Sunday, June 7, 2015

How Do you Say Goodbye….. До свидания наша российская Семья

We have been hesitant to write this final blog because we don’t know how to leave such a wonderful gift from the Lord, to live and serve with the people in Russia!!  We are also saddened because we aren’t able to post pictures of all the wonderful Russian people who have touched our lives on our blog.  

We could fill hundreds of pages with pictures of beautiful smiles, hard working faces, service together, eating together, visiting their datchas (a small cabin outside the city where they have space to plant a garden), teaching, learning, laughing, playing and just living life together with our Russian friends.  

They are a wonderful people who have survived much and know how to move forward together. This final blog is truly a tribute to all the Russian people who we now call family and friends. Their memory will always live on in our hearts! The pictures are our latest memories from Pskov and Novgorod. 

When we first decided to serve the Lord and accepted our call to Russia, we were scared of the unknown. We were raised and taught that Russia was one of our strong enemies across the sea, which we still battled as a formidable opponent in the Olympics every four years.  

Our thoughts were about our families, friends, jobs and life that we would give up or have to “sacrifice” to heed the call and go to Russia.  We were prepared to live in a cold, dark place with unhappy people who wouldn’t welcome us into their hearts ….  WOW, were we ever wrong!!

What we came to realize was that 18 months together, away from the world, walking hand-in-hand, and waking each day in the service of others is the greatest gift the Lord could have ever given us! 

He put us with a people that work hard, welcome a hug and a smile, live in very humble circumstances and are thankful for their time on this earth. 

You don’t hear them complain about the size of their home, that they don’t have a car or very little money for food. It was an honor to watch them celebrate 70 years since their WWII victory and surviving the siege. They are proud to be Russian and have such a love for their heritage.

We saw love in their hearts for their loved ones who were lost in the war or passed away early. You see families caring for their elderly or the elderly taking care of the young.  The one real void is the abundance of men in the older generation. Many died young or left their wives alone to raise their kids and grand children. 

We have met so many single grandmothers (called babushkas). They are valiant warriors who help raise the next generation. Many of the older babushkas lived through the siege of Germany 70 years ago.  They are the backbone of the country and don’t hesitate to tell you when you are out of line :-)

Through this journey we have seen a country that has beauty beyond belief.  We laughed, cried and hugged our Russian friends as we shared with them the gospel or just helped them on the street.  I often saw pain in their eyes as I tried to speak their language and a love in their heart because I tried.  

Kathy always touched their hearts with a loaf of homemade banana bread, meal, service project or a hug on Sunday at church. Oh how they loved “Sister Carter”.  The babushkas would give her the biggest hug and smile, even though they only had half their teeth.  (This guy on the left was a little too friendly, but I think Kathy liked it.) Ha ha

We will truly miss their loving embrace and willingness to laugh at our funny way of doing things. They will think back and say, "Remember that strange Carter couple from America?" Ha ha.

We saw the hand of God in Russia preparing the people to hear the gospel.  We see a younger generation that is well educated and excited about the world, trying to find their way in life. You can see the cute, little babushka helping the child to school.

The majority of young people struggle to find good jobs after school, may not have a good home structure or are being raised by their babushka. They are missing a generation of parental role models, so many struggle to find a spouse who will love them. 

The wonderful thing about the youth is that when they do gain a testimony of the gospel, they are valiant in their commitment. They will truly be a strong next generation that will lead the Church in Russia, and help the work move forward. Many of the younger Russian generation are now serving missions. They are very close and provide support through youth groups and activities within the Church.  

We have met so many wonderful young Russian people who are both members of our church and non-members of our church.  They have a life and smile that will always burn within our hearts and hopefully continue to communicate through e-mail and Facebook.

The other key to our mission has been our extended mission family!!  We can’t tell you how much we love the young missionaries we had the honor to serve with. It is every parent's dream to see their kids grow up and make a difference. We were true witnesses of that in each of these valiant servant’s of God.

They leave their families, friends, school and life to serve the Lord and another people for 18 to 24 months. They learn a language and the gospel so they can lovingly teach it to others.  When our children served, I always dreamed of being able to spend a day on their mission with them.  

I have been able to do that every day over the last 18 months through the eyes of the missionaries we served with. 

I saw my sons and daughter in their eyes and as they taught me and the people of Russia. I would imagine my children teaching the people of the French West Indies (Brandon), Dominican Republic (Shawn) or Cleveland Ohio (Krista).  

To all the parents of the missionaries serving in this mission who read this blog, I compliment you for raising such wonderful children! We love each of them like our own and would love to adopt each of them and take them home with us :-)

We also want to give a final shout out to our wonderful children who have taken care of everything while we have served! We have shared in their lives through e-mail, phone, Skype and Facebook. You realize how important the letters and e-mails were that we sent our children when you wake each morning hoping to hear from them.  

We left with two grandchildren and two dogs in the extended family and go home to four grandchildren and four dogs.  We can’t wait to share in their lives again.

Our final thoughts rest with each of you reading this blog! You are the reason we find happiness in life, because we share life's journey together!  Each of you have touched our lives and we would like to give you something in return. 

We have the most amazing gift that life has to offer and promise it will bring peace and joy into your life. It is the knowledge that God lives! He is our loving Heavenly Father and through his son, Jesus Christ, we can live with Him again.  

Our families can be together forever and that loving bond doesn't end when life ends.  We know that our friendship can also continue and our love for each other will never end.  We would love to teach you more about the gospel and the happiness it can bring when we get home.  

