Monday, June 22, 2009

Helsinki Visa Trip

We took this tour bus to see the city. The guide was an interesting woman who shared her opinion about politics, the financial crisis and the history of Finland. She described the sites on the tour in four different languages.
One of the interesting buildings we saw was this one with the wonderful detail at the corner.
This view shows the corner as it appears from the front.
Rick thought it was neat to see clean streets and a tramvai that was quiet, clean and modern.
This monument was built to remember the Finnish composer Sebelius. A sculpture of his head is in the background, right. As you can see, it was a chilly day.
The Church in the Rock is a Lutheran church "carved" out of a rock hill. It was interesting to see the variations of rock and the sound was wonderful. The ceiling is a copper dome. There was a piano concert while we were there.
Of course, we had to shop for souveniers here. But we spent so much time, we had to run to catch our tour bus.
This is one of the government buildings. It's across the street from a great indoor food market and an outdoor fresh fruit and vegetable market.
We loved this reindeer outside another souvenier shop. Rick just needs his Santa suit.
We couldn't resist taking a picture of this quint telephone booth. Isn't that more fun than a cell phone?
Walking through one of the many parks where the flowers were in bloom and the grass was cut! The lilacs were still in bloom and the fragrance permeated the city.
If you look closely, you can see a pigeon resting on the head of the statue. He flew off and back several times while we were walking through the park. Reminds us of the "Happy Prince" story.
The Helsinki Temple is up on a wooded hill. It has dark stained woodwork all throughout except in the Celestial room. All the wood in the Celestial room is hand carved, inlaid, natural light finish, which is very Scandinavian. It was so peaceful and enjoyable to be there. The flowerbeds all around the grounds were in bloom and the tall pine trees were majestic.
This fountain, overlooking the bay, was so fun. The water shoots out of the mouths of the four seals on the edge.
There were fountains everywhere! This one was in a park and was very soothing. We loved the blue-painted basin and the hostas.
While we were there, we had to ferry to Tallinn for an interview at the Russian Embassy. This is the ferry we took. It was more like a luxury cruise ship. It was 2 hours over and 2 hours back for a five minute interview. We left the hotel at 8:30 am and got back at 8 pm that night. But we enjoyed the scenery and the peaceful calm of the water.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jeremajev the builder, YSA activity,Ilya baptism, City Conference, American Culture Evening, Happy Birthday

Jeremejev the Builder
During one of our P-Days Elder Jeremejev (pronounced Yair ah may yev) did some amazing building with a deck of cards. He is from Latvia and very talented.
Here is his finished product.

YSA Activity
One opportunity for us the last senior couple suggested was to organize Young Single Adult activities. Our first activity was at our apartment. We held a game night starting out with a spiritual thought. We showed the video "Reflections of Christ." Twenty-one participated, including four non-members. Pictured above, beginning in the rear left, Olga, a non-member, Erra (just returned from a mission a few days before), Antone, and Olga. Sitting in front are Vasalisa (her friend Olga is sitting behind her) and Rita. The Olga on the right and Rita are sisters and both are returned missionaries. Rita returned two weeks before this activity.
Shown are more of those who attended. From left to right, Alla, Stas (a non-member), Tanya, Nastia, and Murat (a non-member friend of Tanya)

Ilya's Baptism

On the Saturday of City Conference, Ilya was baptized. He is the 15-year old son of the Young Women's president in the lower branch of the Church in Nizhniy. Elder Traasdahl, on the left, taught him the lessons. Elder Armstrong, is on the right.

City Conference
On June 13-14 we had a City Conference in Nizhniy. There were meetings on Saturday and Sunday. Elder Manzhos, an Area Seventy from Ukraine, was our visiting authority. He gave very inspirational talks and direction to the leaders and members. A 2nd counselor was added to the Upper Branch Presidency who used to be the Elders Quorum President and a new Elders Quorum President was called. One other member of the Upper Branch was ordanined to the Melchizedek Priesthood. In the lower branch, the 2nd counselor was released to become the YM president and a new one called. The two branch presidents have decided to take our suggestion and establish a Mutual activity night during the week. Presently, they have seminary twice a week on Tuesday and Thursdays at 5 pm,

The picture above was taken at the conference. From back, left to right, are Elder Russell (an AP and a former Nizhniy missionary), Elder Nutt, Elder Armstrong, Elder Traasdahl, Elder Malanin, Elder Rosenhan (an AP and a former Nizhniy missionary), and Elder Smith. In front, from left to right are President and Sister Collins, Elder Jeremejey, Anne and Rick.

American Culture Evening
When we went down to 3 sets of missionaries last transfer, we considered canceling English Clubs in our lower branch. But, instead, we decided to try and emphasize English Club on the lower side and see if we could get more people to come. We decided to have an American Culture Evening. We prepared flyers which were handed out to present English Club members and the missionaries gave out to contacts.
We spent several hours preparing a set of slides depicting American religion, holidays, sports, cuisine, music and tourist destinations. We showed the slides first and then served some typical American food prepared by all the missionaries. Anne and Rick prepared Sloppy Joes, Jell-o, Tex-Mex dip with tortilla chips and chocolate chip cookies. Elders Traasdahl and Smith made Kraft macoroni and cheese and Kool-aid, Elders Nutt and Malanin made apple bars and Elders Armstrong and Jeremejev made chocolate cake. Above Elder Rosenhan serves chocolate cake to Sasha while Elder Nutt looks on.
Above Alexey, from our upper branch club conversational group, is playing with Elder Armstrong. In the back left, wearing a red shirt, is Boris, a member of the Church and a regular conversational group attender in the lower branch. He is also the Family History Director for Nizhniy.
On the left is Andre and a friend he brought and Vlad is on the right. Andre and Vlad attend the lower branch conversational group. Vlad often attends the upper branch conversational group also.
Here are Ina, her mother, Lilya, and Ivan. All three are actively being taught by the missionaries.

