Sunday, June 7, 2015

How Do you Say Goodbye….. До свидания наша российская Семья

We have been hesitant to write this final blog because we don’t know how to leave such a wonderful gift from the Lord, to live and serve with the people in Russia!!  We are also saddened because we aren’t able to post pictures of all the wonderful Russian people who have touched our lives on our blog.  

We could fill hundreds of pages with pictures of beautiful smiles, hard working faces, service together, eating together, visiting their datchas (a small cabin outside the city where they have space to plant a garden), teaching, learning, laughing, playing and just living life together with our Russian friends.  

They are a wonderful people who have survived much and know how to move forward together. This final blog is truly a tribute to all the Russian people who we now call family and friends. Their memory will always live on in our hearts! The pictures are our latest memories from Pskov and Novgorod. 

When we first decided to serve the Lord and accepted our call to Russia, we were scared of the unknown. We were raised and taught that Russia was one of our strong enemies across the sea, which we still battled as a formidable opponent in the Olympics every four years.  

Our thoughts were about our families, friends, jobs and life that we would give up or have to “sacrifice” to heed the call and go to Russia.  We were prepared to live in a cold, dark place with unhappy people who wouldn’t welcome us into their hearts ….  WOW, were we ever wrong!!

What we came to realize was that 18 months together, away from the world, walking hand-in-hand, and waking each day in the service of others is the greatest gift the Lord could have ever given us! 

He put us with a people that work hard, welcome a hug and a smile, live in very humble circumstances and are thankful for their time on this earth. 

You don’t hear them complain about the size of their home, that they don’t have a car or very little money for food. It was an honor to watch them celebrate 70 years since their WWII victory and surviving the siege. They are proud to be Russian and have such a love for their heritage.

We saw love in their hearts for their loved ones who were lost in the war or passed away early. You see families caring for their elderly or the elderly taking care of the young.  The one real void is the abundance of men in the older generation. Many died young or left their wives alone to raise their kids and grand children. 

We have met so many single grandmothers (called babushkas). They are valiant warriors who help raise the next generation. Many of the older babushkas lived through the siege of Germany 70 years ago.  They are the backbone of the country and don’t hesitate to tell you when you are out of line :-)

Through this journey we have seen a country that has beauty beyond belief.  We laughed, cried and hugged our Russian friends as we shared with them the gospel or just helped them on the street.  I often saw pain in their eyes as I tried to speak their language and a love in their heart because I tried.  

Kathy always touched their hearts with a loaf of homemade banana bread, meal, service project or a hug on Sunday at church. Oh how they loved “Sister Carter”.  The babushkas would give her the biggest hug and smile, even though they only had half their teeth.  (This guy on the left was a little too friendly, but I think Kathy liked it.) Ha ha

We will truly miss their loving embrace and willingness to laugh at our funny way of doing things. They will think back and say, "Remember that strange Carter couple from America?" Ha ha.

We saw the hand of God in Russia preparing the people to hear the gospel.  We see a younger generation that is well educated and excited about the world, trying to find their way in life. You can see the cute, little babushka helping the child to school.

The majority of young people struggle to find good jobs after school, may not have a good home structure or are being raised by their babushka. They are missing a generation of parental role models, so many struggle to find a spouse who will love them. 

The wonderful thing about the youth is that when they do gain a testimony of the gospel, they are valiant in their commitment. They will truly be a strong next generation that will lead the Church in Russia, and help the work move forward. Many of the younger Russian generation are now serving missions. They are very close and provide support through youth groups and activities within the Church.  

We have met so many wonderful young Russian people who are both members of our church and non-members of our church.  They have a life and smile that will always burn within our hearts and hopefully continue to communicate through e-mail and Facebook.

The other key to our mission has been our extended mission family!!  We can’t tell you how much we love the young missionaries we had the honor to serve with. It is every parent's dream to see their kids grow up and make a difference. We were true witnesses of that in each of these valiant servant’s of God.

They leave their families, friends, school and life to serve the Lord and another people for 18 to 24 months. They learn a language and the gospel so they can lovingly teach it to others.  When our children served, I always dreamed of being able to spend a day on their mission with them.  

I have been able to do that every day over the last 18 months through the eyes of the missionaries we served with. 

I saw my sons and daughter in their eyes and as they taught me and the people of Russia. I would imagine my children teaching the people of the French West Indies (Brandon), Dominican Republic (Shawn) or Cleveland Ohio (Krista).  

To all the parents of the missionaries serving in this mission who read this blog, I compliment you for raising such wonderful children! We love each of them like our own and would love to adopt each of them and take them home with us :-)

We also want to give a final shout out to our wonderful children who have taken care of everything while we have served! We have shared in their lives through e-mail, phone, Skype and Facebook. You realize how important the letters and e-mails were that we sent our children when you wake each morning hoping to hear from them.  

We left with two grandchildren and two dogs in the extended family and go home to four grandchildren and four dogs.  We can’t wait to share in their lives again.

Our final thoughts rest with each of you reading this blog! You are the reason we find happiness in life, because we share life's journey together!  Each of you have touched our lives and we would like to give you something in return. 

We have the most amazing gift that life has to offer and promise it will bring peace and joy into your life. It is the knowledge that God lives! He is our loving Heavenly Father and through his son, Jesus Christ, we can live with Him again.  

Our families can be together forever and that loving bond doesn't end when life ends.  We know that our friendship can also continue and our love for each other will never end.  We would love to teach you more about the gospel and the happiness it can bring when we get home.  

We also encourage you to invite one of the 88,000 awesome young missionaries over to your house to share the gospel or join you for dinner. I promise you it will be the highlight of your day, week, life and eternity! You can request a visit from the missionaries at;

We send our love and air hugs to all of you. We will be speaking in our home ward on June 28th at 9:00 am in Bountiful. We would love to have you join us for the talks or just a visit afterwards at our house.  I will put both addresses below. We love you and thank each of you for sharing in our journey.

Church Address:
Sunday June 28, 2015  9:00 am
965 Oakwood Drive
Bountiful, Utah 84010

Our Home:
Sunday, June 28  10:15 am – 1:00 pm
3507 South Huntington Drive

Bountiful, UT 84010