We also encourage you to invite one of the 88,000 awesome young missionaries over to your house to share the gospel or join you for dinner. I promise you it will be the highlight of your day, week, life and eternity! You can request a visit from the missionaries at;

We send our love and air hugs to all of you. We will be speaking in our home ward on June 28th at 9:00 am in Bountiful. We would love to have you join us for the talks or just a visit afterwards at our house.  I will put both addresses below. We love you and thank each of you for sharing in our journey.

Church Address:
Sunday June 28, 2015  9:00 am
965 Oakwood Drive
Bountiful, Utah 84010

Our Home:
Sunday, June 28  10:15 am – 1:00 pm
3507 South Huntington Drive

Bountiful, UT 84010

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Leaving Pskov on foot after the explosion ....

The first two weeks in Pskov have been awesome and filled with adventure. All of the main roads outside the city are two lane roads and people drive fast and are always passing each other. After one week in Pskov we went back to St. Petersburg for two days to help the new office couple with their first transfer meeting. 

Shortly after we left Pskov our bus was stopped because of a large explosion and fire on the road about 300 yards in front of our bus. The whole road was filled with black smoke and flames. We found out that two diesels and at least two cars had collided and burst into flames.  We don't know if anyone survived. :(

Understanding the traffic both ways was stopped, our bus driver went into action. He called the bus driver coming the other way on the road, and he was stuck on the other side of the explosion. So we decided to switch buses so that we could turn the buses around and continue. 

So we got our bags, hiked about 1/4 mile along the trees, through the woods, past the terrible accident, got into the other bus, turned it around and continued on our way. As you can see from the pictures, the accident was very bad. We couldn't tell if the people got out before the explosion, but our prayers go out to them.

While in St. Petersburg we were able to go on a lesson with the sister missionaries and meet with Lena for dinner. It was awesome to see all the missionaries again at transfer meeting and to wish some of the departing missionaries good luck in their transition. We love the mission office and all the people, and the new office couple is doing great. 

We serve in Pskov with two awesome elders. We do a lot of service and have been trying to get the less active people out to church. We have family home evening at our house every Monday night, 

play ping pong at the church on Tuesday with members and non-members, and help clean the house of an elderly crippled lady every week.  

This week we cleaned the grave sites for one of our member's relatives for their Memorial Day, did exterior cleaning of our church building, had people over for dinner, and walked and walked and walked.  (This is a picture of a memorial of a plane crash during the war.  The wing is from the plane, and the faces of each soldier who died on the plane is carved into the monument.)

I was called into the church branch presidency in Pskov, so we have been going through lists of all the members to see who we can extend callings to and how to get them more involved in the Sunday activities. (This picture is NOT our church building!) Ha ha

Last Sunday we had three people who aren't members of our church come and many of the faithful saints. The lessons were awesome and we are lucky to be in Pskov.

As you can see from the pictures in the blog this week, we live in a beautiful area, along a river and across from the old Kremlin.  (This is the view from outside our apartment.)

We have been going for an hour or two walk/run along the river each morning to get our day started. The pictures are of some of the landscape we see when we are walking. We have two large grocery stores here and they are about 30 and 40-minute walks from our apartment. 

We have enjoyed the walk to the store because it gives us the opportunity to see and talk with people.  We found a wonderful pastry store the other day and spoiled ourselves with an almond meringue tort that was amazing.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to provide some service to an elderly lady in our church. Most of the older generation in Russia have a small apartment in the city and a small dotcha (cabin) away from the city.  (We felt like Hansel and Gretel being lead into the deep woods, ha ha.)

The reasoning for the dotcha is to provide a place where they can raise food to eat. After WWI Russia decided that the people needed a place to be self sufficient, so the government gave all the people some land, and for a small amount of money, the building supplies for a dotcha.

As you can see from the pictures these are small rustic cabins with large garden areas. The dotcha we went to on Saturday required us to take a bus and then a train out into the country just outside the city. 

Then we walked for about 20 minutes through the fields, across the bridges and through beautiful forests to get to her dotcha.  During our workday, we had a typical Russian lunch of gretchka (buckwheat), chicken, apples, carrot salad and tea made from boiled fruit.  It was all really good.  Kathy made some pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies with ingredients from the states.  They were a hit!

Once we got there we focused on the garden areas. We put up a couple of greenhouse stands, tilled a lot of ground where she will plant potatoes, cleaned up the garbage and spoke a lot of Russian.  

They have water wells and draw their water each day for use at the house and in the garden. In Pskov, none of the people speak English, so we have to speak a lot more Russian. It helps with my language, but is difficult for Kathy when I don't understand enough to translate :-)  Most of the time I can get a basic understanding and have a conversation with them, but my vocabulary isn't very broad.

After we worked at the dotcha all day we headed back and did some scripture study. This time together with Kathy in Pskov has been great because we read the Bible in the morning and then the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants at night. I also study Russian when possible.

When we worked in the mission office we didn't have as much time for personal study, so this is nice.  The weather is finally starting to get to 50 F in the day, but it has still been raining a lot each day. We are looking forward to some warmer, drier weather.

We are down to 6 weeks and a few days before we come home and time is flying. We will go to Novgorod (another old town about 4 hours away) this week for a couple days to attend zone conference, so this week will go fast as well. This past Friday and next Monday are holidays along with next Friday and Monday. The first was similar to our Memorial Day and the second one is to celebrate their surviving the siege placed upon the country 70 years ago. 

The Russian people are amazing people with a strong will to survive and strong patriotism to their country. These are great celebrations for them. We are looking forward to attending the parade, spending the day and having lunch with our awesome members, and then watching the fireworks from our apartment window.  

We close today with our testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints  is true. Our families can be together forever and each person on this earth is a child of God. We pray for peace and love of our fellow man, friends and family. Family is part of God's plan, and we are thankful to have such a wonderful family through birth and through our association with all of you. Love Bob and Kathy