Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year from Russia

Happy New Year’s to all of our wonderful friends in America, Russia and around the world. We have so much to be thankful for and ask each of you reading this blog to share with us on Facebook or this blog one wonderful thought or moment we have spent together.  

Kathy and I have truly been blessed to serve this mission and to have 24/7 to spend together in the work of the Lord.  The pictures we share in this blog will highlight our month filled with activity, celebration, bonding and sharing of faith. 

We were also told we could show the missionaries, so you will see some of their awesome faces that light every day we are here.  

We are also blessed to serve with the wonderful Russian people in Kaliningrad, Russia but are still unable to share any of their names on the internet.

We were also blessed to travel back to St. Petersburg for three days for a zone conference the week before Christmas and spent an evening with all our wonderful friends in that city. The local church groups within our faith put on a Christmas Spectacular and it was awesome.  

We also had the opportunity to walk up Nevsky Street (the main city street), take many pictures of the beautiful Christmas decorations and get another picture at the Chapel on Spilt Blood.

We currently have five amazing missionaries serving with us in Kaliningrad - three sisters and two elders. Kathy and I stay very busy supporting their efforts on the streets, in the classrooms and at our house. 

We host a lot of dinners for investigators and members of our church.  It allows us to share with them the love we have for family and the gospel.  It also allows them to hopefully feel the love we have within our home.  Each missionary that serves with us holds a special place in our heart.

We were busy this month hosting a mini-missionary training event for all of the young men and young women here who will someday hopefully serve a mission.  We prepared actual mission calls, nametags, a scavenger hunt, and took them through three hours of training. It was a fun and spiritual time.  I prepared a slide show that shared the life of a missionary and then another to help guide the training.  It is good every once in a while to put my business skills to practice. J

We also hosted a Christmas devotional with the mission president and his wife.  They brought down nativity scenes from all over the world and had displays that spoke about the Christmas season and all that the birth of the Savior means to us.  

We had a wonderful turnout of those within our church and those investigating our faith.  Kathy and I prepared all the food for the event and helped with all the audio video.  This was back-to-back with the missionary activity so we were definitely tired when the weekend was done.

Every Friday we do an English gospel conversation group where we teach gospel principles in English and then spend time after class talking to each of the participants. This gives them a chance to listen and practice their English and gives us an opportunity to teach them gospel principles.  We have a really neat group of people who come each week and have developed a special bond with each of them.  They aren’t members of our church, but we have touched their hearts and hopefully will have the honor of baptizing them some day.

Kathy and I bought a Christmas tree for the season and have had decorations set up all month long.  In Russia they actually celebrate Christmas on January 7th which is the Russian Orthodox holiday.  

This gives us a month and a half to keep the spirit of Christmas in our homes and in the hearts of the people.  We got each of the missionaries a Kaliningrad souvenir plate and wrote on the back so they will remember us. We also got them each a stocking with some of the necessities like chocolate, socks, lotion, sewing kits, odor guards, etc., ha ha.

Kathy and I decided to get a piece of Russia for Christmas. We contracted a famous Russian artist and a wonderful lady within our church to make us a painting and needlepoint.  Sorry we can't mention names, but the artist is well known and does large mural paintings for the church temples. The lady is a wonderful grandmother who spent over two months on the needlepoint.  

As you can see from the pictures they will both be memorable hanging in our home. We had them each write a brief statement on what the piece of art meant to them and we will put that on the back of each frame with the picture of us with them. What an awesome Christmas. 

We had the missionaries over on Christmas Eve for a traditional dinner and then each of them were able to Skype with their families.  We had two computers set up so two could go at a time in different rooms of our apartment.  Then the missionaries who weren’t skyping were with us in the living room watching Bible videos and talking about the true meaning of Christmas.  

It was a very special time to see each missionary get a chance to talk to those they love.  It wasn’t very long ago when we were on the other end of the phone with our three kids. That was the best gift of the season - sharing our love over the phone with the kids, and Skype today allows the families to actually see their missionary.

