Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mission Journal October 18 - 24

October 18 – 24, 2010
St. Petersburg Mission Journal

This has been a very busy week for us and we were negligent in keeping a daily log of our activities so we hope to remember most of it.

We had a very busy beginning of the week with our Monday meetings. Jeanie and our visa clerk Natasha had forgotten they had a 10 a.m. video conference call with Moscow in reviewing new procedures for applying for another “2nd passport” for most of our missionaries (including our own) that need to be reapplied for. Visa rules have changed that in order to get a visa in your passport it has to be valid for at least 6 months before they’ll put a visa in it. Although they signed in late, they were able to get all the information necessary. She was off to take care of the other duties for the day.

Tuesday we had the wonderful opportunity to go to Helsinki Finland with the mission president, wife, and two sons to the temple. It was time for his family to renew their visas and they travel to Finland to do that. President Podvodov has been very good at rotating the senior couples so we all have a chance to attend the temple about every 6 months. It takes about 6 hours to drive one way.

When we arrived we quickly put our suitcases in the room we would be staying at. The women and men sleep in different rooms. I was able to make two sessions in the temple while Jeanie attended one then did 35 baptisms for the dead (this due to miscommunication that we would be doing two sessions and when she discovered I had went into the next session it was too late for her to attend).

We have a better understanding for those who attend the temple in our home temple that don’t know English. We use headsets to hear the session in English. There are 6 different languages that are used.

When we are getting ready to leave the temple, we noticed a group of young missionaries that were waiting to leave. We stopped to introduce ourselves and found out that they were from another mission in Russia and were there renewing their visas. We also had an opportunity to meet Elder and Sister Hassle. They had previously served in St. Petersburg as office specialists. They were now on their second mission once again serving as office specialists in Yekentinberg, Russia.

We stayed overnight and left about 5:50 a.m. the next day so the president’s two sons could get back to school and test for sports activities. Their daughter also had a doctor’s appointment. We arrived back at 12:15 p.m. We spent the rest of the afternoon working on our own individual tasks in the office.

Thursday I worked hard on getting as much as the financial inputting necessary so the mission president would approve payment for missionary MSF (missionary support fund), area adjustments, rent, and missionary reimbursement for travel and medical needs. President and his wife will be in Kiev, Ukraine all next week for training and wouldn’t be around to approve iMos. President assured me he would approve it that night.

Friday I once again reminded President Podvodov that I needed his approval. I had the office elders assist me with following up with the mission branch presidents on discrepancies that were found during the midyear audit. It is my responsibility to ensure all the discrepancies identified during the audit are corrected within 30 days. I rely very strongly on the office missionaries because not all of the branch presidents can read or speak English. I will write down in English what I wish to have conveyed and the elders translate it into Russian for me. Jeanie worked on indexing, visa paper work, mail for the president and emails to the missionaries and their parents.

President gave me a panic when I found out he was in Moscow Saturday and still hadn’t approved IMOS but I contacted one of the assistances to the president and he was able to remind him.

Saturday we went over to an artist home, Emin Zulfugarov. He has been commissioned by the Church for several of his paintings that they have purchased for some of the temples. Three were recently installed in the Kiev, Ukraine temple. Also, one of his paintings are in the Gila Valley, Arizona temple. His painting of Church official’s dedicating Russia to receive the gospel hangs in the church foyer. It is also on the front cover of the July Liahona/Ensign magazines.

He is currently working on a painting that he said will be his largest and most challenging. It’s to be approximately 40 feet long by 8 feet high. It will be put in the Provo, Utah temple. I’ve attached a photo of him and a couple of his “sketches” that might be submitted. He has one more sketch that hasn’t been finished that he will include to Church headquarters for review. Once one of his sketches has been chosen then he will be renting a studio to begin the work. It’s to be completed by the first part of summer.

We enjoyed talking to him about his upbringing and views of Americans in Russia. He is an only child (as is most children), 39 and takes care of his parents who both suffer from Parkinson’s disease. He recently has met a young woman who lives in Moscow and who is an architect. He hopes there relationship will blossom into marriage. He is tired of being alone and ready to start a family. He has been a member of the church for only 4 years now.

He also stated that he studied at a university for six years and academy of art school for seven years and his expertise in his art are faces. He was 19 when the “iron curtain” came down and said that most Russians aren’t too trusting or like Americans here, but those are mostly the older generation. Because the Russian people couldn’t’ go outside their country or people could come in during the communist time, there was very little need to learn English. While most of the rest of the European nations speak English, Russia has a ways to catch up.

Elder Webb, financial secretary here at St. Petersburg who served about 4 years ago, noticed Brother Zulfugarov’s art pieces and asked if he could submit them to the Church to look at. Brother Zulfugarov agreed and now the rest is becoming history. Until that time he was a struggling artist and is very thankful for Elder Webb’s help.

We know that there is a high demand for English teachers. Most are coming from England and teach English with quite a different accent then we speak it in America. But there are not too many Americans willing to come and teach. We have several young women and one young man from BYU that are part of an international organization that comes here to teach. They pay their own expenses and live with host families. They are here for 3 months.

Sunday morning when I checked it had been approved so now Salt Lake headquarters will receive the monetary requests and process them before months end.

Joe’s Thoughts for the Week:

I continue to be in awe of the missionaries that are serving here. The leadership, dedication, and service that I see, has me wondering what the Lord is preparing them for. I have helped to give blessings of comfort and healing to some, but to one missionary that will be leaving soon it was that they serve the rest of their mission to the very best of their ability with an eye single to the Lord’s work. My thoughts often reflect on what the future holds for them. In 20 years how many will have raised missionaries that are faithfully serving their own missions. How many will be Relief Society presidents, Elder’s Quorum presidents, bishops or branch presidents. We were watching a Russian missionary speaking in sacrament meeting and we both had the same impression. He will one day be a Stake President here in Russia. Are we serving and associating with future mission presidents and perhaps even an apostle of the Lord? I believe that the answer to that question is a resounding YES.

Jeanie’s Thoughts for the Week:

While in church today I had to wonder how difficult it is for the Russian members to have American’s come here to kind of be “in charge” that the organization of everything is done according to the Church structure. While we as missionaries are not to take charge of a person in a calling, we are to be the eyes and ears to make sure teachings and other covenant type activities are being done properly. We are to make suggestions and help when asked. I can imagine it may be difficult to have so many mixed cultures and personalities that come with those cultures in dealing with relationships and worship.

Fortunately in the branches we’ve attended as well as the district presidency, the leadership is doing all that they should in accordance with the way the meetings the rest of the organization is to be ran.

I have seen in the missionary structure a bit of strife though with the missionaries. Several of the American missionaries have commented that it’s difficult to serve with Russian missionaries because of their culture differences and being treated pretty disrespectfully. They also have shared that they are trying to be patient when the Russian missionaries usually want to be charge of the companionship even though they may not be the senior companion. I know one Russian sister missionary was complaining to me that Americans “just don’t know how to roll the Rs right when speaking the language.” This is apparently a touchy subject with her. It made me begin to understand that trying to teach the gospel can be challenging with a companion that may have different ways in their presentations when trying to teach their native people.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is so cool! I just saw a short video about Emin on link:

    Anyway, I googled him, because I loved his art. Thanks for sharing your experience with meeting him. The work he is doing is exciting and the work you are doing as missionaries is amazing!