Sunday, May 31, 2015

5/31/2015 Socks, BV PO, Watering, and Graduation

    The shadows are Mike's socks on the drying rack.  We thought there would be no way anyone could figure it out, but  our son, Taylor Lorum, did.  What smart kids we have!!
Saratov Post Office has a Carol/Sheila/Mary!!  Wanting to get them sent, but needing to get to a meeting, we hurried to the post office with our stack of letters for the grandchildren, walked up the stairs and into a very long room with lots of stations and people waiting with numbers that would show up on the monitors when it was their turn.  It looked like a long wait and we couldn't even figure out how to get in the queue.  We stepped up to the lady at the information desk and showed her the stack of letters.  She smiled, and speaking with some English explained with a chart that it was by weight, and to be sure all the letters were in the weight, she took them and led us to a desk where she quickly weighed them, had another lady get us the stamps and then both of them actually helped put them on.  They were so pleasant and helpful, we thought we were back in Bunkerville.  We'd have liked to take a picture but since some people here already think we are spies we didn't think a government building was a good place.  
Forgot this picture from when we were in Balacova last week.  We have wondered if they even have to water the flowers because you don't see drip systems or sprinklers or lines.  Then we saw this big water truck driving close along the side of the median of the highway with the hose hooked up to the huge tank, pretty smart and it would be a long time before you would run out of water. 
Our oldest granddaughter, Allison Dorothy Waite, Aaron Michael's oldest graduated this week.  There isn't enough time or room to say all the good things about her. 
 Look out world, here she comes!!
 We particularly enjoyed Skyping with all the family in Bunkerville where they gathered for our annual Memorial Day family reunion.  It was just a year ago when we were together when we opened our mission call.  Who ever would have thought we would be where we are today.  These three turn twelve this year, but still don't think they'll mind us posting this cute picture.
 New baby, lots of smiles and no teeth.
 Taylor's youngest showing us that she is two. 
The missionaries are told to give everyone an opportunity.
And it looks like it just might work.
It is hard to believe how fast things have turned green.  You've seen pictures out of this window before, but with rain or snow.
It is getting warm here - we've had a couple of days that hit 90.  Feels pretty good to me.   President Schwab's letter to the missionaries last week included a reminder from the Eastern European Presidency of how missionaries should be dressed.  If it is over 80 F they can take off their coats.  We have two sets of Elders in our area, and this is a picture of the coat rack at the Institute building about 2:00 one afternoon.  We do enjoy the missionaries.
A fitting close to this week's blog - a couple of quotes from Elder L. Tom Perry:
“We must be bold in our declaration of Jesus Christ,” Elder Perry taught in the Church’s October 2011 general conference. “We want others to know that we believe He is the central figure in all human history. His life and teachings are the heart of the Bible and the other books we consider to be holy scripture.”
One of his most well-known quotes came during the 1998 semi-annual church conference, when he said: "The almost universal gift everyone can develop is the creation of a pleasant disposition, and an even temperament."
Elder Perry is one who understands sadness and adversity. In December 1974, Virginia passed away; then in March 1983, their daughter Barbara died. He has also lost two grandchildren to death. During those dark times, his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ gave him hope; today he encourages others who suffer to put their trust in the Lord: “The Lord is very kind. Even though some experiences are hard, he floods your mind with memories and gives you other opportunities. Life doesn’t end just because you have a tragedy—there’s a new mountain to climb. Don’t spend a lot of time sulking over what you’ve lost. Get on with climbing the next mountain.”
We do miss home but that is okay; we are doing well and for now, we wouldn't want to be anywhere else but here and our family feels the same.  Thanks to you all for your friendship, love and support. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

5/24/15 Guess, Water, Balakova, Marks and Saratov

We liked this from Steve Cluff, don't think he'll mind if we share - "GOOD NEWS FOR MIKE:  When you guys get back home, he can catch the bus on Virgin Street, ride it up to the front door of Walmart and back home, all without having to walk so far and take less than a hour round trip.  I'm sure this will be such a pleasant experience, he'll want to continue the shopping experience even at home. (HA!)"  

See if you can guess what this is -- we'll post it at the first of next week's blog:  
  It has been a year since, at our family's annual Memorial Day reunion, we opened our mission call.  Who would have ever thought we would be where we are today.  What a great blessing it has been to us and to our children and grandchildren.  They have gathered again and although we miss them, and very deeply at times, we are okay with not being there and are grateful they are all there and that they enjoy being together.  It has been a busy and peace-filled weekend for us - another of our Father's many tender mercies.  
There is a song that says "because we have been given much, we too must give."  We have been given much in our lives and are grateful to be able to serve.   
(Reunion - May 2014)
(Reunion - May 2015)
*   *   *   *   *
Sometimes this blog may seem only a report of fun adventures - and there are those for sure; and because those are generally more interesting, that is what we post.  .  , but our week remains full of hopefully what our president calls consecrated missionary service. 

