Sunday, June 22, 2014


Although I start with another picture of Smolny, our main blog pictures this week are from the Summer Gardens in St. Petersburg. I will talk later in the blog about the gardens, but wanted to introduce them so you could enjoy their beauty while reading the blog.

We are proud to announce that we have added 5 new feathered friends to our family.  Kathy and I decided to feed a little bird that would come each morning and cheerfully wake us up by sitting on our balcony singing and chirping. We later decided to adopt the bird and gave him the name of Max, after our beautiful dog.   Max defends his perch from all the birds except one,  the love of his life and we named her Maxine.  

They continued to fight off the other birds and feast on the bounty we put out 3 times daily.  One day we noticed that the female bird soon became very fat. We also noticed that only one bird or the other was ever on the ledge at any given time.  

One day while eating lunch we noticed that both Max and Maxine were there along with three new little birds. We then realized we had just become proud grand parents. We have watched these little birds grow each day and play for our amusement. They get so excited when we put out the food and we enjoy their songs and playful nature every day. We shared a few pictures of our family, but couldn’t ever get all five to stay long enough to get a family picture. J

Our thoughts this week are filled with joy and sadness.  We are joyful because of the wonderful blessings we receive from serving a mission, and sadness from the piece of our heart that leaves with each missionary or friend who returns home after serving their mission. 

We wanted to offer a special “shout out” to our wonderful mission president and his wife. They are an absolutely amazing couple and will be leaving this week after serving three long years. Their love is so strong for the people of Russia and for the members of this stake.   

We have been honored to serve by their side over the past five months and personally witness their inspiration with respect to the missionaries and members of the church wards and branches in our mission boundaries.  It is amazing to hear the missionaries talk about how much they have learned through their example of loving service and leadership within a volunteer organization of young men and women.   Thanks, you will truly be missed.

With this transition we are blessed to have a new mission president arriving to assume the responsibility. There has been a lot of activity preparing for the transition and ensuring the new president will be able to hit the ground running. 

Kathy has been busy with schedules of activities surrounding meetings for the new president to meet all the new missionaries, along with myself helping to coordinate all the transitional items and infrastructure necessary to answer questions and document procedures. 

Kathy and I are also working on some transitional documents for the new office couple that will come the end of July. We have to document all that we do so they can continue forward in the responsibilities of assisting all the missionaries. We will also turn over half our mission over the next couple of months with missionaries leaving and coming into the mission. This has made for some very long days, because we still need to teach and move forward the work of the Lord in the evenings through teaching people. 

One of our dear (non-missionary) friends  in the office, Irina, is moving to the states and so we said goodbye to her on Friday. She is getting married in Utah and will be staying in the Bountiful area for a few months. We send our love and best wishes to her and took her out to dinner to give her some support in her departure. She has definitely become part of our extended family. 

We had the opportunity this week to bear witness to a young lady about the restoration of the gospel and the purpose of the Book of Mormon in our lives. She didn’t believe in a God, so we shared with her many thoughts about the plan of salvation and that we do have a loving heavenly father who sent us to this earth that we might learn and return to him. 

It is awesome to feel of the spirit bear witness as we testify of the truth and we pray that all the people we teach will take the challenge written in the Book of Mormon to read, study and ask the Lord if it is true.

As you can see from the pictures we also took a half day and walked 1.5 hours to the summer gardens along the Neva River. It was cloudy and windy along our walk, but we enjoyed the time together.  As you can see from the first picture above we passed by the Smolny Chapel and stopped to take that amazing picture through the bridge and also of our new boat parked next to the steps. Ha ha.   

We walked next past the prison along the river. (You REALLY wouldn't want to go there!)  I can’t imagine being in prison, looking out upon the river and the beautiful landscape each day and knowing that my choices in life prevented me from enjoying the beauty.

We then reached the gate of the summer gardens and were taken aback by its beauty.  The Tsars always had amazing palaces and then built these gardens to be able to get out and walk in peace.  

I decided to stop and ponder what it would be like to live during those times, as you can see from the picture.

As we proceeded through the gardens Kathy stopped to ask for directions, but the helper was stone cold and unwilling to help. Kathy decided to get a quick picture and then move on to enjoy the beautiful fountains. As you walk through these gardens it is hard to put into words the amazing beauty and peace you feel. There are a lot of people enjoying the gardens and you really don’t mind the crowds. I try to imagine the days when the royalty walked through these areas dressed in their splendor talking about the things important to their lives.

