Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Snow Is Melting And The Sun Should Be Just Around The Corner

This has been a crazy week in Russia. It has been a heat wave with the temperatures in the 30’s all week and looking to break 40 next week. It is still raining each day and we haven’t seen the sun in about 3 weeks because of the clouds. However it is predicting sun on Tuesday and we are really excited. This is an amazing area and we are used to the weather.  Life has been so busy we still haven’t ventured out to really see the city. Our pictures this week are of our new apartment and the bed I referenced in our blog last week – ha ha. It has been soooo awesome to have a normal bed. This new apartment really feels more like home. We have been in Russia 5 weeks on Tuesday and it has been an amazing Journey.

This week we finished moving into our new apartment, cleaned and closed down our old apartment, moved all the furniture and equipment into our mission’s transfer apartment, had 3 different zone conferences, had two baptisms in our mission, put in about 8 hours in the office each day, and were able to teach a bunch of people in the evening. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep, but did make time in the early morning to exercise, run and keep in shape.  Kathy and I slept in until 8:00 am this morning and it was awesome.

For those of you who haven’t experienced a mission let me tell you about zone conferences.  Our mission is broken down into 3 zones. We have missionaries in each zone and they are spread over a large geographical area. Some areas take a 13-hour train ride to get there from the mission home and we have many that are 4 or 5 hours away.  During zone conference all the missionaries travel into the main mission area for a day of teaching and spiritual thought. Kathy and I are in the central zone, so we attended the full day with our zone and then helped coordinate the other days. With all the missionaries coming into the mission home, Kathy and I are very busy coordinating their needs, handling their receipts and finances and also had several over for dinner. We also have the opportunity to teach with them while they are here in the city.  The mission president conducts the zone conferences and he did an amazing job.  The theme of zone conference is picked by the mission president and came from the Book of Mormon,

·         2 Nephi Chapter 31 Verse 20   Wherefore, ye must press forward with a asteadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of bhope, and a clove of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and dendure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eeternal life.”

This is an important message for these young missionaries to hear as they press forward with the sea of rejection and sometimes even physical attacks as they take the message of hope to the people of Russia.  Kathy and I are continually impressed by their faith, dedication and love of the people. The two baptisms on Saturday were an amazing confirmation of the changes people can make in their life with the gospel.  One man was about 80 years old and his eyes were filled with tears as he was baptized and explained what that meant to him. The other person was a young man 26 years in age originally from Nigeria, but had come to Russia on a scholarship 7 years ago. He was graduated from college, works in the construction building industry and is an amazing person.  We also taught a little girl who is 11 years old and has an amazing spirit.
Kathy and I don’t watch any TV so we don’t keep up on the Olympics. It has been fun to talk with people tracking the medal count, where Russia and the USA are so close in total medal count. They were definitely disappointed when the USA beat Russia in Hockey, but have been cheering all the athletes.  Kathy and I are happy and lucky to have each other as companions on our mission. I have had to be patient as she gets ready (she takes a little longer than my 10 minutes!) and she has had to be patient as I sing in Russian and try to speak the language. The sound of me speaking or singing in Russian still isn’t a pleasant sound, but she is tolerant as I work very hard to learn the language.

For those of you learning a language I pat you on the back. The Russian language is extremely difficult with all the genitive cases and special rules. The cursive letters can look different than the normal letters and there are 20 different words sometimes for the same meaning. It is a very pretty language once you listen and hear people speak, but the words all roll together and the emphasis on different letters make a big difference.  This week we are going to take an afternoon off and go to the Souvenir Fair (Den of Thieves), Church on Spilt Blood, US Embassy and Hermitage and take some pictures for our Blog next week. Stay tuned.

