Monday, November 29, 2010

Sestoretsk Visit

Joe and I visited the town of Sestoretsk Sunday to give talks and fellowship with this small branch of the Church. I've included pictures of the inside of the chapel.

Winter pictures near the bus stop we were at. It was a beautiful sunny day, but extremely cold!

The one picture shows some of the typical winter travel arrangements (sleds or intertubes).

The picture with the dog is Elder Haggard (who has also been assigned the branch president). A young lady came to church and brought her dog.

There are 3 branches that don't have priesthood leaders to operate the branches so missionaries have been assigned to not only proseltye but to run the church branches. Keep in mind these missionaries are only 19-20 years old. They are doing a remarkable job in keeping up the finances, visiting the elderly, and assisting with all other matters to the church members.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving November 2010

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner with President Podvodov and his wife Sister Podvodova (sitting at the head of the table), other mission office staff, and the McArthur's (CES couple). Everyone brought a food item. It was a great experience to eat Russian food for Thanksgiving. All the food was very good.
Although Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Russia, the mission president holds this annual dinner for the benefit of the missionaries. Prior to dinner Sister Podvodova shared a popular Russian story of giving thanks and we sang a hymn "Love One Another."

Table being prepared. Joe's chicken/vegetable lasagna in the foreground.

This was a 3 layer cake. Tasted a bit like a spice cake.

This is a cream cheese cake

Turkey covered with cheese, and yes, mayonnaise. Made by Sister Podvodova. Very delicious.

This is a pumpkin pie. Very delicious braided sweet bread filled with shredded cooked pumpkin.

These are a mushroom mix inside little pastries.

Random Photos for November

Walking to Brother Nikiforov and Irinia Degtyaryova's wedding November 25. Just another snowy, cold day in Russia!

This is the exterior of the building of the wedding we attended. This building was also rented by the Church where the first branch held services in the early 90s.

"Chef Joe"
He's becoming well-known throughout the mission for his excellent cooking. He took this photo for the cover of a cook book he is putting together.
Joe's first baptism.
This little girl's name is Serinyeh Sergoyevnah Yenokyahn.
Her mother was baptized a few weeks ago and is from Armenia.
This beautiful scarf was made by a sister as a thank you for a service we provided for her.

Russian Wedding of Dmitri Nikiforov and Irina Degtyaryova

Dima and Irina were married Thursday, November 25, 2010. They are a wonderful couple and dated a few years prior to them serving their missions.
Dima (served his mission in Finland) and Irina (served her mission in Siberia).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


When we're out on our walks we have come across people walking their dogs and find their little outfits really cute. When I ask if I can take a photo their eyes light up and their faces beam. You can tell they love their pets and LOVE having their own pictures taken!

Also, one of Joe's favorite things is feeding the pigeons.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 8 - 14

Joe: Today I was asked by President Podvodov to be his second counselor. He has been without a second counselor since September 2009 when his second counselor was called to be a member of the Helsinki Finland Temple presidency. He will officially call me on Sunday for a sustaining vote by the members. He has asked me to help with renewing temple recommends for those that already hold a current recommend. He has also asked that Jeanie and I visit and speak at some of the other mission branches in the mission.

He also talked to Jeanie and me about an incident that happened while he and his wife were away in Kiev, Ukraine during the last week of October. One of the sisters was trying to get a hold of President or Sister Podvodova while in Kiev saying she thinks she is having an apenditices attack. Sister Podvodova asked her questions regarding the various pains she is having and said that it’s something else than an apenditices attack. But unbeknownst to anyone here in the mission that she spoke with Sister Podvodova she preceded to call Elder Hunt (one of the assistance to the president) and another doctor in the mission and described the symptoms of an apenditices attack. Therefore, between Elder Hunt, Elder Hazlewood (another senior missionary), the doctor, and I we felt she needed to go to the hospital. So Elder Hunt called an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital.

Because Sister Podvodova was not in town and wasn’t able to approve medical attention to the medical clinic contracted by the mission, the sister was taken to another more expensive clinic. Needless to say, she only had what appeared to be an intestinal infection and was treated with medication. The cost was around 28,000 rubles or $1,000 U.S.

While in this meeting today President Podvodov said that he and Sister Podvodova were not happy the way things turned out due to the fact the sister wasn’t being honest with her systems as she tried this same tactic a few weeks back. So he said to avoid confusion in the future if they are out of town that I’m to make the final decision to medical treatment and to be sure to get all the facts directly.

Jeanie: Today was a busy follow up day from yesterday. We had our district meeting and then I sat down with Elder Berven who is the senior companion in the mission office and went through 4 large piles of paperwork that has been sitting in his paper trays on his desk. I helped him organize a filing system and reviewed emails and how to color code them as to who needs to respond to them. The emails that come to the mission office can be addressed for many different needs and sometimes items are not taken care of because everyone thinks the other person has taken care of it.

He felt fantastic when we were done and he liked having my help. It’s hard sometimes to remember that the missionaries that are called to serve in the office have never worked in an office before and know basically nothing about computers or how to work in an office. Other missionaries are so proficient on computers it blows my mind. The last elder that was transferred out was a computer programmer in college and was super intelligent. Elder Berven has been doing a fantastic job in trying to understand the workings of an office these past 6 months he’s been serving.

I went to my 2 hour yoga class tonight. I came home exhausted and slept so well. I definitely need to keep up on yoga when I get home. It looks easy, but my heart rate is always elevated even when I might be lying on the floor holding a wooden dowel in the air for 15 seconds plus other simple techniques. Yoga is more about toning and strengthening then aerobic exercise, yet I feel like I had just as great a workout if not more so.

Jeanie: Joe and I went to the U.S. Consulate today to turn in the first of 20 applications for new 2nd passports. We took the underground metro. This single event took us 2 hours round trip. It’s just not feasible to do more than 2 things in a day if it involves taking public transportation. But it sure is nice to feel more comfortable with the subway. It’s much warmer underground and quicker then standing on a bus in a traffic jam.

They’re saying that by next year St. Petersburg will have reached its maximum capacity with cars and will basically be in a gridlock. With low interest rates it has helped car sales boom, but the city just isn’t designed to handle so many drivers.

It’s going to be strange to drive again when we get home after not driving for 2 years.

Sister Podvodova came into the office today and said that the area presidency in Moscow will be coming for a tour the end of January and will be assessing upgrading the office. Some furniture is quite old and needs to be replaced as well as making a more secure reception area to keep visitors from looking at paperwork, etc, on the office elder’s desk. I can see where a lot of things are going to be a bit busy the beginning of 2011. The mission president will be released on July 1 and we’re to be released July 3. Therefore, things really need to be prepared which includes training for our replacements.

