Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mission Journal October 4 - 10, 2010

Weekly Journal
October 4 – 10, 2010

MONDAY- It was an extremely busy day for us. We didn't know until we came into the office that there would be no morning or district meeting today. It was the first of four days of Worldwide Missionary training in which our missionary zone and district leaders came to the church building to attend.

The good news is that we were able to finish up on things that needed to be completed and we didn't have to wait until tomorrow.
I finished the mission newsletter, a bunch of emails that needed attention, turned in our visiting report of the return missionaries that we home teach, emailed and faxed the baptism reports for September, completed the mission history report for September, and made sure President Podvodov had received his emailed reports.

Joe looked over audits, processed utilities and remodel payments, filed rent receipts, made phone call to missionaries about financial stuff, reconciled bank transactions for his mission card, compiled payment batch report for president Podvodov to approve, updated and posted daily exchange rate, and helped a few missionaries in regards to their finances.

We were about to leave the office at 5 and go to the store, however, all the missionaries just finished up their training for the day and starting coming into the office for various things needed. Several needed to give Elder Luna money and others needed supplies. So we had a fun time visiting with them and left the office at 6 p.m. We decided not to take the hour round trip walk to the Okeи, but walked a round trip 40 minute walk to a store close by and bought less items. We'll probably go Wednesday for the big shopping day. Joe just took the backpack instead of our carts to carry the food home.

Quiet day all in all. Joe and I had a great study time this morning on D&C Section 25 regarding Emma Smith being an "elect lady." The institute manual for the Doctrine and Covenants had some great additional insights regarding women. I especially love the messages that were given from the Relief Society broadcast the end of September, particularly from President Thomas S. Monson. For those of you who may not know, you can go to and read, watch, or listen to this and the General Conference broadcast that was given last weekend.

We FINALLY received the English July issue of the Liahona and the English copies of the April General Conference today! They have been in Salt Lake because of some new rulings of English matter being received here in Russia, therefore, causing SL to hold shipping them. From what we were told the government wanted to make sure nothing "dangerous" would come into the country.

WEDNESDAY: Our daughter Mindy Skyped us this morning from Mitch and Tamy's house. She is so happy that Mitch and Tamy has invited her and the girls to come to the house to use their computer to connect with us. Mindy expressed such a deep love and respect to both of us and read a poem she wrote in regards to how she feels about us. It was very very nice. Mindy has gone through a lot of trials in her life and it was absolutely wonderful to see how much she is growing towards her personal happiness. We are grateful that the kids are staying close and seemingly helping each other. And, also, making choices to help themselves. We are also grateful to see their personal growth. We love them all so much and respect their decisions in their individual lives.

When we arrived at the office I checked email and noticed an email from Sister Rodriquez who will be arriving here at the mission in November. She was responding to one I had emailed regarding items to get while in the MTC before coming here. She emailed back and in the post script said she met our nephew Ty in the MTC! He is going to Chile, Santiago.

Peggy Armijo (one of our friends from our home ward) had emailed us as well to let us know that in one of our journals she read that we are serving with John and Karen Hazlewood (our Humanitarian couple) and that she was friends with them when she lived in New Mexico. Karen was really excited to know we were friends with Peggy as well because they used to serve together in their ward.

We also found out this week that a dear sister (Gulnaz) who we have become close to is engaged to a man in Oregon who's sister is married to a son of a very close friend of Joe's (who introduced him into the Church and Joe worked with at Exxon in California). Gulnaz and Jonathan are waiting for approval papers for her to travel to the U.S. for them to be married.

I also remember that Barbara Brainard had written to us last summer that her son, who lives in Arizona, said a couple just returned to his ward that served in St. Petersburg. It so happened they were the office couple that we had replaced (Wendall and Mary Herr). Such a small world in the Church.

We left the office a little after 5 and went home to get our shopping carts to walk the hour round trip to the Okeи. We save more money shopping there than the little stores around our apartment building.

Two elders (Haggard and Anthony) came over to our apartment around 8 p.m. and gave such a powerful message. They are among the other zone and district leaders receiving special training this week. They expounded on the Savior's visit to the people living on the American continent after his death (during the 3 days he laid in the tomb - 3rd Nephi in the Book of Mormon, chapter 11 versus 10-17). They had asked us put ourselves there with the people and try to feel how they must have felt after the earthquakes and mass destruction that had been prophesied would happen at Christ's death and how we think we would have felt seeing Jesus Christ, and feel the nail prints in the palm of his hands and feet. And praising Him with the others as it reads in verse 17: "Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus and did worship Him."

We all felt such a powerful feeling of God's spirit with us while discussing how we would have felt then and especially how we feel now of our relationship with Him and the incomprehensible joy in seeing Him at His second coming. The Elders closed their spiritual thought with telling us that when we pray tonight to ask God a specific question and wait for the answer (which we know will come in the Lord's timing), thereby, gaining further testimony of the divinity of God and knowing how He knows us individually and answers prayers.

THURSDAY: It wasn't too busy in the office today, so I indexed more census records and Joe continued on with his financial responsibilities. He continues to say that he is amazed he can stay on top of it all and not feel overwhelmed or stressed, but knows it's because he continues to receive guidance from the Lord.

A side note about working in the mission office - EVERYONE is always so positive and happy. It's just the greatest environment to be at everyday. When we don't have too much to do we enjoy just opening our scriptures and reading at our desk or watching great spiritual broadcasts on one of the many church websites. And we especially enjoy stopping whatever we're doing to talk to any of the missionaries that come into the office and give our undivided attention to.

