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.
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.)