Sunday, January 31, 2016

1/31/2016 Tender Mercies, New Patriarch, More Snow

  Our hearts are always touched at the tender mercies in seeming small things.   Saturday was one of those extra busy days where, although assignments and responsibilities didn't overlap, they were too close in some cases.  We came from one with barely enough time to get out to Solnechney to a baptism.  We knew it would be close, needing everything to fall into place exactly, which it never does when it involves taxis and traffic.  But, feeling it was important that we were there, and there in time for the program before the baptism, we asked our Father again for help, and the help came.  The Elder's called the taxi and it was here within minutes, the first time ever for us.  The traffic wasn't as bad as usual, still we seemed to move ahead slower than we needed.  But, although most drivers have a hard time finding the Solnechney chapel, this driver went right to it. And, finally because of a couple of complications at the building, the baptism was late starting, within a few minutes of when we got there.  We felt the comfort of his help and we are grateful.
     This is one of the few long time member families - their 8-year old daughter was the one baptized, and their oldest son, on the left, is preparing for a mission. The mom often is the translator when people are visiting from Salt Lake, also can do sign language.  They are all active - and lots of fun.
 The two in the middle are sister missionaries, the other two are members, the one on the left helps with the Institute teaching - an excellent teacher.  The Bishop's wife is in the pink.
 Andre is in one of our Singles programs - we have known him almost since we got here, is an active and involved member, but this is the first time we've met his mom.
     Always have liked this story on prayer about a little boy who, the week coming up to his Saturday birthday, always prayed that it wouldn't rain on his birthday and his older brother kept telling him his prayers wouldn't make any difference.  If it was going to rain, it would rain.  Saturday came - and so did the rain.  His older brother was quick to point that out "See, Heavenly Father didn't answer your prayer."  But the little boy trustingly answered..."Yes, he did, he just said No this time."
Image result for picture of boy kneeling in prayer
Apparently this video didn't play in the last blog, so will try again ..
Elder Plettig, our German elder, took this picture from his apartment window.  We have been told that it is a mirage - like a desert mirage, but this is in the sky when there are certain cloud conditions.  We never cease to be amazed at the beauties of our world.
We walked down to the park - lots and lots and lots of a type of crow.  For any who have seen Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, it could be a little scary with so many and their cawing.
The trees, all wrapped for winter, look like a row of the KKK.
Some even shovel their roofs

 No matter the snow, no matter the cold, one of the delightful things about children is that they can find something to make it fun.  This is the side of our building where they have stacked up the snow from the parking lot - full of snow, dirt and ice chunks.
 This is his snow cave, it goes down and in and then back up to a hole to get out on the other side.  
        Another fun place.  The snow is scraped up into piles at certain places along the sides of the walking street which goes about four or five Salt Lake City blocks.   Stores line either side with a walking area in the middle about the size of a highway lane. These boys were laughing and pushing and playing what we used to call "King of Bunker Hill" in my growing up days,  with the one at the top trying to keep the others from getting up there.  ("I'm the king of Bunker Hill .. I can fight and I can kill" - how do you think those words would go over in today's world.)
In places the snow looks like soft brown sugar ...
 And some cars won't get out until spring.
 Someone asked - so this is the stairway up to our apartment.  It looks kind of rough, and is cement, but actually it is great -  one of our blessings - the stairs are smooth, each an even height and the stairwells are warm.  We are on the 4th floor and can take the 54 steps or the lift (elevator).   Mikkelsens, in Odessa Ukraine, are on the 4th floor, 57 steps we thought Ned said - and no lift.

Since we're looking at building things - In the sports complex walkways, they have a strong vinyl flooring with a wood look finish.  When there is a tear, they go down up and down the inside and outside of the tear with a tool that seals it - almost looks like it is nailed, but it is not.  Pretty clever - looks like a fancy design unless you get down close, although no two designs are the same.
           Elder Neuenschwander was here to train our new Stake Patriarch, Nikolai Vasilev who was also the first Russian sealer in both the Helsinki, Sweden and Kiev, Ukraine temples.  They were planning another temple mission and haven't been able to get everything lined up - suspect the need for him in this new calling is the reason.  (Below - Elder Neuenschwander and our very good friends, Tatiana and Nikolai Vasilev.)  Elder Neuenschwander, a Seventy then, was the one who came to reorganize the Mesquite Nevada Stake after President Whipple passed away.  He is now one of the church Patriarchs that comes to Europe and spends a month or so traveling around to give patriarchal blessings.  Everyone came here for dinner and that is always fun.  We didn't even need a translator this time since he speaks fluent German, Russian and of course, English.
 Elder Neuenschwander, President and Sister Schwab, Waites, Vasilevs & President Reshetnikov
No molasses, but we tried a cream/honey recipe for taffy.  It turned out OK - I didn't cook it long enough because the first time we tried it I cooked it too long .. maybe next time I can get it right.  And they don't have candy thermometers here, so that isn't an option.  But Maxim and Lina enjoyed it anyway, hadn't seen anything like it before.

