Monday, December 29, 2008

Transfers, Mission Conference, Christmas, Anne's Accident

We were sad to see Sister Vostrykova leave after a 6-week mini-mission. She is planning to prepare for a full time mission when she turns 21 in September. She has such a warm, fun spirit and really helped advance missionary efforts in Yaro. Starting left to right: Elders Jenson and Smith, Sister Vostrykova, Elders Terry and Keifert and Sister Gorina. Elders Smith and Keifert are stylin' in their shopkas.

We were excited to welcome Sister Brown back. She is very dedicated and works well with both members and investigators. In the picture, she is strapping on her backpack for the trek to the apartment. Sister Gorina is looking on and at left is Vanya, a branch member.

Mission Conference

Christmas Eve was a special day for our mission. We had an all-mission zone conference for the full day. It started with all kinds of board games, ping-pong, pool and visiting with missionaries we hadn't seen for a while. Rick is in the center teaching Catherine, the mission president's daughter, the fine points of Pass the Pigs.
After watching "Scrooge," we gathered everyone for group games. We played the "Bell" game and everyone had fun. We then did our traditional "Night Before Christmas" left/right game. In the picture above, one of the groups is trying to determine which direction they should pass the gifts. (For parents of missionaries, if you click on the picture, it will enlarge so you can see your missionary.)
We all felt the Christmas spirit when Father Christmas and the Snow Maiden made their appearance. They passed out gifts to everyone and brought warm wishes for a Merry Christmas. Sister Leslie, the Snow Maiden, has been serving in Kasakhstan and was in Spain with us for visa renewal. Father Christmas is a native Russian missionary.
We both enjoyed being with Father Christmas. He is a delightful young man who loves the gospel and meets the challenges of the mission experience.

This picture hardly does justice to the Yaro group doing "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer." They totally took us by surprise with their rap take of the traditional song. They were really popular with the audience. The reindeer in the background have all served in Yaro at some time. Starting left back: Sisters Leslie and Brown, Elder Barney, Sister Gorina, Elders Angelo, Morgan and Briggs. Front: Elders Jenson (Rudolf), Terry, Keifert and Smith (Santa). This act definitely set the standard by which all others will have to be measured for years to come!

Christmas at our Apartment
Since we travelled back to Yaro on Christmas morning, we decided to wait and celebrate with our missionaries on Sunday. We had a traditional Christmas ham dinner and then they opened gifts we picked out for them. Sister Gorina loved the personal and hair products we gave her. She loves to primp and is totally a girly girl! Elder Terry is in the background.
Elder Smith loved getting his own "Crocs." Elder Jenson and Daniel look on.

To add a little spice to Elder Keifert's gift, we wrapped it in several boxes so he actually had five gifts to open. He loved getting a blow-up neck rest pillow to use on trains and planes. We also gave one to Elders Jenson and Terry and Daniel received some much needed lined leather gloves. Sister Brown was excited about her Prado art memory game. We picked it up in Spain for her. Everyone enjoyed the afternoon and felt like it was really Christmas!

Anne's Accident

What a way to get a new capka! Saturday night, Anne tripped in the office doorway and fell headlong into the corner of the archway seen above. She had a deep gash which required 12 stitches. We were blessed to have Daniel with us at the emergency clinic and he has been very attentive in watching for any signs of problems. He is a 6th year medical student and is the 2nd Counselor in our Branch Presidency. Rick and he gave Anne a blessing before going to the clinic and we are sure that helped reduce the effects of the fall. Since this picture was taken, blood has settled around and under Anne's right eye, making it look like a real fight!

We wish you all a very Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

P-Day, Branch Computer, Alexander's Baptism & Decorations

Here is our district on a recent P-Day. The missionaries come over in the afternoon and use our two computers to do their one hour of internet time to write home. While one companionship is doing that the others are in the living room playing games. Much of the time we are playing with them, if we are not preparing something for them to eat. Here Sasha Yartsev (our tutor), Elder Jenson (on floor) and Elder Smith in the back are playing a Russian card game. In the foreground, from left to right, Elder Terry, Sister Vostrykova, Elder Keifert and Sister Gorina are playing an advanced game of Uno.