This last Monday our Kaliningrad branch president took us up to an area called Куршская Косаю.  It is along the Baltic Sea and is a peninsula about 400 meters wide.  It was snow covered but sunny and absolutely beautiful.  

We could walk from one side which was a fresh water lake to the other side which was the sea.  We were blessed to get snow on Christmas so it was spectacular as you can see from the pictures.  It was a great personal day to spend with our branch president and his family.  The only thing missing was each of you! Wish we could share pictures of them but that will have to wait until we are done with our mission.

In closing we wanted to list many of the things we are thankful for going into this new year.  It is a nervous time as we get ready to come back and hit the ground running with work and family.  We know that the Lord will bless us with the ability to provide for our family and make any necessary transitions. We will return on June 19, 2015 just in time for Father’s day, and our homecoming will hopefully be June 28th.  

We send our love and hope that you enjoy the memories we share below.  We can’t list them all, so if we left out a memory please post below or on Facebook. We love to hear from each of you this holiday season. Love Bob and Kathy 

  • ·  We are thankful most of all to the Lord for inspiring our prophet and leaders to call us out of normal life to serve the wonderful people of Russia.
  • ·  We are thankful to our kids and their spouses who have put up with our silly sense of humor and kept all things running smoothly in our absence.  They have watched over our affairs and stayed true to each other and the Lord.
  • ·  We are thankful for Facebook and the opportunity to stay in touch with each of you once a day. We feel like we have shared brief moments of our lives and experienced brief moments of yours.
  • ·  We are thankful for the videos of our two beautiful granddaughters, our dog, Max, two new puppies and Sophie.   Each morning we wake up and search e-mail and Facebook to see any new posts in the lives of our families.  It is like manna from heaven to get those, and also to be able to skype with the kids.
  • ·  We are thankful to the company I worked for, Preferred Sands, for allowing us to leave and serve the Lord.  I am glad they were blessed with a good year in 2014 to prepare for tougher times in 2015 as oil prices drop.  I pray every day for the wonderful friends I have within the company.
  • ·  We are thankful to all our extended family that keeps growing through marriages and friendships.  Many have married, graduated, grown, laughed and cried in 2014.  Thanks for sharing the emotions.
  • ·  We are thankful for the
    example Kathy’s sister, Vicki, and her husband and daughter provided to lift our spirits.
     They were taught by the missionaries in California this year, were baptized and are now active members of the church preparing to go to the temple and be sealed together for eternity as a family.  They are the example of why we are here - to help families return to our Heavenly Father through His son, Jesus Christ, and find peace and happiness.
  • ·   We are thankful to our parents who dedicated their lives to us!
  • ·   We are thankful for each of you.  :)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sharing Thanksgiving in Russia with Each of You

We decided to do a blog on this Thanksgiving Day because we have so much to be thankful for in life. Preparing for Thanksgiving has been an adventure, as it is just another day in Russia.  The turkey I am holding below is the largest we could find and it's a little anorexic. And someone forgot to cut off the neck! So, as I contemplated what to write, I first decided to define thankfulness. HaHa

Bob’s Definition of Thankfulness ….  Having wonderful friends and family both on earth and in heaven who are willing to share our wonderful, and at times difficult, journey through life.

Kathy's Definition of Thankfulness .... Turkeys over 8 pounds, stuffing in a box, French's fried onions in a can (ya, had to MAKE my own!), Costco pumpkin pie, and cool whip. (Wish they had all of that here, ha ha. But I had a good friend smuggle in some Libby's pumpkin for me.)  And of course all of you. :)

We will share some pictures of the Amber Museum as we share some thoughts with you. Kaliningrad is the amber capital of the world. There are many stores and outdoor areas which sell amber. The museum is a display of art created from amber. It is actually housed in one of the old forts in the city.

