Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12/28/14 Two Whites in One Day/Zone Conference/Branch Party

They tell us the real winter is starting and it certainly is getting colder.  Sometimes the windows of the buses are frosted so it is hard to tell when to get off.  That is by way of comment and not by complaint.  We are doing well, so good to be here together.  To Mike has fallen the care of the finances.  It is a cash  society (I'm good with a credit card - Amazon and Costco probably have been sorry to have us gone - and the gas industry too.)  We should have had Mike taking care of our money all of these years.  At the end of last month, he had more than the books showed. 

We had a couple of "whites" in a day.  About mid-day, white-clouds in the blue sky - the blue sky something we hadn't seen for a while.  This is on our "walking street" which has a lane of traffic on either side, then the "park" area in the middle with the trees and grass - in the spring - on the sides of the walk.  It has been warm enough to melt the snow just enough to freeze it back into a very slippery walk.  At the end of each day we count that we have not slipped and fallen as one of our tender mercies.
Our second white was that same evening.  This picture was taken out of our apartment window.  There is more snow tonight, but too dark for a picture.

It has been a busy week - Our mission zone conference was held the day after Christmas,  so our mission president and his wife were here.  Sister Schwab planned a back home Christmas dinner for between the sessions.  They brought some things when they came and we fixed some things down here:  frozen cherry salad, ham, cheesy potatoes, rolls, candied carrots which we hadn't heard of before, but they are lightly candied and very good, evidenced by the very empty pan part way through the meal.  For dessert, Sister Yorgesen had made her famous brownies, and we served that with ice cream  and chocolate syrup.  Everyone spoke in English and all the conference talks were in English - felt like home.
This was held where we meet for church, in the recreation area right behind the chapel.  The zone meetings are in the chapel.  Sister Schawb found the plates, place mats .. etc .. everything at the Metro store (kind of like Walmart) in Samara so it had a real Christmas touch.  It was fun to see and hear the missionary's appreciation
Saturday, the next day, was the Branch Party.  The young women - we have only four - came over earlier in the afternoon to make and decorate cupcakes and cookies.  One young man came along because he was the only one and they didn't want to leave him out.  They wanted me to teach them how to make and decorate cookies.  They think American Babushkas can do all those kinds of things.  Making them is one thing, but creative cookie/cupcake decorating is not one of my talents.  We had picked up a lot of different things for the toppings, and also found a good frosting recipe.  Another tender mercy, I didn't have to demonstrate my weakness,.  They sat right down and went to work - often more frosting than cookie, and the young women's president was good at decorating.  It was a fun activity and when we took them to the party there wasn't a crumb left.  Also, the party was fun - would have reminded you of a way-back-when Bunkerville party.  
The Elders even added a tree and decorated it at the last minute - was a warm, welcome sight.  They made the snowflakes and had pictures of Christ from some of the pamphlets, pretty cool.
Finally to Sunday - This was on the board when we walked into our Sunday School class.  She had written on the board before class, then added the picture and the chart during the lesson. .  "Kingdom Which Shall Never Be Destroyed."  You can tell she is prepared and a good teacher by the lesson and the participation - not because we can understand.   

It touches our hearts and builds our testimonies to associate with the members of the church and to hear their tender stories and strong testimonies in the face often of difficult circumstances.  There are very good people here.  Our young missionaries, after their study and planning in the mornings, are out teaching lessons or on the street contacting in all sorts of not so great weather looking to find those who are searching.  Little miracles happen every day.  Our Heavenly Father certainly watches over us and takes care of our individual needs.  We have thought of Elder Bednar's talk on the tender mercies of the Lord.  "Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.
Since last October I have reflected repeatedly upon the phrase “the tender mercies of the Lord.” Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits “his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (D&C 46:15).
Recall how the Savior instructed His Apostles that He would not leave them comfortless. Not only would He send “another Comforter” (John 14:16), even the Holy Ghost, but the Savior said that He would come to them (see John 14:18). Let me suggest that one of the ways whereby the Savior comes to each of us is through His abundant and tender mercies. For instance, as you and I face challenges and tests in our lives, the gift of faith and an appropriate sense of personal confidence that reaches beyond our own capacity are two examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. Repentance and forgiveness of sins and peace of conscience are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord. And the persistence and the fortitude that enable us to press forward with cheerfulness through physical limitations and spiritual difficulties are examples of the tender mercies of the Lord."
Love from Russia -   Elder & Sister Waite  :)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