Branch Computer
We now have a computer for our branch. Rick found an old one in Moscow that the APs were no longer using. It was Windows 98SE with a broken CD drive, 166 MHz, no USB ports and no way to connect to a network. We bought a computer desk and a 4 port USB card for it. It took a couple ot trips to the local computer store where we bought the 4 port USB card to get service to get it working. The service each time cost 200 rubles (about 7 dollars) for an hour. Very cheap compared to the US. It is now working, which means that Rick doesn't have to stay in the branch waiting for Elder Jenson to do the finances on his laptop. He can now go home after church and help Anne get ready to feed the missionaries Sunday dinner.

Alexander's Baptism
Here is Elder Jenson with Alexander just before the baptism. We rented a section of a bath house to do the baptism. The section had four rooms (one of them a sauna), some showers and a small pool about 4-5 times the size of our fonts at home.
When we got there we stuck our fingers in the water and found that it was ice cold. Luckily, there were 3 tubs in the shower area which we immediately started filling with hot water and dumping into the pool. We did this for about 45 minutes when Alexander said the temperature was OK to go ahead. Above are Elders Smith and Keifert with Alexander filling the tubs.
Here are Elder Keifert, Masha and Alex in the hallway leading down to the four rooms. The first room on the right was where we gathered for the program. Alex is planning on being baptized in January.
Here is the pool where the baptism took place. The water was still cold and when Alexander came up out of the water he was so shocked with the cold water that he almost pulled Elder Jenson under. After they got out, they went into the sauna room and warmed up before changing clothes. It was nice to have the sauna room there. They really enjoyed it. Sister Vostrykova is in the above picture with her back to us talking to Masha.

Decorating Our Apartment
We invited the missionaries to bring an investigator or less-active over to help decorate our apartment for Christmas. Elders Smith and Jenson worked very hard on getting the garland up over the doorway into the living room. They put lights through the boughs and hung little replicas of matrushka dolls on the garland.
Anne and Rick worked on the tree. There are several sets of handcarved ornaments we found at the renik. We couldn't find a star anywhere for the top of the tree so we finally settled for a sweet snow lady who looks like an angel.
The other two elders and the sisters worked on getting our advent calendar prepared. Elder Keifert is hard at work on it here. It is made from paper towel and toilet paper rolls cut and covered with paper. They placed a piece of candy inside each one and covered it with a circle with the day on it. Each time someone comes, they can open it for the day and have the candy inside.
Here is a shot taken from our kitchen doorway showing the advent calendar and the tree in the living room reflecting in the mirror. The pictures on the wall are from a calendar. We framed them to help remind us of the meaning of Christmas.
Above is one of the nativities that we bought in the renik on one of our trips down to Moscow. We found the little feather tree at a gift shop in Yaroslavl.
Sister Cranney (our mission president's wife) told us they were going to Kazakhstan (it is part of our mission) and wanted to know if she could pick up a nativity for Anne there. We, of course, said yes. It is pictured above. It is all hand stitched from felt fabric and has darling details. The little "tent" in the background opens up to hold the pieces.
A couple months ago, Sister Cranney mentioned she was ordering a hand-painted Russian nativity. Anne asked if she could order us one also. It came from a town near Sergei Pasad which is on the way to Moscow and is the birthplace of the Matrushka stacking dolls you saw on an earlier blog. The pieces are hand carved and painted and are very detailed. We are pleased with our decorations. It isn't like previous years where every room is decorated with Anne's 300+ nativity sets, but it really brings the spirit of the season into our home.

We want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope you make the worship of the Savior and remembrance of his birth the central part of your celebrations.

He was born in an obscure village. He worked in a carpenter's shop until he was 30... He then became an itinerant preacher (for only 3 years).

Yet nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race.. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that... ...ONE SOLITARY LIFE.