New mission presidents are not trained. They come to each mission and spend about an hour with the mission president being released and set up the mission in the way they feel inspired by the Lord to do so.

Left to Right:
Elder Hunt, Elder Berven, Elder Nielsen, Elder Anthony
Jeanie: Happy Veteran’s Day. Another busy day organizing flights for missionaries coming and going and passport applications. I finally decided to have all the missionaries that need a passport photo to go have it professionally done. It only costs 300 rubles for 4 pictures (about $10). Without my printer wanting to print on photo paper and trying to figure out Photo Shop it just wasn’t worth the headache anymore and I’m on a time frame.

Elder Hunt (one of the assistants) wanted to honor Joe and Elder Hazlewood (another senior missionary) for their service in Vietnam. He made a delicious chocolate cake. Elder Hunt and his companion as well as the office elders, myself, and Elder Hazlewood’s wife, sang the National Anthem and Elder Hunt presented them a cake. They also had written a card to each of them and wrote a message. It was very, very touching. It also made me choke up singing our National Anthem. I really miss America. Here were their messages to Joe:

"Elder Luna, I want you to know that I am so grateful for your service to our country. Your life of service for the benefit of others is such a great example to me. I am grateful for your sacrifice for America and for your service to us and the Russian people here. In all of it, you are serving God. I am thankful for your wisdom and advice for us. Have a great Veteran's Day."
Love Elder Nielsen

"Elder Luna, I am also very grateful for your service and sacrifice, not only to our country, but also to those here in Russia. You teach me a great deal and make the office, and mission, an enjoyable place. Enjoy yourself and remind you lots of people love and appreciate you."
Love Elder Anthony

"Elder Luna, I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your service. The longer I am out of America, the more I grow to love her more and more. As an American citizen I take my hat off to y ou for your sacrifice and say thank you. I also thank you for your love, sacrifice, and service here in St. Petersburg. You fought for our country, and hence me, in Vietnam, and now you are even willing to stand up and fight for me when certain decisisions like ordering ambulances are being questioned. I really do appreciate it. You are my hero, Elder Luna. God Bless."
Love Elder Hunt

"Elder Luna, I would just like to thank you for your service to this mission and for our country. you are a joy to be arond, and your testimony of Christ has eternally strengthend my own. I will always remember our office time!"
Love Elder Berven
Joe: Words cannot express how moved I was by this outpouring of love, appreciation and gratitude. This more then offsets my reception back to America after my service in Viet Nam. I am proud of my country and these fine young men are a great examples of the growth of our nation. Some of my friends paid the ultimate price serving their country. Others still have nightmares from their experiences after all these many years. You missionary parents have done a wonderful job of restoring patriotism and a respect for those that serve their nation now and in the past through your children. Thank you!!!

My dear friend Karen trying on a hat
Jeanie: My day started at 9 am when I left the apartment and met up with Karen Hazlewood. We went to have our massages today and afterwards went out to lunch, shopped for winter boots for Karen and found a few other needful items before ending up at the grocery store. We stopped in one hat store and had fun trying on different styles of fur hats. This one picture I took of Karen wearing this hat that looked like a rock star style hair do. I had taken our large cart with us which helped carry the groceries home. We still ended up needing 4 grocery bags to carry bread and other lighter food items home. It took us 45 minutes to walk home. Before I went home I stopped by that little corner store where I gave the Book of Mormon to a clerk but then she was gone a couple days later – well the whole store was closed for remodel. That was good news. I’m hoping she comes back once it’s all complete.
We got home at 4:45 p.m. It was another great day out of the office and spending time with “girly” talk and enjoy and shopping.

Joe: Spent most of the day taking care of paper work and answering questions related to finances for the missionaries. Will I get compensated for this? When do I need to bring you rent? How much do I still have on my card? This are some of the more common ones asked. The mission is getting ready for year end tithing settlement and passed on a note from the Area Auditor Elder Budd related to the midyear audit.

Tonight we went to the church building and watched a wonderful live performance of Russia Folkfare. There was singing and dancing of Ukrainian and Russian folk songs. The performers had on beautiful costumes. The only dissapointment was the
extremely poor attendance. I know one of the sisters in our branch spent a lot of time putting out posters and her best in letting members and the public know that the performance was to be at our church building. This Russian Folkfare group is putting on performances at 5 venues this month here in St. Petersburg and agreed to perform at our building tonight.

The entire front of the chapel was transformed by taking down the podium and half wall on each side of it which opened up the whole front end of the chapel. The partitioned walls between the chapel and the culture hall were opened and the entire cultural hall was filled with folding chairs all the way back to the stage. However, the chapel pews were hardly filled let alone any of the cultural hall. We think part of the problem may have been the fact it’s very difficult to find our chapel. It’s in a 3 story building and the address comprises of an entire city block of 4 very large apartment buildings next to it. So when our church address is given it’s hard to figure out where it is in this large complex area. There were no signs out on the road giving directions. Nor any around the complex. But for those of us in attendance we were richly blessed by the beautiful songs sung.
Jeanie: I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning and decided to work on updating our blog. I also need to finish the mission newsletter for November but decided to work on that next week. Even though it’ll be late I know it’ll be appreciated. I try to keep the newsletter as part of the mission history. I’m waiting for a few more items to come in so I can add them.

I also got our personal and mission finances up-to-date. I took a nap abour 9 a.m. while Joe took time of the computer. He then got ready to go to Worldwide Leadership Training at 10 a.m. He came back shortly thereafter though. They are apparently taping the broadcast from Salt Lake City and then showing it to all the leader this evening at 6 p.m. due to the fact all the leaders were working today. Russians had a 4 day weekend off last weekend for National Unity Day so they had to make up one day this weekend.

After working on the blog for a couple of hours we walked down the street to purchase batteries for the camera and more ink for our printer in the apartment. It was rather warm today. It had been raining, but we didn’t need gloves, hats, or scarves. Very pleasant walk.

We attended a baptism at 3 p.m. I felt impressed to take my eye glass repair kit in case Elder Beck was there. One of the arms on his eye glass frame lost a screw a few weeks back. He was there and we were successful in finding a screw from the kit that fit his glasses.

Elder White was trying to trick us when giving the hymn numbers throughout the baptism. Because we don’t understand the larger numbers in Russian he would tell us a different number and then Elder Broadhead would correct him because he was translating for us. Well I got even with Elder White afterwards. He was joking around about the number goof and felt justified because he translated for Joe when Joe bore his testimony.

There were 4 missionaries talking with me and were wishing for some cookies. I told them I would make oatmeal/butterscotch cookies and bring them to transfers on Nov. 24. Then we decided on a secret password they could use when they’re in the office so only they would get the cookies. When leaving I told Elder White. “Elder White, to bad you left the group a little early now you don’t know the password.” He said, “Sister Luna, what password and for what!!” I said I’m not telling and to get the password he would have to interragate the other elders.  Of course, I’m making enough cookies for everyone, but I’ll let him sweat it out.

