brought us to Provo later in the day for check in). We had a busy first day unpacking, attending classes and meeting other senior missionaries.
Tuesday night we heard from Provo Temple President Merrill J. Bateman at a devotional. Prior to his address approximately 3,500 missionaries sang the hymn “Because I Have Been Given Much.” It was as if this hymn was intended just for us. We could not contain our tears. This hymn depicts the need to give to others what we have been blessed with by the Lord.
Wednesday President Ed J. Pinegar affirmed to us that we as Senior Missionaries were “living” the Law of Consecration. He spoke of the need for more senior missionaries.
Thursday Brother & Sister Tree, a senior couple, addressed us. This sweet couple had recently returned from their fourth mission together. It was with sadness that he said it would be their last. He was being retired due to his age. He is 78 and his wife 76. They had only been home 6 months from their third mission when they were called on their fourth mission. She suffered a stroke just prior to their departure. Four months after her stroke they left for their mission to
There are 36 couples and five sisters in our group. For some in our group it is their second, third, and even fourth missions. The group is being assigned to all the corners of the world; Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Philippines, Cyprus, Italy, Fiji, New Zealand, Finland, and of course, Russia. Some were staying in the
Today at the
We cannot express in word the joy and love we have for Jesus Christ and our gratitude to Him to enable us to serve a mission in
We have experienced such a wonderful time this past week and have been overwhelmed by the Spirit despite our 15 hour days. We are grateful to be serving the Lord and ask for your continued prayers.
P.S. We spoke to two elders this evening that are studying Russian. They are two of a hundred missionaries that will enter the field the end of this month. Another 60 will be arriving next week to begin their preparations for serving in