Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Journey Home

      We were anxious to get home and see our family again, but at the same time it was very difficult to leave Russia, especially Krasnoyarsk, and the people we have come to love so much.  And now that we have been home for a few weeks we miss them even more.  But we feel blessed to be back in the company of our own dear family.
      Our journey home began on the early morning hours of July 9th, 2013 at the Krasnoyarsk Airport.  We left our apartment at about 5:30 in the morning when Brother Vettsel drove us to the airport.  We we so glad to see some of our Young Single Adults already there to see us off.  Masha K. Masha S, Anton and Galya were all there.  It meant so much to us to know that they had to get up very early to get to the airport.

From the left, Masha Kokova, Anton Kovrigin, Sister Noel, Elder Noel, Masha Shishmareva and Galya Shashilo.

           We had only one problem at the airport.  We were traveling by S7 Airlines (Siberian airlines).  We had two extra bags and fully anticipated paying extra for the bags in the usual amount of about $60 to $100 per bag.  I was astonished when they told me it would be $1000 ( 32190 rubles).  I thought it was a mistake and talked to a manager.  But it was no mistake.  Our tickets cost about $1000 (to Edinburgh) and the cost of two extra bags equaled that amount.  But I guess that's life and it didn't dampen our spirits.  We enjoyed the few remaining minutes we had with some of our best friends before boarding.
      With a very uncomfortable 10 hour lay over in Moscow and a short stop in London we arrived in Edinburgh on time and made it to our hotel with all our bags. We stayed in Edinburgh for 6 days and visited all the sites in Edinburgh as well as Loch Lomond, St. Andrews and Glasgow briefly.  We attended church in Edinburgh.  We had a wonderful time.  I served in Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, 50 years ago as a young missionary.  In some ways it hasn't changed.  We had a wonderful time. 

Edinburgh Castle

The Scottish countryside, from the train on the way to St. Andrews.

St. Andrews Old Course.

St. Andrews University in the background

A little house on Princes Street Gardens

The Highland Games at Loch Lomond.

      After 6 days in Edinburgh we traveled to London for 3 days.  London was very busy and crowded but it was a fantastic experience for us.

Karen talking to a "Bobby" near Parliment. 

            We arrived home on July 18th and all the kids, grandkids and some cousins and nieces and nephews were there to greet us.  

      This was a moment we will never forget.  We are so blessed to have such a family.  The friends and "family" we left in Russia will always have a place in our hearts. They have changed our lives forever.   Our mission experiences will never be forgotten. Thanks to all those who supported us with their letters, packages and prayers.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Our Last Days In Russia

      This will be our last blog post from Russia.  We leave Krasnoyarsk tomorrow early in the morning and hopefully will arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland late that night where we will spend 5 days touring Scotland.  Then off to London for 3 days and then home!
      We are excited to see our family, but it was difficult and emotional yesterday saying our good-byes to all the people we have come to love so much.  We may never see most of them again.  It has been wonderful, life-changing experience, but all things come to and end.  We will remember these people for the rest of our lives.

Victor's Baptism
      We couldn't have asked for a better way to cap off our mission than with a baptism.  Victor was baptized last Saturday.  He is a young single adult who will be a great asset to our YSA organization.
Victor was baptized by Elder Hyde.

      On Friday, the day before Victor's baptism, Karen and I went on a hike with Victor and a couple of our young single adults.  We hiked in a national park called "Stolby."  In Russian in means "Pillars".  In this case pillars of rocks.  It is one of the most beautiful parks we have ever been in.  It covers hundreds of square miles and is national treasure in Russia.  And it is only a 40 minute bus ride from our apartment.

This is the view on top and goes as far as the eye can see.


     We were all aware that the branch was having a picnic.  We did not know where, or what we were going to eat.  We found out that it was being held on the island that we had never been on before.  We went early because it was Masha's twentieth birthday party on the same island, along with the Celebration of GREEN.  Part of this celebration is like the one in Payson where they celebrate colors by throwing colored dust all over each other.  It was of course raining, and windy, but, that doesn't stop any celebration around here.  We walked around the area looking at different crafts, and watching the children playing games.  We sang happy birthday to Masha, ate cake and visited.  It was time to walk to the picnic so we followed Elena.  We walked and walked until we got to a huge field. We could see yellow flowers, but had no idea that they were wild day lilies.  They were so beautiful.  We spent some time there taking pictures and then began to walk again.  We walked  until we saw a lonely tree.  This is where the picnic is going to be.  It was a beautiful wild meadow with no one else in sight.  We walked over and saw three logs for sitting.  That was it.  All of a sudden a car came driving down the field, it was Elena's husband, a member of the branch presidency.  He had a car full of babushka's and all the food.  Games began to be played and kids were running everywhere.  Then plastic table cloths were placed on the ground and held down by purses on each corner.  The food which was salad, sandwiches and fruit was soon placed on each plate and lined up along the edges of the four table cloths.  Every one gathered around for a prayer, and then sat down on the rubber mats that they had brought.  Even the babushka's sat down on the ground.  Everyone ate and visited.  It was an amazing experience to be out in the open country,  Every direction we looked was open pristine wild meadow.  The weather cleared up, the sun came out and once again it was warm for a few minutes. 

     Here are some photos from the "Green" celebration and Masha's birthday party at the celebration.

The word you see means "Green".

The crafts vendors decorate their booths with ordinary cardboard.

      As we were walking back to the bus after the picnic we noticed an area that had been fenced off and inside were some sand sculptures.  If you've read our blog you will remember the ice sculptures.  Well these sand sculptures were just as amazing.   There are truly some talented people here in Krasnoyarsk.

        So, this is the last entry of our mission.  We will leave this beautiful area tomorrow.  We will always remember and feel a love for the people of Siberia.  We will hopefully be better neighbors, more faithful followers of Christ and members of the church.   We feel hopeful that we have done what was expected of us.  We know that we have more life to live and more work to do. 

     We love Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ.  We feel their love everyday.  We know that this is his work, and it will go on at even a more rapid pace.  We are thrilled that our grandson Hayden Noel will join the missionaries in Chile this October.  He is so excited that he is getting a head start on the language with his dad Steve who went to Mexico on his mission.  They are studying together and then Hayden is skyping with the language training center in Provo.  These young missionaries are a new breed, they give us all a spiritual lift.  This is truly the Lord's work.  Love you all.
Elder and Sister Noel