We received a package today from Matthew Clark. He went home from the mission in April. It was so very thoughtful of him. He has skyped us a few times as well. He sent a rather large box a few months ago and inside was a bunch of goodies. We shared with as many missionaries knowing Matt would like that as well. This package had a book from Gale Sears titled “The Silence of God.” It’s a fiction novel but based on actual events of the Lindlof Family who were the first family members of the Church here in Russia. He also had two Heath and Skor candy bars for us!! I ate a Heath immediately. No since in waiting to indulge!
We have been so surprised by these gifts. He is working his way through college now but still thinks of us.
Tonight I attended a delayed broadcast(video) of the world wide leadership training. Two of the three missionaries that serve as branch presidents in the mission were present. I am moved by the dedication and service of these fine young men. The Lord is truly preparing them for some greater purpose in life. Their companions, Elder Shrader and Elder Balabanov translated for me. I would have been lost without their service. The training was so diffirent from what I have been accustom to. Our prophet Thomas S. Monson opened the meeting but neither of his councilors was present. All of the training was provided by members of the apostles plus a panel that included not only apostles but Sister Julie B. Beck , President of the General Relief Society and President Walter F. Gonzalez of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy.

The chapel was really full today in our church meeting. The whole right half of the pews were pretty much filled with the senior couples and all the students from America that are here teaching English. There is a new couple and their three children that have moved in our area. Their last name is Brown. He served a mission several years ago in the Novsibirsk mission. He had been a contract worker for our government in Moscow and now is a paid employee with our state department for the next two years. They live close to the U.S. Consulate. His wife wasn’t at church today, she was at home with their youngest child who was sick.

Joe: I had the opportunity to pass the sacrament to the members. It is such a wonderful priviledge for me to serve the members in this way. There are only three active Aaronic Priesthood holders in the branch and when one of them is unable to attend the missionaries are able to assist. Elder Hazlewood and I were also asked to stand in with the comfirmation of the member that was baptized two weeks ago. He was disappointed he didn’t have an opportunity to bear his testimony. He is from Lebanon.

Jeanie: We got home from church around 2:30. I felt sleepy. I took a warm shower and decided to take a nap. I awoke at 5:30 when the phone rang. I couldn’t believe I slept so long. But obviously I needed it. The Hazlewood’s had called and asked us over for ice cream. I had already changed into my sweat clothes and decided I wasn’t going to change. Joe was still in his church clothes. He took off his tie to feel more “casual” for my benefit.

We took over the 4 bananas we had, peanuts, and chocolate syrup. We all enjoyed a great evening of catching up on what we’ve been doing in the mission, eating our banana splits, and having some good laughs.

Joe’s Thoughts for the Week:

It has been such an honor for me to serve in this mission. The love and acceptance that I feel and receive from the members and missionaries is over whelming.

Jeanie’s Thoughts for the Week:

I have to say the thing that has been most apparent to me this week is seeing the continual change in both Joe and I throughout this mission. As I’ve had an “attitude adjustment” and not feel like I have to be in charge of everything (I know shocking) I have been more effective being in a supporting role to my husband. I love how he is continually growing spiritually and see the Lord at work in his life. I’m very proud of my husband and love and respect him so much. He never has waivered from a responsibility he has accepted and carries out his responsibilities with humility, love, and respect to all he serves for and with. He has been a great leader, teacher, and example to me.
I love my children and friends and thankful for each one of you in my life.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hello Family & Friends

Well, today (Saturday, November 14) I spent several hours getting our blog updated. While some of you have already read most of these updates, others have not. I found it easier to update everything from the weekly journals we keep and included photos. I've included a blog for the last part of September, all of October, and the first week of November.
There is a blog on another visit to Pushkin. While there we visited a historical museum that you history and art buffs might find interesting with lots of photos and descriptions. There are photos of some very old weapons that the men might enjoy (although as a woman I enjoyed them too.)
We really appreciate your devotion to reading our blog. A lot of work goes into it and when we write and take photos we have all of you in mind to share as much as we can and as if you were here.
Love to all of you!

Mission Journal November 1 - 7

North Zone

South Zone - Our zone

Center Zone

November 1 – 7, 2010
Joe & Jeanie Russian Journal

MONDAY: This week we have 3 days of zone conference. Today was busy preparing paperwork necessary for missionaries to sign for legal matters (passports more importantly). I worked all day on filling out passport applications for the missionaries. The forms are downloadable in a PDF format. So once the information has been typed in and printed you cannot save the form. After completing 17 of these applications I realized I had printed all the forms on the wrong size paper. AARGGHH! In Russia they use a longer size paper, but the U.S. consulate only takes 8 ½ x 11. Sooo, I had to start all over. But, once again, when I make mistakes it’s for a reason. I had noticed in redoing the applications that I had typed names incorrectly on page two which may have rejected the application process therefore having to pay again to reapply. The cost for each new passport is $110.
During lunch break I had paperwork for signatures ready for the group in attendance today and also passed out mail. Zone conference didn’t get finished until nearly 7 p.m.; the first time ever. Normally it’s out at 4 p.m. President Podvodov and his wife just returned from a week-long training in Kiev and they had prepared a very lengthy conference training. The missionaries said it was great training. We look forward to our meeting day which is Wednesday.
We ate dinner about 8 p.m.


