Sunday, January 27, 2013

Karen's January 27, 2013 Letter

        We are all at the beginning of a new year and as we enter this new
year, we begin to think of things that we need to improve on.  We
always come up with lists and then we push them aside as we rush from
the day to day challenges that we face.  This year as I was reading
the Book of Mormon and came upon the Anti-Lehi-Nephites story of how
they buried their swords and decided that they would no longer use
them to fight, but would be peace loving people, I decided that I had
some swords that needed to be buried.  I did not make a list because
lists are too discouraging for me.  I decided that when something
comes up, and I don't like the way I think about it, or handle it, or
feel about it, I will bury, and or correct, that feeling and take a
higher road to improvement. So far, it has worked, I have a daily
inventory when evening comes, some days I need to bury several swords,
and some days only a few.  But, it makes me feel like I am doing
something and that is the only way I can change.

        One exciting thing that we have to announce is that we are getting a
new grandchild.  In July we will come home to eighteen grandchildren.
Now that is a homecoming.

        On January 4th during our YSA institute meeting we noticed some new faces
in our class.  There were three young men, and one beautiful young
lady.  The young lady was visiting from Moscow and the young men were
visiting from Novosibirsk.  They all had a holiday from either school
or work.  They were all visiting friends here in Krasnoyarsk.  BUT, to
all be in Institute on Friday night seemed very unusual to me.  I can
think of at least ten other places that they would or could have been.
But, here they were all sitting together with their friends  studying
the New Testament.  I know that they are blessed young people, but I
also know that they are deserving of the Lords' blessings.  I've been
told, and I believe that if we are WHERE, we are supposed to be, WHEN,
we are supposed to be there, DOING what we are supposed to be DOING,
we will be blessed.

New Ice and Snow Sculptures
        On January 19th we had another visa trip to Finland. This trip was
different because there is a new rule that the senior couples cannot
stay over night any more unless they pay for it themselves.  We were
forced to stay over night because our visa expired and we could not
come home until the 20th.
        While we were waiting to fly out of Kransnoyarsk I thought I heard
someone speaking english.  My ears perked up like a puppy dogs.  I
turned and looked to see three people sitting together.  I asked "Are
you from America?"  They told me that they were from Alaska and had
just finished sculpturing some peacocks out of snow for the carving
contest here.  They said that Krasnoyarsk paid their travel and room
expenses to come and join their celebration.  We were so excited to
talk to them and to know what they had carved because we had taken a
walk just two nights earlier to see the new carvings, but were
disappointed because the artists were still working on their pieces
and we could not get in. They said that they loved being here, and
were treated very well.   Here are some photos of ice and snow sculptures carved since the last ones we put on our blog.  The peacock snow sculpture was done by the people we met in the airport.  This were taken on an overcast day and some are hard to see clearly.  Also it had snowed so some of the detail is covered.

A famous Krasnoyarsk artist

Called "Breaking Through The Chains."

This "Ice Ship" is right on the banks of the Yenesei River in Krasnoyarsk.

This are oil paintings displayed with frames carved in ice.

Adoption:  The Lord Will Touch Their Hearts:  
   Also, on this trip when we were in the Moscow airport about to go
through the visa check point we noticed two women each pushing
strollers with down syndrome children in them. One from Las Vegas and
one from Tremonton.  Frank and I commented to each other wondering if
they were the last orphans to make it out of Russia since the new law
prohibiting Americans' from adopting Russian orphans came into effect.
Just before I entered the pass port check, one of the women asked me
if I was a missionary.  I said that I was, she began to tell me that
she and her friend were also LDS.  She told me that they had just left
Krasnoyarsk with the last two orphans that will ever leave Russia.
She said that she felt so grateful, I looked at her  child and was
overcome with emotion, as I thought of the sacrifice these two women
were making to save these two little children.
        As I exited the booth, I walked over to the other woman and looked at
her down-syndrome child, the child looked up at me and I could see
that she had no idea that her life had just begun.  I spoke with the
woman who is from Tremonton.  She said that this was her tenth child,
and nine of them are special needs children.  The oldest of her ten is
their own. I told her that I had a story for them if they had a
minute, they of course did, so here it is. . . .