Happy Birthday

In our district meeting, we celebrated Elder Armstrong and Elder Malanin's birthdays.
Elder Malanin makes a wise and blows out his candles.
Elder Armstrong also got his chance to make a wish blow out candles.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Upper District, Mall, Sasha, Transfers, Zone Conference+

Upper District
The upper district after branch meetings the Sunday before transfers. The three on the right left Nizhniy. Elders Terrill (3rd from right) and Michaelis (far right) finished their missions and returned home on the 28th of May. Elder Baxter (2nd from right) was transferred to Kazakhstan. Elder Malanin, next to Anne, stayed.

Fantastica Mall
The Fantastica Mall from the bus stop. You can see it spelled in Russian left of center on the roof line (Фантастика). OBI is a Home Depot-like store, actually bigger than most of the Home Depots at home. Real, pronounced Re-al, is the supermarket where we enjoy shopping. On the left side you can see an outdoor screen advertizing movies showing at the cinema there. Can you see the Russian word for cinema in the picture?

Sasha and Family
Elders Terrell and Michaelis invited a non-member man, Sasha, who has 7 children (really unheard of in Russia!). The missionaries have been working with the family for 6 years and he loves the teachings and the way they have helped his family. His oldest daughter from a previous marriage is 20 and lives out of the home. He has a 12, 8, 7, 5, 3 and 1-year old. He brought 3 of his children with him--the 8, 7, and 5-year olds. They were so adorable and fun to have with us. They are very well-behaved and obedient. You can tell there is much love and respect in the family. They have a hymn book in their home and even the 5-year old sang the songs with us. During the lesson the missionaries had prepared, they were very attentive and answered questions correctly. It was so impressive to be with them. While we played a game with Sasha and Masha (the 8-year old), the two little boys, Sergey and Ilya, played with the cars on our living room carpet. When they were ready to leave, we gave them a plate of the cookies we had for treat to take home and they each picked a car to take with them. It was so hard to let them go, they are just like our own grandchildren.

Here are Elders Baxter, Terrill and Michaelis at our last district meeting on Tuesday before they left. Elder Baxter left the next morning and the other two flew home to America on Thursday.
Elder Kruglyak, on the right, was transferred to Kazakhstan along with Elder Baxter. They are on the train, ready to leave.
On P-Day, after five of the missionaries had left town, the three remaining elders came to our apartment for P-Day. Elder Malanin cooked Plov for us. It is a Russian dish that is reserved for men to cook. It is made with rice, meat, vegatables and spices. The ingredients can vary according to what is available. We all enjoyed it.

We also celebrated Elder Traasdahl's birthday on P-Day, a little early since his birthday was the next Sunday.

The new elders missed their 11:30 pm Wednesday train because they were directed to the wrong train station. They were to arrive at 6:35 am on Thursday. They spent a short night in Moscow and caught a train around noon which arrived in Nizhniy about 7 pm. Above is Elder Malanin (right) with his new companion, Elder Nutt. He is from Sandpoint, ID.
Pictured above are Elder Traasdahl (left) with his new companion Elder Smith. Elder Smith is from Vernal and knows some of Anne's cousins.
We are excited to have Elder Armstrong (right) back with us. He was our district leader in Yaroslavl. He will be going home at the end of this transfer. He is both our Zone and District Leader here. We now have only one district. His companion is Elder Jeremejev.

Zone Conference+
We had our last zone conference on Monday, June 1st with our Mission President and his wife. They are going home the first of July. It was, as usual, and uplifting event. The two of them are master teachers. Elder Rosenhan was also transferred. It was a big surprise. He had 6 weeks left on his mission and he has been made an Assistant to the President. He is in the center of the first row, next to President Collins.
Following our zone conference we had a very special treat. Our two Moscow missions had a meeting with President Uchtdorf and Elder Anderson (our newest Apostle) and their wives. At the beginning of the meeting they had all of us file past them and shake their hands. What a thrill for these young missionaries and us older ones also. Their teachings were inspiring and the spirit was electrifying in the room. After this meeting, we went to a larger auditorium where they met with all the saints from the two missions who could be there. They talked about the possibility of a stake in Moscow and of a temple here and inspired the saints to work toward those goals.

The picture above is the Cosmos hotel where we held the meetings with President Uchtdorf and Elder Anderson. It reminded us of a hotel in Las Vegas. There were even slot machines inside.
This was an awesome monument just outside the hotel.
A cool (klasna) monument commemorating the victory of WW II not far from the hotel. The area around the hotel was all very nice. We walked through a park with amusement rides and other recreation facilities on our way to eat. It was a very nice walk.