Today was an extremely frustrating day for me. I’m trying to figure out Microsoft Picture Manager so I can take pictures of missionaries and format to the size necessary for passport photos. Every time I would print the picture my printer would jam! It hadn’t jammed before. But today was an exception. At one point I threw a paper clip across the office and tore up the photo paper after removing it from the printer and threw it on the floor. Once I took a few deep breaths and repented for my losing control I decided to stop trying to work on the pictures.
Zone conference was over at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Joe had gone home at 5 to start dinner (split pea soup with ham hock :).
After zone conference I took a group photo and had 4 missionaries fill out their paperwork. I also took pictures of them for their passport photos. I had asked anyone if they could take a few minutes and help me understand the photo program. Elder Balabanov and his companion stopped by my desk after leaving the conference and helped me with the photos by opening Photo Shop. We didn’t have enough time to thoroughly go through all the steps so I left the program open and on Thursday will review what he quickly did and see if I can figure out the rest. If not, he and his companion live close enough to the city I’ll ask the mission president if they can have time to come into the office and help me. I have hope now that we can print our own photos thereby saving the mission from having to pay for photos for all the missionaries.
Elder Anderson and Elder Gillett were still in the office when I was going to leave at 7:30. Elder Anderson had to fill out paperwork for his next visa application and I invited them over to enjoy some homemade soup if they would like. We were going to be up for a while yet because I was asked by our zone leaders to bake brownies for our zone conference tomorrow.
The building door phone rang in our apartment about 8 p.m. (Whenever anyone wants to enter the apartment building there is a dial pad outside the building that you dial in the apartment number and then the person pushes a button on their phone in their apartment to let someone in the building.) Both elders took up my offer for dinner. Split pea soup is one of Elder Gillett’s favorites and Elder Anderson never had it before. Joe cut up some fresh vegetables and toasted some whole wheat bread to include with the dinner. Both elders ate like they were starving. Elder Anderson is a huge young man and works out regularly by weight lifting a 5 gallon jug of water to keep up his bulk. Elder Anderson never commented on Joe’s soup but was slurping it down like no tomorrow. They also thanked us for the vegetables because in conference today Sister Podvodova reminded the missionaries they need to eat at least 5 vegetables everyday. Too many missionaries are getting sick and therefore she wants them to focus on healthier eating.
We heard an interesting story from Elder Anderson. He was relating a story of an investigator from Finland who had served time in jail and had recently finished up serving 6 years in prison for getting caught selling drugs. He had a rough upbringing but while in prison prior to this last sentence a priest who would visit inmates asked if he could pray to God for him. He thought that was really nice that someone cared enough to pray for him. From that point on he studied religion and had become a member of the Orthodox faith.
When he was in prison this last time he noticed another inmate reading the Book of Mormon. He had heard stories from others that the “Mormons are a cult, the Book of Mormon was evil and from Satan, and that Mormons went to cemeteries at night to perform work for the dead.” So he decided he was going to save this other inmate from hell. When he went to talk with him about that “evil book” he was reading the other inmate asked if he had read it. He had said no and that he didn’t want to because of it being evil. The inmate gave him a book about the Prophet Joseph Smith and of the fullness of God’s gospel being restored to the earth once more. He knew after reading about Joseph Smith and the restoration of the Priesthood and other important gospel facts that Jesus had established while living, that the Book of Mormon had to be the Word of God as is the Bible. He is preparing to become a member of the Church.
There has been several stories from other converts in the Church that have said that once they read the Book of Mormon they knew it was the word of God. One interesting scripture from the Book of Isaiah (chapter 29 verse 4) tells of the Book of Mormon that will come out in our time. “And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.”
The Book of Mormon was brought out of the ground by Joseph Smith where it had been buried years before by the Prophet Mormon. Also other scriptures in Ezekiel speaks about the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Ezekiel chapter 37: 15-16: The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, for Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it for Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.”
The word “stick” refers to the scrolls that were used anciently to write on. The stick of Judah is the Bible and the stick of Ephraim is the Book of Mormon.

WEDNESDAY: We had excellent training today in zone conference. The president focused his teaching on having everyone understand that to help bring people to God we need to have deep faith in God and Jesus Christ and sincere love for Them and others. By always having this love you will want to share that love (the Word of God) with others. Both he and Sister Podvodova focused their training on love and receiving personal revelation.
Sister Podvodova begin the meeting with focus on the Word of Wisdom – a prophecy given to Joseph Smith on the importance of abstaining from strong drink, smoking, eating too much meat; in other words eating healthy so we can live long and discover important reasons for our lives.
She quoted these scriptures from D&C 89:18-21 – Ánd all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”
She also said that when we are healthy we can do more service for others and the Lord and we’re not spending time recovering from illness and spending monies on medications.
President spent some time asking what each of our expectations is in life. By using a diagram, paralleled his expectations as a mission president and Heavenly Father’s expectation of us (which is much higher) and Satan’s (which is much lower). He explained by not meeting the goals he sets is because missionaries do not have enough love, faith, discipline in studying and work. Our Heavenly Father’s expectations are much higher and when we reach the mission president’s expectations we will reach higher expectations towards Heavenly Father’s. By reaching Heavenly Father’s expectations we will be better servants even after our mission. We will be better parents and grandparents and teach our family members to accomplish even more than we do.
He also pointed out that by not setting goals to achieve better for ourselves we make Satan happy.
President also said the Church is discontinuing English Club. There are strict rules that when the public comes to the club to learn English that it’s only to be a discussion. We are not allowed to write on the chalkboard or teach in any way because we need a teaching certificate for that. Some undercover police or government employees would attend and ask the missionary, “I’m not sure how the word looks like can you write it on the board?” When the missionary does then they report that they were teaching. The Church can be fined an extremely high amount of money if charged. He said that if anyone wants to learn English they can attend the institute class designed for teaching the gospel in English.
In continuing with his teaching, president Podvodov started to discuss the Book of Mormon and that it is: the Word of God; and 2nd testament of Jesus Christ; has the fullness of His Gospel; and is the only book in the world that teaches the completeness of the Atonement.
He continued with different key points to help others know they can receive personal revelation through prayers, reading the Book of Mormon and attending church meetings. We are to focus on teaching people and not lessons. To teach others we need to have love and focus on them. We are not to coerce or manipulate them because we’re walking in Satan’s territory.
We need to understand our own salvation before we can affectively help bring others to understand their own. He said that time is a gift of God. When focusing in sharing the gospel when we may have only five minutes we need to make them remember it for the rest of their lives.
President Podvodov had us ask ourselves any question and then said that we will find the answer in 2 Nephi chapter 31. (Chapter 31 reads about the Gospel of Jesus Christ). He said before we look for any answer about life that we need to pray and ask the question and to write the question down. Also, have faith that God will answer you. Then open the Book of Mormon not concerned as to where you’ll open it up because the Holy Ghost will guide you. When we read the scriptures we need to do so with real intent focusing on God and we’ll learn how to recognize the spirit. The answer won’t surprise us because we’ll know the Holy Ghost is directing us. He also said the entire answer may not be revealed all at once, but we’ll come to understand the answer to our questions throughout our lives when we continue to exercise our spiritual growth.
President and Sister Podvodova always do a great job in training and giving their insights to helping others feel love and a desire to commit their lives to God. Every time we attend their training sessions we have a deeper desire to refocus our lives towards God and wanting to continue to share it with others. We can tell how they have been chosen for this special calling to lead this mission.
The conference ended about 6:30 p.m. After taking a group photo of the missionaries in attendance Joe took our things home and I changed into my exercise clothes I had brought with me and went to the 2nd floor to attend yoga. It was a great class tonight on breathing, stretching, and strength training. I’m going to sleep real good tonight!
Joe had come home and changed clothes and began cooking a big pot of stew to have over the next couple of days.

