Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Visa Trip to Finland

       On October 19th we left our apartment at 4:30 a.m.for our first visa trip.  Here in Russia we have to get our visa's renewed every three months, so this means flying out of a Russia into another country. While we are in Finland we pick up our new passports. It is all sort of mysterious to us, but if you are caught without a current passport, look out!!
     While waiting in the Kransnoyarsk airport, we became a little anxious because there wasn't any information anywhere  that our flight was about to take off.  We looked for someone to ask, and finally an English speaking Russian came up to us and looked at our tickets.  His eyes got big and he said, " I don't know what to do, there is no one."  Then he told us that the plane had probably been delayed.  We soon saw people leaving so we followed them.  Sure enough it was our bus to take us to the plane out in the "north forty."  
     We found our seats, and sat down.  We had intended on getting a little rest, while flying to St. Petersburg,  but behind us were the two happiest men in all of Russia.  They were continually belly laughing.  It was non stop until finally the stewardess asked them to be quiet.  That helped for a while, and dad has just settled down for a nap when one of them let out a yell that scared him wide awake. They had to be told again and then they fell asleep for a while.
     Upon arriving in St Petersburg we were led to the luggage carousel.  The luggage had all been claimed, and to our SURPRISE  our luggage didn't make it.  After a few inquiries, we found out that our luggage had gone to Novosibirsk.  Lisa, the office gal said that she would call us when our luggage has arrived on the next plane, which would be around noon or 1:00pm.  That would work out great because we were going to be met by a brother of a missionary we knew from Kransnoyarsk and he was going to take us sight seeing and then return us to the airport.  We exchanged phone numbers and then caught a train, then another train, and then another train, until we reached the center of the city.  What a great sight, really huge stately buildings with beautiful parks and people running this way and that.
     We were taken to a museum called the Palace.  Evidently this was the winter home for all of the former royalty.  It was so big it would have covered at least one downtown S.L.C. block. There was so much art inside that we could't process it all.  Daniel left us there so we could just take our time.  We were going to be picked up by Chrs around 2:00 and taken to the airport so we had plenty of time. 
     By about 1:45, we hadn't received any calls, from the airport or from Chris so we began to call to see what was up.  Come to find out, our bags were not going to make it until after our plane was to leave.  Lisa talked about getting them to Finland, but we felt really uneasy about that so we told her to keep them in the Kransnoyarsk airport and we would pick them up on the way back home.  I felt sad because dad and I had been Christmas shopping and had some items that we were going to mail from Finland where they speak English and mailing is not such a chore.  Oh Well.
     Chris did show up, but he didn't not have a car.  He is a student at the University in Russia,  and has served a mission in Russia, so he and his girl friends were nice enough to meet us and help us get a taxi so that we could head out to Finland.
      We arrived in plenty of time and began to take off our outer clothing and go through the scanner.  For some unknown reason both dad I had to be frisked, but we made it through.  Just as I was getting my coat back on, I stepped backwards onto a slick metal tray where the suitcases and everything roll onto the floor, weird.  I felt myself going down so I quickly turned around to see where I would be falling.  I landed flat on my body,with a bar under my arm pit.  I laid there thinking "AM I OK?"  Then Frank pulled me up, My right toe was really throbbing because my shoe whet flying, and I had ripped a hole in my nylons while taking some of the skin off of my knee.  BUT yes I was ok.  The padding from my coat, jacket, and sweater, protected my arm, so we limped away to wait for the plane.  Not one employee came over or even seemed the least bit interested, they just sat and watched the whole thing.  Maybe they are told to not get involved. |'ll bet they had fun watching the re-run.  
     We had a great flight and then landed in  the beautiful Helsinki airport.  We found the bus to take us to our hotel, it was a wonderful ride, very quiet with great scenery. Our hotel was right next to the train station and a huge market mall.  We had thirty minutes before the store closed to get our toiletries, curling iron, makeup, and hair brushes.  The mall was five stories high so power shop we did.  First the first floor for the makeup, then up onto the fifth floor for a curling iron, then down in the basement for men's toiletries, what a riot.  I was so tired and rattled that dad had to help me pick out my makeup, there was too much to choose from and it was so expensive.  I brought enough makeup for one year for that very reason.  I don't want to change brands and start all over trying to figure out  what works for me.  But this was a necessity, so we got the job done.
