Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hello From Russia March 27, 2013

Hello, family and friends,

        March came in like a lion and has pretty much stayed that way.  We have had days of  snow, ice and freezing temperatures. It has gotten above freezing about once this month. However we know that spring is just around the corner because the days are longer, the mornings are brighter, the sun is higher and the buds are bigger. We even have areas where we walk where we can see the pavement.  Wearing our snow clothes will still be our routine because the wind is very cold and spring and summer is when Siberia gets most of its precipitation.  That will come in the form of snow for quite some time. Just knowing that an end to this freezing cold is coming makes us excited.  We always comment how easy it will be to get ready when we can just put on our shoes and walk out the door.  

        We know what they are and how much they mean to us, but sometimes I think that because we have been raised in the church, we don't have a clue what an impact they have in our lives.  After talking to one of our young single adults the other day, it made us think how different our lives could have been.  He told us that when he was in Novobosibirsk for the YSA mini conference he stayed with a member family over night.  This family had five children which is VERY unusual in Russia.  He said that when they were all sitting around reading scriptures together he got the most wonderful feeling inside.  He said that he had never seen a family do this.  He said that he wanted to have a family like that.  He always thought that he would have one or two children, but now he wants several.  

          One of our branch members joined the church because he saw a picture of a missionary's family that had the same effect on him.  Looking at the picture he got this wonderful feeling.  He asked the missionaries if he got baptized could he have a family like that.  Of course they said yes, and he said, "then baptize me."  He has since been on a mission and is married in the temple, has a little girl Eva, and has his own genealogical business. 

       Then I had to ask myself the eternal question.  Why I'm I so blessed  Why do I have what I have?  Why do I have a beautiful family?  WHY, WHY, WHY?  Then, a little voice said, "that is why you are over here doing what you are doing."  Now I get it, we are not all going to have the same kind of experiences here on this earth.  That is why we go on missions.  That is why we serve our fellow men any way that we can, whenever and wherever we can.  It can't change a persons lot in life, but it can let them feel the love and caring that others have for them and let them know that God loves his children.  Mosiah 24:15 "...the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." 

        WHICH LEADS ME TO MY NEXT QUESTION....Who wants to take our place.  We just found out that there is no replacement for us yet.  We were told to advertise, so that is what I am doing.  We have a great place to live here, we have done all of the leg work so that who ever comes will know where to go to get what they need.  We have a wonderful branch who loves senior couples.  We have great YSA'S .  So call the mission department and tell them that you want to sign up for the Novosibirsk CES mission, and you could probably make it by August when Institute will begin again.  "Whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world...which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works being let to glorify God."  Ether 12:4

       We were asked if we would be on the talent show for our branch party.  Of course Frank said yes, which surprised me because he never does that kind of thing.  He informed me that we would both be singing.  I burst out laughing because he gave up trying to sing years ago. When he informed me that he was going to play a guitar I even laughed harder because he hasn't played a guitar for even longer  BUT, where there is a will there is a way.  The branch has a guitar, and once we began to sing together it was actually fun.  We decided that we would sing "As I Have Loved You" in Russian, and then "You Are My Sunshine" in English. It took me about two weeks to learn a one line song, The party was very fun, and the talent was amazing. The elders and sisters sang a Russian folk song and then for the last verse added Called to Serve.  Sister Brown had heard it somewhere and with her excellent musical ability, arranged it and played it on the piano.   Elder Topham from Las Vegas Juggled apples and oranges.  The kids loved it.  It was way over our comfort level, but, as I looked out into the audience I could see these little babushka's mouthing the words for me.  I could tell that they were pulling for me.  It made me feel good that I had at  least tried.  The taken show was actually a celebration of "Women's Day" (March 8th) together with "Man's Day" (February 23rd).  The branch decided to celebrate them both at the same time. 
Our missionaries singing the Russian Folk song with "Called To Serve" blended in.

Two of our missionaries (Brown and Mitchell) accompanying Kostya Tolomeev (One of our Institute teachers.)
Our Ward Mission Leader Bro.  Valeeshin.

Other members of our branch including some of the Young Single Adults.
Elder Topham juggling.

The Krasnoyarsk primary singing at the talent show.

        Since our anniversary is March 17th and it landed on a Sunday this year, we invited two young couples over for dinner on Saturday night.  The dinner got pushed back one hour so Frank and I went for a walk.  He bought me some beautiful flowers.  As we were walking home I mentioned that we should get some milk at the corner store.  He opened the door and we immediately heard the Bee Gee's singing, "How Deep is Your Love?"  It was a moment in time that took us back.  We looked at each other and smiled.  It was like Siberia was saying, Happy Anniversary to you.  We went home and looked up the words and played the song on the computer.  It will be one of our favorite moments in Siberia. 
Anniversary flowers.