Kathy and I often reflect on each of you reading this blog and how you have touched our lives.  We would like you to stop for a second and think of five wonderful memories we have together.  

As we think of each of you an amazing list of memories come to mind. Many times it is your smile or simple hello.  It is offering to help when things are tough or we are tired.  We have shared many late nights by the campfire, riding motorcycles, playing a round of golf, hiking in the mountains, side-by-side in a day at work, praying and learning in church, teaching others on our mission, experiencing the birth of a child or death of a family member.  

In each of these times many of you were there to share in the memory and lift our spirits. We can truly say we love and appreciate each one of you!

Kathy and I have been blessed by our Father in Heaven to check out of “normal life” for 18 months and serve the wonderful people of Russia.  Here we have a whole new set of friends that we meet on the street, help through service, talk to on the transit, teach in lessons, see each week at church, pray with, testify with and cry with.  

Most of all we have each other to go forward with faith to testify of the restoration of the gospel on the earth today.  Kathy and I are blessed to begin and end each day in prayer.  We spend 24/7 together thinking and praying about others and inviting them to come unto Christ.  I smile every day as we walk down the street hand-in-hand saying hello to everyone we meet.

We are taught through the diligence and example of amazing young missionaries who love and support us in our efforts.  We truly have the best of the best missionaries here in Russia and the Lord has given us the opportunity to learn from their faith and love.  We are blessed with awesome mission leaders in our Area Presidency and Mission Presidency who guide and direct our efforts.  

It is an amazing time for reflection when you take all the demands of the world and really analyze what is important.  You quickly realize that “all mankind” is important and get a glimpse of the peace and joy we could receive if everyone could put aside their differences and just love and support each other.

Ok, you have endured our emotional thanks to each of you. Now you get the privilege of being the first to read one of my famous home brewed poems. My kids always laughed because I would just take everyday life and make up a poem.  This is the first one I have made up in over a year, so enjoy J

As you sleep and dream of life, we are awake and chase the light.
When you wake our day is through, so we experience things before you do.
We share our experience through Facebook or Skype in hope that our children can get it right.
The world tells us that money is king, God tells us that’s the wrong thing.
God expects us to work hard and have a good life, even if the journey is filled with difficulty and strife.
Knowing imperfection is part of the plan, He provided a Savior to give us a hand. 
I know in my life I needed that hand, as God challenges me to be a good man.
He gives me each challenge to make me strong, then provides the Holy Ghost to tell me what’s wrong.
I couldn’t be happier today as I write, because each of you are in my life. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Kathy and I wanted to wish each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you take the time to reach out to those you love and tell them that you love them. Elder Woodhead, shown here recently completed his mission and is now back home with his family on this holiday. He was a wonderful blessing in our lives and the lord is thankful for all he did in his two years in Russia. 

We are so thankful for the support we have received from each of you while on our mission and that God blessed us with such wonderful children. There is no greater blessing than knowing that when this life ends we can continue with our family and live with them once more. This blessing of eternal families is received through the sealing power and authority of God we receive in the holy temples of the lord.  We look forward to next June, as we continue to make new memories with each of you. Love Bob and Kathy.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Serving Up Halloween in Russia

These past two weeks in the mission have been hard work, focus and prayers.  We will share many pictures of the service and again apologize as we try to use pictures that don't show the faces of the missionaries. We decided that while everyone else was working we would pull the senior nap card. HaHa. (It's really 
an option for us seniors!)

We have some great people we are teaching and great missionaries with us in Kaliningrad.  We have been working hard with our church leaders in this area to strengthen each of the auxiliaries. (These are the different programs within the church.)  

We have been praying that as we strengthen the existing branch in this area, the Lord will send us more people to teach.   We have also been doing a lot of service for the members of the church who are older or need help at their homes or work area.

As it gets colder and the leaves and apples start to fall from the trees, there are many opportunities for service.  One of our church members needed us to dig a large hole in her yard and bury all of the apples that had fallen and were rotting on the ground.  