       Dennis and Mariya are a couple in our branch who have one daughter.
Her name is Eva and she is in the nursery with me.  Dennis is one of
our Institute teachers.  He has been on a mission and he and his wife
have been married in the temple. They both speak english very well.  He
has his own genealogical business, and is very close to the spirit of
Elijah.  They are both finishing up school, and  Mariya is in the
Relief Society Presidency.

      One day while in nursery Mariya proceeded to tell me that they had a
very spiritual experience while watching conference in October.  While
Elder Oaks was giving his talk about children, they both felt
impressed that they needed to adopt a child.  They were both taken
back because Mariya has no problem getting pregnant or delivering
children.  After his talk they began to talk about what they were
feeling and both of them decided that the spirit had spoken to them.
They decided that they would prepare for adoption.  Here in Russia you
have to take twenty hours of classes and receive a certificate in
order to even apply for adoption.  They began the classes and got
their certificate.  We were then speaking to Dennis one night at Institute and how so many americans adopt special needs children from Russia.  He looked at us very seriously and said  "If for no other reason, God bless America for this."  Then a few days later out of nowhere Russia announced that legislation would be introduced banning all future adoption of Russian children by Americans.  
       Dennis and Mariya will finish school this summer and then be able to
have a new baby to care for.

        We all feel that God will touch the hearts of the people here, some
how he will help these little children find homes where they will be
loved and taken care of.

        The woman from Tremonton had tears in her eyes and thanked me for the
story because she told me that it was bitter sweet as they walked out
of the orphanage.  They were grateful for the two children that made
it out, but were praying for the others who were left behind.

Dennis and Mariya and their daughter Eva.

        We needed cabbage for our Friday missionary meal.  I like to buy the
Chinese cabbage because it is a little bit more like lettuce which you
can't find here too often and when you do it is very expensive.  So we
decided rather than take the bus to the large supermarket we would
just walk to a renok where they sell everything from soup to nuts.  We
had seen Chinese cabbage there before so we knew we could get some. .
After walking around I found three good sized heads and we began to
ask the price.  The woman (a Gypsy) said 200 rubles each.  Well I
quickly timesed that by 3 ( 3 heads) and then timesed again by 3 to
figure the American dollar and came up with $18.00 American dollars.
I said "no way" to Frank, "that is terrible."  He said, "Nyet."  She quickly
said 100 and I said that is more like it.  So she bagged them up and
came around from her counter to hand them to us and then said "170."
Frank already had his wallet out, and so being the nice guy that he
is, he gave her the money.  She could tell that I wasn't so happy with
the transaction.  She must have felt a little guilty because she took
a lemon from her stand and threw it in the bag and smiled like, "this
will make up for my little trick."

       We walked away saying, live and learn right? When we got home and
began to unpack our goods, I reached for the lemon only to find that
it was soft like a wet sponge.  We got hit twice, but, like I said, I
will bury that sword, and move on.

      The mission leader in our branch meets with the missionaries each week
and we attend this meeting also.  Brother Veletion, an engineer,
speaks only Russian so one of the missionaries helps us out.  Each
week we feel of his spirit, and his devotion for his calling.  One
Sunday we heard that he was very worried and stressed out because he
was going to have to move his mother from another city to Krasnoyarsk.
He told the missionaries that  his boss would not give him time off to get the job done.  He asked Frank if he would give him a blessing. Frank gave him the blessing and through an
interpreter, he was able to understand it.  The next time we saw him
he was all smiles, his boss understood and gave him the two weeks
needed to get the job done.  It is just another example of how God
wants to help us in all of our fears, troubles, and problems.  We need
to go to him with simple faith to get help.

     We feel so blessed to be among such faithful people who teach us much
about faith and sacrifice.    May God bless all of us that we
might have the simple faith to go forward doing good, and appreciating
all that we have.  We Love You All, Elder and Sister Noel

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Karen's update Jan 2, 2013

Hello From Russia,

     Christmas is over and the NEW YEAR has begun.  We have had such a wonderful time soaking in all of the Russian traditions.  We still haven't had our branch party because in Russia the birth of Christ is celebrated on January 7th.  Our branch  is wokring so hard to make this a very special performance.  They all practice behind closed doors, and all we see are costumes coming and going.  We are excited to see what they have planned. 

