Sunday, February 15, 2009

Texac, Area Authority Visit, Transfers, Mission Conference

Texac, one more time
The week before transfers we take the missionaries out to eat. We decided to take them to the Texac Sports Grill to see what that was like compared to the restaurant that we went to before. As it turned out, it was the same menu with not quite as comfortable seats and no dance floor with live singers. Elder Smith was the only one of the missionaries who had been there before.

Rita, from English Club

This is Rita bundled up with her new shopka on after our Institute class. We love having her in our class. She is one of our English Club participants who chose to come to our Institute class since we conduct it in English. She has told us she now speaks much better English because of her participation with us.

Area Authority Visit to Yaro
Elder Paul Pieper and his family, our East European Area President and a General Authority 70, visited our Yaroslavl Branch as well as President and Sister Collins. We conducted an Auxilary Leadership meeting the night before their expected visit. Elder Pieper surprised us and came early and attended most of Rick's leadership session with the Branch Presidency on Interviewing and then stayed a while afterwards and socialized with us. It was a real treat. Elder Pieper's son served in Yaroslavl on his mission and baptized our current Branch President. On Sunday, President and Sister Collins spoke in Sacrament Meeting. Elder Pieper took the last 5 minutes; then, he did a Q&A for the second hour of our meeting schedule. It was a spiritual feast for all of us.

We had two young men interviewed to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and 6 people interviewed to receive their patriarchal blessings. There are two traveling patriarchs who come during the year and give blessings. They travel to the major population centers all over Russia and surrounding countries and give about 100 blessings in each center.

One of the other treats of the weekend was that Dasha Vostrykova came to visit because Sasha Yartsev was to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. However, President Collins wasn't able to interview him before meetings so President Collins authorized Rick to sustain Sasha and Vanya, the other new Elder, the following week. Here is a picture of Sasha and Dasha below.
On Monday, the 9th, it was time for Elders Jenson and Smith to leave Yaroslavl and complete the transition of Yaro from the Russia Moscow Mission to the Russia Moscow West Mission. Here is a picture of the group at the train station (vauxal) who were there to see them off. From left to right are Vanya (who just became an elder), Elder Jenson, Sasha (our tutor and a new elder), Elder Heath, Elder Armstrong, Shondra, Elder Smith, Daniel and Rick.
Elders Jenson and Smith in their last few minutes here in Yaro. We will miss them.

Whenever the 7:15 am train leaves, a corny, somewhat cool traditional song plays over the loudspeakers at the vauxal. Rick has been saying for sometime that he wants to capture a video with the song on it. As you listen to it, pay attention to when they say "Yaroslavlsky vauxal".
That same Monday evening, we went to the train station again to say goodbye to Elder Armstrong as he left to go on his visa trip. We waited for about a half hour and Elder Jouttenus arrived. He is from Finland and his father also served a mission. Pictured above are Elder Heath, Sasha, Elder Jouttenus and Rick.

Mission Conference

The next day we departed for our Moscow West Mission Conference in Moscow. We were surprised when the train that Elder Armstrong purchased tickets for turned out to be, as Anne calls it, a traveling campground. This picture shows the inside of it. It is all open with 4 beds on one side of the isle and a place for two to sleep on the side we are sitting on. We are sitting at a table (you can see Anne's shoulder on the left of this picture) that folds down into a bed. This isn't our favorite way to travel. This is the type of train we took a while ago when our tickets were purchased for the wrong day and we met a young Russian on his way to accept a job in Bejing.