THURSDAY: We received good news that Elder Punderson’s surgery went well and that when he has recovered enough he will serve with the local missionaries in his home town until he receives word that he will come back to St. Petersburg, which should be the middle of December.
I chose not to work on passport things. I was a bit tired so I chose to index names off the census records. I worked more on the 1930 census records from West Virginia. I always feel like I’ve accomplished a lot after working several hours on typing in names for the Church genealogy program. Each time I’ve finished a record of 50 names I wonder when their family member will open up that important document so they can find a new ancestor.
Joe Spills The Stew – Joe went to pull the bowl of stew out of the refrigerator tonight and when doing so the lid slipped and a large portion of the stew fell down the front of the food drawer in the refrigerator, on the bottom of the refrigerator, and out onto the floor. I was on the computer when this happened and my immediate thought was to tell him that “I’ll clean it up,” but refrained. With only having one computer at home we each need to take turns so I decided to finish my computer time and allow my husband the opportunity to provide service :)
The plastic bowl also cracked that held the stew so once Joe had scooped the spilt stew back into the bowl he asked what he should do with it. I said just to throw it away in the garbage can. When he went to do this he missed part of the garbage liner and some spilt into the garbage can. I laughed a bit more. Joe continues to say, “Oh sure, laugh away.” At the conclusion of all his mishaps he said he was expecting me to say “Oh, don’t worry I’ll clean it up.” I confirmed with him that I had thought for a brief moment to say that but didn’t. He said that at least I thought of offering to help him! :) Throughout the rest of the evening I continued to give thanks for having a clean refrigerator, clean floor, and clean garbage can! :)
The office elders, Elder Berven and Elder Anthony came down about 7:30 to borrow our hair cutting shears. (They live on the 10th floor in the same apartment building – we live on the 4th). We offered to cut their hair if they’d like. They both said a resounding. “Yes!” So Joe and I shared the service in cutting their hair. We did a pretty good job we thought. They liked it as well. We visited for a while and talked about the mission, the members, and enjoyed some light conversation.
The elders left about 8:30 and I turned on the TV and watched some Discovery Channel programs and knitted on an afghan I’m making for a Christmas present for the mission president’s wife. I’ve completed one for Sister Efimova. Sister Efimova’s husband was the first mission president’s wife back in the early 90’s. They served in Erkatenberg mission. Her husband died about 11 years ago from a heart attack. She currently oversees paying all the utilities and rent for the apartments. She is Joe’s right hand woman! She is sometimes hard to understand using broken English and Russian but Joe can understand her quite well. I’ve appreciated that at times when she is trying to explain something to me to pass on to Joe and I’m not quite sure I understand all she is trying to say when Joe will show up and know what she’s talking about.

FRIDAY: Today we both worked on getting some lose ends tied up. Joe got some filing done and I worked on several small projects that were on the email. One was to go through the 3 boxes of manuals we just received from the distribution center from Moscow. The manuals are to be passed out next Saturday for the worldwide training to branch presidencies and other priesthood leadership. Some of the manuals had been misprinted and Moscow needed to know if we had received any and if so how many so they can ship some replacements. Elder Anthony helped me go through all the manuals and we found 36 needing to be replaced.
The mission office also received an email in regards to Young Woman and Primary presidents satellite training next Wednesay that will be held in Kiev, Ukraine. I had asked Elder Anthony to call each of the woman leaders to see if they’ve received this information. They had not. The mission office is like a stake office at home. Because there are no stakes yet in St. Petersburg, the mission office needs to make sure all the branches receive important information that comes through postal mail or email. I wasn’t aware of this until a conference a couple months back that no one received information on. I had assumed the presidency of that auxiliary had received the information. Now I know better.
Joe and I had a relaxing “date night” where we watched National Geographic channel, ate some snacks on the couch, and later he brought in the laptop computer to use and I knitted while watching a program I like on Friday evenings. It was a very nice relaxed evening to finish up the work week.

SATURDAY: Elder and Sister Hazlewood took a 25 minute walk with us to McDonalds for a hamburger for lunch and a little bit of grocery shopping. It was nice to visit with them. It was snowing quite hard before we left but the snow lightened up and stopped before we got to the shopping center. This is our 3rd snow fall. It has been a wet snow though like at home and melts right away. We’re still enjoying pretty mild temperatures and very little wind and rain compared to this time last year.
We attended a baptism of a man from Lebanon. He has remarkable faith and when it came to testimony time he shared such a powerful message of love for God and how he knew that when he received the information of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of God’s Church once again on earth that it was true. He is going to be a great leader and instrument for God’s work.
We came home around 2:30 and I washed up the dishes and cleaned the apartment a bit and Joe made a light snack. We then went back to the church at 4 p.m. to attend a 20-year celebration of the Gospel in Russia. It was a great program sharing the timeline of the Gospel, the members who first joined the church and what they’re doing today. There was a slide show of members, Sister Efimova and her husband, and talks about how people came to meet the missionaries. Also, the members put on a really cute play on how the missionaries have played an important role in bringing the gospel to Russia and how important it is for all the saints today to carry on the work and help the missionary effort.
President Manzhos

Patriarch Browning
President Podvodov and his wife were there, President Manzhos (2nd counselor in the East Europe Presidency), the Finland Temple President and his wife, and Patriarch Browning were also in attendance. President Manzhos spoke about when he heard the gospel from 2 missionaries in the Ukraine. The iron curtain was still up in Russia and there was no religion in Russia. So the gospel was being shared from the Ukrainian members and the missionaries when the iron curtain fell and religion could be discussed. They also related a story of a sister who would smuggle in Books of Mormon in duffle bags across the border into Russia and didn’t get caught.
We got home about 8 p.m. Patriarch Browning and Patriarch Rogers travel to the East Europe area from America several times throughout the year to give members their patriarchal blessings.
For those of you who don’t know what a patriarchal blessing is, it’s a blessing given by one who has been appointed by the authority of God to give a personal blessing (or revelation) for you personally on which of the 12 tribes you belong to and what your purpose is here on earth. It’s like a personal scripture (sometimes several pages long) that is just for you. I love mine and cherish it. I read it often and can see how some of those things have been happening that was told to me would. I can also see where I wouldn’t have a clear direction in my life without having this knowledge and without keeping my faith in God knowing that what is written will come true.

