Sunday, June 28, 2015

6/28/2015 Temple, Books, Shoes, Etc

     We have a sister in our branch who lost her parents when she was eight years old.  As she grew up she always wondered if they were somewhere, and if they were, where was that somewhere and just what happened to them after they died, nothing seemed to be settled.  As a young woman she met the missionaries and heard about the plan of salvation and that families could be together forever.  It awakened feelings that seemed to always have been there.  She felt the truth very soon, was baptized and has remained faithful and serves happily and well wherever she is needed.  Quite a few years later, she was finally able to go to the temple in Finland and get her own endowments.  She also got her parents work done, had them sealed to each other and then her to them.  She said she knew then where they were and that they were doing well and she would be able to be with them again.  She said when she walked away from the temple there was an overwhelming feeling of peace and joy that enveloped her whole being that she didn't have words to describe. We wish you all could have been there as she told her story - to hear her words and feel her feelings.  
                                              *     *     *     *    *     *     *    *        
 Does this have a familiar look - Mike organizing the books at the Institute and those in our apartment.  Out Institute director has been too busy to get to it, so he turned it to Elder Waite. Between the office and the apartment we have - whoops, had - quite a few English copies of some of the classroom manuals that were outdated and not used.  We now have one or two of each manual, they are in the cupboards in both places and in order.  The members learning English took a few, the rest will become recycle.  There are other old and unusable items that nobody seemed to dare get rid of.  But things are getting cleared out.  (This might remind Kenyon and Bishop Brotherson just a little of when they served with Stephen Douglas.)
 One of the recent blogs had a picture of some of us getting ice cream cones at an outdoor stand - this young lady is the one who always scoops the ice cream - this time flavors of watermelon, apple, creme brulee, chocolate chip, chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, banana that actually tastes like banana.  The flavors are all good.  She is so nice and is always glad to see Mike coming. 
 Because of the snow and mud in the winter and the dirt in the spring and summer, everyone takes off their shoes when they come in - so they have to put them on when they go out.  All the homes have different kinds of shoe horns -- we have two of the ones that are considered top of the line.  You can see in the top picture it is kind of like a cobra head.  They work well and everyone likes them.
This is a normal day -- you should see the shoes on a busy one.
We walked down to the Volga again last week.  The ship behind Mike is the one you saw frozen in the ice all winter.  You can see boats docked by the side and on top.  The bar thing that runs across is a huge crane that can pick a boat up from the deck, swing it out and set it in the water.
 An old ship anchor
 Couldn't resist including a picture of the decorative "bathroom tissue."  It is much like the
 "Don't Squeeze the Charmin."  Kind of fun pattern.
For those of you who didn't see this - look what we found at the little Magneet  (like a 7-11) we shop at that is close to our apartment.  You don't have to read the language to understand the stories.
 The people here are rightfully proud of those who have defended their country and the fighter planes are used a lot in statues and signs throughout the cities, most often shown taking off.  This one is by a larger indoor shopping center you can see on the left and behind it, that also has the large market Ashan where we can often find a kind of powdered sugar and the bread we like.  The bus stop we take back home is the glass building on the right.
Last week we went with one of the Institute students when he defended his final paper for his Bachelor's degree.  Of the seven students and four on the examination board plus a couple of professors - he was the only male.  The board was smiling and easy on the girls, but seemed to give him kind of a hard time - judging from tone and expression, not from words.  However, he did very well and ended up with a 5 (A).   They might just expect more from him.  He is now waiting for his mission call.  Below is the front of his school, but it is huge, wraps in and out around the block.  The bottom word says University and a variation of Saratov is the first word.  
After we left he had some questions as to who we were and why we were there ...Ranat just said - "Because they like me!"  And we do.  
We went with the Elders to visit some members - this is their post office box area.  The people really do well with what they have to work with.  Some of the buildings don't even have elevators - so groceries or anything else they buy has to be carried up however many floors.  
A common subject here is the why and how of conversion.  Thought you all might enjoy these thoughts on that.