     Saturday was the day we had been waiting for.  Our trip to the Helsinki Temple.  We boarded our train and rode it to the end of the route like we had be instructed to do.  We then looked for a bus to take us the rest of the way.  Each time we ask a bus driver, he didn't know about a LDS temple with a gold statue on top.  The third driver said that he knew of a big church up a ways, and he drives right past it all the time.  We thought, let's go for it.  Sure enough, we saw the steeple breaking through a grove of beautiful fall leafed trees.  What a sight.  The driver said yes that is the one I was thinking of.  
     As we walked toward the temple, I could feel myself getting homesick for the temple and anxious to get inside.  We just opened the door and walked inside.  The spirit was so strong I had to work hard to hold back the tears.  We have been away  for three months without a temple insight, and now we are inside one, it was overwhelming.  I just kept blinking,fighting the tears, while we visited with the couple who checks your recommends. We also spoke with Brother and Sister London, from Morgan.  They know Shauna and Mike Lasater and they wanted to make sure that we said hello,from them.  We found out that we could buy garments there, so we could check one more thing off our list.  We got that done and went in for a session.   It made our day to be able to serve in the temple, and yet get so much out of that service.  What a glorious beautiful thing. When we were about to leave we were taken into the Temple Presidents office.  He spoke with us also and then a man came in, opened a wall safe and took out our passports.  This whole experience was for us.  God wants us here in Russia, and he wants us safe, so the church works so hard and spends so much money for us to do the work and yet obey the laws.  It is overwhelming to think that every missionary in Russia, young and old travels every three months to renew visa's, what a bundle of  time, energy, and money. The church is true, it is Gods church, it cannot be stopped. 
    We walked back to the train station and saw a mall, so of course we went in.  OH MY GOSH, it has to be the largest mall ever. It is eleven floors, and I don't know how many square feet.  We found a shirt and sweater to keep us going and then we ate lunch there.  It was a great way to get a look at all of these Finnish people.  They are beautiful, blonde and very fair. They are also very friendly and happy people. BUT THE BEST PART IS THEY ALL SPEAK ENGLISH. When we got back to the train station, Frank reached into his pocket to get his wallet, only to find it missing.  He had left it on the train.  We tried to get it back but no luck.  We got numbers to call on Monday, but, they said that his chances were pretty slim.  Luckily it was his fake wallet. Old expired health card and his judicial identification.  The only thing of worth was the wallet itself, 70 euros, and  his temple recommend.  (which can be replaced)
     The church is renting a group of apartments for their chapel.  It is very nice and has plenty of room for everyone.  The sacrament meeting was full and the pianist was amazing.  The prelude music was hymns that he had arranged and added his own touch to, to make a beautiful listening experience. Because the Finnish language uses the same alphabet that we do the hymns were so easy to sight sing.  We sang pretty much every word, sounding out as we went.  Here is Russia, we still can't sing fast hymns, and I can't even be sure of what I am singing when I sing slow hymns.The difficult part about learning the Finish language is the cases.  they have fifteen, and then some. 
     Monday we decided to walk again so we went down to the pier and to the flea market on the docks.  We walked to a couple of huge beautiful churches and went inside.  We walked and walked for about two and one-half hours.  It was so fun, and Monday it was sunny.  We took some great pictures and then called about Franks wallet.  We found out that the wallet had been found and with the money in it.  The sad thing is that the lost and found is far away, you have to take a train to pick up your item.  So I guess it just stays in Helsinki, maybe they do something good with the money they find.
     We boarded our plane flew back to Moscow, then Kransnoyarsk.  We lost five hours and so we are very tired, BUT miracles of all miracles, our luggage was waiting for us when we arrived.  Leaving your luggage home really cuts down on the washing after a trip ha ha. 
Downtown St. Petersburg.  Helsinki is just a short hop, skip and jump from St. Petersburg.