Today we had a large district/stake type meeting where all the members of the St. Petersburg district attended one meeting. The regular church meetings were changed to continue with celebrating 20 years of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Russia. Several members, who are now prominent leaders in the church, spoke of their conversion to hearing the gospel. Most spoke about the joy they felt to having received this gospel knowledge and the complete understanding of God’s Plan for us that they hadn’t received from their prior membership in other Christian faiths.
They spoke of the importance to be grateful, humble, merciful, loving, repentant , and loving people as Jesus Christ wants us to be.
The president of the Finland temple spoke about temples being the spiritual centers of the Lord. The temples are the house of the Lord. By serving in the temple we are drawing closer to Jesus Christ. We preach and teach of Jesus Christ. There are no perfect people who attend the temples. We will make mistakes but that doesn’t mean we have broken our covenants, but by not trying to correct our mistakes and repent could lead us to break covenants and lose our privilege to attend the House of the Lord.
The 1st counselor in the Finland temple presidency quoted Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “It’s not important who we are but what we become.”
He went on to say that there are many trials in all our lives, but having faith and relying on God through those trials is what makes us better. He spoke that in Old Testament times that in the temple the most important of gospel ordinances were performed. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple those ordinances stopped. Therefore, mainland Christianity lost the important and sacred records and proper way of the work to be done in the temple. But now with the restoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith the temple work continues. He continued to stress that the gospel of Jesus Christ is important for the whole world. The restored gospel has brought back the truth of God and Jesus Christ and it will be spread to all people whether in this life or the next.
President Manzhos (2nd counselor in the East Europe Area Presidency) was the concluding speaker. Highlights of his comments were how we always needed to be proper examples to our family members, neighbors, and friends. Although we make mistakes and look back to see them we’re not to dwell on them but focus on what we can become in our future.
He said the Apostle Paul wrote about our day in 2nd Corinthians: Prideful, ungrateful, wicked, thinking only of ourselves, and some won’t have the truth to guide them. By knowing this it should help us realize we have to choose God’s way and choose His path not to fall into having bad attributes.
He read three verses from 2 Nephi, chapter 28 in the Book of Mormon. (In this chapter the prophet Nephi is prophesying that many false churches will be built up in the last days and they will teach false and vain and foolish doctrines. Apostasy shall abound because of false teachers; the devil shall rage in the hearts of men and he shall teach all manner of false doctrine.)
President Manzhos quoted 2 verses (8&9): “And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God – he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take his advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” “Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.”

Verse 24: “Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!”

He continued to say that we are to look at our existence and what’s inside and how we treat others. Remember what we’ve received and be grateful, not prideful. Watch out when Satan puts his hand on our shoulder and slowly leads us to sin.
He also mentioned that one of the greatest gifts God has given us is agency. We can choose for ourselves the path we want to take in our life. By having the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ it helps us choose the right path to take and to have the knowledge to choose right and wrong. He continued to say that we need to read the holy scriptures, pray, ponder, and think about our choices and how we are living our lives. Are we following the teachings of the prophets?
He quoted 2 Nephi 2:27 – “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”
He said another great gift God has given us is repentance. Repentance leads us away from Satan and gives us freedom and joy. Even though we may make even serious sins the doors of Heaven are always open for us and to help us start over.
He concluded with 2 Corinthians chapter 4 in which Paul is talking about the Gospel Light shines on the saints. Mortal trials are nothing as contrasted with eternal glory. In verses 8 & 9 it reads “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”
Heavenly Father always allows all of us to feel his Spirit when we put ourselves in Holy Places or receive His truth through the teaching of others.

We came home today spiritual fed. The meeting was 2 hours and it went by so quickly. We were again very grateful to Elder Anderson who translated for us. Elder Haddock translated for us Saturday night. We are always amazed that it doesn’t take these younger elders more than a couple months to speak this language fluently; another witness to us of the power of God in giving the Gift of Tongues.

Elder Fahnestock and Elder Nelson were leaving the church building when we were and we invited them to have something to eat with us. Joe had made a big pot of chicken and rice soup last night so we had plenty to share along with cherry tomatoes and bananas. We enjoy being able to feed the missionaries whenever we can.

It began to snow lightly again but then stopped. We’re wondering when the weather is going to turn serious and really start to snow and turn cold. (Or wish it doesn’t !)

Jeanie’s Thoughts: Satan wants us to be complacent and use excuses to not want to get close to our Heavenly Father. We need to understand the Love Heavenly Father has for us by giving us commandments for our safety. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about Love. It is not about strict rules and regulations keeping us from having complete joy in our lives – it’s about being free from Satan’s snares he places on us when we choose to not be obedient to God’s laws and choosing things in our lives that takes us away from studying scriptures, attending church, and having complete faith and love for ourselves and others. One of the most important things that was talked about is that no matter what we’ve done in our lives we can repent and start over. After all, we are not perfect nor will we ever be. But striving to stay close to God and His teachings He always shows us the direction to be happy.

I’m continually striving to stretch myself out of my comfort zones I’ve created and by doing so see that I’m becoming more comfortable in taking a leadership role when needed. I’m becoming more confident because of my relying on God to direct me and help me when I’m unsure of myself. God is so wonderful. I know of His love for me. I have reminded myself that we are all spiritually created first. And by focusing on ourselves spiritually first we will draw closer to God and the Holy Ghost whom will help us not fail in the flesh.

Joe’s Thoughts:
Much of this weekend was spent in celebrating twenty years that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been in Russia. Stories were told and testimonies born of how that great work began and has progressed in this vast expanse that is called Russia. One of the guests and speakers was the third person baptized a member of the Church here, President Manzhos. He is now the second councilor in the area presidency. Another was one of the first mission presidents here Patriarch Browning. He is now one of two patriarchs that travel here giving patriarchal blessings. Yet another testimony bearer was Sister Galina Efimova. Her husband was the first Russian called as a mission president. He has passed away but Sister Efimova read his testimony given when they completed their mission. She is still faithfully serving. I would be lost without her help in paying rent and utilities, finding new apartments, and coordinating frequent repairs to apartments.
For those of you that have gone on trek either as a member of a trek family or been involved in the planning of such an event may I relate to you a story that was shared in words and a slide show. In 1993 three years after the Church was in Russia. The four branches that existed at the time had their first trek experience. There was one handcart and perhaps twenty youth that made the trip to the four branches that existed at the time. Travel to two of the cities was done by train with short trips from the railroad station to the meeting houses and then the train ride back to St Petersburg. The final trip was from St. Petersburg to Vyborg that was made pulling the handcart all the way. The trip would have taken three hours by train but took three days to complete on foot. Members of that handcart company have served missions of their own.
Today that great work continues to move forward as prophesied in the scriptures. Baptisms have more then doubled this year over last year. Next weekend I have been asked to baptize the eight year old daughter of a recent convert. I am over whelmed at the love, respect, and acceptance that we have received here.
October 25 – October 31, 2010
Joe & Jeanie Luna Mission Journal

MONDAY: We traveled to Narva, Estonia today to renew our visas. It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive one way to the little border town. Everything went really smooth as far as the car ride and crossing the border out of Russia, into Estonia, and back. A group of missionaries previous to our trip already had all our groups 2nd passports with the new visa in it. Therefore, we didn’t have to wait in Narva all day for the passports to be brought from Tallin, Estonia where the consulate is.
We got back to the office about 2 p.m. and we worked on things that came up in the office. We had dinner and studied in the Doctrine and Covenants together before going to bed.