From Gospel Topics - (Whether investigators or members strengthening their testimonies) Conversion is a process, not an event. Conversion comes as a result of righteous efforts to follow the Savior. These efforts include exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of sin, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in faith.  Conversion includes a change in behavior, but it goes beyond behavior; it is a change in our very nature. It is such a significant change that the Lord and His prophets refer to it as a rebirth, a change of heart, and a baptism of fire. 
Although conversion is miraculous and life changing, it is most often a quiet miracle.  Angelic visitations and other spectacular occurrences do not bring conversion.  Even Alma, who saw an angel, became converted only after he "fasted and prayed many days" for a witness of the truth  (Alma 5:46).  And Paul, who saw the resurrected Savior, taught that "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 12:3). 

We have found that our conversion continues.  We have learned much here and are daily grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves us all and always has a hand out to lift us if we will let him.

Thanks again to all of you for your interest and support.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

6/21/2015 A Scripture, Shopping, Birds & Faith

           A scripture that took a different meaning for us this week - Mosiah 4:24-5 - where basically he is saying to those who don't have means to give to the poor - "I would that ye say in your hearts that I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.  And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless.." Being away there is comfort in knowing that our children and grandchildren are promised blessings because we are serving, not that life would be without challenges, but that they would be blessed.  The Mosiah scripture stood our this time because it seems to also apply to serving a mission.  We recognize what a blessing it is that we are able to serve, especially when there are many who would if they could, but, for whatever reason, cannot.  It seems to me that the blessings to the children and grandchildren of those who would serve full time missions if they could 
and who serve and sacrifice wherever they are and in whatever capacity they are needed will be as great as for those who are able to serve.  I have a hard time thinking that the Lord would not bless them all the same.

This is the temple bulletin board Mike put up at the Institute building - the main one as you come in. He also does the other two bulletin board that are pictures of the Young Single Adults (and baptisms of this age) and the Single Adults.  His artistic talent comes out, they are good.
Behind Mike you can see the outdoor market where we go for our fruits and vegetables coming into  a shortcut we just found.  This is the first time he has ever worn short sleeved white shirts, but the temperatures here have been in the 90's - which in Saratov is higher than usual for June -  and it is more humid here.  Still, we really can't compare to  Bunkerville which, according to the weather page, has been hotter than Las Vegas or Phoenix.
  On the bus on our way home from shopping at Ashans, a very small-scale Sam's Club.  Here is just one more reason I'm not interested in equal rights for women -- he always carries the two heavier bags and I carry the lighter one.  
 Maybe the warm feelings come from the Mary Poppins song  - Feed the Birds - but there is always a tender feeling for these babushkas that feed the pigeons.  She was very careful to make sure that they all got some and she was there several minutes with plenty of bread that she broke into small pieces.  We tried to get them flying around and kind of swirling around her, but the pictures were either blurry. or birdless. :)
Some time ago we posted a picture when they were bringing in lots of dirt for the flower beds.  This is how it looks now.  You can see the light behind me with a white marshrutka (like a very large van) parked at the bus stop there.  That is where we get off the bus to walk back to church, about a 5-10 minute walk depending on how clear the sidewalks are.  That is also where we cross to catch the bus going back on the other side, just past the buildings on the left, where you can see another white marshrutka.  We haven't tried one of those, because they cost more and we're not sure exactly where they go.  The buses we know and also, no matter how far you go unless it is out of Saratov,  it is only thirty cents apiece each way.
We are enjoying the work, the missionaries and the saints in Saratov.  We have talked recently of miracles and patience and faith, so this thought:
 "Men and women desire miracles because of their beneficial nature. They often come with a timestamp reading, “Please grant immediately.” But part of the principle of faith needed for miracles is trusting in the Lord’s timetable. Sister Susan Tanner, then Young Women general president, said in the April 2008 general conference, “I delight in the Lord’s mercies and miracles. I know that His tender mercies and His miracles, large and small, are real. They come in His way and on His timetable” (May 2008 Ensign, “My Soul Delighteth in the Things of the Lord”)
*   *   * ​
We'll close this week with a story that Sister Nelson told at the devotional held in Moscow a couple of Sundays ago that was broadcast throughout the Eastern European area speaking of the twelve tribes of Israel.  She said she was at that same pulpit in Moscow on a different assignment about a year ago and, as she named off the twelve tribes of Israel, she asked those of each lineage,  given in their patriarchal blessings, to stand.  Every tribe was represented except Levi.  The next day she was in another city and when she walked into the meeting, a young man stepped up to her and said .. "and now you have Levi."   Then one of the missionaries told us that in the Ukraine a couple of years ago, when patriarchal blessings were given, all twelve lineages were represented.
Hope all of you in Bunkerville are surviving the heat - sounds like you are hotter there than in Las Vegas or Phoenix.   We are in the nineties here, hotter than usual this time of year, and it is humid, but evenings and mornings are OK.  That is by way of report, not complaint.  :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