 Well, we close with our love and prayers for all our family and friends who are sharing this journey. We are in good health and spirits and know we were called of God to serve in Russia. Many of our friends are going through difficult times and we keep each of your in our hearts and offer special prayers on your behalf.  Our life wouldn’t be the same without each of you and we appreciate the e-mails, pictures  and thoughts that each of you send.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Finally Slept with Kathy in Russia Feb 16

Kathy and I moved into our new apartment yesterday, Saturday, February 15th and were able to configure our beds into one large queen-sized bed. We took the frames of our two single beds and taped them together. Then we put the single mattresses on the frames and bought a 180 cm by 200cm memory foam pad to put over the top of the two single bed frames. We bought some sheets that fit this size pad and we had a large queen bed! Hurray!  I can’t tell you how nice it was to have Kathy actually sleep next to me in the same bed. I have always loved having Kathy close to me when I close my eyes.  The last month has been difficult sleeping in separate single beds that weren’t much bigger than my sleeping bag, but we didn’t complain.

Our new apartment room is nice with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen area. It is probably a total of 800 sq. feet. Our other apartment was just a single room studio with a bathroom.  We had to delay our move into the new apartment, because we had to buy some cabinets from IKEA to hold our clothes. Ikea is nice, but it took me 4 hours to assemble the closet and I am no slouch at assembly J.

We had a very busy and productive week. We were teaching almost every night with people who aren’t members of our church and also were able to have the missionaries over for dinner.  I surprised Kathy for Valentine’s and got her a new coat. When she woke up on Valentine’s, I had it laying on the bed and she was so excited. They have really cute coats in Russia that are light weight and form fitting. I must say she does look pretty good in the coat. We also got each other a good pair of walking shoes, as we have to walk everywhere and the good grocery store is about 4-hour round trip with shopping in the store.  

We had another baptism in the mission on Saturday and have several more scheduled over the next 3 weeks. The missionaries we have here are amazing and it is fun going teaching. I did my first solo mass transit teaching opportunity with a lady that spoke a little English. The missionaries came over after I started the discussion to help. After we got off the subway we spoke with her for about 15 minutes and invited her to another discussion this week on Thursday. She was a very nice lady and I hope she comes.

Our ward (the group of people who attend our church in this area) had a party on Saturday night celebrating marriage and couples. It was a lot of fun and all the women brought a bouquet of flowers which they used for a fun game, there was dancing, games, dinner, and I even sung a Karaoke song to “Moon River”. Needless to say the talent was hurting since they asked me to sing. 

Kathy and I ran over to the doctor’s, about a 50-minute round trip run for a follow-up visit for her sinus infection. He said she “looked great” and so she thanked him and then asked him how her sinuses looked. Haha.  We have zone conferences this week, so it will be crazy with all the missionaries. It will be great to see them and especially the ones we haven’t seen yet. Some of the mission areas are 13 hours by train or bus, but most are within 4 hours by train or bus.  Our studies this week have been centered on Russian Language and on chapter 9 of the Preach My Gospel manual. This is a missionary training tool and this section teaches us how to pray to meet those who have been prepared by the Lord. It is fun to be walking or standing and feel that you need to talk to someone, or we get a call from the young missionaries and they want us to meet one of their investigators.  The gospel is true, Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and Thomas S. Monson carries that mantle today. We are blessed to have the Book of Mormon as a second testament of Christ to help guide us in our lives. Thanks for all your prayers and e-mails and know that we love all of you. We got our Vonage phone hooked up now so we can call and receive calls from the US at no extra cost to either side. That will be great and if there is ever a need to reach out, just call our home phone number and it will call us in Russia.  Love Elder and Sister Carter

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Almost One Month into the Mission:

This Monday will be four weeks since we left on our mission and Tuesday will be three weeks in Russia.  We have been working very hard to learn our responsibilities of the mission, the Russian language and fight our sickness over these three weeks, but the journey has been well worth the hard work. We finally took Kathy to the doctor on Friday because she was running a very high temperature. They took X-Rays and determined that she had a bad sinus infection. They gave her some antibiotics and other medicine for her head, and her fever broke late into the night Friday night. This allowed her to get some sleep and she is starting a quick road to recovery.