Kathy said I wasn't treating her like a queen, so I gave her a ride to the service. :)  Each time we do service for someone they prepare a little snack for us to show their appreciation. It is fun to sit and talk with them and enjoy their company.

Early the next week we had the opportunity on our day off to help our branch president dig a trench and pour some concrete at a neighbor's home.  They were putting up a fence but have a problem with frost when they put concrete in the ground. Our branch president is an amazing person and it was an honor to help him.  We did such a great job that he then asked us to dig another trench at his warehouse!

Kathy gave a talk in church and did a great job. One of the sister missionaries translated for her. I have been asked to serve in the branch presidency and that will be fun to work with the local leaders. 

My Russian language is getting better, but it is so hard to learn the full vocabulary.  You don’t realize how you learn words over a lifetime and take for granted that you can talk on a daily basis.  Sometimes I say the wrong words and Kathy has to "hang" around until I get it correct :-) 

I am comfortable now that I can get us around and understand 60-70 percent of most conversations, but the 30-40 percent can be very important.  There are definitely times when the Lord helps me with the language when it is critical that I understand.  Other times I just laugh when I make mistakes and everyone is very patient with me.  

I have only been learning Russian for 9 months and speaking it for about 4 months. I just need to expand my vocabulary and this takes time.

We included some pictures of the buildings in the section of the city that was built when Russia first took over the city after WWII. They put up a lot of buildings fast and it looks like a Lego village. Many of these apartments aren’t very nice, but people here in Kaliningrad seem happy. 

Halloween in Russia was non-eventful because they don’t celebrate this holiday in Russia. We had our regular English Conversation Group, but Kathy stayed home with a cold and decided to COOK our decorative pumpkin!  You can't get canned pumpkin here. Desperate times call for desperate messures! Ha ha.
 We did enjoy Halloween in America through all our great friends posting pictures and videos on Facebook. It was so fun to see all the wonderful kids and their amazing costumes. Our two granddaughters and their parents were beautiful and fun.  Shawn and Alise posted some pictures enjoying their time at a haunted house.  We hope you enjoyed the pictures we posted. (The picture on the left is the main square in Kaliningrad.)

As we prepare for winter we ask that you keep us in your prayers. We need to find more people to teach, and as the days get shorter and the temperatures colder, this becomes more difficult.  The gospel is true and changes peoples lives. Thanks for following our blog and sending us e-mails with updates on your families. Familes can be together forever and we can live and share the lives of the loved ones who have left this earth.  This is a great 3-minute video that is worth your time to watch ://   Love Bob and Kathy

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Beautiful Fall and Hump Day in Russia

We missed all of you over the past month and pray that you are all doing well with the struggles and joy we each experience and share in our journey together. 

Kathy and I are excited to share pictures and a video of our hump day in Russia (mid-point of our mission, ha ha).  Kathy has really enjoyed photography in Russia and the pictures and narrative in this blog will attempt to cover this journey.  

As you will see, this month was filled with beauty, talent, laughter, tears, service, smiles, miles, puppies, parties, miracles and testimonies!

We crossed over 31 years of marriage and cheered in the news of two more grandchildren headed our way next January and March (Krista/Taylor having a girl and then Brandon/Alyse having a boy).  

We also added two new puppies to the family with Brandon/Alyse and Shawn/Alise both getting puppies. (The puppies in the picture are new puppies we got to see at the fort where we do service). 

We were saddened and keep in our thoughts and prayers some dear friends who experienced the loss of their new baby son after only two short days of life.  Moments like this reinforce why we are on our mission teaching people that families can live together forever.  

That understanding is better than a cure for disease, because if we prove ourselves worthy, we can live together for eternity if someone with the authority “seals” us together as a family.  And what can be better than that!!

We started this past month with a trip to Svetlogorsk on our day off located on the Baltic Sea. It was absolutely beautiful and the pictures throughout this blog show the beach and city area.  