Also St. Petersburg (a museum)

More of downtown St. Petersburg

Three  Russian Army Officers on the square in St. Petersburg

One of the Museums in St. Petersburg.  This was formerly the Winter Palace for Russian Royalty. Now it is filled with art and other treasures.  This is just the front wing.  Their is another building just as big running parallel and behind this building.  They are connected at each end by two other large similar buildings forming one very large building with a courtyard in the center.

Inside the museum.  This is the main stairway to the museum exhibits.

I think this may have been a "throne room" of some kind.

One of dozens of similar rooms filled with art (Da Vinci's, Peter Paul Rueben's, Franz Hal's, Michelangelos, Rembrandt's and dozens of other artists)  and other exhibits.  We could have spent a  couple of days and not seen everything. And they tell us that the items exhibited are only a fraction of those kept in storage by the museum.  Some are rotated from time to time.

The ultimate grandaddy clock.

The Helsinki Finland Temple

Looking out from the front door of the temple.

A Large Lutheran Church in Helsinki.

Another Church.  People come to sit on the steps leading up to the church (55 steps.  We counted them.) to warm themselves and to eat lunch.

Inside the church.

Another church viewed from a hill about two blocks away.

A park in Helsinki

A restaurant where we had our lunch.

Inside the church shown below.

A trolley in downtown Helsinki.  The trolley looks distorted (stretched) but it is not. That is the actual dimensions.  Notice the cars parked on the street.  Also notice the wide sidewalks and narrow streets.
LOVE TO YOU from Elder and Sister Noel

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Krasnoyarsk Branch Nursery

        Karen has been helping out in the Nursery in our branch the last few weeks.  And as you all can imagine she has been a great blessing to them.  The nursery leader (Galina) is a really delightful young single adult who served a full-time mission a few years ago.  Karen immediately saw some needs and we have been blessed to be able to help out a little with some toys and furniture.  Karen and Galina spent one saturday making some cardboard kitchen furniture (oven, sink, cupboard).  I Thought you might like to see some photos.   (The faces some of these kids made when being photographed were completely spontaneous.  They were told to be "reverent."  I guess kids are kids wherever you are.)

Galina (Galia)

Krasnoyarsk branch primary

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our First Snowstorm and The Russian Language

      Our First Snowstorm
      Here is a picture of the view from our bedroom window this morning when we got up.  Right now it is about 25 degrees  Fahrenheit.  It is expected to be about 25 to 35 the remainder of this week.  However I think it is expected to warm up a little next week. I believe that the Siberian winter is upon us and will probably last until next April.   We had a service project yesterday at our chapel with the young men and the missionaries.  I was elated to have both of the young men in our Aaronic Priesthood at the branch raking leaves and cleaning up.  It is a good thing we did it yesterday (even though it was freezing)  because it looks like the window of opportunity to clean up around the chapel just closed.

View from our bedroom window this morning, Oct. 11, 2012.  About 25 F, 18-20 windchill.  Should go into the 30's the rest of this week.
Krasnoyarsk Aaronic Priesthood.  Pavel (Pasha) on left, Elder Noel and Vitaly.

The missionaries in our district.  Ivan on the left is a local Young Single Adult who volunteered to help us out.

    The Russian Language
     I have read that the most difficult languages for an english-speaker to learn to speak are (1) Finnish, (2) Mandarin and (3) Russian.  I can now see why.  It has been a very slow process for us.  They use the Cyrillic alphabet, named after Saint Cyril.  Cyril with his brother Methodius  were greeks sent by the church in the 9th century to be missionaries to the Slavic people.  The Slavs had no written language and Cyril is credited with creating the beginning of the current cyrillic alphabet.  You will notice some Greek influence in this alphabet.
     One of the reasons Russian is so difficult to learn is because of the "case" system.  They do not use articles (I think that is what they are called)  like "a" or "the." But the ending's of all nouns change somewhat depending on how they are used in the sentence. The ending of the noun changes depending on whether it is the subject, object, indirect object, used in a prepositional phrase and a couple of other ways.  The adjectives and pronouns also change accordingly.   There are 6 different cases and so there are sometimes six different ways to put an ending on the noun or pronoun or adjective depending how it us used.  Its all very confusing and even the russian people have some difficulty with the rules but know when it "sounds right" just as we do in english.
       Sometimes I am asked "have you witnessed the Gift of Tongues?"   If the question is "have you  heard missionaries who did not yet know the language, speak the russian language so as to be understood. The answer to that is "no."  I have never seen a missionary able to communicate in Russian without having put in long hours of study and effort.   But If you ask if I have witnessed the gift of tongues, and witnessed any miracles then the answer is without question "yes."  We witness miracles every day.  To me it is without question a miracle when I hear missionaries who have been in the field only a few short months approach strangers on the street to invite them to come unto Christ, and communicate with them about all kinds of matters with relative ease.  With members of our branch the missionaries laugh, organize, report, help, comfort, encourage, pray and testify together all in the russian language.  I see these miracles every day in our mission and every time it brings a lump to my throat.  The hand of the Lord unquestionably directs this work and Karen and I are blessed and privileged to be a part of it.
     For Karen and I the language is coming a little slower.  We study  and we learn a little every day but because our assignment is a little different than the missionaries we are not required to use the language as much and could probably go our entire mission without any further study.   But to both of us there is a frustration not being able to carry on a simple conversation, so we study and try to get a little better each day.
     We miss all of our friends and family but are happy in the work we are doing.