We got to Moscow a day early and spent the night with Dr. and Sister Rees. We have stayed with them before and had a wonderful evening visiting with them this time.
At Mission Conference, we met the last of the Russia Moscow West missionaries to be assigned to Yaroslavl. Below is Elder Hiatt. He has been out about a year now and he will be serving as Elder Heath's companion.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

New Presidency, Lilia's Baptism, Sisters Leave, Mission Reorg, Masha Leaves, Ribinsk

New Branch Presidency
On January 11th our branch presidency was reorganized and Murat Vaneev, who was first counselor before, was sustained as the new Branch President. Daniel Jatileni, who was 2nd counselor and is a 6th year medical student, is now 1st counselor. Dimitri Gavrilov, who was Elder's Quorum President, is now 2nd counselor. Our former branch president, Sergey Chernikov, was called as Elder's Quorum President. It is great to see him sitting in the audience after 7 years, 7 months and 7 days as branch president. They are expecting their 4th child any day now.

Pictured above is the Vaneev family. Sister Maria Vaneev is Relief Society president. Maximus is one month and Medina is 7. She will turn 8 the end of this month and will be baptized.

Lilia's Baptism
Paul met Lilia in a small sweet shop where she works across the street from the branch. Paul is a refugee from Somolia. He left his country because, as a Christian, he feared for his life. For those of you who remember, he brought her to the first baptism we had back in August. They were married in October. Our sisters have been teaching her since soon after they were married.
Pictured are all those who attended the baptism. There were two investigators there: Olga, in the tan sweater and Larisa, standing in front of the steps.

Sisters Leave
Sister Brown had been promised a transfer to Kazakstan and she was excited about it. The mission office had delayed this transfer several times and had to delay it again for reasons explained later. We saw them off at the train station early in the morning. Masha is standing next to Sister Brown.
Sister Gorina was busy talking to two non-members, Lewde and Galia.

Mission Reorganization
On Saturday morning, we called into a special meeting that President Cranney set up. He started that meeting by reading a letter from the First Presidency describing a reorganization of the Moscow and Moscow West missions. The Russia Moscow mission now includes only greater Moscow That means that Yaroslavl, Nizhegorodskaya and Almati, Kazakstan have been moved into the Russia Moscow West Mission. The West mission gave up the areas in Moscow that were previously within their boundaries. In this reorganization all missionaries,except senior couples, who were in each of these missions before the reorganization are staying with their mission. There is a short, two week transfer where West missionaries are going to the areas where our old mission used to cover and becoming familiar with their new areas and the Moscow missionaries are going to those parts of Moscow that used to be part of the West mission and becoming familiar with those areas. At the end of the two weeks, Feb 9th, missionaries who are out of their mission will be transfered back to their missions.

Above you see Elder Armstrong, on the left, Elder Heath, second from right, just arriving in Yaroslavl at the train station. Elders Jenson, in the center, and Elder Smith, on the right, have two weeks left here.

Elder Heath, Tanya and Elder Smith. Tanya is a returned missionary who takes care of all the paper work for missionaries transferring into and out of Yaroslavl.

Every few months we travel to Ribinsk to see members of the branch who live there. We stopped on the way and took the picture that appears above and used to be at the top of our blog for most of the winter.
Elders Jenson and Armstrong are pictured along with Sergey Varnofski, a member who drives taxi. He was baptized two years ago here and soon moved back to his home in Uzbeckistan. He moved back to Yaroslavl about 3 months ago. This time he brought his wife and mother.

Masha Leaves for Mission
We hosted a going away party for Masha at our apartment on Saturday night. She left for her full time mission the next day on the 7:15 am train. The two girls on the right are Sveta, an investigator, and Lena, Sister Chernikov's sister and a returned missionary. Here Masha passes a ball of yarn to someone and says something nice about them, then, they pass it back to her and say something nice about her.
Sasha is playing for everyone to sing along. Lena and Deema are enjoying the music.
The next morning we were at the train to say good-bye to our little ray of sunshine who we love so much. If you think we look cold, you're right. It was -25 C (-11 F). It was the coldest day we've experienced so far.
Several others also showed up to say good-bye to Masha. From left to right are Elder Smith, Masha, Leude, Elder Heath, Galia, Sveta Danilova (a returned missionary and the branch Primary President) and Shondra (1st counselor in the RS and a 4th year medical student from Guyana).