Saturday, November 13, 2010

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!

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