This was an extremely busy week and we were able to get a lot of pictures. The only problem is that it is impossible to put all the pictures up on this short blog each week. I thought it would be fun to give you a weekly journal of our travels and then some links and several pictures of the areas. This way you can share in the week of a missionary. Sunday before church we met with a wonderful couple to discuss Russian and the gospel. After meeting with the couple, we both taught lessons in church and then after church we made dinner for a couple missionaries. After dinner we took a bus about an hour outside of town to meet with an investigator. It was a great night, but we didn’t get in bed until around 11:30.
We started off Monday with a good run around the city and then straight into the office. It was a crazy day with some preparation for transfer week and coordination of some audit training that I participated in later in the week. One of our mission responsibilities is to chair the audit committee for all the Branches. Bob had to be trained on how to ensure each branch or ward keeps accurate records. We worked late this evening in preparation for taking a half day off on Tuesday to do some touring of the town. After work Monday evening Kathy got her hair colored and I went on visits with the missionaries for about 3 hours. When I returned they were still working on Kathy’s hair, because it didn’t go very well and was reddish-brown. Needless to say there were a few tears and we didn’t get to bed until around midnight again.
Tuesday morning we got up early to get everything done so we could take a half day off. The adversary was working on us and everything went wrong. We hadn’t had a chance to take an afternoon off in the 5 weeks we have been here and he didn’t want us to take one this day. It was also supposed to be sunny this day and it was cloudy, cold and windy. We were faced with the temptation to just bag our plans and fix the things that had gone wrong or bundle up and take on the elements. You guessed it correctly, we wiped away the tears, put on the coats, hats, gloves and thermal underwear and headed out. I know the Lord must have known how much we needed an afternoon together because when we got off the subway and started to walk around, the sun came out and it was a beautiful afternoon.
We made a big tourist loop starting on Nevsky prospect and the Cathedral of our Lady Kazan. Then we moved on to Church on Spilled Blood Cathedral and, wow, that was amazing http://www.saint-petersburg.com/virtual-tour/church-of-savior/ . All the pictures you see are mosaic and made of small tiles. Every inch of the cathedral was covered in pictures about the Savior’s life, angels, Christ’s resurrection, etc., It was incredible. Then we walked through the parks that were near to the cathedral and headed over to the Souvenir fair. This area has a lot of street vendors selling various souvenirs.
Kathy really likes the hand carved wooden Santas, but they are really proud of these items and price them very high. Once we realized we couldn’t afford any of these items J we moved onto the Hermitage and Admiralty government office areas. We didn’t go into the Hermitage today because it takes a week to see everything and we will go back some other days when we have a full day to dedicate. After this we moved on to the St. Isaac’s Cathedral. This was also amazing to see and you can actually take a tour and go up on the roof of the structure, but we didn’t find out until we got back. We were able to see lots of statues of Peter and Catherine who had some major influence into the building of the city. We had about 1.5 hour walk back to our home and on the way we found a salon who had one open spot to color Kathy’s hair again. It turned out very nice this time. The sun, walking, holding hands and getting her hair done put a skip and a smile back into both our lives. We finally hit our beds around midnight again and were totally exhausted. This day was truly a tender mercy from the Lord and a testament that sometimes we need to put our day in the Lord’s hands and go out and experience life, even when everything around you might be going bad or you feel like you just can’t pull away.
Wednesday didn’t slow down, as we rose early to get caught up at the office and fix all the things that went wrong on Tuesday morning before we left J. It was a good day, because we were refreshed mentally. The day went quickly and then we caught a subway that evening to a language conversation group about 40 minutes across town. This was a great evening and we were able to help with the class and then stayed after to talk with a couple people who came to our class. One had just separated from his family and needed the gospel in his life. We spent a lot of time talking with him and sharing the power of prayer in his life. He hadn’t ever prayed so we taught him and invited him to read the Book of Mormon to help find answers. The other just lost his house and didn’t have anywhere to sleep that night. We arranged for him to stay in a local hotel for a couple nights so he could find a path forward. It is amazing the variety of people we meet who have been prepared and humbled in some way to hear about the gospel. The first person was very well established and successful in life, but had sacrificed his family to gain that success and the second had lost everything and didn’t know where to turn. All are children of our Heavenly Father and it is an honor to be here to teach people of God’s plan of salvation. We finished late and walked out and noticed that they had shut our subway station down and it was late. Luckily we found another one that was still open, so we returned home and went to bed again around midnight.
On Thursday we again woke early and did our sit-ups and pushups and then hit the office early. We had the auditors from Moscow into our office for some training and then we boarded a train for Petrasavodsk. It is our northern most area and took us 6 hours by train. We got there about midnight and took a taxi to the hotel. We woke early and met with the branch leadership to complete the audit of their branch. Once this was completed we grabbed some lunch and then took a three hour walk around the town. It sits on the second largest lake in Eastern Europe and is beautiful. There was still a lot of ice and snow. In the summer they run hydrofoils out to the islands for tours of some old wooden churches that were built without nails. Hopefully we will get another chance to come up in the summer. That evening we caught another train back to St. Petersburg and arrived home around midnight. We had the audit couple traveling with us and they were awesome! We had a lot of fun with them and shared lots of stories and laughs.
We got up early on Saturday morning and fixed them some breakfast and then headed off to the office to help the missionaries get ready for a talent show the church was putting on. The missionaries had a skit and Kathy coordinated a dance and we helped and participated. It was a ton of fun and the missionaries were awesome. (We sure wish we could send pictures of these awesome missionaries and members, but we aren't allowed to do this on a blog. We will have a party when we get back and share pictures of our missionary family). Then we got to attend two baptisms that were in our ward and also sit in on a lesson. (There were actually four baptisms in the mission on Saturday!!)
Then after all that we walked to the store to get some food for Sunday (today). We are making dinner for one of the locals and some of the missionaries. We are teaching some investigators before church so I better get going. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true, we see it impact the lives of the Russian people each day and we know it can also benefit each of your lives. Thanks for your friendship and prayers. Please keep the people of Russia and our missionaries in your prayers as the world continues to change. They are wonderful people. Love Elder and Sister Carter