One of the things we have been grateful for here has been hot water and good water pressure .. but we are now even more grateful.  Earlier in the week they turned off the hot water "just for the day" so the pipes could be cleaned out.  We did have cold water, and by evening the hot water was kind of back on, but was about the same color as the Virgin River after a flood, barely warm and very little pressure.  (One of our tender mercies - I had just washed the whites.)  That color mostly cleared up after running it for a while. The next morning - still low pressure, less than lukewarm and pretty much clear.  It was good enough for a quick shower, which adds another tender mercy because within an hour, the water pressure went up, the water was clear, but very, very cold - not a drop of warm water.  Apparently some apartment buildings turn off their hot water when summer comes so we had almost resigned ourselves to trying to figure out how to heat all the water we would need for bathing and dishes and all.  Then, when we came home after Institute Wednesday, we had hot water and good pressure.  We thought we appreciated it before, but nothing like we do now.  There are others still waiting for hot water to come back on. The sister missionaries haven't had hot water for two weeks although it is getting so the hot tap is at least warmer than the cold tap.  Also, we have an investigator who is one of those who never have hot water during the summer -  the hot water is not as cold as the cold water, but still isn't really warm. She wasn't complaining, it was just matter-of-fact.

We were able to go with our CES director of the Samara mission to Balakovo for their Institute Closing Social.  It takes about 2 1/2 hours - two lane roads like we used to have more of.  They have a helpful passing system .. it goes for so far with the passing lane on one side, then it switches to the other side, works quite  well.  On the way we stopped at an small magneet (like a Circle K probably) to get some water.  They also had an outdoor fish market.  The pictures start with a larger overview and then get closer.  There are a lot of trucks on the road and this must be a parking area, because you can see them lined up on the left.
 The vendors set up their tables - the umbrellas are the clue that warmer weather is here.  They set up side by side even if they are selling the same thing.
 These are dried, salted fish, kind of like our jerky, but no smell.
 Our CES director is buying some of the best for his family.
 Here are some pretty scary looking catfish.
Now - on to Balacovo, which is about 200,000 in population compared to Saratov's 850,000.  The building here sits on a large piece of ground next to the Volga, and also right next to one of the dams used for electricity.  The building originally was used for those building the dam and is fenced and has a locked gate that you have to be let in and out of if you are in a car or motorcycle.  The church leases the second and third floor, but the owners still have the first floor and maintain a 24 hour security guard because of the dam.  You can see just a bit of the river on the left of the first picture and the right of the second. 

This is the lobby just as you walk in - old building but well kept.
This is the view of the Volga from the porch area just out of the door from the chapel where they held the Institute activity.  The missionaries said they always close the blinds during Sacrament meeting -- after being there we can understand the reasoning behind that.  
The building sits on about 1 to 1 1/4 acre - very green and beautiful now, but no reason for the owners to spend time and money keeping it in tip top shape.  Mike was already figuring out what needed to be done, trimming and pruning and mowing, etc to have it look its best and how long it would probably take.  In the winter it is pretty much snow and ice.  
We had heard some scary stories about the motel we would be staying in - one of the Assistants to the President who is now serving his last two cycles back out in the field and in one of our districts just laughed and said it would be one of those journal-writing experiences.  It was but in a different way - our director had found another hotel - which rivals anything we've seen at home.   
It is by the side of a wide canal and there are metal stairs going down to it