TUESDAY: We had our district meeting today. Our district leader, Elder Berven, had us break into groups and practice teaching from the scriptures on how to help others overcome fears or commitments to changing their lives to follow Christ. We discussed our accomplishments of last week and set goals for this week. One thing Joe and I shared was that when we went to the little corner store near our apartment to purchase our favorite juice, I had given a Book of Mormon to the cashier who usually helps us. She looked through it and thanked us. This week we will take the Office Elders with us to follow up if she has any questions and to set up a time to discuss the gospel with her more fully. We are being prayerful that she will.
It was a sad day as one of our elders, Elder Joshua Punderson, is being released tomorrow and flying home to have surgery. He is saddened that he needs to leave and hopes after his 4-6 weeks recovery he will be sent back here to complete his mission rather than in the U.S. We are praying all will go well with him. We have been emailing back and forth with his parents and they have the doctors set up for his surgery to take place November 3.
Elder Punderson is such a great leader. He is always upbeat and works very hard at keeping others motivated. The mission is really going to miss him, but according to his mother once he has recovered the Church plans on sending him back here to complete his mission. She also stated that her Stake President thought that pretty remarkable because usually when a missionary only has 8 months left to serve they’ll leave them in the U.S. to complete their missions. Elder Punderson has always put his needs last and making sure that he is following mission rules and serving the Lord to his fullest capacity.
I’ve been really tired today with a bad headache. I know it’s because of my lower back and neck sore from our long ride to Finland last week. My hips are out of alignment from sitting for so long and traveling on very bumpy roads. Joe’s back was bothering him as well. I’ll be going for another massage this Friday and the other two senior sisters are coming with me to have one as well.

WEDNESDAY: Today was a quiet day in the office. I had such a bad headache and so I just indexed names on Family Search. Joe worked on processing new receipts and expenses that came up.
After we closed the office Elder Berven and Elder Anthony walked to the corner store with us to follow up on the cashier I left the Book of Mormon with this past Saturday. We were shocked when we got there because the little section she always managed was empty. Every shelf and vegetable bin was empty! We couldn’t believe it.
We got a phone call about 8:30 p.m. from one of the assistances telling us that one of the sister missionaries (Sister Ermakova) was really sick and a member who is a doctor thought she might be having an appendicitis attack. The mission president and his wife are both gone all this week in Kiev for training and the one hospital won’t take missionaries unless the mission president’s wife gives the authorization. The assistances could not reach either one of them by telephone. The mission doctor for the East European area has been released and we have not received information on the new doctor. Joe suggested the assistance call the phone number the old mission doctor had but there was only a recorded message. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Her companion, Sister Stepanova, slept overnight with the Hazlewoods.
The Hazlewoods have a larger apartment then ours and live right next door to the assistances to the mission president. They have a huge bedroom, kitchen, living room (with a hide-a-bed couch), and bathroom.
THURSDAY: Today started in a whirlwind. Joe’s sister, Renee Skyped us, then Matthew Clark and Jeff Croskrey (they’re return missionaries) skyped us from BYU. They are now roommates. It was fun to see and talk to them again. We had to say our goodbyes about 8:45 a.m. and quickly showered and dressed. The mission driver was picking us up at 9:30 to take us to the grocery store so we could do some major shopping. With having a van we purchase as much of the heavy items as we could so we don’t have to haul them home using our carts. We stocked up on flour, sugar, juice, and canned fruits and vegetables. We try to stay as close to a food budget as we can but it’s difficult because we find ourselves cooking and baking for other missionaries and members.
For instance, this Sunday we are going to a branch outside of St. Petersburg to give talks. The mission president has asked the senior couples to go to other branches that are struggling with their attendance. This little branch we’re going to this Sunday, named Tosno, usually has only 6 members and the 2 missionaries attending weekly. Novgorod is another branch with very few active members attending (about 13). The Hazlewoods went to their services this past Sunday and gave talks and we’ll go again probably in a few weeks. So, the Hazlewoods were discussing a good idea about bringing food to have a small potluck after church services and socialize with the members in attendance. They also visited a family that doesn’t come to church very often. We thought this is a great idea and are going to follow their example. So this Sunday I planned on baking some brownies for after church services. Well, the branch president is one of the Russian missionaries and having remembered Elder Luna’s wonderful lasagna asked for him to bring some! So Joe is going to bake lasagna and I’ll bake brownies. We also told the missionaries to try to arrange for us to see a less active family that I can take brownies to and visit with them. The mission president is hoping by the senior couples visiting these smaller branches we can help the missionaries reactivate the members. We got home from the grocery store and unloaded about 10 shopping bags and put them down on the sidewalk outside the apartment building. It’s easy loading and unloading groceries into a van but a little more difficult hauling them up to the apartment and one of us stays outside to watch the groceries. Fortunately for us just as we had unloaded the van the assistances were walking to meet us and helped us. Elder and Sister McArthur went shopping with us too so Elder McArthur helped with a few of the bags. It was great having the extra help. After helping with the groceries Elder Luna went to the mission office to give rubles needed to pay the hospital because they wouldn’t release Sister Ermakova until the bill was paid.
We found out that Sister Ermakova did not have to have her appendix removed. They have prescribed a bunch of medicine for her in hopes it will help her with the pain. The doctors also said she’ll be okay with medication. They sent her home.
We were going to go to the consulate to apply for a new 2nd passport for Elder Haggard who is going home in March. With his old 2nd passport going to expire in June 2011 it will not be valid for at least 6 months which is a new requirement before putting in a new visa which expires in January. This morning in the middle of my prayers a voice came real clear that I don’t have everything I need to apply for Elder Haggard’s new passport. I had set up the appointment a few days ago to go to the consulate, but was instructed during my prayer that I have to fill out a whole new application, have him sign it, and attached new passport photos. I had only had him sign a letter requesting a new passport. There was no time for Elder Haggard to come to the city to take care of signing the application. Fortunately, we had old passport photos on the office elder’s computers. So, I cancelled the appointment and will have to go back on Nov. 10 with all the necessary paperwork. What a blessing it was to not have traveled out in the cold today to the consulate only to find out I didn’t have everything necessary to apply for the passport.
This is only one of several times that during a prayer or in the early morning hours upon waking up that I’ve been instructed or warned about something that needs to be done differently in regards to a task needed to be done for that day. It brings me such comfort to know that I’m being divinely helped!