6/14/2015 Chipped Tooth, Graduation, and the Bus

First, the picture from last week.  Our ceilings are a thick white reflective soft plastic.  When you touch them they kind of ripple.  You can see the top picture is a reflection of the picture underneath. 

Just some information about the circus in the last blog that is interesting.  The circus we saw has been taken care of by pretty much the same people and their families for the last eight generations.  Lena Markelov's mom, who was here visiting from Idaho where she has lived for seven years, told us that it was the parents of the ones who were in this one that did the circus when her children were young, and their parents did it when she was young.  The children start young in their performing and also the animals are born and trained into it.  I hadn't noticed, but Mike said that quite a few of the ground crew were also the performers.  They travel throughout Europe every year.
It is nice that the best ice cream bars we have found here are are also the least expensive.  They are just  vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate on a stick like we have at home.  They get pretty hard in the freezer and Thursday after lunch I bit into one and chipped my front tooth.  We tried to get a picture, but this might give you an idea.  First how the tooth looked although it was more jaggedy.
Image result for picture of a chipped front tooth
and then close to how I looked - or at least felt like I looked
Image result for nanny mcphee
 I wish I could explain the myriad of feelings in the next few minutes or so .. pretty sad and teary, recognizing we were a very long way from home and the TLC and competency we are used to from dentists and orthodontists we have known for years, pictures flashing through my mind of the dentist office of my youth, the old loud tooth grinder and shots that hurt, questions of root canals or caps or a false tooth and worry as to where a dentist would even be.  Always grateful for the comfort and peace of prayer and a blessing.  We sent an email to the mission office to see if they knew any missionary who had served in Saratov who had to have dental work done.  Within twenty minutes, a tender mercy, Elder Harrison, who we know well and who goes home in a week, called to report he had gone to two dentists, the second he liked very much and was only about a ten minute walk from us.  The office is called Master Dent, and the dentist's name in English - El Boo Boo Mohammed Malamud Mohammed Achmad. 
 We called Zhenya, the CES director, who was at the office, another of a series of tender mercies, stepped down to him.  We had the wrong number, but he found the office on the internet and called and made an appointment for the next morning at 9:00.  We called the zone leaders who are always good about helping, and met them the next morning at the MasterDent office.
 Always our trusted and pleasant help, the missionaries, this time  Elder Call and Elder Graf, whose father is a dentist and who is planning on being a dentist.
The door opened into a state of the art dental office,
Toys for the kids, sugar free candy and tea - they often have tea wherever you go.  The Elders carry the herbal and fruit tea with them, and there is a book you sign and leave comments, even in English.
Front Desk
They only allow one person to be with you, so it had to be an elder who could speak the language.  Elder Call came with me.  [As a side note for those of you who would might know - Elder Call's father grew up in Taylor Arizona and later came back and taught seminary in Snowflake a few years.  He knew Dad , Beaulah, Uncle Lynn, Spud, Glen and a lot of other people we know, is a year older than Glen Stratton's Kent. Elder Call's grandparents still live in Taylor.]  Went from here back to an examining room where they took x-rays and Dr. El BB checked and made the diagnoses.  Careful and thorough and very nice, another tender mercy.  The picture below is when were leaving and he stepped out to show us the book to sign and is telling  us to be sure to have some tea and candy.  As a side note -  he's much bigger than he looks in the picture We'll bring home one of Russia's quick-water-boil pitchers and Bishop Dr. Pollock can fro his hair, sport a goatee and start serving herbal tea.
 Upstairs, then to the dental room, equipped with the newest equipment, where I got my pretty much pain-free filling, plus out the window, a beautiful view of the trees and green outside
This is the doctor who fixed the chip, another tender mercy.  She did a great job, took time to make it smooth and even, and they guarantee it for a year, but recommended that I be careful what I bite.
                                                          The girls at the front desk
 Everyone was extra helpful and treated us great -- we took a plate of homemade treats back that afternoon on the way to one of our shopping trips to pick up the food we needed for Institute/Seminary Graduation.  Heaven spent extra time that day sprinkling us with lots of tender mercies - within less than 24 hours and without being scary, the tooth was fixed and we were back in time for our district meetings.
 * * *
So now to Institute/Seminary Graduation.   Mike helps with the planning and set-up, my assignment pretty much the food.  He does always offer his help - but is probably relieved when I don't need it, but he does go shopping which is the best. It is always a bit frightening because I worry they won't like what we fix.  Our Stratton and Waite mothers probably have to work overtime from heaven at times like this - and they do an amazing job.  Seems like things turn out as they should.  Mike had his English gospel study class right before (these are a couple of the young people in the class. They brought us back from the baptism.)