Just little things, but not only did the bedspread, curtain and chair match, but the same theme was carried on in the bathroom tile and floor.  
 plus they had this pull out mirror that turns any way there is. Such an important thing and Mike didn't even notice it was there.
 Finally - and I hope you can see these two bare feet worked into the pattern on the bath mat - kind of fun.  Their complimentary breakfast, by the way, was almost a 5 course meal.  
We went back through Marks - another area in our mission, which is only a little over an hour from Saratov.  The population is now around 30,000 and it has kind of a small town feel, dirt roads going here and there from the more major roads.  The building will look familiar because it is the same plan as the one with the blue roof that is built in Solnechney - the pictures with the ice and snow.  The roof looks blue here, but it is gray.  The branch president happened to be there taking care of the yard and mowing the lawn so it was good to meet him.  He has been branch president for 17 years and has only a clerk now, no counselors.  They used to have the biggest branch, about 150 that regularly attended, but a large factory closed a number of years ago and many people, members as well as others, had to move to Moscow and other locations for work.  They now have only about 14 that come regularly.
This is a school right across the street - it was the last day of school, called the day of the Last Bell, and it is celebrated with programs and parties all across the country. Just below the green of the trees you can see a lot of kids standing.  We could hear them singing the songs they love that we are becoming more familiar with.  Different songs and different music, but it still sounds like home. 
We got back to Saratov about 11:00 and went with four of our English speaking members who gave us permission to post this.  We meet with them each week, usually Saturday, for an English gospel study group which we both have enjoyed very much.  We really do like these kids.  They all speak quite well so the missionaries don't have to translate for us.
 The one with the dark glasses is a Russian/German translator so he knows the teachers at the university and they invited him to come along with a group of 12-15 students studying English on a two hour English speaking walking tour of  part of Saratov.  The university organized it to help those learning English.  They told him to bring his friends, they like to have English speakers, and we were glad to be invited.   These are some of the original homes built by the Volga Germans -  most a hundred or more years old and still preserved and used for homes, offices and museums.  
 This is the detail on the front of the arch in the picture above right.  
and this is the detail from the top of the building on the left.
To show their ties to Moscow, they also wanted to build on a smaller scale something similar to St. Basil's Cathedral, the famous Cathedral in Moscow, below.  We saw this when we were in Moscow the first day we got to Russia October 14, 2014.  We have now been in the country a little over seven months, which seems both long and not very long.
Saint Basil's Cathedral, Moscow
This is the Saratov church, obviously much smaller and less colorful or ornate, but similar colors and shapes.  It is a famous church here that is still in use by the Russian Orthodox church.
It was all really very interesting - and in English.  We ended up back at the end of the wide walking street which has a lot of stores on both sides.  It has every kind of store you can imagine, both American and local and outside vendors, including that material store we found last week, a Carl's Jr., a McDonalds, a Nike store, among others.  But the best was that we found good scoop ice cream at one of the outside vendors - good flavors like banana, apple, watermelon, several kinds of chocolate.  We'll be sure to see if they stay the same or change.
 Closing this week with quotes from a CES Devotional in January of this year by Brother Randall L. Ridd,  then Second Counselor in the YM General Presidency:  "The real intent of prayer is to open two-way communication with our Father in Heaven, with the intention to follow whatever counsel he gives...Prayer and scripture study naturally go together.  When we study the scriptures and the words of our modern prophets, it primes the pump of personal revelation."
"Don't be discouraged by thoughts of what you have already done or have not done.  Let the Savior wipe the slate clean.  Start now.  Live a purposeful life.  Put the power of the compounding of daily disciplines in place in the important areas of your life.  I promise that a year from now you will either be glad you started today or will wish you had."

Monday, May 18, 2015

5/17/15 Spring, Clouds, Poem, More Victory Park

The sisters brought us the tulips, and a friend the cherry blossoms.
Look at the design when a tulip opens, we have a pretty impressive world.
Beautiful Blue Skies and White Clouds - this is the parking lot at Metro, kind of like Costco, but there never are many cars, even now that ice is all gone.  This is the only place we can get some of the things we like to have, including lettuce, the Heinz cream of chicken and tomato soup - the consistency is different, but the taste is the same and with a few adjustments works well in cooking.  The tomato soup may even be better than home.  And they have a candy bar that is like the chocolate covered peanuts.  They had cheddar cheese for about six months, but that has gone the way of salted butter.  Oh well, it was nice to have it while we did.
Mike really looks forward to this shopping trip in particular because it takes thirty to forty minutes on the bus, then across a street, another wide area and finally through this large unbusy parking lot which, in this picture, we are already part way into - so just getting to Metro's front door can easily be an hour.  We get our supplies.  Then we take our bags - he carries the two heaviest, I have the lightest (one of the many reasons I've never been for equal rights for women) and we carry them back to the bus, and from tbus back to our apartment.  That is life for the majority of the people here.  But he does use part of the bus time for study time
 You've seen this church in other pictures -- but now with a beautiful sky instead of snow.  I had a roommate in college who used to say that one of the ways she knew Heavenly Father loved her was because he didn't make the world all black and white.  Which reminds me of the story when Ben Leavitt was little and we would all watch those old movies with Grandma Waite.  After watching one of those old movies, he went home and asked Carol .. "Mom, were you alive when the world was black and white?"
Flower beds are planted anywhere there is a place to plant and everything grows, as the grass in the picture above, without having to be watered.  
Nothing like children in the play areas as evidence of spring .. we liked the girl with her arms out, soaking in the sun, like she is just loving everything.  That is how we feel about our breathtakingly incredible world.
Our Institute Council President's fix for his computer -- it won't boot without the weight on the end. We're trying to figure how he uses all the letters.  He is planning a mission soon.  I had the picture with the face blocked out, but Renat saw it and gave us permission to post his picture.  He is a good kid - and happy most of the time.