As we started our way forward, you can see that I went the wrong way and had to talk my way out of a bad situation. Ha Ha.  We hope you have enjoyed the pictures and the journey. 

Our hearts are full with a great appreciation for the people and the history in this great land of Russia. They have a true love and appreciation for the arts and expressing their feelings through paintings, statues, waterfalls and really anything beautiful.  Thanks for sharing in this journey and we send our love. Bob and Kathy.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers Day in Russia

Happy Father’s Day to all the great men that we know and especially my father! Kathy’s father passed away several weeks ago and we send our love to him in heaven. We also send our love and best wishes to the many other men and fathers in Utah, Philadelphia, throughout the United States and now into Russia who have impacted our lives and the lives of our children. 

We consider all of you our extended family who we love and respect very much. Our Father’s day Sunday was spent in Petrozavodsk (a town five hours north of St. Petersburg by train), where Kathy and I both gave talks in church today and then had an early dinner with the missionaries before catching the late train from Petrozavodsk to Sankt Petersburg.  

During our trip to Petrozavodsk we took a Friday afternoon off and took a 1-hour boat ride out to Kizhi Island. The pictures in this blog will reflect this wonderful trip and I will talk more about the island later in the blog.

We had a great and very busy week in the office and had the mission President and his wife over for dinner on Wednesday evening. They had to move into a small apartment so a remodel could be completed on the mission president’s home in preparation for the new mission president. He arrives with his wife on the 27th of June. 

The incoming and outgoing president only get a few hours to share information.  I also had a language lesson on Thursday with my teacher, Lena, and she gave us a matruska doll that tells a fairy tell. I included a picture of Lena and me holding the doll.

Kathy and I have been working very hard to get everything ready for the new president’s arrival and our current president’s departure. Needless to say this is a tough emotional time for the mission as we have a wonderful president and his wife currently serving.  

We hear the new president and his wife are awesome and it will be fun to make new friendships and experience changes that come with a new leader.  Kathy and I might also be assigned out to one of the remote branches, as there is another couple coming into the mission who is currently designated for the office couple job. We would really miss the action of the office, but know the Lord will send us where he need.” J  

We took the train up to Petrozavodsk on Thursday night to spend the weekend teaching with the missionaries in that area. As you can see from the picture we had an amazing view out of our hotel window.  

We have told you about the time change in Russia and white nights, so I also took a picture that shows my watch just before midnight and you can see how light it is still outside.  It makes it really nice when we teach late and then walk home in the light.  

We get back to Sankt Petersburg tonight at 11:15 and then have about a 30-minute walk. It will be nice to do that in the light.
During our trip we had hoped for a baptism on Saturday, but we met with the young man on Friday morning and he wasn’t ready yet. 

We had a good lesson with him and he has a very strong testimony. He will be a great member of the church when he gets baptized in the next couple of weeks.   

Kathy and I attended a language study class with the missionaries on Saturday morning and then split with the elders and sister missionaries to visit the investigators and less-active members and invite them to church on Sunday.  

We spent most of the evening walking the streets and visiting people, but they had record attendance at the church on Sunday. It was an honor to shake all of their hands and tell them how much we love the people of Russia. 

Kathy’s talk was amazing and she sure looked beautiful up on the stand giving her talk. What an awesome Father’s Day present to have a wife that is willing to serve the Lord and the people of Russia. She is patient with me and we make a great team.  We are on the train right now and driving through an area that is filled with trees, lakes and small homes. It is absolutely beautiful. 

I wish we could have several weeks with all of our friends here in Russia. You would be amazed with this country and the people. They were doing a lot of fishing on Kizhi island and I imagined my boys and friends floating in a boat with our fly rods nailing the fish, telling jokes and laughing at each other’s stories. 

Those are the great memories I have that my kids gave me for Father’s Day.  They set the example by each serving a mission and also sharing my life to the fullest. I am the luckiest man on Father’s day, because I not only have three awesome kids, I have their three spouses and my two beautiful grandchildren. 
We have been on our mission over 5 months now and will return home a year from June 26th.  

It is still a long time, but we have learned a lot and time goes fast when you are working hard.  Russia has been way different than we ever thought and there is so much beauty everywhere we go. It reminds me a lot of my time in Canada.  

The Kizhi Island was inhabited back into the 1200’s and there are wooden temples on the island. You can see more about the island at the following link.

We had beautiful weather all day on the island and were caught up in the beauty of the surrounding area. 

We did a self-tour around the island and were able to see old wooden windmills, grinding mills, homes as they were back in the day, temples, fishing boats and experience a true peace and joy. We hope the pictures we shared in the blog represent the beauty and peace we experienced.