We had some fun events this week with our mission getting two more baptism commitments and a lot of new teaching opportunities.  Kathy and I worked with a couple on Wednesday evening who want to learn English and also more about the church. We also worked with another investigator on Thursday that could speak English . He is a painter and very talented. It was great to share our ideas and the gospel with him and we hope to be able to get him to church this Sunday. A funny story happened after our teaching experience on Thursday night. We were leaving the building with six missionaries and two investigators. I was walking along the road and reached into my pocket to grab my keys, and when I pulled my hand out I had the office key, and my apartment key fell out of the pocket and went down the slit in a manhole cover. If I had a picture, you would see that the odds of this happening would have been 10000 to 1 because of the small slit in the middle of a large road.  Needless to say we all started laughing and then realized we didn’t have a spare key.  One of the younger missionaries turned on a flashlight and we could see the keys about 8 feet down on top of the sludge in the bottom (yes we think it was sewage… ).  There was a ladder leading down the manhole so we tried to get the manhole cover off.  Imagine this picture with 6 missionaries and two Russians in the middle of the road trying to pull the manhole cover off - hahaha. We thought someone was going to call the police.  Once we realized we couldn’t get it off, one of the elders remembered he had a magnet on the back of his name tag. So we got a long string and taped the magnet to the string and then the fishing began.  It was again funny because we were all standing around him watching him try to fish these keys out of the manhole while cars were coming down the street. We would move and then go back and start fishing again. There are apartments all around and I am sure people were wondering what these strange Americans were doing in their suits trying to fish something out of the manhole. Thank goodness the Elder actually caught the keys with the magnet. We washed them off in the snow, had a great laugh and then headed home.  We did get a couple pictures, but they weren’t on my camera so I will need to put them on a later blog.
We are soooo sorry for all our friends at Preferred Sands, as the cold in our various mine locations has been worse than Russia. This past week we were actually back up into the 20’s and had 30’s yesterday and today. It felt like a heat wave when Kathy and I walked the hour to the store yesterday and back. It was raining a little and we had a lot of groceries so it was some good exercise.  We love the people of Russia and really wanted to  share things we have learned that were incorrect. Here it goes:
  • ·         We have been able to get many of the Russian people to smile at us as we wave to them on the street and in our apartment building. They definitely aren’t used to a wave and a smile so we give them a lot of them.  Everyone has been friendly and we have met some fun friends in our language conversation classes.
  • ·         It isn’t a dark and dreary place with lots of angry people. It is actually a very nice city where the people dress nicely, and there are lots of nice stores and people.
  • ·         The heavy use of alcohol isn’t apparent on the streets. Most people seem busy and headed to somewhere and not just hanging around on the streets. We don’t see many beggars on the street.
  • ·         People seem to be busy and there is a lot of construction and building of new apartment buildings. There are a lot of people that use public transportation, but the cars that are on the road are very nice.  And the subway system is really good and very well kept and decorated.
  • ·         It is very expensive to eat, both with groceries and at the restaurants. We eat at home most of the time and cook our own meals. The food we buy at the stores is good and flavorful and not drab and plain.
  • ·         They love their sweets and the chocolate is amazing. This isn’t a good thing, but we are being really good rationing what we eat. I even lost 12 pounds my first two weeks, but Kathy was really sick last week so we didn’t do much walking and I put 2 pounds back on.
  • ·         They heat the apartments with steam and we don’t have thermostats. You just open or close the steam valve on the radiator and if you get it wrong you roast. The country is used to the cold and is well equipped.  Russians actually hate the cold, so they bundle up like champs and still look fashionable. 
  • ·         There is plenty of hot water, but it goes cold and scalding when you are showering. This can be a shock early in the morning.
  • ·         The women here love to dress up and wear beautiful coats and high heels.  To quote Kathy, “They have their strut on!”  They have some tall, skinny, fashion conscious women here.

