Friday, January 16, 2009

New Years, Nativity & Transfers

New Year's Celebration
Elder Smith is anxious to try some the festive foods we prepared for our celebration. We set up a buffet in the foyer so we could use all the tables to play games. The buffet table is our drying rack with a board on top.

Sisters Brown and Gorina really got into the New Year's Eve celebration mode. With party hats, noise makers, confetti, garland and 7-up, it was quite the party!

The fireworks display outside our apartment was spectacular. There were several families setting them off in our courtyard and we could also see the display at the Texas Restaurant. It was very impressive. We all stood inside our balcony porch. You can see the fireworks through the screen.

After all the food, games, movies (2), fireworks and Happy New Yearing, the Elders crashed on the floor waiting for the taxi to take them to their apartments. The sisters went first, so the Elders waited for the taxi to return for them. They all returned New Year's day at 11:00 for brunch and a day of games and another movie. It was a memorable time for all of us.

Nativity Exhibit
Since Russia celebrates Christmas on January 7th, we decided it would be a good time to share our tradition of nativity collecting. Our stake at home has had a nativity exhibit for many years and we felt it would be a good missionary activity. We asked members of the branch to share any nativities they might have, but we only received some small cards. The nativities were all from our collection purchased in Russia or Spain. As you can see, we didn't have a huge number to exhibit, but it was fun to set it up.

President Chernikov was especially interested in the one from Kazakhstan since he and his wife are from there. The little "tent" box holds all the pieces for storing. The set is made of felt and all hand sewn.

In the center of this picture, you can see the nativity from Sergey Passod, a little city north of Moscow. It is all hand carved and painted. The book relief nativity in front is from Spain.

On this table from the left is a nativity from Russia, a picture in the front painted by Masha from the branch as a Christmas card for us, a metal silhouette from Spain, a little American set sent by our children, several pictures and small cards, and two little paper sets for children taken from the Liahona and the Church website.

We had a short program which included a solo sung by Elder Terry, right; a reading of Christ's life by Elders Smith and Keifert; a spiritual thought on gifts of the spirit and what we can give Christ by Sister Brown; a piano solo by Sister Gorina and the reading of the Christmas story from Luke by Tanya from the branch. Everyone was touched by the music and the special message conveyed by the missionaries.

Elder Jenson was in charge of the refreshments and he did a wonderful job of making the table look very festive and appealing. The whole evening was a great success.

This shows some of the people who attended. We had 16 non-members there, so we felt it accomplished our goal of showcasing the Church and our belief in Christ.

District Meeting Pizza
The day after the Nativity Exhibit, we held our last district meeting with all of these missionaries. We traditionally take them out to eat for lunch on the last district meeting before transfers, so we went for pizza. Anne had gone that morning to have her stitches out and was especially happy to be free from bandages.

The Former Branch Presidency

Our Branch Presidency was changed when President Cranney came to visit. This is the former Branch Presidency from left: Marat Vaneev, 1st Counselor; Sergey Chernikov, President; Daniel Jatileni, 2nd Counselor. Brother Vaneev is now the Branch President and Daniel is his 1st Counselor. The second counselor was not there because of work, so we will have a picture of the new presidency next time on the blog.

Transfers and Going Home

It was a sad morning when we said goodbye to Elder Keifert. He is returning home after serving 2 years faithfully. We will miss him and his fun spirit. From left: Masha leaving for Moscow to start the visa process for entering the MTC in Provo on February 3; Elder Keifert; Sister Brown on her way to Moscow to get her visa for Kazakhstan; Sister Gorina; Elder Terry on his way to Moscow to be a companion with an Elder whose companion is going home. (Elders Smith and Jenson were in Spain for visa renewal.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Visa trip to Madrid

Enjoy Marcia
We flew to Madrid on Tuesday, December 16th, arriving late in the evening. Marcia Sperry from Trophy Club, Texas, one of our friends from home, flew to Madrid and stayed at the same hotel we were in. She brought things from home from our children and friends and things she had for us. She took home with her some Christmas gifts for some of our children and also gifts for some of her relatives and friends that we had purchased for her. We had the special experience of spending Wednesday with her in the Temple. We performed 45 sealings and we each did an endowment. In addition, Rick did 4 initiatories. All of these were for names she had researched. Some of the ones we did were people she had known, which made it extra special. It's difficult to see from the picture, but the lights on the trees were like water drops falling from icycles. It was quite dramatic. The whole complex was lighted and decorated.
We found a mall close to the MTC which had a wonderful nativity exhibit measuring about 15x20 feet. Most of the terrain was made from bark of a special tree found natively in Spain. As you can see above, it looks a lot like craggy rock. There were scenes of Bethlehem all the way around and some of the characters were animated. It was truly spectacular.

Trip to Segovia

On Friday, we made a trip north to the town of Segovia with Elder and Sister Palmer from the Russia Ekatrinberg Mission. It was a half hour ride on the fast train which traveled about 120 mph. It was a very smooth and enjoyable ride. Once there, we took a bus to the center of town and were dropped off at the acquaduct built by the Romans. You can see from the picture above how gigantic it is. The Palmers are in the picture with Rick.
From the acquaduct, we took another bus up to the castle which is built higher up the hill from the acquaduct. Here we are pictured just outside the castle. There is a steep cliff just on the other side of the wall to Anne's left.
There was some beautiful intricate work that was incorporated into the walls of the castle. This is the castle that Queen Isabella lived in when she was crowned queen of Spain.
This is a picture of the chapel that was part of the castle. The icons in the niches give a 3-D effect. It was very beautiful.
The castle was turned into an Artillery School later on after the monarchs left it. Rick makes a great modern knight in shining armor!
There were lots of armour and weapons on display in the castle. It was amazing to see one of the cannons that was cut away to show the rifling in the barrel. It was over an inch deep. One whole room was used to display different knight armour. It was amazing to see all the intricate metal work on each piece.
Trip to Toledo
On Monday, we made a trip south a half hour to Toledo with Elder and Sister Nearon who are on a church service mission assisting the chief legal counsel for the East European Area. He is a lawyer from California. The name of this town is not pronounced like the town of the same spelling in Ohio. The "e" in the middle of it is pronounced as a long "a".

The picture above is of the entrance to the cathedral. We were told that this is the second largest Roman Catholic cathedral. The one at the Vatican being the largest.
We took a tram around the outskirts of the city. It was open air on one side with a roof on it. It was like the ones that bring you in from parking lots at Six Flags. The castle, which you can see pictured on the right above, was closed for rennovations and we couldn't get into it. The spire of the cathedral we went through, can be seen to the left of center as the next highest building. It was a great way to see the whole city.
The town is surrounded on three sides by water. Here you can see a shot of a bridge that was built by the Romans when they occupied this area.
The wall surrounding much of the city was started in 932 by the Moors.

President and Sister Hill
Pictured above are President and Sister Hill of the MTC. They are very accomodating to us and all the missionaries who come from Russia to stay with them. They became good friends to us while we were there.