  I didn't think I'd have trouble making the sandwiches (with our homemade Costco chicken salad) and getting the plates ready.  Sisters Leavitt and Hansen showed up just as I was starting and helped during part of their dinner hour -- and it's a blessing they did.  I'm not quite as fast as I thought I would be.  Those who were there liked the food, it looked good on the plate, and Mike found some good candy wrapped in the colors we needed.  Another blessing was that because of some complications we decided on chips instead of salad and because we only had fewer than planned, we'd have had lots of salad left over - chips keep better and we had found several kinds of the Lay's and they loved them, you can see them in the bowls at the top.  Mike was the one who had the idea of doing quarter sandwiches and two different kinds of bread .. maybe he'll be a chef when we get back...and maybe not.  He sole culinary fame in Saratov at this point is his buttermilk pancakes and his good choice of ice cream bars and candy for the candy dish he keeps filled.
Angels in disguise -- maybe not in disguise, maybe just angels.
The juice over here is the best we've ever had, especially since we figured out which was the 100% juice.  The peach-apple is a bit thick, we don't like it much, but everyone else does.
When we were talking our Sunday walk, this lady was sitting on the side of the walking street doing this pencil or charcoal drawing - pretty close to the way she looks.  We will check again next week to see if she is there during the week too.
  As we were coming home from church yesterday on the bus, I was sitting next to a lady holding a baby - girl, seven months - she kept reaching for me and the mother didn't stop her.  She climbed on to my lap, played and laughed and sucked on her hand - it was fun!
 The mom even left her with me while she went up to the front of the bus to pay so she could go out the larger side doors with the stroller.  Mike gave her one of our "priglashenyas" - the tri fold that the missionaries hand out.  
A scripture we've seen many times, but it stood out this time and we talked of those in the Waite and Stratton families who have served before and are serving now in a lot of different places: 

Mosiah 3:20 - And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

and we'll close with parts from another favorite as it briefly outlines what has already happened in the restoration of the church, especially the last verse - D&C 128:

 19 Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth;
 20 Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John ... on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!
 21 ...the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!
 22 Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? 
Go forward and not backward. 
Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!
 Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