Although we can't show the missionaries, we took the missionaries in our area up there early in the morning and did our morning studies sitting on the beach overlooking the ocean. 

We then played some Frisbee, played with some stray dogs and shared the gospel with several people on the beach.  It was an awesome way to spend our P-day (preparation day).  

We also walked around the town and saw all of the attractions. It is a small coastal town with restaurants, hotels and many residential areas.

We had two parties during the last month with the church members and those who we are teaching. The first was a talent show evening. Kathy and I choreographed a hula hoop dance to the song “Happy”.  

Kathy started out as a mean school teacher and taught her Russian students the words “happy” and “clap” (from the song).  Of course she then took her coat and glasses off and let down her hair.

We then did a dance and hula hooped to the song. It was a lot of fun and the Russian people definitely weren’t expecting an older missionary couple to bust out the moves. Hahaha.  Many came up and danced with us at the end and we had a lot of fun.

The second party was a Halloween party that we threw yesterday. We had a lot of people show up along with many not of our faith.  Kathy and the missionaries spent several weeks planning because Halloween isn’t a holiday in Russia. 

We had to get creative with the decorations and as you can see from the pictures, it turned out awesome.  We started off the evening with eight “minute-to-win-it” games to get everyone involved. 

It was a lot of fun as we had them eat donuts off a string without hands, pop balloons by sitting on them, knock over cups with air from balloons, balance M&M on two pencils tied to a string while raising it up to your mouth, and sucking M&M’s with straws while moving them from one cup to another. 

Many fun laughs and a great night for all who came. Kathy made chili for everyone and the missionaries were amazing with all their help.  The branch in Kaliningrad is a lot of fun and people are willing to help and laugh.

One thing we wish could be shared with each of you was the amazing fall weather we had here in Kaliningrad. It has been in the 60’s and 70’s for the past month and absolutely beautiful. 

Kathy and I went on a walk one day and took a bunch of pictures that we will share here and at the end of the blog. We stopped by an amusement park and took a Ferris-wheel ride where we could see the whole city.

We also went to the local zoo and got up-close and personal with the grizzly bears and even caught a glimpse of the tigers cuddling.  

We saw many other animals and just had a fun day with the elders walking around talking and enjoying the animals that God has placed on this earth. 

It is sad they have to be in cages, but we appreciated the opportunity to see the majesty of elephants, giraffes, monkeys and many other animals.

Once or twice every week we ride our trolley down to the city center and go to the reenik to get fresh fruit, vegetables and various other products. They have meat, cheese, fish, candy, clothing and other areas within the reenik. 

It is a shopper’s paradise for selection and the fun of outdoor shopping. We have really enjoyed having fresh vegetables and fresh fruit every day.

We have the wonderful opportunity of helping people within and outside our church. It gives us time to work side by side with the missionaries and teach them some life skills :-) 

Our life has been a little upside down, so I will close this blog with a picture of our first apartment building. If you look closely our dog is in the dog house and we don't know if our vehicle can do a literal 180 before it hits the ground. Ha Ha.

Actually, these next two pictures show our our apartment building and our church. These are the two buildings in which we spend most of our time!  

The first weekend in October our church had its semi-annual general conference. It is a wonderful time when our prophet, apostles and other church leaders address the 15+ million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints around the world.  The conference is in Utah and then transmitted throughout the world. It is also converted into all the various languages, so we watched it in English and then with the people of Russia.  

Kathy and I testify that we are lead today by a living prophet and apostles. Families and the sanctity of family are part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us on earth. There was one talk that is beneficial for all to watch. It is one of the apostles explaining why the members of this church are so anxious to share the gospel message with their friends and family.  It explains a lot. Ha ha.  If you haven’t seen this video, we recommend you click on the following link to understand why Kathy and I are away from all of you and our family at this time in our lives.

Thanks for all your notes, e-mails and F
acebook posts. Love Bob and Kathy

Note: If you would like to watch the entire conference you can go to the link at