We made our homeland proud over the 4th of July! We had to work our activities within a normal missionary day so there were a lot of preparations in getting ready. We started off the day at 7:00 am in one of the missionary apartments for a pancake breakfast.
I sure wish we could post pictures of the missionaries, but you will have to settle for our other pictures of this beautiful area and we will also share with you some pictures of our growing Russian bird family while we give further details of our 4th of July events :-).
We fed our family of birds before we left in the morning and you can see from the picture they are growing and just hanging out. (You don't need to worry that we are getting eccentric until we start feeding cats. ha ha)
The mission president taught us some core principles and took the opportunity to get to know the missionaries better. The new mission president has only been in the country for a week, so activities like this are awesome for him to get to know them better.
One of the lessons we teach the missionaries is to open their mouths. We snapped a picture of a van that reminded us of this message to open our mouths before it is too late. HaHa
The missionaries had a Russian flag and American flag hung in their room, in celebration of our love for both countries! After breakfast we went about our normal day of office and missionary work. The Briggs, one of the other senior couples, helped us prepared for an evening event at the one of the other church buildings.
Twice a week we hold an English conversation group meeting with Russians who want to talk in English at the institute building. We typically have three missionary companionships attend the meeting so we decided to do a full blown 4th of July Dinner.
We got some hot dogs from the store and a large watermelon. Sister Briggs made some potato salad and jello salad and we got a bunch of chips and fruit. Kathy made an American flag cake with strawberries for the red lines and blueberries for the blue area where the stars go. Needless to say the cake was amazing and so was the company.
Elder and Sister Briggs had decorated the institute building in red, white and blue and I grilled the hot dogs on a frying pan to get closer to a fired taste. We had the mission president and his wife join us along with a couple of Russian investigators and about 10 missionaries.
We had to keep the dinner to one hour so we could keep our missionary schedule, and we also sang songs and shared memories of the wonderful country in which we all live. As you can see from the pictures, it turned out awesome and everyone had a great time. We also celebrate birthdays with the office staff and this is a picture of me with a good friend after decorating an office.
After dinner we conducted a 2-hour English conversation group and then cleaned up and got back home about 11 pm. It was a great day filled with people we loved and helped take away the ache in our heart of not being with our family in Utah this day. This picture is a picture with Don Morgan, a friend from Utah who visited us one day. We had lunch, walked into the city and went to church. Then he headed off to climb one of the largest mountains in Russia. We pray for his safety.
Back in Utah our kids all got together at Pineview to celebrate the
4th. We have been going to the lake every year since they were born and they all kept the tradition alive. The morning of the 4th of July they all go to the parade in Huntsville and to the breakfast in the park.
Then during the day we typically waterski, tube, take a boat ride down to the dam for a dam lunch and swim. Then in the evening we do a fire with all our family and friends and then sit on the grass and watch the fireworks. I don't have a group picture from them, but the picture I show here is of our son-in-law and daughter-in-law holding our two precious grandchildren. We send our love to them and thanks for all their notes, e-mails, pictures and phone calls to tell us that we are still loved. XOXOXOXOXO
On Saturday Kathy and I walked a little over an hour to get to a souvenir store that is off the main tourism areas. Along the way we saw this marina and wanted to grab my waterski and yell "Hit It".
It was a great day and we were able to negotiate well. The prices were about half what they are in the tourism areas and then I used my bartering skills we learned on our Mexico trips to get another 15-20% off. It is amazing what things cost in Russia, so this helped with the tight budget we live within.
It has been a very busy and exciting week, as we welcome in a new mission president and his wife. They are awesome people and will bring a different look to the mission and new ideas and ways for us to reach the hearts of the Russian people. We said goodbye to our old mission president and his wife, the Clark's, as a piece of our heart left Russia and will forever be with them. They served an amazing and honorable mission and we were priviledged to serve by their sides. Just like each prophet brings new strengths to the church, each mission president brings new ideas and opportunities for growth. When the Clarks came to the mission, it was just 14 mission areas and when they left there was a functioning stake and structure within the area of St. Petersburg. Job well done!
families and a focus on genealogy and our ancestors. Listening to their backgrounds they have been prepared throughout their lives for this calling and will do amazing things. We are thankful we will be able to spend a year with them during our time in Russia. We are actually on the downside of a year before our time is finished and we pray everyday for the opportunity to touch the lives of the people of Russia.
I am thankful this 4th of July weekend for our ancestors who died for our freedom and fought to make us the country we are today. I am proud to be an American and that we were called to serve with the wonderful people of Russia. You may see or hear things about Russia on the news, but know that the people in Russia are wonderful children of God with big hearts and big smiles who have sacrificed their all at times to support and defend their country.
We close this blog today with a special thanks to all of you!! It isn't easy serving a mission and we often reflect upon the sacrifice we have been called to offer at this time in our lives. We love our family and each of you more than life itself and pray that through our service to the Lord that each of you might be blessed. We have seen this blessing in the lives of our children, our friends and even our business associates and pray that it may continue. We know this gospel is true and that we have a loving Heavenly Father who had given us a plan to return to him and live forever. There is no greater thought than a picture in my mind of the day we all stand together as brothers and sisters and reflect on our journey together on this earth. We are blessed beyond measure and the richest couple on earth because of this knowledge of the gospel and our association with each of you. Love Bob and Kathy.