Hey - we found a fabric store -- thanks to a friend and his GPS -- he is a translator - Russian to German - but he was selling sunglasses for one of his friends on the walking street where all the little stores are.  They do a lot of sewing and knitting here.  The sweaters, the ones you wear just as tops that are a finer knit and the heavier ones used for jackets are as good or better than those in the stores.   One of the girls in English club that sews told us about the fabric store and where it was.  We thought we could see in the windows to find it, but it was through a door, past another little shop inside and then upstairs.  The bag - at the top says Fabric, then Always Soft or The Best Soft.  You find the fabric you want, get it's  number and go to the cutting board to tell them - they go in the back and get the fabric and cut what you want.  It was good that Maxim was with us because I would have just taken the fabric off the hangar.  


      We have a semi-active sister that comes occasionally on Monday night.  We read, sometimes Book of Mormon and sometimes Pushkin - great Russian writer who writes books and also children's stories or poems and she and Mike take turns with him reading Russian and she English and they correct each other's pronunciation.  Her recently baptized 8-year old son often comes with her and is learning English at school so likes to read too.  Mike gave them Cat In The Hat.  After she read it she wasn't sure she wanted her son to read it because she thought it might give him too many ideas.  Never thought about that.  All that to say, here is a fun poem that he has used:

(I'm not sure why some things highlight in the white .. but we can't get it to change ..

Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face - Jack Prelutsky
images (3)
Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.
Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.
Your nose would be a source of dread
were it attached atop your head,
it soon would drive you to despair,
forever tickled by your hair.
Within your ear, your nose would be
an absolute catastrophe,
for when you were obliged to sneeze,
your brain would rattle from the breeze.
Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,
remains between your eyes and chin,
not pasted on some other place–          
be glad your nose is on your face!
                           *          *          *
        For those of you who like history, here is more on the Cranes Monument at Victory Park and Russia's staggering losses in WW II.   "Cranes Monument is a majestic monument comprised of three 40 meter tall metal pylons, and can be seen from many parts of the city. Twelve silver and white cranes are depicted on the monument representing the country's fallen soldiers."  
       Mike looked up World War II casualties and, including all countries on both sides, over 60 million people - military and civilian included - were killed.  The Germans lost 12 million, the Allies lost 48 million - 21 million military and 27 million civilian.  Of that number, Russia lost 10 million military and 10 million civilian, so their losses were just a little less than half of the total Allied losses and are said to be 6% of their population at the time. In the Siege of Leningrad alone 641,803 civilians died of starvation.  
More on this from Mike's writing:       
        Saturday, as we pressed our way through the crowds at the beautiful Victory Park placed on a hill overlooking the Volga River and the stretching city of Saratov bordered by neighboring green hills, we had reconfirmed that the Russians have that same emotional pride for their home that we have for ours.  We threaded our way through thousands of patriotic citizens at the park to celebrate the Russian victory over Germany in that war that claimed the lives of twenty million of their people—that compared to the still tragic 400,000 of American lives in the same war. 
      What is considered the turning point of the war was the nearly six month battle fought at Stalingrad where the Russians refused to let Hitler’s forces override their homeland.  Saturday there were soldiers in their green uniforms symbolically standing as guardians of each of the monuments and statues. They were in uniform distance  up the steps to the high point of the park where a 40 meter monument with white and silver cranes representing the many who had fallen in that devastating war, is the high point of the park
      It was for us an educational and emotional afternoon as we moved with young members of the Church and their leaders from the branches around the park, looking at the planes and tanks, but also at the visitors who with reverential respect visited the park to honor those who had fallen for Russia.  
     Then this evening our District celebrated their history from 1941-1945 with song and readings.  The oldest folks there are of the generation one step away from those who died in the war, but all of that generation knew of uncles or grandfathers who had lost their lives in the great war.  The Second Counselor in our District Presidency told us there was no family untouched by that bloody and destructive war.  One of the members had posted on the board the promise recognized by everyone here: 
             Никто не забыт ; Ничто не забыто: No one is forgotten; Nothing is forgotten. 
     It was another emotional education for us as we felt the sincere respect these saints have for their fathers and their deep love for this their country.  And our love has grown for these people and their land and for our own.
                                               *                        *                   *                        *
And we'll close today's with another thought from Mike's writing:
Image result for picture of lds missionaries
  I marvel at these missionaries, some as young as 18, graduating from high school only six months ago, and we see easily discernable vestiges of that youthfulness, but still they bear the burden as the fisher and hunters of the Lord in the gathering process, and it’s a wonder to watch.  The members love them and they become the authority, like it or not, on points of doctrine and Church procedures.  In the quiet of the night they are boys, homesick for the authority of their dads and the consoling reassurance of their moms, but then morning comes and they slip on their well-worn shoes and dusty suits and return to the streets as the emissaries of God, spokesmen of truth, messengers with the promise of that unspeakable gift.  It’s a phenomenon seen at home of course, but more pronounced here in a place where there are so few saints and the missionaries lead the way in bearing the candle on the hill.  
And it is an unspeakable gift: John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.