With the missionaries coming in and going home, we have 16 sisters/23 elders, total of 39, down from the 74-5 that were here when we came. That is unusual because we've always had a lot more elders than sisters, but by December we are supposed to be back up close to 70. That does mean, however, that some of those training have been in the country just a few cycles (a cycle is 6-weeks) more than those they are training. Fortunately our Father in Heaven is in charge and He does makes things happen. Also, two of our five senior couples have gone home in the last three months with no replacement in sight as yet. We now have the office couple, another CES couple in Samara and we are in Saratov. They are hoping at the very least to replace the office couple within the next month.
* * *We were looking for a Russian artist and some history when this came up from who knows where. But, it is too interesting not to pass on even thought it has nothing to do with Russia or mission.
February 1944: Wait, is that a ship or a modern art instillation? This US Navy Patrol Torpedo ship was designed with a unique zebra stripe camouflage to confuse the enemy as to the vessel's course. This technique was called Dazzle camouflage.
It has been a busy week and we do like busy weeks. It is vegetable season here and people set up everywhere to sell their goods; they can be next to each other and selling the same thing. If you look at the bottom of the left branch of the tree you can see the babushka with the scarf on her head and up on the ledge of the little wall she has a variety of produce and her scale. You can't see the man next to her but you can see his scale and produce. This is on our way home from church.
This is our outdoor market that is just a few blocks away. The produce is fresh and is good.
Melons are coming on - really good, but still not as good as Bundy melons.
There are three kinds of buttermilk - the blue label is sweeter (that isn't to say it is sweet - just sweeter) and many families here drink it instead of milk because it is healthier and the young children don't become allergic to it. The gold one is thicker and more sour, and then there is a green one called Kefir that is the best for muffins or pancakes. Unfortunately we had to learn by experience.
We thought we would try our babushka cart (under Mike's hand on the right) along with our four other bags so we wouldn't have to have a taxi, could still stock up on heavy things like flour, sugar, etc. and come home on the bus. That way Mike wouldn't end up the last lap of our journey helping me carry my bags. It was fine going over because everything was empty. In fact it was fine getting back on the bus because there is one that just waits to load across from the market. The hilarious part was getting off the bus because Mike had to lift the bags out, then lift down the very full babushka cart and then get me and the bags I had off. We probably made quite a sight, but it made it nice walking from the bus to home. Probably won't try it again, but it was fun for us and might have given some of those on the bus something to smile about.
Transfers were this week and we are happy to be able to keep Sister Leavitt (Dixie & Anne's granddaughter, David's daughter) and Sister Hansen for one more cycle.
Elder Waite practicing with the missionaries for our District celebration of the church's 120 years in Russia. They had chosen Hope of Israel and Onward Christian Soldiers, but the District Council recommended a change to songs with more meaning for the saints here. So they sang Called To Serve and Did You Think to Pray which fit everybody - sounded good,
the performance - not to upstage the Tabernacle Choir for their European tour next year :)
The celebration was set up for the regular branch building and we were able to hold it there. After the problems last time, there was a little bit of worry, but we had just one lone protester and he was a nice guy, may have just been someone paid to picket. The meeting was well attended by church members and we had 45 investigators come, which was good because they were able to get some questions answered and maybe a better view of the church and what we are and are not. The members here are loyal to their country and loyal to the church.
Our world and the buses. Coming back from a baptism in Solnechney (about a 40-70 minute ride depending on traffic) with the elders, some members and a couple of investigators (plaid shirt on the right one of them). It was nice and open right at first, but
it soon fills up, you can see the seats are full and people are standing. It is an adventure each time.
Closing today with a story told to Sister Leavitt by a semi-active member from another of her areas. We have mentioned before that the members here have told us that no family was untouched by World War II.. Anyway, this babushka's mother had five older brothers and they and their father all were taken into the army. At the end of the war, three came home, the oldest and the father they knew had been killed and the youngest just wasn't there in camp when they got up one morning, so they assumed finally that he had been captured and killed. The mother raised the four children on her own. Twenty-ish years later the family was sitting around the radio waiting for a music program to start. When the featured musician was announced, it was the missing brother, who had been captured and finally released but not allowed to leave the St. Petersburg area. He had become a famous musician, now good enough to be on this radio show. He was able to say that if his mother or any of his family were listening, he wanted them to know he was alive and doing well. Every Sunday after that for as long as he was on the show, they would gather around the radio and listen. She said that was the only time she ever saw her mother, who had been so strong in raising them, cry, but even in her sadness, she was so grateful that Heavenly Father had let her know he was alive. It is a gift to be able to find the blessings even in hard things.
A good thought from one of our meetings - "You may think the grass is greener on the other side, but if you would take the time to water your own grass, it would be just as green."
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Always a good scripture: Proverbs 3:5-7 - Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes.
We're grateful to be here and grateful for all of you and your love and support.