Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sharing Thanksgiving in Russia with Each of You

We decided to do a blog on this Thanksgiving Day because we have so much to be thankful for in life. Preparing for Thanksgiving has been an adventure, as it is just another day in Russia.  The turkey I am holding below is the largest we could find and it's a little anorexic. And someone forgot to cut off the neck! So, as I contemplated what to write, I first decided to define thankfulness. HaHa

Bob’s Definition of Thankfulness ….  Having wonderful friends and family both on earth and in heaven who are willing to share our wonderful, and at times difficult, journey through life.

Kathy's Definition of Thankfulness .... Turkeys over 8 pounds, stuffing in a box, French's fried onions in a can (ya, had to MAKE my own!), Costco pumpkin pie, and cool whip. (Wish they had all of that here, ha ha. But I had a good friend smuggle in some Libby's pumpkin for me.)  And of course all of you. :)

We will share some pictures of the Amber Museum as we share some thoughts with you. Kaliningrad is the amber capital of the world. There are many stores and outdoor areas which sell amber. The museum is a display of art created from amber. It is actually housed in one of the old forts in the city.

Kathy and I often reflect on each of you reading this blog and how you have touched our lives.  We would like you to stop for a second and think of five wonderful memories we have together.  

As we think of each of you an amazing list of memories come to mind. Many times it is your smile or simple hello.  It is offering to help when things are tough or we are tired.  We have shared many late nights by the campfire, riding motorcycles, playing a round of golf, hiking in the mountains, side-by-side in a day at work, praying and learning in church, teaching others on our mission, experiencing the birth of a child or death of a family member.  

In each of these times many of you were there to share in the memory and lift our spirits. We can truly say we love and appreciate each one of you!

Kathy and I have been blessed by our Father in Heaven to check out of “normal life” for 18 months and serve the wonderful people of Russia.  Here we have a whole new set of friends that we meet on the street, help through service, talk to on the transit, teach in lessons, see each week at church, pray with, testify with and cry with.  

Most of all we have each other to go forward with faith to testify of the restoration of the gospel on the earth today.  Kathy and I are blessed to begin and end each day in prayer.  We spend 24/7 together thinking and praying about others and inviting them to come unto Christ.  I smile every day as we walk down the street hand-in-hand saying hello to everyone we meet.

We are taught through the diligence and example of amazing young missionaries who love and support us in our efforts.  We truly have the best of the best missionaries here in Russia and the Lord has given us the opportunity to learn from their faith and love.  We are blessed with awesome mission leaders in our Area Presidency and Mission Presidency who guide and direct our efforts.  

It is an amazing time for reflection when you take all the demands of the world and really analyze what is important.  You quickly realize that “all mankind” is important and get a glimpse of the peace and joy we could receive if everyone could put aside their differences and just love and support each other.

Ok, you have endured our emotional thanks to each of you. Now you get the privilege of being the first to read one of my famous home brewed poems. My kids always laughed because I would just take everyday life and make up a poem.  This is the first one I have made up in over a year, so enjoy J

As you sleep and dream of life, we are awake and chase the light.
When you wake our day is through, so we experience things before you do.
We share our experience through Facebook or Skype in hope that our children can get it right.
The world tells us that money is king, God tells us that’s the wrong thing.
God expects us to work hard and have a good life, even if the journey is filled with difficulty and strife.
Knowing imperfection is part of the plan, He provided a Savior to give us a hand. 
I know in my life I needed that hand, as God challenges me to be a good man.
He gives me each challenge to make me strong, then provides the Holy Ghost to tell me what’s wrong.
I couldn’t be happier today as I write, because each of you are in my life. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Kathy and I wanted to wish each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you take the time to reach out to those you love and tell them that you love them. Elder Woodhead, shown here recently completed his mission and is now back home with his family on this holiday. He was a wonderful blessing in our lives and the lord is thankful for all he did in his two years in Russia. 

We are so thankful for the support we have received from each of you while on our mission and that God blessed us with such wonderful children. There is no greater blessing than knowing that when this life ends we can continue with our family and live with them once more. This blessing of eternal families is received through the sealing power and authority of God we receive in the holy temples of the lord.  We look forward to next June, as we continue to make new memories with each of you. Love Bob and Kathy.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Serving Up Halloween in Russia

These past two weeks in the mission have been hard work, focus and prayers.  We will share many pictures of the service and again apologize as we try to use pictures that don't show the faces of the missionaries. We decided that while everyone else was working we would pull the senior nap card. HaHa. (It's really 
an option for us seniors!)

We have some great people we are teaching and great missionaries with us in Kaliningrad.  We have been working hard with our church leaders in this area to strengthen each of the auxiliaries. (These are the different programs within the church.)  

We have been praying that as we strengthen the existing branch in this area, the Lord will send us more people to teach.   We have also been doing a lot of service for the members of the church who are older or need help at their homes or work area.

As it gets colder and the leaves and apples start to fall from the trees, there are many opportunities for service.  One of our church members needed us to dig a large hole in her yard and bury all of the apples that had fallen and were rotting on the ground.  

Kathy said I wasn't treating her like a queen, so I gave her a ride to the service. :)  Each time we do service for someone they prepare a little snack for us to show their appreciation. It is fun to sit and talk with them and enjoy their company.

Early the next week we had the opportunity on our day off to help our branch president dig a trench and pour some concrete at a neighbor's home.  They were putting up a fence but have a problem with frost when they put concrete in the ground. Our branch president is an amazing person and it was an honor to help him.  We did such a great job that he then asked us to dig another trench at his warehouse!

Kathy gave a talk in church and did a great job. One of the sister missionaries translated for her. I have been asked to serve in the branch presidency and that will be fun to work with the local leaders. 

My Russian language is getting better, but it is so hard to learn the full vocabulary.  You don’t realize how you learn words over a lifetime and take for granted that you can talk on a daily basis.  Sometimes I say the wrong words and Kathy has to "hang" around until I get it correct :-) 

I am comfortable now that I can get us around and understand 60-70 percent of most conversations, but the 30-40 percent can be very important.  There are definitely times when the Lord helps me with the language when it is critical that I understand.  Other times I just laugh when I make mistakes and everyone is very patient with me.  

I have only been learning Russian for 9 months and speaking it for about 4 months. I just need to expand my vocabulary and this takes time.

We included some pictures of the buildings in the section of the city that was built when Russia first took over the city after WWII. They put up a lot of buildings fast and it looks like a Lego village. Many of these apartments aren’t very nice, but people here in Kaliningrad seem happy. 

Halloween in Russia was non-eventful because they don’t celebrate this holiday in Russia. We had our regular English Conversation Group, but Kathy stayed home with a cold and decided to COOK our decorative pumpkin!  You can't get canned pumpkin here. Desperate times call for desperate messures! Ha ha.
 We did enjoy Halloween in America through all our great friends posting pictures and videos on Facebook. It was so fun to see all the wonderful kids and their amazing costumes. Our two granddaughters and their parents were beautiful and fun.  Shawn and Alise posted some pictures enjoying their time at a haunted house.  We hope you enjoyed the pictures we posted. (The picture on the left is the main square in Kaliningrad.)

As we prepare for winter we ask that you keep us in your prayers. We need to find more people to teach, and as the days get shorter and the temperatures colder, this becomes more difficult.  The gospel is true and changes peoples lives. Thanks for following our blog and sending us e-mails with updates on your families. Familes can be together forever and we can live and share the lives of the loved ones who have left this earth.  This is a great 3-minute video that is worth your time to watch ://   Love Bob and Kathy