12/21/2014 Just Some "Stuff"

We had another snow, about 6".  It has "warmed up" and is staying in the low 30's, so it is slushy and icy.  They say that the Volga is even thawed - there is ice in it but the water is moving.  We hope to get down there this week so we can see it.  Next week is supposed to be back in the high teens.
       This picture is taken from our window.  Because there hasn't been a breeze, it is pleasant to walk outside as long as you are wearing several layers ... me with more layers than Mike.  We have several events coming up - 25th, Christmas Day and Carol's birthday.  It isn't a holiday here, that comes on the 7th of January.  Most of that day for us will be taken with the Elders & Sisters using the computers here to Skype,  or whatever else there is you can see each other on.   They are given an hour each.  We remember those calls being longer when our sons were serving their missions - but those were just telephone, no seeing each other.other.   The 26th is the Christmas Zone Conference, 27th is the Branch Party and maybe a baptism,   Since President & Sister Schwab will be here, on 28th we will have dinner here with 5 or 6 who have been baptized within the year, plus a set of missionaries to translate.  That should be fun.
     This is the WWI statue in Lenin Square, which is right across from the theater where they will have Nutcracker.  This is the eternal flame that we posted before, but without the snow.   (You can barely see my bright pink earmuffs.  :)
We had walked back down there so we could find out when Nutcracker was being performed.  It is in the Saratov Academic Theater - Opera and Ballet, beautiful building.
It took us a while with an English/Russian dictionary to figure out when it was and what time.  They list both beginning and ending times, which is good, but it also means you have to know what you are reading.   We have friends here who went thinking it started at 12:30 in the afternoon but that was the ending time.  Mike and his Russian/English dictionary.   Nutcracker is two from the bottom right, just above the blue writing.
Jump back -- they have drying racks in the cupboards so you can wash the dishes and put them up.   There is a long shallow pan that catches any of the water that drips off. - kind of a cool idea although I still dry them pretty good before I put them up there. 
We couldn't find a big grill like the ones we use at home, but did find this - actually has six little wok pans, but it makes great pancakes, hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. 

We miss home, but are grateful we are able to be here, an experience of a lifetime.   The people here and the missionaries we work with are inspiring.  Already our testimonies have been stirred and strengthened.  Closing with this scripture that we like: D&C6:36 - Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not."   

Sunday, December 14, 2014

12/14/2014 - Samara and The Train

We have been gone most of the week to a couples conference in Samara, so we are trying to catch up.  This will be fast, the conference was good, but this will have more of the side trips.   Also, before we left, we added another internet pre-colored nativity on the window going out to the glassed in porch.  We like it - like the happy faces.  One of the investigators was here and remarked on the sheep in it - apparently in Japan it is the year of the sheep.  We had noticed in the stores that there were a lot of different kinds of sheep - not the live kind - being sold.

We had our first train ride coming back from the conference in Samara . a 10 hour ride to Saratov.  They send the Senior Couples first class so the compartments (coupes) are similar to those you see in the old black and white movie train scenes, but instead of an upper bed, the bench on each side is made into a bed and then covered with a blanket so you have a place to sit until you want to lie down.  Our conductor was extra attentive to us and we had a nice trip.  They do not encourage tipping in Russia which is nice and if you try it is most often refused.  We would have tipped her, but someone else had taken her place when we got off.
Another Volga River picture - this taken in Samara - you can see where the ice is.  There are places people are already walking on it.  On a morning walk with one of the other Elders, Mike was able to see one of the fan boats ferry people across the river - very lightly on top of the ice.  It was too dark to get a good picture.

 We had our second real snow yesterday (this is a jump back to Saratov when we were walking home from the bus after we went to the baptism of an 8 year old in Engels, across the Volga )-  really looks pretty.  But, even with the snow, it is getting colder and they have rain now that is called an icy rain and that is exactly what it is.  Peggy Robison sent us some amazingly warm jackets and hats that make a morning walk pleasant.
 Back now to Samara.   Below is one of their Art museums - a lot of beautiful paintings and other things from clear back to the fifteenth century.  Some wooden pictures back to the thirteenth century.  The building is one of the original ones in Samara.  One of the recent converts there in Samara met us at the museum.  He has enough knowledge of English that he could explain a little as we went through and translate any signs under the pictures we wanted him to.  As I mentioned before, they take very good care of their museums.  The rooms moved from the oldest up to some of the more modern.  The paintings went from very large to a small one probably a little smaller than a regular piece of typing paper .. no matter the size, the detail is amazing.  