     The big news here is of course the weather.  When the cold temperatures hit, it was quite a shock.  We went from the minus 5-10 to - 40.  Today it is -31 F.   I noticed that when the temperature was from minus 1-15 my nostrils  would stick together when I took a big sniff, It reminded me of when I was in college at USU.  Then one day when we were outside,  my nostrils stuck together just breathing normally.  I asked Frank what the temperature was and he said minus 24.  I then realized, ok, this is cold.  Then one day we were out, and I knew that  the temperature  was minus 35F so I dressed for it.    At this point your mouth and nose are covered with a scarf so the steam comes up to your eyes.  The vapor condenses on you eyelashes, bangs, scarf and on the fur on your hood.  All of a sudden you are frosty the snowman.  Minus 35 to minus 40 is a scary cold.  You do not want to be out side very long, you can feel the cold going deeper and deeper through all of your layers.  We are just so happy that we are here when the weather is the coldest its been in 70 years.   Another reason that I know that Heavenly Father has a sense of humor. Now when I go outside, I start to sniff and try and guess what the temperature is.  I'm getting pretty good, if I say so myself.  Maybe it will warm up to a more normal temp later in January.  Some Russian friends of ours took us for a ride in their car last night to see some lights.  Sergey has to get up at least twice every night to go out and start his car or it will not start in the morning.  He lives on the 8th floor of his apartment building and the car is usually about ½ to 1 blocks from the apartment. So that is no easy task.  His wife Julia must start hers every two hours, but she has a remote for hers.  They are one of the few couples we know who even have a car let alone two.  They were both engineers.  So far they show no interest in the gospel.  But we continue to hope. 

This is what we look like in -25 to -35 degrees F.

Karen with a couple of the street vendors we buy jam and other items from.

Bus Story
     One day while on the bus a cute mom with a little girl sat down.  The little girl looked bored so the mother took out her lip stick lid and showed the little girl how to scrape the ice off the bus window so that she could see out.   I didn't realize that Frank and I would be doing the exact same thing.  Frank just lays his hand on the window for a few seconds and it warms up enough that we can scrape a circle big enough to see out.  There is only a short window of time before it is iced up again, but it works. Every seat that is next to a window has a cute little circle for viewing so that passengers know when to get off.  
     On December 9th Frank decided to try out his ice trekkers.  They are stretchy rubber with spikes on the bottom.  They worked so well, that I put mine on also.  We have worn them ever since, only taking them off when we go into a mall or area where there is slippery tile.  They are such a clever wonderful invention.  We still have to watch for clear ice because we could still slip.  The missionaries don’t wear them, probably because when they fall they bounce.  When we fall we break, so we wear them.

