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.

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