        We decided that we needed to get our lock on the bridge (you remember that tradition from an earlier post)  during the month of March.  We had been looking here and there for locks to buy, but we were never able to find cute ones.  We were told to go to the reenoks.  There is a big reenok about  a fifteen minute walk from us so that is where we went.  We found several wedding stores with tiny locks, but that wasn't what we wanted either.  As we went from store to store, we finally found a store  with the right lock.   A medium size, thick, heavy, metal red heart.  It was perfect.  The next step was to find someone who could engrave on it.  We took a forty-five minute bus ride to a store in a huge mall where they do the engraving.  The girl there spoke a little English and told us that the engraving that they do would not show up on our heart.   BUT, she knew of a lady with an electric pen that could engrave on it.  When she gave us the directions we were shocked to find out that this little shop is right by the reenok where we bought the heart.  We stopped there on the way home and got it all done. So we got the lock and the engraving very close to where we live and a place we visit regularly. When the engraver looked at our wedding date, she thought that we had put down the wrong year.  We told her that it was correct, and then she said, WOW.  I guess she doesn't get too many old people engraving on  hearts that have been married forty-six years.  
      The following day we got up and began our two mile walk to the foot bridge that spans the Yenisei river.  It was a beautiful day, probably about ten degrees F.  We walked across the bridge to find the perfect spot.  When we found it we locked our heart on the railing, and threw the key into the river. It was a magical moment because even though we are old and have been married for a long long time, we know that we have a chance to be together forever.  It was just another reason to always remember the covenants that we have made and to always remember that little red heart sitting on the giant foot bridge in Siberia.

If you throw the key away its a sign that you are now bound together forever.

       While at our last Zone conference in Novosibirsk (this makes seven round trips or 5600 miles on the Trans-Siberian Railroad) we were able to hear two more Book of Mormon stories.  The missionary said, "On the bus one day a guy got on the bus and sat down a few rows behind us.  As soon as the bus took off he got up and sat right next to me.  He pointed to my book of Mormon.  We did not speak, and I could soon tell that he was deaf.  I began to point to different places in the book and then I started to write to him on paper.  He wrote down his address and information.  He took the book of Mormon and held it tightly in his arms."  "We know that the spirit of the book moves people to come to it."  The missionaries say, "No need to hide, carry it with pride."

"In Omsk my companion and I were walking away from the branch building.  A guy came up and began to talk to us.  We began to tell him about the book of Mormon, and about the Laminites and Nephites.  He wanted to go inside the church so we went back and took him inside.  He took the book and got baptized."  

We are looking forward to getting a copy of the many experiences that the missionaries have reported to our Mission President.  I hope we really can obtain one because there are so many many stories from all over our mission that we just don't get to hear. We just had our YSA movie and pizza party to celebrate their reading of  the book of Mormon.  Some have not finished, but we told them that  as long as they are reading the party is for them also.  They also receive a new triple combination when they finish.   They have been working very hard and we are really proud of them. 
This was taken at our Zone Conference.  It is about 1 to 1 1/2 blocks from the building we were meeting in and I don't mind saying we nearly froze getting there and back.  Karen and I are almost hidden in the back right hand side.

        On the first day of Spring, March 21st we had to be to the train station by 9:30 am.  We actually had three  trips this week because we received new missionaries, and had to say goodbye to others.  It is always a happy, sad, time for us. On this day it was actually freezing cold.  Zero, or a little below, because my nose knows.  The ice was even more slippery because it had snowed again.  
We returned home and then that evening we went out to feed the birds.  We decided that if you don't slip on the ice here, you have a really good chance of tripping over a bird.  The pigeons are everywhere, and they always have the right-away.
Saying good-bye to Elders Jurkevanas (Back left) Elder Jones (back third from left) and Sister Brown  (front right).  Also pictured are Elder Topham Sisters Denkers and Xanthos and three of our Young single Adults  Masha Kokova (left front) Masha Shishmarova (fourth from left and Anton Kovrigin (back right).

Newly arriving missionaries Elder Berg (far left) and Elder Harrison (third from left.)  The other elders are Mitchell (second from left) and Ostler and of course our Sisters Xanthos and Denkers.

New Elder Batson (on the left) and the District Leader Elder Topham.

I took this picture while we were walking over to the train station in the morning to greet the new missionaries.  This is just a few blocks from our apartment.

Karen feeding the pigeons on the First Day of Spring.

Our apartment building taken on the first day of spring.  About 5-10 degrees F.  Our door is the gray metal door on the left.  We live 4 floors up just above that door.