FRIDAY: We left the apartment a little before 9 to catch the metro to the clinic where I get a massage. The massage therapist put me in PAIN today! She found sore muscles I didn't know I had! Feel much better though. I was ready to go straight home afterwards and take a nap, but Joe and I walked about 20 minutes to meet up with Elder White and Elder Hill. Elder Hill arrived at the mission a few months ago and his father is the mission president in Slovenia. Because Elder Hill's parents were busy in their own mission they didn't have time to buy winter clothes for him. So we purchased a couple coats for him (one for in between seasons and one for just winter), a hat and he will find a scarf and wool socks on his own. His parents are very grateful for our help and are finding a way to reimburse us from Slovenia.

We shopped just off Nevsky Prospekt at a place everyone calls the Rinik. It is a huge outdoor market in which we always get lost in and it takes a while to find our way out. But there are so many tiny shops winding every which way that has about everything you would need. Many shops are run by people that are not Russian - I'm not sure what nationality, but I would guess Armenian. Elder White needed a coat as well, so when we went to pay for Elder Hill's coat Elder White had dickered down both coats by 3,000 rubles. So we saved a little over 1,000 rubles on the one coat.

Three other missionary companionships met up with us and because we were finished helping Elder Hill, we shook hands and said our hellos and goodbyes and headed for home. We still needed to stop at a store and pick up fruit we're contributing for Sunday's general conference, eat lunch, and check in at the office. (All three senior couples are bringing some food Sunday so the missionaries have something to eat between conferences.)

We made our purchases and, of course, purchased more than our back pack could hold but fortunately we had a shoulder bag and a plastic handled bag stuffed inside the backpack so Joe loaded up the two bags and I carried the plastic one. Joe must have been carrying around at least 20 pounds of groceries! It's certainly a sacrifice and a necessary one to avoid having to take a couple bus transfers and walk an hour to and from the store to buy major groceries. On the way home on the bus there was an elderly woman dressed poorly and wearing two right shoes. They looked too big for her feet as well. It always saddens us when we see such poor elderly people - many living on the streets.

We arrived at the office at 3:30 and took care of a few things before going home and getting some rest. I woke up at 3 a.m. because I couldn't stop coughing and decided to just stay up. Unfortunately, Joe couldn't really get back to sleep either so we're both very sleepy.

We fortunately, had no plans for the weekend other than walking the 30 feet or so between our apartment building and the church building to watch General Conference.

We enjoyed the special messages given by the general authorities of the Church and being in a room full of other missionaries. Those who watch General Conference in English watch a taped version of it in the Relief Society room and the Russian members watch the taped version in the Chapel. After the Saturday session was over Joe and I came home and had dinner. We walked 15 minutes to the corner florist and bought flowers for the Podvodov’s daughter who was released from her mission in Kiev to come home to have surgery. We’re not sure all the details yet. She will return to her mission after her recovery.

The rest of the evening we caught up on writing and talking with Joe’s sister and mom on Skype. Joe also spent time preparing food for Sunday’s lunch.. We’re providing a meal for the other 2 senior couples during the conference. He is making a pot of beans and fajitas. He has become the master of beans; especially when he adds a ham hock. Yum, yum!

The missionaries that were able to come into the city to watch conference were so appreciative of the food that was provided. A couple of them (Elder Punderson and Elder McCleary) had quite the time creating food art.
After the morning session of General Conference we had the Hazlewoods and McArthur’s over for lunch. They said the food was scrumptious. We then returned for the afternoon session and Sister Hazlewood and I came back to the apartment and cleaned up the dishes while the husbands attended Priesthood session. (Sister McArthur stayed at church to assist the sisters with some missionary work.)

Today’s talks were so great! All the talks have been so inspirational. We’ve learned so much from all the conference talks such as parenting, forgiveness, trust, joy, avoiding temptations, and so much more. All the talks are available at

Joe got home about 6:45 p.m. and we begun cooking for our district. Tomorrow is the last district meeting with this group of missionaries because transfers are this Wednesday. We always
cook a lunch and dessert for the last meeting. We made lasagna
and I had baked some banana nut bread earlier in the week which we’ll take for the dessert.
We finished up about 10 p.m. Very long weekend, but very rewarding. This coming week will be busy with missionaries coming and going. We just cannot believe how quickly 6 weeks go by before the next transfer day.

Although it's a bit frustrating at times to miss a large portion of sacrament meeting because of the translation from Russia to English, being here has been the best spiritual experience in my life, thus far. I also appreciate the opportunity the Lord has given us to live in Europe and experience the different culture and lifestyles of people here. I never had any idea how different lifestyles can be. And I do appreciate America all the more. But regardless where we are in the world, you can walk into any of the wards or branches of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the structure and messages will be the same (even if in different languages).

We are truly grateful for our association with a royal generation of young men and women that are serving the Lord faithfully and willingly in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission. The native missionaries are particularly marvelous. Most missionaries from the States have spent all their life in the church many being born under the temple covenant. Their parents should be congratulated for the fine young men and women they have raised. The same can not be said of the native missionaries. So few have been raised in the church by parents that accepted the gospel in the late 1980s. These parents should also be congratulated, However many of the native missionaries have less then five years membership and some of them are the only members in their families. They are encouraged and supported by their personal testimonies of the gospel and their companions. There are no letters or packages from home. A couple of the fortunate ones still get letters from the missionaries that taught them the gospel, companions from the MTC, or in one case a senior couple that served in the mission she is from. All of these wonderful missionaries are all sustained and guided by each of the members of the God Head. I would be remiss if I did not give credit to an American stake president that writes regularly to one of the missionaries serving here. She jokingly says she gets more letters from him then from her own family.

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