An old heating system on top of a building by the church - still works.  They follow the saying we've heard President Packer use - use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
Mike has been able to do some teaching - with the help of the elders - for the mid-Single Adult class that meets on Sunday and for the older Single Adult class that meets on Tuesday nights and he enjoys that.   He is helping now to train the new clerk in the ward we belong to - remember Mike is clerk in the ward we don't belong to and thanks to John Gleave and the help center in Salt Lake continues to learn how to do what needs to be done.  It is kind of funny because sometimes in the training they have to go back and forth from the English to the Russian screen .. they use the Russian screen most.  He also continues to add things to the history time line and we are trying to get as many of the old pictures as we can.  This is of the first songbook they had in Russian - just a few hymns - but they were so very grateful to have it.  The ladies in primary are wishing they had more of the children's songs translated into Russian  because there is so much teaching in them.
A quote from Elder Christofferson on something I've been studying - not necessarily understanding, but still fun to learn.
Elder Christofferson - This personal persistence in the path of obedience is something different than achieving perfection in mortality. Perfection is not, as some suppose, a prerequisite for justification and sanctification. It is just the opposite: justification (being pardoned) and sanctification (being purified) are the prerequisites for perfection.
And a good scripture to go along with that:

2 Nephi 31:19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save..
 20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
 21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen
   Grateful to you all -- 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

1/24/16 Bulldogs, Snow and Icicles, Basketball, Epiphany

We were just a little too far and the bus started moving, but it was very plain to us and pretty exciting. If you look carefully, you can see the VVHS Bulldog sticker (white) at the bottom of the window.

I went with the sister missionaries for a lesson with a lady who was baptized later in the week.   They have short, very narrow side streets that go from the sidewalks and take you back to areas that have small homes.  Some doors open right off the street as you see on the left below.
 The little turn in to the new member's home comes right before the pole you can see at the right.
this is the other side as we were walking out.
They usually offer you tea - chai - and the missionaries always carry herbal and fruit tea just in case all they have is the other, but these were aware of the Word of Wisdom so had this good fruit tea.  It is funny sometimes when the missionaries say how much they like the tea - as they stir in spoonful after spoonful of sugar.  Also, when you visit, they often have a little snack fixed.  I confess I'm not too adventurous in that department.  Mike actually does better than I do.
When we see all the icicles I always think of my mother - one of her favorite things.  These weren't  really long as some are, but they were huge around, much more than they look here.
 These are always pretty - just nice rows of icicle teeth.
We went over to watch some of our singles and other members play ball .. and at a break when they were changing the court from basketball to football (soccer) one of the bishops who was there bounced the ball over to Mike - 
 nothing but net !!! 
 and again (missed a few too)
       We respect their traditions and are grateful for the times we can be observers.  Last week we walked down to the Volga for their celebration of the Epiphany.  To the Orthodox Church January 19 marks the baptism of Jesus.  The larger crowd was at midnight, but they were still coming and going when we were there.  Below is a brief explanation which is better (and shorter) than mine would have been. 
         The Epiphany, celebrated in Russia on January 19, marks the baptism of Jesus in the Orthodox Church. As elsewhere in the Orthodox world, the Russian Church conducts the rite of the Great Blessing of the Waters, also known as "the Great Sanctification of the Water" on that day (or the eve before).  The priest-led procession could simply proceed to the font,  but traditionally the worshipers would go to a nearby lake or river.
          Believing that on this day water becomes holy and is imbued with special powers, Russians cut holes in the ice of lakes and rivers, often in the shape of the cross, to bathe in the freezing water. This practice is said to be popularized comparatively recently; it was fairly uncommon in the czarist days, but has flourished since the 1990s.
          Participants in the ritual may dip themselves three times under the water, honoring the Holy Trinity, to symbolically wash away their sins from the past year, and to experience a sense of spiritual rebirth. Orthodox priests are on hand to bless the water, and rescuers are on hand to monitor the safety of the swimmers in the ice-cold water. Others limit their participation in the Epiphany rites to those conducted inside churches, where priests perform the Great Blessing of Waters, both on Epiphany Eve and Epiphany (Theophany) proper. The water is then distributed to attendees who may store it to use in times of illness, to bless themselves, family members, and their homes, or to drink. Some Russians think any water – even from the taps on the kitchen sink – poured or bottled on Epiphany becomes holy water, since all the water in the world is blessed this day. In the more mild climate of the southern city of Sochi meanwhile, where air and water temperatures both hover in the low to mid 10 degree Celsius range (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in January, thousands of people jump into the Black Sea at midnight each year on Epiphany and begin to swim in celebration of the feast.

