Words can’t express the love we have for the people in Kaliningrad, Russia and the amazing, wonderful and talented missionaries we have been blessed to serve with here.
We got “the call” on Friday telling us that our time in Kaliningrad is up and we are once again needed in the office in St. Petersburg. We loved St. Petersburg and will love it again, but there will always be a hole in our hearts where we left a piece with the members and missionaries in Kaliningrad.
Our journey in Kaliningrad started with contention, because the adversary knew that together we could make a difference in Kaliningrad. We are so thankful to all the people that shared their smiles, best wishes and tears when saying goodbye on Sunday. мы любов наш член церкви и многие дружби
Our first month was filled with difficulties with landlords, police, moving all three apartments, finding furniture for our new apartment, learning the language and a new city. We always live by the phrase, “adversity brings greatness” and that has never been more true!
The next five months were filled with hard work, laughter and love as we truly became part of the church family in Kaliningrad. Kathy couldn’t speak the language, but she spoke with her heart and so did all the other wonderful women in this wonderful branch of the church. I was always willing to speak in Russian, but most of the time they just laughed because hey couldn't understand me.
The language barrier never stopped our amazing relationships as they blossomed through church attendance each Sunday, service projects, ward talent shows, parties, and weekly dinners at our house with members and people we were teaching.
It is amazing how when we work hard together, we become united in the cause and in the love of our heavenly father and his son Jesus Christ.
We changed our English conversation group to an English gospel conversation group and the spirit just lit up the room. As we learned the language and the gospel together it was amazing how we all felt the spirit each week. One of our weekly participants said, “I can be having a bad day, but after I come on Friday, I always leave feeling better.” That is why we are here in Kaliningrad. If we can all lift each other through our activities, we will grow together.
One constant throughout our time in Kaliningrad has been our service at the old forts. Each week we would travel about 45 minutes to an old fort to do service. We came to love the people who run the fort and looked forward to working with them each week.
We would rake leaves, chop wood, move furniture, clean up old rooms, but most of all we would laugh and have fun working side by side. At the end we would all be sweating and then sit down for a quick snack before we headed back.
I had the opportunity to use my priesthood and gave many blessings to the people of Kaliningrad and our missionaries. What an amazing opportunity to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to help heal the sick or give comfort to those needing direction. It was always an honor .
Kathy, lovingly known as Sister Carter here in Kaliningrad, bought and cooked pumpkins, chopped chocolate bars and then made pumpkin chocolate-chip bread for all the families within the church and many of the investigators. It was a true act of love because they don’t have canned pumpkin in Russia. All of the sisters loved “Sister Carter” because she always had a smile and helping hand to each of them.
One of my fondest memories is standing there with all the missionaries and members waiting for people to come to church. We would start 30 minutes before the meeting and give a big hug to everyone who came that day. Sometimes the sister missionaries would get so excited when someone was walking up the steps and run out and give them a big hug. Everyone felt welcome and we truly felt blessed to be a part of this.
Because of this love we saw many members who had stopped coming to church return. Our weekly attendance increased and many families started to unite. Each week in our branch council meetings we would discuss those we hadn’t seen for a while and assign someone to reach out to them. At Christmas we did a group picture with the missionaries and gave it to all the members. We delivered them to the people that rarely came to church so they knew they were loved.
The church parties were amazing as we laughed, played games and even danced to disco lights and music J. Needless to say Kathy and I fit right into Kaliningrad. These wonderful people know how to party, and everyone always brought their wonderful Russian food.
Kathy would always make something special from our American recipes and they all loved it and would ask for the recipe. We learned how to make borsch (Russian soup) when a couple of the sisters came over and gave us a lesson.
Most of all we had an amazing Christmas with our wonderful missionaries. We missed our family back in America, but the Lord gave us five wonderful missionaries as surrogate children to help ease the pain.
We could never express in words the love we have for these missionaries and also those we served with that have gone home. We have truly grown our family and will always have a place at our table, in our home and definitely in our hearts for each of these wonderful missionaries.
They give up 18 months to two years to serve the Lord in the prime of their life. They go about each day with a smile and commitment to search out and help the people in Russia. In the process they find themselves and grow in ways that only come through the service of others. Our Christmas in Russia was one we will never forget. It was without presents or worldly activity, but filled with love and the true meaning of Christmas.
We love all the missionaries and look forward to seeing them again in St. Petersburg. We also look forward to working with those that we loved back there and continuing our missionary efforts in the evenings in that beautiful city. The Lord has blessed us with the mission I had to wait 31 years to serve.
I am glad the Lord saved me for this time, because I couldn’t have served in Russia when I was 19, but I am sad I waited 31 years to experience this wonderful experience. Every young man and woman who can should serve a mission and spend that time in the Lord’s university. It isn’t easy, but well worth the journey. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord’s restored gospel on the earth today. We all chose to come to this earth and accepted the worldly challenges so we could grow.
We promised we would find each other and help each other return to our heavenly father. Kathy and I promised the people who were sent by the Lord to live in Russia that we would come and find them before we came to earth, and the Lord allowed us this wonderful opportunity.
He also gave us technology so we could share this wonderful journey with you. If you aren’t already a member of this church, take the time to invite some of these wonderful missionaries over to your house. These are the same wonderful people we have described in our blog.
You can request a missionary visit at the following link http://www.mormon.org/missionaries
The missionaries will bless your lives and share an important message with you. Then you can pray to know if it is true and it will change your lives forever. We send our love and ask that you keep us in your prayers as we start our last five months in St. Petersburg. Love the Carters