6/7/2015 Another Guess, Circus, Friends

 This is your guess what it is picture for the week .. has to be exact ..
The East European Area President, Bruce D. Porter, his wife and son (who served in this mission 12 years ago)  and our mission president and his wife, President and Sister Schwab, were here for our zone conference on Friday.  One of the blessings of being in the mission field is being taught in such a personal way by these brethren.  It is amazing how our Heavenly preserves and prepares our leaders.  President Porter, who you will be familiar with because of his service in the Second Quorum of the Seventy since 1995 and First Quorum since 2003, came out in August.  He has had twelve surgeries in eleven years including kidney and open heart.  Even with less than perfect health he is happy and positive and gives his all in his service.  His talk, Beautiful Morning in the April 2013 conference is worth your time. 
 President Schwab, after he was called, found out, through a series of small miracles, that he had thyroid cancer that was progressing toward his lungs, but they caught it in time.  He had the surgery and the radiation treatments and was only a couple of months late making it out here.   And he too gives his all to his calling.  Their counsel and teaching and that of their wives is testimony building and life strengthening  - and it is good to hear it all in English.  
We would have had more pictures of the circus, but a man stepped down to Mike and told him very firmly and without a smile not to take pictures.  We thought it was OK without a flash, but apparently it isn't.  The first part reminded me of my dad and Las Vegas at the National Finals Rodeo.

If you look right at the top middle you can see the young man doing acrobatics on a swinging cable.
 The lighting is bad, but you can see the bear.  They had a lot of performing bears balancing and on bikes and motorcycles and even a four wheeler.  They are all muzzled.
  This was a little tiny dog that climbed up this ladder - way high - and then when signaled, jumped from there into the cape/apron that the one clown in the striped pants was using.
 clowns again 
 Don't know if it is worth sending - this is the girl doing the flips, he has hold of her hands and the trapeze is swinging -- her head is down and her legs in the splits.  He is upside down.
 She is just getting ready to do some tricks
This is the front of the program.  The young man on the top left of the picture did his act, which was a combination of almost every routine you see gymnasts do, but he has the bands which extend from the top of the building on his wrists or legs and he is swinging through the air while he is doing the stunts.  It was pretty impressive.  Zhenya Markelov and his wife, Lena and two children, and Lena's mom - here from Pocatello Idaho where she has lived for seven years - were with us.  The children always make something like this more fun.  Andre is only a little over a year and they wondered about taking him, but he was fascinated the whole time. 
 We have permission from some members to post their pictures - this is one of our Institute Council members and good friend, just set apart for a mini-mission.  In this picture President Schwab had just set him apart. He is planning on a mission in August, but will serve a few weeks now until one of our elders returns from a quick trip to the states for an operation on his nose. 
 Another active young man and good friend.  And a Sister Waite who looks a little older, and an Elder Waite who only looks better -- how fair is that.  Why do wrinkles look distinguished on a man and make a woman look older.  
The young lady in the middle, another who has become a good friend, has been a member a little over a year, she is good to help on lessons, or in this case, to let the new elder - next to her - practice a lesson on her.  She will have a great influence in the church here.  These youth - and particularly the missionaries - take good care of us.
 We went to a wedding reception last night ..if you look really hard to your back left, you can tell me by my dress.  Mike was taking pictures.  They have special numbers and games and dances, and we did get some dancing.  We still think they are a bit surprised that people our age can move that fast.  Most of the people here have good rhythm and youth and non-youth  can really get out and move.. it is very fun.  Reminds us of the parties Dad and Mom Waite used to tell us about when they were raising their families in Bunkerville.  We do love and appreciate the people here.  
Just off our parking lot is a small playground, you have seen pictures before.  The net that divides the two is their volley ball net in the summer.  Makes you more grateful for those big lawns and parks and ball fields we have at home.
It is really beautiful here, the trees are full and green.  Many people out walking, evenings especially are nice and the sun doesn't seem to go down until around 8:00 p.m. 
Pictures, but not many words this time .. got a late start.  Thought we would share the scripture with you that Elder Porter shared when they were talking about some of the things the missionaries face on the streets and the protection they have.  D&C 84:88  .. "for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up."
To close - we received a letter - guess those are called emails these days - from my cousin Alice Lynne who spoke of wanting in her home that comforting, warm spirit.  She teaches us all a short clear lesson on the importance and far reaching effects of prayer ..."I tried to have that feeling in our home, but didn't know what it was, until I found out that getting it there was as close as my knees."

Thanks again to all of you for your friendship and your prayers and for all the things you have done for us and out family for so many years.