We had the best of both worlds, because we could work in the office in the day and go out teaching with the missionaries each evening. We were able to hit the streets with the missionaries :-), participate in many baptisms, serve closely with two different mission presidents and watch each one act on inspiration from the Lord in guiding the mission. We have been asked to serve the next portion of our mission in Kaliningrad, Russia. The missionaries who have served there say it is an amazing area to serve with wonderful members of the church, and we are very excited. The gloves in this picture were given to us by some very dear friends and represent true companionship. There are only 3 gloves and the third one has a place for both our hands :-)
We have enjoyed the views of many buildings as we walk along the river. As you can see from the map at the beginning of the blog, Kaliningrad is a small remote area of Russia. We have to go through several countries as we drive to that area. It is a strategic area for Russia, because of its access to the waterway and strategic position to the other countries. I will provide a link to information on Kaliningrad for those of you who would like to learn more about our new area. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaliningrad Kaliningrad was given to Russia after WWII and still has a German influence in the country, that will be fun to experience. I am glad my Russian language skills are improving, as we hit the streets full time in our teaching.
One thing we will miss the most in St. Petersburg is its beautiful architecture and culture. Each week we are able to share the beauty from all around St. Petersburg. We set a goal each week to have a date night and experience the area for at least 4 hours. The pictures to the left and below are of a Russian restaurant we like to go with dancing waitresses. Many times we just walk through the street amazed at the detail in the buildings, statues, pictures, churches, metro stations, bridges and streets.
I love stopping to talk to the fisherman along the river to see how they are doing and watching all the beautiful cars go up and down the streets. We are traveling to Novgorod and Pskov next weekend to look at some new apartments for the three other senior couples that will be coming into the mission. These are also amazing cities and we plan to post some pictures of these areas next week.
Kathy and I went to the flea market yesterday with the Briggs. They are finishing their mission in August and will leave to go home after serving 18 months. They will leave the same time we leave for Kaliningrad and will be missed. They have been amazing friends that we hope to continue that friendship and visit them in Idaho after our mission.
The flea market was an amazing experience because people come from all over to bring their wares and put them out for others to buy. These items ranged from old underwear and shoes to pieces of engines, old electronics, videos, coins and probably anything you can imagine. I will post some pictures of the area for you to enjoy while you read about our other adventures.
This mixture of people is a good example of Russia. This culture is shaped by the survival of people who survived all the different political, economical and emotional transitions over the years. Their ancestors survived the 900-day siege by Germany, they survived the transition from old Russia to the new Russia, they are a very proud and wonderful people. You can see that in the faces of each person as you walk along the path.
Many of the people selling stuff at the market were older and I think this was also a social opportunity for them. They bring their blankets and carry their wares from all over in hope of a sale that will put some food on their table. There were hundreds of people milling around and we enjoyed the time together.
After we went to the flea market we took the metro over to the Herimtage. On the way there I snapped a quick picture of one of the wedding limos they use when someone gets married. They go all over town taking pictures on their wedding day with the whole wedding party.
In the Hermitage we visited the lower floor to see all of the Greek and Roman sculptures. There were also several ancient burial chambers and a mumified body that dated back to the time of Christ. It was amazing to see the various sculptures and think of this amazing civilization and the stone masons who sculpted these amazing works of art from stone.
These past two weeks were action packed with training, teaching, exercise and laughter. We said goodbye to our good friend, Sergei, as he transferred to another area of the mission. We also had Ivan, another one of the staff depart, so the transition has been difficult. When you work so closely with the staff they become family.
This time allowed us to share in the lives of all the missionaries instead of just those called to serve in our smaller area. The new office couple arrived last week and we will train them on all the responsibilities of running the mission prior to our departure. They are excited to be here and will carry forward many of the traditions and open loving environment we have enjoyed and fostered for the missionaries.
Sister Carter (Kathy to most of you) is an amazing person and accomplished more than I could have ever imagined. Her organization and smile quickly became a light in the life of each missionary and an amazing standard of truth in my life. We shared these first few months of our mission hand in hand as we walked or ran nearly 1000 miles to date. I figure we will log another 1000+ miles before we go home. Kathy will kill me for putting this in the blog, but she is a model for the love and beauty a companion can bring to her husband on a mission. Kathy I love you and thank you for your willingness to serve the Lord under any conditions or circumstance.
The people we have met and served within the mission and in the local wards and branches are amazing and welcomed us with open hearts. We have developed some amazing friends as they helped me understand the Russian language and we learned the gospel together. I wish I could name all the names, but we aren't allowed to post that information. Hopefully those of you who read this blog know who you are and how much you mean to us.
We also had two of our youth teachers from the missionary training center visit us in Russia. We were able to take them to the Summer Gardens, and you can see from the picture we had a good time. They were on a study abroad program in Moscow for the past 2 months working in an orphanage and helping to teach life skills to the youth of Russia. They both served missions in Russia and are now in the Russian language study program at BYU. They are awesome.
The office staff and both mission presidents and their wives are truly divine and inspired of the Lord in their callings. We have had the honor of watching them lead and inspire the missionaries and members within the wards and branches with a loving hand and big heart.
The picture to the left is one of my many friends. He is not a member of the church and has also become a true friend. Many of you have asked about our family of birds. They continue to grow and we have one handicapped bird (one leg and a stump on the other). We named the handicapped bird Stumpy and we still have several new babies and it is fun to watch their mothers feed them. They sing to us each morning and wait on our porch to be fed. We feed about 20 birds now and make a special food pile for Stumpy. He jumps down onto our porch to get the food while the others eat from the bowl.