Below is the Philharmonic where we were able to see an exceptional Russian pianist.  At one time, he was playing two melodies, one with each hand and each in a different time.  Pretty amazing. Again a very old building, but extremely ornate inside.  Lots of chandeliers - and lots of steps going up and down.  You are required to check your coats - everyone does - but they do not charge for it.

.  In the picture above, Chris Rowley's mother is at the left and Mike is at the right.  They are serving in Samara, are a lot of fun to be around and she makes great candy.    love you all    

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Lenin Square, Freezing Volga, Saratov Museum 12/7/2014

It is impossible to imagine what the day of this post, 12/7/2014,  would have been like in the United States 73 years ago 12/7/41 after Pearl Harbor.  We are grateful for our country.
       It has been an extra busy week.  Yesterday was Saturday and we had some time mid-morning and early afternoon, so decided to become more familiar with Saratov.  This is at Lenin Square.   Freedom is important to every country and Russia is proud of their military.  This statue showing one soldier helping another, and the eternal flame in tribute to those who fought in WWI.
The statue of Lenin looks over the Saturday "farmer's market" where many come and set up their stands to sell - this time lots of honey and different kinds of meat - beef, chicken, turkey and fish.  They also have cabbage, clothing and bread.  They even had a skating rink set up for the children and you can see the row of flags that are opposite the statue.

Skipping now to the Volga part of our day, which, as a note, is a brisk two-mile walk.   "Here, a statue to another famous Russian stands, taking in the magnificent view. It is a 20 foot high statue of the world’s first human satellite, Yuri Gagarin, who studied at a technical institute in Saratov from 1951-55 and whose capsule came to earth not far away, on April 12, 1961, near the little town of Smelovka."  Elder Yorgasen is standing by your dad, they have been here 9 months and he has probably walked every inch of Saratov.  In a couple of weeks they are being moved into the office to take the place of the office couple who have already extended their limit.
 The Volga has started to freeze over, but there are spots where the water is still moving, it is fun to watch the changes in it, it really is beautiful in all its changes;
 and people have already started to fish - he is close to the bank and caught a fish when we were standing there.
 This is the ferry that goes between Saratov and Engels - probably not any more this winter. :)
There is a museum close that has historical things from Saratov from early until now .. it is well taken care of and fun to go through.  On the top floor they have a mock-up of Sputnik which some of you will remember - Russia was the first country to put a satellite into space.  It could be seen around the world and the radio signals could be detected.  It was a capsule 23 inches in diameter and they had a model on top floor of the museum where you could see the inside and outside, also a picture of when it landed..  We are at the door of of the museum, below is an old church building across from the museum.. and a bus like the ones we ride.

    That is all for now.  We are touched and our testimonies stirred and strengthened as we sit with the missionaries in discussions and talk to the members of the Church and hear their stories.  It has been 22 or 23 years since the Church came back into Russia and the saints here are praying hard and working hard to continue the growth.  We do miss family and friends, but feel very blessed to be able to be here together.  We go to Samara next week for a conference so if there is time we'll try to get pictures from up there too.  Mike is really excited to be able to travel, but we will have our first train trip on the way back.    Love you all    -

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like .. 11/30/14

There is something about Christmas time that brings you home even when you're away from home. We found the little tree a couple of weeks ago, the lights had been left here by the Childers, the couple we followed in CES.  We found the small bulbs and the little stuffed figures last week on one of the shopping trips Mike enjoys so much. :)   Our favorite is the little snowman on the left, the only one in the display of snowmen that had the Russian fur hat instead of just a beanie.  There are also a lot of sheep items here - again, the cutest in the display we were looking at, on the right below - blue and a tucked back nose. -- add a dangling legged snowman in the middle - can't get much better than that.  except ...

except - a Nativity of course.  Interestingly enough, although we made sure our children had nativities for their Christmas's away from home, and even took Allison hers because she will go to college when we are gone, we forgot to bring one.  Most of the stores here don't put them out until the end of December or into January because their Christmas is January 7.  They also celebrate the birth of Christ at Easter time, so you can also find some then.  My prayer to find one with cute faces so we could have it up along with the tree had an quiet answer that I didn't even recognize as an answer at first, when I thought to try the internet for a printable nativity.  But, it was an answer and there it was.  We like it a lot, better probably than if we had brought one.  It is pre-colored, so we just printed, cut, folded and glued the little figures into cones. I had forgotten how long it takes to cut something out that has so many tips and corners.  Our amazingly talented grandchildren could have done the figures and especially the creche much faster, but it was fun.  Tried to give you the whole picture in the first, closer on faces in the next, although couldn't get the angel.

These are the stockings Debbra and Matthew sent with us to be sure we had Bunkerville in our Christmas.
And - with the season and the song .. the weather outside is frightful...(not really, but it is kind of chilly.)   We decided to walk one morning last week even though the temperature was 9 degrees at about 9:00 a.m. .. it did warm up to 10 before we got back.  It was lightly snowing, and was a pleasant and pretty walk, both of us with considerably more layers, especially me,  this time than the similar picture taken a few weeks ago.   They do have a good walking path in our area that runs between the lanes of traffic.  They are lined with trees and benches to sit on
when it is warmer, also have flowers and grass then.    The temperature daily low has been 9 or 10, daily high between 19-23.   People here assure us that it doesn't get really cold until January when there is more snow and the wind blows.  Guess we'll find out.
Thought you'd like to see this picture of our vegetables and fruit laid out to dry after being washed in cool soapy water, rinsed and then soaked in a very mild clorox solution and finally rinsed off in bottled water .. So many colors and flavors and uses -- makes you think of D&C 59:18-23 abbreviated - "Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart ... to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul .. and it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; "

Last entry for this week - below we are on the bus coming home from a baptism - it is for our Branch, but we don't have a font so have to go to Engels - across the Volga which we always like.  I'm really not asleep.  The Yorgasens, right behind me, are the MLS - Member Leadership Support - couple that have been here and helped us much in getting oriented.  They are fun and amazing in their service to the members and the missionaries - and us.  This is their second mission to Russia, another area the first time.  But, they are being moved into the mission office in a couple of weeks because the couple there has extended as long as they can (does this sound familiar, Cec & Carol) and another couple hasn't been assigned.  Although we were on the right bus number, for some reason it didn't take the turn it usually does so we had to get off and walk back to the right street and another bus.  Another adventure - and neither of us dressed quite as warm as we were on our walk.  (I need to take the pictures once in a while so Mike is in them, he always looks good.)
We remain impressed with the people, but particularly with the faithful members, many of whom face things in their lives we have never had to deal with.  As we mentioned before, the church has been here 22 or 23 years.  Some of our older leaders (but younger than we are) talk of when they first went to church and there were only 1 or 2 other families.   Some of the youth have joined against their parents wishes - here at 16 you are considered an adult and don't have to have permission, although most of them ask for it anyway - and many are very strong with growing knowledge and testimonies.  They hold together and strengthen each other.   It is quite a tender and humbling experience, and testimony building for us, to sit in some of these discussions (we mentioned before that we are close to the Institute office, so the missionaries often bring their investigators to our apartment for the lessons) and listen and watch as the investigator or new member shares their insights as they become aware of the truthfulness of what they are learning.  Not sure if we can even express the feelings.  Miss you all but grateful to be here, we certainly are able to stay busy.    love .. the Russia Waites

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Day In the Life of 11/23/14

Again, just a note - not that anything we ever post is that interesting or exciting to anyone, but they continue to direct us each time, so we continue to pass it on to you that what we write or pictures we post are not to be posted to facebook or other social media or copied into other emails.
I  typed this once already, minimized it, and lost it.  I did that last week and found it without looking for it, but only after I posted the second try. .. so here goes the second and probably shorter post for this week.  The security here is pretty amazing - the doors are thick, the key you can see is the old style key that goes into the lock, you turn it four times, whether locking or unlocking.  We're not sure what the 1st (or maybe it is the 4th) turn is for, but each of the other three puts a deadbolt in - or takes it out of you are unlocking.  There are three at the top, three at the bottom (which we don't use) and one in the middle that takes a regular key.