Some city workers we saw on our way to the train station, shoveling and chipping ice off the sidewalks.

        Sister Gibbon's talked about standing in holy places.  She gave such a tender, kind, motivating talk.  She told the missionaries that their apartments were holy places.  She told a story about her friends daughter who went away to college.  The student was having such a difficult time in school.  She really didn't like the experience and she felt like she just couldn't do it.  One day her mother was inspired to ask her about her apartment.  Through their conversation she got the idea that her daughter's apartment was a total mess.  Her mother encouraged her to clean, organize, and then pray about what she should do.  Not long after that she got a call  and on the other end was a happy, college girl.  She was loving school, and life, and was getting good grades. 
      Sister Gibbons gave all of the missionaries really nice signs that say, "STAND IN HOLY PLACES.'  She asked them to hang up the sign, but not until they had thoroughly cleaned and organized their apartment.  Little by little we are getting reports that the apartments have been cleaned and the signs are going up.  She also gave them little job charts to help them keep their apartments clean. D&C 88:124  Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean, cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated."  

President Gibbons gave us six characteristics of a good missionary:

1.  CONTINUAL LEARNING;, educated by experiences, language, listening to your companion, always ask questions, seek the Holy Ghost.
2.  BEING SERVICE ORIENTED: try to bless others, you are not on your mission for yourself. WAKE UP AND YOKE UP.  
3.  ENERGY:  Your face is like a radiator, be cheerful, up beat, enthusiastic, love your life.  Don't let the adversary suck you in. 
4.  BELIEVE IN OTHER PEOPLE:  Don't over react to negative people.  Don't over react to criticism or human weakness. They see the potential in others.  They look at investigators as not what they are now, but what they may become.
5.  MISSIONARIES LIVES ARE LIVES OF ADVENTURE:  Wake up like courageous explorers, confident.  Security lies in the Lord not in your surroundings. They resist becoming any disciple except Christs.  We can fix ourselves through faith and repentance.
6.  EXERCISE:  For self renewal invest in the morning and it will make every other hour of the day better.  Physical, mental, spiritual, social and emotional.  

         In closing a few of the missionaries that are home bound bore their testimonies.  I just want to share what one on them said about Satan.  He said that while he has been on his mission he has figured out one of Satan's tools that he uses to discourage us.  He said that Satan wants us to either live in the past, or in the future.   He wants us to think of  all the bad things that we have done, or not accomplished, and then loose hope in the future and be worried about what might happen.  He doesn't want us to be in the NOW where we can PRAY AND GET PERSONAL REVELATION  so that we can prepare for the future. President Monson said it best,  "The past is behind us, learn from it, the future is ahead of us, plan for it, the present is now, live in it."  

       We are so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We know that we are entitled to our own inspiration and guidance from our Father in Heaven.  We know none of us will be spared trials and difficulties because as it says in
 Romans 5:1-5  "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; 2- By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3- And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4- And patience, experience, and experience, hope; 5- And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed a broad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

        Hope in the future is a great gift.  We pray that we can all find that hope through the Holy Ghost and the Love of God. We pray for our family and friends each day, knowing, without a doubt, that God hears and answers the prayers of us all.  We know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that angles are here among us. 
 All our Love Elder and Sister Noel  
Some of our YSA's doing a skit at the YSA conference in Novosibirsk.

This is the Krasnoyarsk YSA's at the YSA Conference in Novosibirsk.

We wanted to show you this picture of our good friends and members of our branch Anastasiya and her mother Galina who invited us to their home for a nice visit.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Women's Day!

       Well, today Friday March 8th,  is женский день or Women's Day in Russia.  It is a huge holiday. (They don't celebrate Mother's Day,  just this day to celebrate all women.)   The stores will be closed most of the day, people are off work and the flower shops are going crazy.  In fact in spite of all the flower shops there are still people who come out onto the streets and sell flowers the day or two before and the day of Women's Day.  I bought these flowers (tulips) this morning for Karen.  It snowed about 4-5 inches last night, the wind is blowing and it is about 10 degrees, but they are out selling their flowers.  There are more under the blanket.  The blanket is to keep them from freezing.  When I got them home they seemed as cold as ice and so we will see if they survive.  This lady in the picture was a lot of fun.  We laughed trying to communicate with each other in the cold and wind. (You can see on the left that her sign is about to blow off the stand.)   When I was talking about how many I wanted she was talking about price and when I talked about price she was talking about the number of flowers.  But we got it done and she let me take her picture.  Too bad she had her eyes closed.  Didn't notice that til I got home.  Any way Happy Women's Day to all of you or as they say in Russia  "С женский днём!"   (Its pronounced kind of like " Suh Zhenski Dnyom")