Thursday, October 29, 2009

Upper Babushkas, Evgeny's baptism, Elder Nelson Visit, Sasha Going Away, Eleanor

Upper Babushkas
These three sweet babushkas come faithfully to Church in the upper branch and sit on the same row together. We love seeing them and watching how they care for each other.

Evgeny's baptism
Evgeny's conversion story is quite miraculous. He watched a TV interview with two missionaries 17 years ago and wanted to find the Church all these years. He went to several churches, but when they didn't have the Book of Mormon, he knew they weren't the Church he was looking for. One day he was looking for an office and happened to see the Church's sign on the outside of the building. He went in and Elders Worthington and Nuckols were teaching a lesson. They invited him to stay. They have continued to teach him and were able to see him baptized in October. Elder Nuckols is on the left and Elder Worthington on the right.

Elder Nelson Visit
The day we had anticipated for several months finally arrived. Elder Nelson, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, arrived at the Nizhniy airport with Elder Pearson, in the background, President and Sister Woolley and their interpreter.
After the meeting with the members, Elder Nelson was willing to have pictures taken with missionaries and members. It was such an honor to be with him and to hear his message of love and gratitude.
The day after the meetings, we met Elders Nelson and Pearson to take a culture tour. Because the traffic was so congested, they decided to spend their time at our apartment while their cell phones were charging. We had such a wonderful visit and enjoyed listening to Elder Nelson play the piano. He started with "Sunrise, Sunset." After he finished, he quipped, "When in Russia...!" Sister Doty felt honored to be able to be with our special guests. Her companion had to leave the night before for a visa renewal trip so she was staying with us. She received some very personal and timely advice from both Elder Nelson and Elder Pearson, first counselor in the Europe East Area Presidency.

Sasha Going Away
Sasha, on the right, is a member from the lower branch. He found out during the week that he would be leaving for military service for one year. All Russian young men are required to serve one year. We hosted a farewell party for him. Selyena, from the upper branch, shares her good-byes with him.
This was most of the group who gathered to say good-bye to Sasha. Sisters Smith and Doty are in the back on the right. Elder Smith is is on the left in the forefront. Sasha is sitting between Anne and Rick.
From left to right: Posha, Ilusha, and Olya. Posha is investigating the Church and has had several lessons in our apartment. Olya is a member and Ilusa is her 4-year old son. Posha and Olya are planning to be married in the spring. Posha is such a sweet, loving man and Ilusa loves being with him.
Ilusha enjoys hiding and found this wonderful spot under the kitchen table. He is such a fun little boy and loves wearing the Angel Moroni tie we gave him.
During Sasha's farewell party, we each shared something we liked about Sasha and gave him advice. Here Elder Nuckols, standing, and Elder Worthington share thoughts with Sasha.
Elders Smith, left, and Westbroek listen to others share their good wishes to Sasha as they wait their turns.

Nizhniy Landscapes
Early morning mist hangs over lower Nizhniy Novgorod.
A picture from the upper city looking down the hill and across the bridge to the lower city.

Our darling little great granddaughter, Eleanor, was born May 8th. We're looking forward to getting to know her. One of the blessings we'll enjoy when we return home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Branch Presidency Training, New Sisters, Relief Society Presidency Training

Branch Presidency Training
On September 26th, our mission paid the transportation costs for the 15 branch presidencies and one district presidency in our mission to travel to Moscow and participate in a training session. There are 11 branches in Russia, one in Almaty Kazakhstan and three in Belarus with a district presidency over them. As far as we know this is the only training they have ever had altogether. We had 39 there out of the 48 who were invited. Presentations were assigned out to different Branch Presidents to give. One of them wasn't able to come so Rick ended up giving 2 of the 6 presentations. These presentations covered the basics of leadership in the branches and are ones that Rick had developed mostly in Yaroslavl to train the branch there.

We had quite an unusual problem leading up to the training. On Friday afternoon when we stopped at a super market, President Woolley's and Rick's computers were stolen, along with a computer projector and some money. The car hadn't been locked and was an easy target. All the presentations were on Rick's computer. He quickly called those he had emailed the presentations to and they sent them back to him. There was some midnight oil burned trying to get ready for the next day. All the name tags that Rick had prepared were also stolen.
These wonderful sisters prepared the delicious lunch of shredded BBQ beef, rice, corn, salad and a dessert of brownies. They are from left to right starting in the front; Sister Rasmussen (serving in the office), Sister Woolley (mission mom), Sister Hall (serving in Almaty). In the back are Sister Lowry (humanitarian missionary serving in Voronezh), Galeena Nikitenkova (serving a mission in the office from Minsk), Sister Wade (humanitarian missionary from Minsk), and Anne.
As folks were leaving, one of the counselors from Voronezh sang several Russian songs to the sisters sitting in the foyer. He has been a branch president there and is now moving to Chelyebinsk, much further east.
After our training session, President Woolley took the senior missionaries to the Bolshoi Ballet. There were some nervous moments before it started because the tickets to the ballet were in his brief case which had been stolen. They found the confirmation record and used it to get in. The ballet was wonderful. It felt like we were suspended, floatingon air while we watched it. The dancing, costuming and scenery were just outstanding. President Woolley has been to ballets in many cities in the world and he said this was the best he has ever seen.
We weren't in the normal Bolshoi Hall, it was being renovated. But this one was magnificent.
Here are Elder and Sister Rasmussen and Sister Nikitenkova enjoying an intermission. They work in the office together.
We weren't allowed to take pictures during the performance, but Anne took this one of the main stars at the last curtain call.
On Monday, we went to Arbot street and did some shopping with some of the other senior couples. This picture was taken in front of Moo Moo's, a Russian buffet restaurant that we had eaten in before. (The y in the Cyrillic alphabet is pronounced "oo".)

New Sisters
Sister Smith, on the left, transferred to Nizhniy the first week of September from Almaty, Kazkhstan, and worked for a month with our mini-missionary, Luba Ivanova, pictured below. Luba is from the upper branch in Nizhniy. Sister Doty, from St. George, came October 1st from the MTC. Here the sisters are making a microwave chocolate cake in the little bowls. Anne had the instructions written out and taped to the counter. All the missionaries enjoyed their cakes with ice cream.

Relief Society Presidency Training
On October 3rd, the Relief Society presidencies from our 15 branches gathered in Moscow for training. The lunch was prepared by the wives of senior missionary couples and the husbands helped serve. There was barbeque chicken breasts, glazed carrots, green salad, cucumbers in sauce, rolls and sugar cookies. Anne made the rolls and cookies before we went to Moscow. She also decorated the cookie cutters to give to each sister as a reminder of the theme, "Soul, Heart and Hand." Sitting at this table are the RS presidents from both the Nizhniy branches, Sister Erina Kozhina on the left and Sister Yelena Danchina.

There were 26 sisters attending the meeting. The mission paid their transportation to Moscow. The four sisters on the left front are from Nizhniy. Sweet little sister Mikelova, in the middle front, is 80 years old. She is the second counselor in the upper branch. After arriving back at the Nizhniy train station, she tripped and fell, breaking her arm. We were all saddened by this mishap. She helped Anne in a presentation on additional RS meetings, sharing some of the wonderful activities she has organized for the branch sisters. Sister Danchina, second from right, presented outstanding training on compassionate service. There have been many reports of how much the sisters enjoyed the time together and appreciated the training.