     December 13th we arrived back at our apartment at 8;30 am. from our mission conference in Novosibirsk after an all night train ride. We showered and changed for our service project.  Our Relief Society President had set up the project the week before, so we knew that it was a wall papering project in a home.  We met the missionaries and all went together on the bus. When we arrived at the address we found a large home with a sign indicating that it was a homeless shelter.  We soon found out that we were going to wall paper two rooms.  We were aware that it was a two day project.  One day to take the paper off, and one day to put it up.  We assumed that a day would be until about 6:pm because the missionaries have appointments in the evenings.  In fact, Frank and I had an appointment with one set of missionaries and a investigator.  We began by moving everything out of the rooms, or over to one side while we worked on the other side.  This took about one hour because we also had to dust off the walls.  The paper had already been taken down, or else there never was paper on the walls.  
     I became very nervous because none of these missionaries had ever wallpapered before.  My uncle was a professional wall paperer, and my mother was a perfectionist when it came to wall papering.    The ceilings in these two rooms were eleven feet high.  
I thought to myself, surely they will have wall papering tools and ladders, and tables to lay the paper on.  We waited and watched as things began to arrive.  We received two table knives, two buckets, one with glue in it, and one with warm water, two rags, one ladder, (Frank ended up standing on a table in his room) and a tape measure.  That was it.  Frank went in one room with half of the missionaries, and I went into the other room with the other half.  As always God blessed me.  Sister Karachova, our little Russian missionary had wallpapered before.  She had Elder Topham our 6'6" missionary on the ladder measuring for the first cut.  Soon we had enough pieces cut to do one wall.  The linoleum  on the floor was a life saver because it curled up onto the wall, so we could peal it back and put the wall paper behind it.  There were two other blessings, one, there was no pattern on the wall paper, and two, when the cut was uneven because when you cut wall paper with a table knife, the cuts are somewhat jagged, we would just turn the piece up side down and put the bad end under the linoleum.  The thing that bothered me the most was we did not have a straight line or plum line to begin this project.  I could not understand how we could hang it straight without one.  I just kept my mouth shut and let Sister Karachova take over.  We began to paste and hang the first strip, all went well, except the ladies wanted us to begin at the other end of the room.  Sister Karachova didn't want to, soon we found out why they wanted us to begin at the other end.    The next piece went up, but, with a little bit of trouble because in order to make it work we had to overlap the seam by about one inch, (because we didn't have a straight line).  Ok, now I see, these seams are going to show when you enter the room, but if we would have started on the other end they wouldn't have shown so much.  We kept going,  glueing paper, mopping up glue, and then me, trying to get the bubbles out with a ruler that I found on the desk.  Sister Karachova told me not to worry about the bubbles, she said that it was normal.  I thought to myself, my mother would be turning over in her grave right about now.  But, we worked until about 5:00 and only had one wall finished, but  then realized that we had better clean up so that we could make our meetings.  Well, the ladies about died because they thought that we were going to stay until we were finished.  It took some pretty fast talking to get us out of there.  There were a few cross words exchanged, but, we told them we would be back. 
     The next day everyone returned, except me, I was home cooking for our district missionary meeting.  About 1.00pm the missionaries got to our apartment and I got the rest of the story.  Elder Noel had been held hostage,(just kidding) there was still work to be done and he was the only one that could stay.  He had had no lunch, and I didn't send any water with him.  He had to be at a young men's birthday party by 5:00pm. and he had to bring a cake with him.  I was a little concerned, but, we went a head and ate and then the missionaries had their meeting.  About 4:00 pm Frank arrived, ate a bite, drank a lot, showered and headed for the branch.  We were right behind  him because the missionaries were putting on a Christmas program that night.  
     The Lord again came to the rescue, because Frank later told me that Ivan, our YSA friend felt like he wanted to help so he got the address and arrived just in time.  The bonus was, he knew how to wallpaper, so Frank could leave for his appointment. Ivan stayed and finished, and put the furniture back.  The ladies were all happy and very appreciative.  We also learned that Sister Valeshin, the Relief Society President taught the ladies two of the missionary lessons while Ivan finished.  All in all it was a great experience.

     Igor, one of our YSA showed up to FHE with a bottle of root beer extract. His friend brought it back for him from USA.   He asked me if I knew how to make root beer.  I, of course said, yes, all the time, (my witches brew), but I use dry ice.  He told me that there is no dry ice here, but asked if we could make it with yeast.  We told him that we would work on it.  We tried two recipes, one was on the box, very easy, using carbonated water and sugar.  We made it and at the next FHE we tried it.  To me it tasted a little salty, but it was ok.  Igor wanted us to try the yeast recipe.  Frank got on the Internet and got the step by step instructions with pictures.  We made a bottle and let it sit for about three days (according to directions)  until Institute that Friday night. Everyone was tasting it, but not liking it.  Igor thought it was wonderful, and Kostya, one of our institute teachers, and a counselor in the Mission Presidency, returned missionary, and just  newly married, thought it tasted just like Hires (he was at the Provo MTC).  He was so excited, he wants to make more, so if anyone wants to send Root beer extract, it would be a hit. He asked me Sunday if anyone is sending root beer extract.  I told him that I didn't know, but, I will wait to see if someone emails me.  He said, "Oh thank you, ever since I tasted this home made root beer I have more meaning to my life."  I was laughing so hard, I told him that he should get a job with Hires Co. doing root beer commercials in Russia. He has an incredible radio, TV voice, all he needs is a contract with Hires.   Anyway, just before we were to clean up and leave, Frank asked Slava, another YSA if he had tasted it. He is very intelligent, has a back ground in medicine and chemistry and speaks very truthfully.  He answered, "No, I have to drive home."  Frank laughed and told him that there was no alcohol in the root beer.  Salava said, "Yes, I think that there is."  
     After we returned home, Frank got back on the Internet and found out that there could possibly be some alcohol in it, but if there was it would be 1/30th of what is in NyQuil.  We began to laugh, thinking we could be the only senior couple to get sent home for making alcoholic beverages with the YSA's. So that is probably the end of our root beer making days.

