Monday, September 22, 2014

We are Back... New Life in Kaliningrad

I sat down to write this blog and realized that there was no way I could cover four weeks in the mission field in one blog.  So, as they say in the news, you will get the “Mission in a Minute”.  There are also so many wonderful pictures and stories that I will spread them out over the next couple of weeks. For those of you interested in our area I have included a link to Kaliningrad information.

We are now settled in Kaliningrad, Russia in a nice apartment. The old apartment that we moved into had problems with the basement flooding and mold, so we decided to get a new apartment.  

Most of us would think that is an easy process, but if you get a landlord in a foreign country that owes you money for deposit and pre-paid rent, it can be an extreme experience.  Needless to say it took all my business, negotiating, humility, self-control skills and eventually a lawyer to complete what should have been a very simple task in the U.S.  You will want to hear the full story when I get back J

Our current apartment was also a new apartment so we had to find furnishings, pictures, rugs, dishes, etc.  Our personal funds are tight and we are protective of mission funds so every spare minute when not talking to people or teaching has been spent walking all over the city trying to get the apartment set up with good deals. 

Our apartment is a hub for the mission so that we can provide a nice place we can hold meetings, dinners and share the gospel with others.  All of you that know Kathy are comforted in the fact that I am totally exhausted and the apartment is amazing.  It would just be much easier if we had a car instead of walking 150+ miles in 4 weeks (5-10 miles/day for 30 days).  The sight of us carrying furniture, rugs and pictures down the street and on the buses is pretty comical. J

The sister missionaries had the same landlord for their apartment so we decided to find them a new apartment that would be safer.  So, in our first three weeks we moved into one apartment, then into another, then helped the sisters move into another apartment and cleaned and closed both apartments. Imagine moving an apartment without a truck. 

The missionaries and I would carry the beds, etc., down the street from the old to the new apartment and people would just look, like those crazy missionaries.

While playing musical chairs with our apartments we took a few days off and had the amazing opportunity to witness the union of two wonderful people married for eternity in the LDS Finland Temple.  

Many of you saw the pictures of Al and Lena’s wedding on Facebook. We flew to Finland and spent the full day with them and it was amazing. Al has worked with me through several of my companies over the past 10 years and also with my last company, Preferred Sands. Lena was a member of our church in Russia who was helping me to learn the Russian language. We introduced them (over Skype) when I first got to the mission and the rest is the beginning of a wonderful future for both of them.

Part of a mission is dedicating a percentage of your time to service in the community.  In Kaliningrad we do service each week at two different old German forts. These are old forts built in the late 1800’s that were used to protect the city of Konigsberg.  

When Russia received Konigsberg after WWII, they changed the name to Kaliningrad, and the forts remained untouched.  As you can see from the picture, the forts are just as they were left when the German people and troops left the city.  

There are bullet holes in the walls, boxes of military ammunition, old clothes and helmets, tools, bats flying around and many fun, dark, scary hallways.  We are cleaning them up so people can visit and reflect on the history.

Our new apartment is right next to a trolley stop, grocery store, candy store, pizza café, a fruit/vegetable stand, and a 12-minute walk to the church.  Life is good.  The trolley is really old and goes about 5 miles per hour down to the main town center.  It has been fun and helpful as we have been carrying back all the furnishings for the new apartment.  We love its charm!

One of the extreme difficulties for women missionaries in Russia is the time when they want to get their hair colored.  It is a very difficult time every six weeks for our companionship  Ha ha.  So it was a difficult journey to find a new hair salon in Kaliningrad, and now we are looking for another one...  She actually would look beautiful bald, so a bad hair color isn’t the end of the world.  She has nine months to get it right before we head back to the U.S. and her wonderful hair dresser in Bountiful. J

The other struggle has been getting internet for our home theater, shown on the right.     Ha ha. We just got it two days ago and have been here for a month. People move a little slower here and don’t really understand urgency and need J.  I told them we had a very important message to share with all of you in our weekly blog  Ha ha.  

We use the internet a lot to download church information and teaching tools that we use in our meetings, so that has been difficult not to have for four weeks.  We would walk about 15 minutes to an area where we could get internet and then have to walk back home to print.

We definitely miss the grandeur of St. Petersburg, but also love the smaller area of Kaliningrad.  We have a wonderful church branch here with amazing members. We serve with two amazing elders and two awesome sister missionaries and they keep us very busy.  

The branch president and his family are awesome and have welcomed us from the day we arrived.  Upon our first arrival in Kaliningrad we were stopped as soon as we got off the plane and interrogated for about 1.5 hours by the local police, and the branch president was there to help answer questions. We will share many more experiences when we get home, but needless to say, Satan obviously didn’t want us in Kaliningrad and has filled this initial journey with adversity.  Those of you who know our motto, “adversity brings greatness,” understand that we must be poised to do great things here in Kaliningrad. J

Kathy and I are active missionaries responsible for finding and teaching new investigators and helping and supporting the missionaries and branches. It is difficult to contact people on the street, but we go forth with faith each day and pray for guidance.  We have an amazing message to teach people about the restoration of the gospel - that we have living prophets and apostles on the earth today and that we can live together forever as families. There is nothing better than to testify of the truthfulness of our message and see their countenance change and brighten with hope.

Well, the blog is long and this is just a snapshot of an amazing first month in Kaliningrad.  This last picture is a teaser for next week's blog. On our personal day we took a trip to the Baltic Sea. We pray that you are all doing well, and ask that you keep us and all the members and missionaries in Kaliningrad in your prayers.  Russia is an amazing country and we are honored to live among such wonderful people. They are truly our brothers and sisters and we strive for unity among all people.  We love each of you and pray that you read the Book of Mormon and find out for yourself that it is true.  Love Bob and Kathy

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