We will close the blog this week with our happiness in the service of the Lord. The Lord never said our time on earth would be easy, but well worth the journey. We have seen the blessings of our service in the lives of our family and friends. It has also been awesome to see my previous company doing well, as they helped support me at the time of my departure.  Thanks for your time each week to share in our journey and I pray that our thoughts, pictures and time bring a peace and joy into each of your lives. Love Bob and Kathy.

Monday, June 9, 2014

We solved the mystery of Rasputin in Anastasia

Sorry we didn’t do our blog last week, but the mission has been crazy-busy the past two weeks. During our report this week I will share with you some pictures we took while doing a riverboat tour of the city and also a tour of the palace where Rasputin, a so-called holy man yet surrounded by controversy, was murdered.  We hope you enjoy the pictures and share in our busy adventures over the past 2 weeks.

Every six weeks we have mission transfers. During this time the missionaries are moved around the mission and companionships are changed to help in their growth and success. All the missionaries who are being transferred come into the mission office for a transfer meeting and devotional (teaching session).  Sister Carter (Kathy) helps with the transfers and also assists them with supplies, support, etc. , I take care of their physical or financial needs and any needs associated with apartments.  I also give the young male missionaries a good handshake and hug and Sister Carter does the same for the sister missionaries. We truly love them like family.

We also have a zone conference every two months and all the missionaries come into the mission office for a one-day training.  Kathy and I help coordinate the meetings, lunches and try to go out teaching when possible with the missionaries.
These two sets of meetings fell in back-to-back weeks.  

We had an area training with the stake presidency that was a full-day and a couple of baptisms on Saturday.  We had two missionaries complete their missions and travel back home and I was able to take them to the airport and get a final hug and wish them farewell. Their flight was early, so we had to leave at 4:00 am, but it was well worth the opportunity to be with them.  

One of the men serving with his wife as a senior couple developed a problem in his leg and they had to go back to the states for some surgery. We pray for their quick recovery and are hopeful to have them return to our mission or be able to finish out their mission in the states.

This weekend Kathy and I are travelling 5 hours by train north to Petrozavodsk for three days. The senior couple who just went home for surgery served there and we are going up to teach with the missionaries, speak in their church meeting and attend a special baptism.  

It is an honor to represent the mission in these activities, as our mission president and his wife will be travelling to another remote part of the mission this weekend. Even though they leave in 2 weeks they continue to put in time and effort well beyond what any human expects.

Our current mission president and his wife are going home in two weeks and we will have a new mission president. It has been a true honor to serve with them and develop a lifelong friendship. They are such an example to all of us in how to love each other and those they serve. 

We had the honor of helping them host a dinner/dessert activity last evening at their apartment. We had 40 young men and women come and it was a very spiritual evening.  All of the youth were either new converts, investigators, less active or part of the young adult program and they were so full of life. 

Our mission president and his wife did a slide show of a recent convert’s baptism and then spoke of the importance of keeping yourself worthy to enter the temple of the Lord and picking the right companion. He gave them a list of items that can be helpful when dating and choosing a spouse.  These are the future leaders of our church in Russia and it is exciting to feel of their strength and testimonies.

As you can see by the pictures at the first of the blog, we were able to slip away for an afternoon and enjoy the magnificent beauty of St. Petersburg.  Some of you have seen the movie Anastasia. In that movie they talk about a person named Rasputin.  In the real story Rasputin was a trusted advisor to one of the families who had great influence in Russia.  

The other leaders were concerned over the influence Rasputin had on the decisions of the Tsar and his family and plotted to take his live. We toured the palace where the murder took place and as you can see from the pictures, it was also an amazing palace. The one problem of being in power in Russia in the old days is that you had great wealth, but people also looked to take your life.  I will include a link for those of you who have seen the movie and wondered about the true story.

Well, I will close this blog with my love of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is amazing to watch the spirit of the Lord fill the hearts and souls of the people we teach as they read, learn about the restoration of the gospel, understand the truth within the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony that the book is a second testament of Christ and goes hand in hand with the bible.  

Just as I give you links to various historical facts about Russia I want to give you two other amazing links.  and   The first link is information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the second is a link about the people within the church.  You can type any questions into the search field and find out the answers to questions you may have.  I know I have learned a lot since beginning my mission.  I hope you don’t mind my weekly testimony. You probably understand my desire to share, because If you had the greatest gift in the world I know you would want to share that with me as well.  We send our love from Russia.  Bob and Kathy