Saturday, November 13, 2010

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment