Monday, April 27, 2015

4/26/15 Second Post - Quilts, MTC and Pictures

   The sisters in the other branch - two branches meet in our building - made a quilt today during their Relief Society for a couple getting married next Saturday.  As mentioned before, we are members in one branch, but Mike is the Branch Clerk in the other branch so we go to both.   It was fun to see them accomplish this with no frames or clamps, standing around the small table in the small kitchen. We haven't seen batting here.  They take a blanket and put it inside a duvet cover, then do a long running stitch about 4 inches in all the way around to hold the blanket in place.  Grandma Waite would be impressed at how even those stitches are.  You can see it best where it runs across the blue at the middle bottom in the picture below.
For the rest of it they do ties hidden by bows of the yarn - one in the upper left above and in the pictures below.
 And this is the finished

              The next might not be a very exciting story, but we are putting it in because it is an example of what good care our Father has taken of us over here in little and big things (and, gratefully this has been true everywhere else we have been.)  Whether at home, or here or anywhere else in the world, he knows and teaches everyone individually in those things they need. The youth are the future of the church here and we see his hand in the lives of the young saints in these small branches who are trying to grow in the gospel.                                                                                                                      It is only through him any successes come.  
 For the activity this month, the Institute Council planned an MTC day Saturday.  It was just an afternoon activity, but important in what it could do and possibly caused me more angst than it should have.  They chose the German missions to be called to.  Last year it was Mexico and since I were over food, that would have been considerably easier,                                                            although maybe not as faith promoting. 
       I am not exactly this country's answer to Rachel Ray and although I have been blessed with many tender mercies in the cooking area since we have been here, this still was a bit of a daunting task.  It was to be a memorable day for the kids, fun and testimony strengthening.  We planned on about thirty attending, wanted it to be good food.  It adds to have everything look nice, so that was important to me too, the way the table looked and how the food looked on the plate - not something I'm particularly good at.  For some reason Mike wasn't a bit worried about any of that but he was kind enough to let it be important to me and help all he could while he took care of working with the
 Institute council on the organization and setup - how long each section would be, 
who would man the work stations, what things would be needed, etc. etc. etc. 
The first and a huge tender mercy came when I determined to follow Mike's suggestion to ask for help.  A couple of weeks ago, one of the Single Adults we know well - in fact, it is the one getting married next Saturday -  "just happened" to drop by to bring an investigator to Institute..  She is the Rachel Ray of Saratov.  I explained what was going on - through a missionary - and she volunteered to make a German potato salad and chicken meat dish and we would only have to pay for the "producti".  Then, I was going to make German Chocolate cake - but, despite all the prayers, there was no coconut to be found anywhere.   But, another tender mercy,  a German Lemon Bar recipe that turned out to be very good and was easier to make.   
    Now to the serving of everything so it looked nice - another tender mercy - we did find plates, cups and napkins that were colorful and coordinated, which is not always easy to find here. (You will be glad to see that I worry about very important things.)  The brown plastic cups we have only seen here. They are a good size and have a fun little handle that make them easy to manage.
Plates below are before we added the meat, not sure there is a picture with the meat on it.  The German potato salad was good - not the same as home, but still good - and they loved the chicken dish Galena made where she makes her chicken mix, then breads it and deep fries it.  In fact a good clue to the quality and taste of the food is that all the plates came to the trash empty.
             We had yellow dessert plates since originally the plan was German Chocolate Cupcakes, but with the switch, when I tried them out on the plates - the lemon bars made it too much yellow.  Just going to the store to get other plates can be 30 minutes each way on the bus and we didn't have time, so Saturday morning we made a pan of brownies figuring no one would care whether they were German or not, then added white and brown m&m's.  My good friend, Dian Thomas, the cooking and outdoor cooking expert, who can arrange anything on a plate and make it look good, would appreciate my kindergarten efforts, but will probably not offer me a job when we get home.  All went well when dinner time came; and we recognize and are grateful for the help even in seemingly little things.  
The young people came impressingly well prepared for their assignments which included German history, questions they might get on the street as missionaries and a little German language training.  At the end of this section they sang Called to Serve in German, amazing spirit.  Then they moved into the stations - sewing on a button, ironing a shirt, tying a tie - then finished everything with a bit of German dancing.  A major highlight was that our mission president,  President Schwab was here because there was a zone conference the next day so he welcomed the "missionaries" as he would welcome those coming into our mission, counseled them, bore his testimony in English - then in German since that was where he served.  His wife brought some German chocolate. The Seminary/Institute Director for our mission and who teaches at the Saratov Institute was also there.  He also translates for the Mission President.
So - with all that we will close.  As we've said before, this is an ongoing amazing experience.  And, to use an old, overused cliche, but which we find here is so true - "it isn't easy .. but it is worth it." 

4/26/15 Partial Post - Snow, Pictures from our Walk

Just to let you know we are here and doing well.  This has been a very crazy week - we had the missionary District conference on Friday, the Institute MTC day on Saturday and the Volzhski Branch's branch conference on Sunday, and we're headed to a FHE with some people we've been trying to get into for several months .. so we're sending some pictures and will add to this post later tonight.  As Aaron said a long time ago when he had to give the Family Home Evening lesson ... 
The church is true.   There's work to do.    We agree with both.

We got about 4 inches of a very wet snow on Wednesday, but it was warm enough that by the next day it was running in the streets, some places quite deep.

Some pictures from our Sunday walk - just buildings we liked or thought were interesting.  The walks are expanding our world.  Each time Mike picks a different route and can still find our way back home.  I'm like Hansel and Gretel and if he left me anywhere I probably couldn't find my way back. This building has offices and apartments.  Many of the apartment buildings have stores on the bottom floor and then apartments on all the floors above.
This if the first hotel we have seen in downtown Saratov.  There is one the church uses when people come but it is closer to the Volga.
 And we think this is a school
Mike was able to get the trolley in this one, looked cool with the lights on.
 The blue building in the background is one of our landmarks.  The first time we saw it was not long after we came and we thought it was the light hitting the building.

Monday, April 20, 2015

4/19/15 A Walk, Easter, and Indoor Market and a Service Project

      Yesterday late afternoon we walked to the end of one of their walking streets.  It turned out to be less than ten minutes and there is a huge park at the end.  Of what we saw and we didn't see it all, there are ponds, a small carnival, a couple of playgrounds, a small basketball court, three restaurants (nobody at the outside tables yet), large wooden carvings and very old trees.  here is also (first picture below) one of those balancing courses like the one up by Aaron's where you have to be in a harness There were quite a few people out, and the weather was warm enough for medium coats.
            Don't you think my hair looks like one of those little hats you put on the lego people -
                                          Everything, tree also, is of a very weathered wood

 Our grandchildren would enjoy this - it has some of their famous fairy tale characters on top and there are seats inside that have steering wheels.
 These are pictures of the park, trees, water .. we'll get some more when it gets green

 We couldn't tell if this was an old church or just a building .. it is just outside the park fence (you can see the blue fence and people at the edge of one of the small lakes -
                                                    You can see it better without the trees
          More trees and a statue with an owl-- maybe it is a precursor to Harry Potter and the house above joins with Hogwarts.

 This is one of the restaurants - the rock was covered with some green kind of some kind of material that obviously withstands pretty tough weather.
Interesting Easter that one of sister missionaries was telling us about that is kind of fun, thought you'd be interested: "In Russia, for the Easter day everyone says "he is risen!" and then in response you must say "truly risen!", interesting and kind of funny at the same time because sometimes friends do it like 10 times in progressively louder increments and whenever someone walks in to a room or gets on a bus and proclaims that he is risen, the whole bus or room responds.  Pretty great stuff.  And everyone was just in a good mood, it was a nice refresher."
     So, after our nice walk in the relatively nice weather in our medium coats, we came home and moved our heavy coats to the back of the closet.  This morning we woke up to this but it is pretty much gone now.

     Thursday we walked over to pick up the Bibles for the primary (they only stock them 3 at a time so we have to wait a week to get the next ones)   We pass this old building very often (you can see the 1914 and 1915 in the first picture below) which it is a huge indoor market running a full block with lots of individual shops inside: food, clothes - almost anything you can get here you can find there. We have wondered what is originally was for because it is such an impressive building.  We have an investigator couple that comes to a lot of activities so we showed him the pictures.  Big Surprise - the second picture gives you the name - City Renock which means City Market - so clear back then they built a more than very nice covered building for people to sell their wares.  Pretty impressive.  The bottom floor now has the elite stores, lots of what they call "fine" jewelry, considerably more expensive than the individual small shops on the floors above..  The orange DNS signs you see in the bottom picture - DNS is an electronics and supply store.  That is where we got our thumb drive and the ink for the printer.

When the ice melts you see lots of groups cleaning up the parks on the sides of the walking streets, actually seems like everywhere people are cleaning.  The Saratov District which consists of 8 branches, met last Saturday and did our part.  It was fun to get out and work.

 Mike and a couple of our Elders.  
                                     We had a good group - work doesn't have a language barrier.  
As we were walking home last week, we saw a lot of dark grey smoke coming up between two apartment buildings (second picture), then just a quick glimpse of the fire, which was already being contained.  Two fire engines were there already, and at least one, maybe two more came.  Even though, on that August day in 2006 when our home burned, we felt no great fear or anxiety or despair, and since remember most, with gratitude and tenderness, the great outpouring of love and support and help from so many; still smoke and flames and fire engines bring a burst of emotions and a quick pit to our stomachs.   Fortunately it was a tree in between the buildings and there was no damage to buildings and no injuries.  
You can see how close the buildings are, and the one on the left is more wood, so had it spread, it could have been really bad.

When we have our fruits and veggies washed and spread out, we cannot help but think that one of the evidences of God's great love for us in this amazing world of ours is the variety of color and taste and uses of all of these and how sensible and useful the way each is put together, not to mention meats, milks, eggs, spices -  the list is endless and miraculous - certainly you wouldn't want a tomato to peel like banana, or an orange like a coconut, and the very thought that a small teaspoon of soda or baking powder will cause what you are making to rise when it cooks -- pretty wonderful.   D&C 59:18-20 - 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 gladden the heart, for food or for rainment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul; And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; 
Our days are busy and good.  Mike goes every morning except Sunday to the "office" where we hold institute and all activities and cleans, that is actually part of our assignment.  President Markelov's office (He is the CES director for Samara and also second counselor in the mission presidency) is also in the part of this building that we lease.  When he doesn't have to chip the ice it doesn't take as long, we'll see what their summer brings.   I went at first, but we have found it easier for him to take care of that and I take care of home.  Cooking, washing, ironing, those things are the same wherever we are.  And pretty much everything is from "scratch," they don't have mixes here.  Grocery shopping we go together because we have to carry home what we buy.  
     Days include scripture study and language study (Mike spends more time there than I do.)    
     On Mondays the missionaries come here - companionship at a time and we have two, sometimes three - to write their letters home.  Monday night we have someone here or go visit someone - always with one of the companionships so we have translators.  We take treats, they do the lesson.
       Tuesdays Mike meets with President Markelov on CES and young single matters;  Tuesday night we have Young Adults.  We take some sort of treat to that.  
         Wednesday night is Institute and we always have something fixed for them to eat before Institute because many of the kids come from work and school and don't have time to go home.                                Thursday Mike has District Meeting, treats for that too.
            Friday we have two district meetings and then Game night at the institute.  The missionaries bring investigators.  
Saturday is when they hold baptisms and activities.  Also Mike has started an English "club" for some of those who are studying to pass the pathway exam.  He teaches English using the scriptures and Liahona and other church materials.  Surprise - treats for that too.
Sunday we go to both Branches because Mike is the clerk in the branch we don't belong to so we have to go to that one too.

We're grateful to be here!!

Lots of good sayings over here:  
Аво́сь да как-нибу́дь до добра́ не доведу́т.Draw not your bow till your arrow is fixed.
 Literal: Maybe and somehow won't make anything good.

Monday, April 13, 2015

4/12/15 Poetry, Spaceships and Conference

There are advantages to language barrriers.  One of our companionships was teaching a lesson and in their conversation before they started, the man showed them his nice volume of poems and then recited a poem from one of their famous authors.  He then asked the Elders if they had a strong American poem.  Never at a loss, one of the Elders stood up (he's a little taller than Craig) and recited:
We had a little turtle
His name was Tiny Tim
We put him in the bathtub
To see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water
He ate up all the soap
And now he's sick in bed
With bubbles in his throat.
Glub...   Glub ...Image result for picture of a sick cartoon turtle
He sat down and they continued the lesson.

     We walked to the Volga again .. the buildings along the way are pictures in history.  The weather beats them up pretty badly on the outside, plus they are old to begin with, but you can often see the brightness of curtains, and flowers in the windows and occasionally a cat looking out.

The river is fully thawed now, was kind of choppy the day we were there, but it is always good to be down by the Volga.  The sky was especially pretty over the bridge.
 This boat has been frozen in the ice all winter.  In Samara they actually have ice boats or air boats that can go across the frozen river.
Hmmmmm .. that must be a missionary!! 
This is on the right side as we walk back up from the river
 You can see the full facility above, below is looking through the gate, looks like some kind of manufacturing plant.
This building is a bit further up on the left.  It always has smoke coming out and must also be some sort of manufacturing plant.
 And a couple of animal friends - we hadn't seen a pigeon this color before.
 and a cool looking dog so we asked if we could take the picture.  We're very careful to ask unless it is just a loose dog, and there aren't many of those.  We take pictures, but don't every try to pet them.
Kind of random but fun we'll stick this in the middle - a poem that a friend, former student when I taught in Riverside,  emailed us -- and I remembered a take off on it from BYU days in the Daily Universe.  The first two lines there were - Oh ladies be wary of cupid, and list to the lines of this verse ... rest is the same.
     O innocent victims of Cupid
     Remember this terse little verse
     To let a fool kiss you is stupid
     But to let a kiss fool you is worse.
                       Yip Harburg
Image result for cartoon pictures of cupid
There are a lot of pigeons now - these were on the roof of a building still kind of close to the river.  It is interesting that, at this point anyway, as many as there are, you don't see the evidence of that on sidewalks or cars as we often do at home.
We thought you would be interested in this because he landed close to where we are: 
 "On this day, fifty-four years ago, a man called Yuri Gagarin became the first person in the world to fly into space.  Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, boarded the Vostok 1 – the first human spaceflight in history—and spent 108 minutes orbiting the Earth.   To commemorate the day, the United Nations General Assembly has declared April 12 as the International Day of Human Space Flight.
You can see Saratov and then just below in red the actual landing site, which is across the river close to Engels where we have a branch.  He ejected after the capsule was back in the atmosphere where it was safe for him, so it was the capsule that landed where it shows below.  "Farmers who saw the cosmonaut fall from the sky didn't know what to make of the man in the orange suit and helmet.  A woman and her daughter reportedly reached Gagarin first; when she asked if he came from space, he confidently said that he had before asking to use a phone to call the Soviet Space Agency. "
  Saratov holds a big celebration every year at the site of the landing.  A couple of investigators invited us to go, unfortunately this year it was today which is Sunday.  
 This link is to a very interesting article that tells about the first cosmonaut, even a short video of him getting into the space ship and taking off.  Copy and paste this into the search bar
       Also in Engels there used to be a lot of factories that designed and built planes, so around this holiday you see information on other planes too.  These are two models that one of our members brought to the Tuesday night meeting.  They, understandably, have a lot of pride in these air and space accomplishments.   We do like the people here.
       We are busy and grateful to be so, keeps time moving happily along.  When you talk about not knowing the sweet until you know the bitter -- we had no idea how wonderful a dry sidewalk was, potholes, bumps and all until we walked on ice for a couple of months.
Although we had already seen conference, we spent 5 or so hours Saturday and Sunday at the branch building watching conference with the young missionaries and the saints here.  They had the conference in Russian in the chapel, in English in the Relief Society Room and the young Angolan sister who only speaks Portuguese watched it in the family history room.  The missionaries had a sort of pot-luck in the very short time between sessions.  The district leaders fixed pizza sandwiches, which consisted of very large rolls (more like small loaves of bread), tomato paste, Kolebasa (sausage) and cheese - heated in the oven.  Good missionary food, they said, and very filling.

  Here is one of those  "thoughtful thoughts" -  Be not angry with others because you cannot make them as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be. ~Thomas à Kempis

        The work here continues to move along, but still there are some pretty strong anti (protif) voices, stirred a couple of weeks ago by a very negative documentary.  One of our missionaries stated this thought the other day - She said that some days it seems crazy as they are out contacting and meeting people who often don't listen, but she was reading Preach My Gospel (which is a good family resource for FHE) and realized -  "We literally have the authority from God to be here and to preach the gospel to the people, tell them why we are here, share this beautiful message and give them an opportunity to accept."

We look at the Volga and remember the scripture in the D&C 121 -  "As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri (Volga) river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints."
.  We also found this by President Kimball in the April 1980 general conference:
  Brothers and sisters, pray for the critics of the Church; love your enemies. Keep the faith and stay on the straight and narrow path. Use wisdom and judgment in what you say and do, so that we do not give cause to others to hold the Church or its people in disrepute. Do not be surprised or dismayed if trials and challenges come upon us. This work, which Satan seeks in vain to tear down, is that which God has placed on earth to lift mankind up!
I have lived for more than half the 150 years the restored Church has been upon the earth in this last dispensation. I have witnessed its marvelous growth until it now is established in the four corners of the earth. As the Prophet Joseph said:  “Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland, Australia, the East Indies, and other places, the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).
Let us, then, press on confidently in the work of the Lord as we look forward to the glorious years of promise ahead. Through our faithfulness, all that God has promised will be fulfilled. This is the work of the Lord. The gospel is true. Jesus is the Christ and our Redeemer. May the Lord bless us all as we begin this great sesquicentennial conference of his church, I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.   (President Kimball)
Hope this wasn't too long ..