     This week we really wanted to teach the children the concept that Jesus was born, and then grew up to be a man.  We down loaded two short movies from the Mormon channel.  Then Galya read them the Christmas story.  I had one of the parents bring a baby doll.  We dressed Lova up like Joseph, and wrapped the doll in a table cloth.  He held the doll very carefully. Eva did not want to be Mary, and she was the only girl there that day.   Then Galya thought of turning the little chairs upside down to make a cradle.  We put a blanket over the chair legs and layed the doll in the cradle.  We sang Silent Night and everyone seemed to get it.  Then Lova took the baby out and handed it to me.  He pulled over a chair, climbed up and got into the cradle.  He smiled, like this is just made for me.  Joseph in the cradle. . . it took on  a different twist, but, with nursery age, you've got to love it. 
     Next week for the birth of the savior, Galya and I have made little nativity sets out of toilet paper rolls, (thank heavens for pinterest).  I wanted to find something that could be made from recycled materials so that Galya could see what can be done for next to nothing in cost.  

     Christmas eve in America was Christmas day here so we had missionaries coming at 6:30 am to skype with their families. I had made a breakfast casserole so that they could eat at their convenience. It was so much fun to overhear the shouts of joy coming from America.  It made me a little teary eyed, just because we knew that at 9:00 am we would be doing the same thing with our family.  It was a wonderful day.  The missionaries were able to visit with each other (we have four new ones) and then eat together, and then skype some more. We were able to meet some of the parents over skype.  Frank is really good at getting pictures of the missionaries as soon as they arrive on the train so that he can email the parents to let them know that they have arrived safely.  One set of parents, the Xanthos from Hyland Utah broke our hearts.   Her father is Greek with a very thick accent.  Her mother is Brazilian, they are both converts.  They have four boys who served missions  one being twenty years older than Sister Xanthos.  With tears in his eyes and a trembling voice he thanked us for letting us know that their daughter was safe.  He told us that she was their only daughter and it was hard for them to see her go so far away.  He said that he knew that it was for a good cause, but, he reminded us that she was their only daughter.  We feel so humbled to have her in our mission. .  We know that she is a very special girl, her spirit is penetrating. They were all here until 6:30 pm..  Then the next day Christmas day in America, they were able to come over again, eat and finish skyping.  What a wonderful invention  
     All in all the many trips to the grocery store, the baking, cooking, planning and cleaning up was all worth it. We enjoyed the noise, the laughter, the companionship, and most of all the spirit of Christmas where all hearts go at this time of year. We feel so blessed that we were able to share our Christmas with those who are serving the Lord and working so hard to bring souls unto Christ. 

   Natalie, our oldest daughter emailed us and told us that on Christmas day their family went sleigh riding.  They went over to the golf course near their home.  There was a ton of snow and Logan who is 6 was interested in walking over to a ridge to see what was on the other side.  Natalie explained to him that there was a road that winded around the mountain.  He wasn't convinced and said that he just had to see.  She walked with him, they walked and walked, and walked, he worked so hard trudging through the snow. Finally he reached the edge, as he looked over his head went down as did his shoulders.  He breathed a sigh, Natalie asked him what was wrong.  Logan said, "Well, I thought that I would be able to see Russia." 
    Marianne our youngest daughter told us that Daniel, one of her twins who is 5, took the last letter we sent and asked his mom if she would help him tuck it in his pants underneath his shirt.  She did as he asked, he left it there the entire day as he went to school and played.  

