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.

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