Our apartment is on the fourth floor - would be the third green one up because the bottom is also apartments.  Most often we walk down and sometimes if it looks like the elevator isn't coming soon, we walk up, unless we have our Babushka bags of groceries.  We are fortunate to be on a corner because it gives us extra windows which we do like.  Also there is an air conditioner, they say it gets hot in the summer.  We'll see.  The gate opening in the second picture is going from the Institute building toward our apartment building, the next is the gate you have to buzz through to get to the parking lot and the last is the - again heavy - door you have to buzz through to get into the building.

Below is the Institute Building, we meet on the bottom floor in some rooms that used to be office.   The first picture is the building, the office is in the middle of the picture, bottom floor, with the light on.   The next picture is the door to the Institute with the Church's name.  This is where most of the Institute meetings we go to are, generally evenings .. and it is just through that gate I'm standing by in the picture above and then up a little and across the street - great location for us and centrally located for the Saratov district.  On Monday's we meet with a sister for an hour - 1/2 is on English for her, 1/2 on Russian for us.  Then there is a non-Home-Evening that the missionaries take care of.  We are usually there for part of that.  Tuesday evening is English Club, and they usually send each of us with a group.  Everything is in English and they do Hymns and lessons involving gospel related material.  Usually there is an assignment to read a chapter in the Book of Mormon which is discussed the next time. Wednesday is Institute and our Soup Cooking night - we take soup and bread because so many of them work or go to school and don't have time to go home.  If they do go home, they usually don't come back.  We have a full time Institute/Seminary teacher (also a counselor in the Mission Presidency) covering this area and several others, who teaches some of the time and a lady teaches the other times, both really good teachers, not that we can understand what they are saying, but the students are interested and participate.   Thursday night we've just started a single adult institute class and Friday night is game night, which we attend but are not over. 
 Our days are pretty full with cleaning, shopping, studying, practicing Russian, cooking and just trying to figure out what we are doing.  Also, the elders and sisters often bring their investigators up to our apartment for lessons.  They don't hang out extra time, they teach and maybe play a game, but then they move on.  

 As we mentioned before, the travel is most often walking or by bus and they do have a great bus system.  You rarely wait very long.  Last Friday we went to a store similar to a small Costco, kind of, has a lot of things, except it doesn't have what Costco has which is OK too.  It is about a 30-40 minute bus trip from where we live, depending on the traffic.  (Always the answer to the question, how long will it take?  "Depends on the traffic.")  This bus stops at the bottom of a small hill that you walk up to for the store. The bus at the bottom is typical of the buses we take, but there are lots of other colors.
 The picture of the store is next and the last picture is of the sleds inside .. you can see the sleds at the right end, then kind of a chair sled, and next a sled that can be pushed like a buggy.  Many of the buggies, by the way, can convert from wheels to runners in the winter, and often you'll see a section up a set of stairs that is made to push the sled up.  Pretty creative.

 For Carol - This is a picture of the Post Office - you can't see all of the letters because the letter that is the Russian P is behind the tree, but it says Pochta Russia.  It translates to Post Russia.

And here are just some pictures as we were on the bus - there is a street corner, a trolley and the last shows the trolley wires - again, pretty intricate transportation system.

 As to the weather - I was telling Mike that maybe the cold in Russia wasn't as cold as the cold at home, at least hasn't been what I expected, then realized that before we leave the apartment, depending on the temperature, I have on 2-4 layers plus a good winter coat, boots, a scarf and two pairs of gloves .. gloves inside of mittens.  Mike has only had to wear his heavy coat once, but I suspect that time might be coming.  It dropped from the twenties into the teens this week.  
Closing with a couple of lines from Mike's letter to David Stratton, speaking of the missionaries - "this missionary work, the proselyting is their domain.  I read the Book of Mormon the first time before their parents were born.  They don’t complicate things, don’t try to “wow” the investigators, but tie themselves to “Preach My Gospel” and teach short lessons with frequent testimonies and unapologetic discussions of baptism."
Certainly our testimonies have grown since we've been here.  And we have realized how blessed we have been to have had so much interaction and so many fun times and serious times with our children and grandchildren - so many good and cherished memories.  Many senior couples have never had that.   We are grateful to be here.  Miss seeing all of you and knowing how you are and what you are doing, but glad we have had those wonderful experiences that bring the closeness that makes it possible to miss someone.  :)