 This was the only one we saw actually swim.  
The bridge looks white - with that, the sky and the river you can see how cold it is.
 This hole was cut out of the ice - and just has ice and snow at the edges.
They say the water isn't that cold, but it is cold when you get out, and we can certain attest to that, even when you are not dripping wet.  "not that cold" looks pretty cold to us.
It is a happy time. Most have family or friends there who are wrapped up in full winter gear, waiting with towels and robes, proud of the one who has demonstrated their faithfulness. It is fun and tender to watch families and friends as they take such good care of and make a fuss over the one who has made the spiritual recommitment.

Getting ready to go in .. 
the steps have to be freezing cold and icy - this was a second hole and seemed to be lined on the sides and ends  (you can see the little icicles along the side below the blue)
 Doesn't take long to get in 
 or out ..
This young lady was the only who seemed to have to talk herself into it .. and there was none of the three-time dipping business ..once the young man was out,  she quickly went down the stairs and slowly into the water, went under only once, then almost bounced out and  didn't even try to hide the shivering. 
we might be willing to try it at Bunker's pond in the summer.

Here's a link if you want to see the celebration in other cities in Russia.  We liked ours best, seemed more of a family and friends time but these are good too.

 Always grateful to be able to be here.  
And to finish out this week's blog - a couple of thoughts:

From a talk by Elder Gene R. Cook Of the First Quorum of the Seventy From a BYU Devotional Address May 29, 1984.  The Power of Faith

      I suppose no one knows, but the reality of the power of faith cannot be denied. In the face of all opposition, trust in the Lord. Even if the opposition continues almost beyond endurance, continue to trust in the Lord.

          Life is a struggle. But the promises of the Lord are sure. Major problems and decisions face all of you. But they are all solvable if you will rely on the Lord.   The Lord really is the answer to it all. He’s the one who can unleash your potential and teach you who you are and what you ought to do.  In conclusion, may I make these few suggestions that will help you stay close to and trust in the Lord:
1.    Pray to Him, continually seeking revelation throughout the day. (See 2 Ne. 9:52.)
2.    Read His scriptures daily, even if only for a few minutes. They will give you direction in this world and teach you of the world to come.
3.    Exercise faith and keep the things of the Spirit as the first priority in your life, then all else will be appropriately added.
4.    Seek to do His will, not your own, humbling yourself and repenting or changing your life as needed.
5.    Love others; serve them. Feed the Lord’s flock.
6.    Keep the commandments with exactness.

And from President David O. McKay:
Lara Johnson's photo.
“Let me assure you, Brethren (and Sisters) that some day you will have a personal Priesthood interview with the Savior, Himself. If you are interested, I will tell you the order in which He will ask you to account for your earthly responsibilities.
First, He will request an accountability report about your relationship with your wife (husband). Have you actively been engaged in making her (him) happy and ensuring that her (his) needs have been met as an individual?
Second, He will want an accountability report about each of your children individually. He will not attempt to have this for simply a family stewardship but will request information about your relationship to each and every child.
Third, He will want to know what you personally have done with the talents you were given in the pre-existence.
Fourth, He will want a summary of your activity in your church assignments. He will not be necessarily interested in what assignments you have had, for in his eyes the home teacher (visiting teacher) and a mission president (Relief Society President) are probably equals, but He will request a summary of how you have been of service to your fellowmen in your Church assignments.
Fifth, He will have no interest in how you earned your living, but if you were honest in all your dealings.
Sixth, He will ask for an accountability on what you have done to contribute in a positive manner to your community, state, country, and the world.”
― David O. McKay