Today we went down to the main hub of St. Petersburg (Nevsky Prospekt) and met up with the McArthur’s and Hazlewoods. We sisters all went to get a massage from the massage therapists I have been going to.
The men went to the institute to get hair cuts from a Nigerian man who has been attending and investigating the church. He is trying to earn money to go back home to his wife and two children. As we wrote before, Africans come here under the false pretense given them in Africa that there are jobs here for them. When they arrive they are usually treated unkindly. Some are killed because of prejudices. Some receive advertisement in Africa to come to universities for education. They pay upfront money to be admitted but upon arrival to complete the application process are told they still need to come up with more money, which they don’t have. Several Africans not only cannot attend school, but can’t find work and end up homeless. Some have found work only to be paid 3 months later and paid only about 1/3 of what they were told wages should have been. We have about 8 Africans that have become members of the Church and have received help. They had a deep faith of God prior to joining the Church and once learned that God’s Gospel has been restored to its fullness, which includes the Priesthood, they have been so excited to have received this knowledge. Their prayers are so pure and powerful. We love being around them.
Joe and Elder Hazlewood went for lunch. Elder McArthur separated from them after their haircuts to take a couple members and missionaries to their apartment to watch General Conference talks in Mandanrian. One of the newest converts is Chinese.
After our massages we sisters went shopping for a winter coat for Sister Hazlewood. We had such a great time. We shopped at the Gostiny Divor It’s a HUGE mall that takes up an entire city block of downtown and it’s about 300 years old. And when I say one city block it’s equivalent to about 3 city blocks at home. I always get lost as to where I am when we walk inside. Inside there are very expensive clothing stores, but they also have so many little shops to buy pretty much anything else. In the mall was a store that had all kinds of decorations for Christmas. They even had Halloween decorations. We found that strange because we never saw kids dressed up OR trick-& treating. This little room was set up so you could take a free picture.
We ate lunch at the 3 Amigos afterwards. (It’s our favorite Mexican food here.) We finished our lunch a little after 4 p.m. Sister McArthur went to meet up with her husband at the institute (they need to be there at 4 p.m. each day to open it up and set up for the evening classes). Sister Hazlewood and I took the metro home. We got home a few minutes before 5 p.m.
It was absolutely fantastic to have a relaxing day with other women, talking, shopping, and great conversation. We all really enjoyed each others company.
I made two pans of brownies to take with us to Tosno this Sunday when we visit that branch. Joe started chopping up vegetables to set aside for Saturday. He will be making 3 pans of his chicken lasagna. Two pans for church in Tosno that will be used for the potluck we are having after services and one pan for Saturday nights couples party at the church.

I washed and hung our laundry Friday night so all I had to do in the way of cleaning was sweep and mop floors. Other than that, the first part of the day was reading, writing and puttering around on the computer. I baked a French apple pie for the pie contest tonight and Joe cooked a pan of turkey lasagna. We went over to the church at 3:30 to turn my pie in and we sat at a table with the other 2 couples. Sister Hazlewood brought a chicken, cheese spread for our bread and Sister McArthur brought a tomato/cucumber salad and an apple pie (in a cake pan which she refused to submit to the contest). It was very delicious. Juice and fruit were provided by the branch for each table.
There was rock and roll music played by a live band as well as recorded music. We had dancing games (I’ve attached some photos), and skits. We all had a great time with lots of laughs and dancing. I even won a Tupperware cup with a lid for my pie. I don’t know why because I didn’t know what they said in Russian, but it was fun to get a little something! We left about 7 p.m. to get home so Joe could cook the two pans of lasagna for church tomorrow.

SUNDAY: We had a wonderful time visiting with church members in Tosno today. There were 6 members and 3 children that came. Others attendees were Joe, the driver Igor, Elders Shrader and Ulyanov and myself. One of the members attending was the previous branch president but he left after sacrament. Elder Shrader said that he just got burnt out on being the branch president but has recently started to come back to church. Because there are so few priesthood holders in these little towns a man joins the church and is immediately put in heavy church positions to help build the church in these areas. One male member here received the Melchizedek priesthood six months after his baptism and was called to be the district president.
I gave a talk on teaching the Plan of Salvation to your children and Joe gave a talk on service in the church. I included how many resources the church provides to help us teach not only our children, but all family members and friends. By selecting Gospel Library then Magazines on www. it takes you to so many resources for all ages. Young children can read stories, color, puzzles, listen and watch videos and much more. Teenagers have many activities as well and there is a scripture mastery section. These resources make teaching and learning very easy.
In turn, we provided a service to the members by serving our lasagna and brownies. They were extremely grateful and most had 2nd and 3rds. They said they’ve never eaten food like that and not after a church service. We were very grateful for the opportunity to bring joy to their lives.
I was reading another sister’s journal and she had written the following which is exactly how I feel as well and I wanted to share it in our journal:
Happiness is not about where you are but rather who you are.
Being content with your own life, and that can only come from within yourself. We can not depend on someone else for our own happiness. Yes it makes me happy to share time with my eternal companion. There is no one I would rather be with, but even that can not make me happy unless I am already happy myself. Being here in Russia makes me think about how very spoiled I am. At times wishing I had something that I really don’t need thinking it will make me happy. For me happiness comes from knowing and understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and realizing how very fortunate I am to have it as a part of my life. True happiness comes from serving others and living the commandments as best we can. Stretching ourselves and doing things that are challenging. Stepping out of our comfort zone and realizing the blessings that come to us as we do that. I am grateful each day for the love and protection of my Savior.

Jeanie’s Thoughts for the Week:

During church service today after watching our Prophet Thomas S. Monson give his talk from this last conference this thought came to me. I do no good to others unless I tell them the truth; teach gospel principles and always stand for what’s right. I must have gratitude for everything and strive for a virtuous life. I realize my blessings when I have been removed from my comforts and rely more on God. I also learn of my divine gifts and strengths as I go through trials. I need to stretch myself and rely on God and trust Him in whatever I’m asked to go and do from our church leaders. I need to always live my life in such a way that the Holy Ghost can lead me – direct me – like the Liahona ball that directed the Prophet Lehi in the Book of Mormon, and his family through the wilderness. My life can be in the “wilderness” and I constantly need God’s direction to lead me in my destined paths of this earthly life.

Joe’s Thoughts for the Week:
I was brought near tears when I learned that Elder Punderson would be released to go home for surgery. Yet he is not the only missionary that is having or has had medical problems here. One missionary that has already gone home dislocated his knee cap here but completed his mission. He had knee surgery when he arrived home. Other missionaries have had food poisoning, bouts with parasites and worms, high blood pressure, kidney problems, broken bones, and most recently what was thought to be an appendicitis attack. Through it all they continue to serve valiantly and without complaint. As I was reflecting on this Job came to my mind. Satan was allowed to test Job. He suffered all manner of afflictions some physical (boils). I wonder if these young missionaries are also being tested. So far they are being as faithful as Job was. This is truly a royal generation as the prophets have described them and it is a pleasure to be associated with them.

We both want to express our love to our children, siblings, and friends. We love each of you very much and pray everyday for all of you!