We will write more next week about this wonderful country.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February 2 - Sunday with Snow

We got a little snow last night (2-4 inches) and Kathy and I went for a nice 1.5 hour walk this Sunday morning. We walked over to a place called Smolny Museum complex, "The State Monument Museum Complex" St. Isaac's Cathedral and it is beautiful.  It is an old Nun’s Convent from  the time of Peter the Great.  There are beautiful buildings all over Russia (Castles) where the old royalty used to live and now they are government or public buildings.

The temperature is cold here, but not unbearable. You definitely need to be dressed for the cold or you would get frost bite. The wind just cuts right through you, but we really haven’t minded because we dress warmly. If you didn’t have gloves and a nice hood and hat, I think you would lose a hand from frost bite.  If we take our gloves or mittens off for a few minutes, your hand is ice cold and going numb.  If you don’t wear a hat when you go out, your face and ears go numb very quickly.  The nice thing is that Russia hasn't been as bad as I thought. The statistic we read stated that we would see the sun less than 20 hours per month. We don't  see it very often, however, it is light in the day from about 11:00 am to 6:30 pm. It is weird when you get up in the morning and leave at 9 am and it feels like midnight.

Our apartment is nice and humble, but our beds aren’t very good. We have two little twin beds, so we don’t sleep together L.  We just bought a new pad that we can put over the two twin beds to make a full size bed, but we haven’t set that up yet. I do miss sleeping next to Kathy.  The food is more expensive than in the states, but it has been good. There are big department stores that we can go to for food and the people are friendly. They don’t say Hi or acknowledge each other like we do in the states, but we have been able to get many of them to smile back. They are usually laughing because Bob is trying to talk to them in Russian.  The apartments are expensive and what they pay for a little studio apartment is what we could make a mortgage payment on a nice little 3 bedroom home in Utah.  

EVERYONE lives in apartments here in St. Petersburg. There aren’t any homes in the city and there are nearly 5 million people. Just rows and rows of 6 to 15 story apartments everywhere you go. That is how they put so many people in a small area.  We hope to get out next Saturday and take more pictures. 

We decided to work yesterday on our day off to learn more about what is required and to get caught up.
We have been fighting colds since we left on our mission and Kathy still has a bad cough and congested sinus. I have had a stuffed nose and little cough, but not nearly as bad as Kathy. We haven’t let that keep us down and we just figure it is all part of the Lord's plan to humble us so we rely more on him.  We had the opportunity to meet with a lot of people this week and participate in English Discussion meetings with Russians who want to learn English. We can’t teach English classes, but are able to meet together and talk. It is good for us to hear Russian and good for them to hear English.  Our sister missionaries had a baptism yesterday and we were excited for them. We couldn’t go because it was over 5 hours away. Hopefully we will have one closer in the near future that we can attend.

Ha ha, top sign.
I have been reading a lot in my scriptures and studying the core principles of the gospel. It truly makes you want to share what we know with everyone when you study it further. I thought I would share a couple core principles: 1) The Book of Mormon is truly a second testament of Christ and directly supports the Bible in the teachings of Christ. It is an amazing record of 1000 years of events from 600 BC to 400 AD in the Americas.  2) We can live together as families and the Lord provided a plan of salvation to allow us to live with him again. This is an awesome message for anyone who has lost a family member and needs to understand that we can live together again as families and be in the presence of our Heavenly Father, 3) There was an apostasy that occured many years after the death of Christ because of the wickedness of the people, just like we learn of many times before in the Bible. The Lord"s priesthood power and authority of God was restored to the earth again through the prophet Joseph Smith. Each of us needs to be baptized under that priesthood authority. 4) The next step is to prepare to enter the temple and be sealed for eternity to our families.  
Think about the happiness this message would bring the world if everyone understood this simple message and followed Jesus' example and used his atonement in our lives.

 For all our friends who are already members of the church, keep studying. To all our dear friends who aren’t, invite the missionaries over who are just like Kathy and me to share with you this message. J
Well, know that we love each of you and we plan to share more pictures of our journey as we go. We just didn’t have much time this week.  Bob and Kathy

P.S. the picture above is our apartment. It is the 10 story apartment left of the vertical bridge support.