     The missionaries all get one culture night every three months.  So this time we all went  to see the Nutcracker ballet.  What an amazing time we  had.  It was actually a matinee for children, and that was the best part.  We watched children arrive in their warm snow clothes, and then magically change into wonderful costumes.  Here, for New Years, which is when “Santa” comes, or actually “Grandfather Frost”, the children dress up in costumes.  We saw everything from Ninja's to animals, to fairy princesses. They all gathered around for the program being held in the foyer. (Frank told about that on our blog)

These few photos are of what was going on in and around the theater during our "Cultural Night."  There are more of them in our last blog. This contraption on the left is actually a barbecue type device.

The New Year's celebration is a time for the kids to dress up in costumes.

Another photo of the beloved "Ded Moroz."

Notice the beautiful curtain in the "Krasnoyarsk Opera and Ballet Theater."

     Sister Karachova decided that we should eat a Russian dish for our dinner.  She planned it, bought the food, and put us all to work.  It was amazing to see the Elders, (Elder Topham in an apron) dig in and work.  Kneading dough, and filling the Pelmeyny, (little cut out circles of dough rolled and twisted into a round shape) with mashed potatoes, and  ground spiced chicken. We have seen different shapes frozen in bins in the grocery store thinking that is was  pasta.  But, now we know what they are.  They are filled with different foods and then boiled.  They are good, but they take for ever to make.  It is a project for an entire family. 
     The funnest part of this whole project was rolling out the dough.  While rolling out the dough (for over an hour) I could listen to different conversations that were going on.  Ivan (who we invited over to be with all of us because he is alone) was standing by me asking me words in English because he is really trying hard to learn English.  Then Sister Karachova who is Russian, and who understands English some what, but often needs an interpreter was asking me for utensils and pans, and what ever else she needed with the help of the English speaking missionaries.   Then there are all of the missionaries who speak English and in and out of Russian.  I just had to smile and wonder what it must have been like building the Tower of Babel.   

     Sister Karachova (our little Russian missionary) and Sister Xanthos, a brand new missionary from Hyland Ut. were getting ready to leave their apartment to go visit a shut-in member.  They decided that they would do their post office errand at the same time.  The original plan was to go to the  post office near the sisters' home.  But, as they left, Sister Karachova decided that they should go to the post office near their apartment.  So, they entered the post office and stood in line.  There were two couples near by.  One of the women asked sister Xanthos, "what is that book you have?"  Sister Xanthos had the book of Mormon in her hand but it was down by her side.  The woman continued, "I need that book, I need to get that book and I am going to read that book."  Sister Xanthos told her that she could have the book, and handed it to her.  Her husband began to tell her that she did not need the book, but she insisted on taking it.  Right after that, the other woman seemed to feel left out because she said, I want that book, I need to read it, and I will read it.  Sister Karachova told her that it was alright, she had another book that she could have.  She smiled and took the book.  They both were given invitations to church and phone numbers in case they had questions. I think these two sisters set a new record, two books of Mormon given out in thirty seconds.  The spirit that comes from that book still amazes me.  I love hearing these stories, and most of all seeing the faces of the missionaries when they tell the stories. 

I took this picture on the street one day not knowing who these people were.  When I got closer I could see that it was two of our sister missionaries telling someone on the street about the Book Of Mormon.  The missionaries work hard over here (as they do everywhere) in very extreme conditions. If you look closely you will see the Book of Mormon they are asked to carry at all times.  They are also asked to give one out every day to someone they seriously think will read it.

      The church is true, Christ has set up his church here on this earth. We have the fullness of the gospel.  We have his word.  We are the most blessed people on the face of the earth to have more written word than any other church.  It is such a blessing to see, feel, and experience the joy that comes from sharing this gospel.  We hope that this new year will bring many more lives into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  May God Bless you in your efforts as you share the gospel with those around you.   
      We love you all, you are such dear friends and family.  We feel so blessed to have such great support and many prayers, while being so far away. May the Lord bless each and every one of you with the desires of your hearts. 
 All Our Love,
 Elder and Sister Noel