We have had quite the week. All things said and done, it has been a great and memorable week. We helped our missionary-bound couple with their remaining required paperwork before they left on Saturday, and it became quite more involved than we expected. Like I said, Satan works overtime to hinder the work going forward! But we had a good learning experience and were able to overcome the challenges and see the Lord's hand in helping things to move ahead. Brother and Sister D really had their faith tested, but they are strong Saints and had a determination to follow through with their desires. An email from one of their missionary sons this week particularly inspired and encouraged them to keep the faith and stay the course. We know his email was an inspired blessing for them on a day when they needed it the most. One day when we were visiting at their home they had just returned from taking their cat to their friend who will be taking care of her while they are gone. The cool thing about it was that the caregiver is a younger, single sister in the branch who lives alone because her parents are not around, and her grandmother who she was living with died a few months ago; so she really needs someone/something to care for. Taking care of this cat is providing a service to this family but will also provide a great service to her as well. The D's had a very hard time leaving their cat and learned the following day that she wasn't eating or drinking so they are quite concerned and sad. I'm sure everything will be fine within a short time. Another day Elder Peterson mentioned to Brother D that he was going to have to shave off his mustache, something that has been with him for decades; but when we returned the next day, he had shaved it and he looked just great. President and Sister Sartori came on Friday night to set the D's apart. It was a wonderful meeting, and the spirit was very sweet. President Sartori prepares himself so well and was able to bless Elder and Sister D with exactly what they needed. Sister D made each of us a beautiful lap cloth (they use those here as napkins). I had told her not to prepare anything to eat because she feeds us every time we come, and I knew she would be busy getting ready to leave the following morning (at 3, mind you). But, of course, she had gone and bought some different peroshkis and served a snack for all of us. I added snickerdoodles and oatmeal raisin cookies to the mix. I still marvel at this family's sacrifice and commitment to serve. All four of them will be terrific missionaries and will return to be such a strength to their branch. We have been wondering how their trip went, their first Sunday in church, etc. It has been 30 years or more since either of them had been on an airplane so everything about the experience was a new adventure. It was hard to say goodbye, but it will be fun to keep in touch with them throughout the years, especially while they are on their mission.
I didn't think very far in advance but wanted to do something Halloween-ish for the missionaries' lunch at district meeting this week. Being limited in both time and resources, I managed to cut ghosts out of cheese with round olive slices for eyes, made Tang with gummy worms hanging on the cup edge (they actually lasted for just a few seconds before falling into the cup), carrot wheels with cream cheese and black olive for an eyeball, and Elder Peterson drew pumpkin faces on oranges for me. It was the thought that counted! We haven't seen any pumpkins in the stores so I guess we won't be doing any carving this year.
We had a great day today! We had two really good lessons. Our first was with our investigator who is the husband of our RS President. He had not wanted anything to do with missionaries for such a long time. I believe I told you before about how we felt impressed to go and visit him. Today was the third time to his house and we gave him a lesson on temples. When we got there his wife was not there. He invited us up and we visited and then got into the lesson. She eventually came home (she was at the dentist having teeth pulled). It was really good to be with just him for a while. He is such a good man and with the right help I think he can come into church and be happy. He has a daughter in Virginia. She is very active and they are going to go see her in a couple of months and stay for a year or so. We feel like he can make real progress here and then find his way into church in Virginia. The spirit was wonderful as we taught and answered questions. I love him…when we get home I will have to imitate his favorite word to me “normal”. He tells me all the time “normalna”, which means just that, it's normal.
Tonight we taught a young couple who Sister Peterson made dinner for and then we watched Together Forever (church video). They are dating and it is getting serious. He is 30 and so he is looking to the future. They are both very successful individuals and very smart. We had a super time and it was good being with them. We will see them again tomorrow.
We also met with the woman who has been over to our home a couple of times to help us translate a spiritual thought into Russian. We had the missionaries come over this time to warm her up to them. We watched, "The Restoration," and talked about basic beliefs. She commented that she thought the church would be good for younger people, but she is too old - maybe about 40 years old. She had some good questions though about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. We mentioned life beyond this life, and she wasn't too crazy about the idea but when we told her we had answers about that, she perked up a little. We invited her to come back and hear about The Plan of Salvation. She didn't say no; we'll call her in a couple of days and see if we can get her to agree to meet with us again. We gave her a Book of Mormon, too.
We spent Saturday back at the Zolotov's dacha. I helped cover hydrangeas for the winter, transplant plants, and went with Sister Zolotov to one of her friend's dacha to transplant some bushes into her yard. Elder Peterson helped President Zolotov with the roof on his sauna house. We barbecued pork, had a traditional salad of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers, as well as boiled potatoes, and, of course, bread. Then we went for a walk down by the Volga and saw the ending of a beautiful sunset. The sunrises the past couple of mornings have been beautiful too, what we can see of them anyway. The tall apartment buildings block out the actual sun, but the sky color is still brilliant.
We were reminded of a powerful scripture in district meeting in Helaman 10:4-5-- "Blessed art thou, Nephi (insert your own name here), for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works;..."
We know that no matter what our callings are in the church, as we serve and keep the commandments, we will be blessed forever! When we realize the power of this great promise, we can put our best foot forward each day to do the Lord's work. The church is true!
1 - Zolotov's Dacha
2 - Barbecuing at the Dacha
3 - Progress on the Sauna House
4 - Sunrise
5 - A Woman Beating her Rug - They hang their rugs on the playground equipment and beat them with fly-swatter-type instruments to clean them. This is done year round, no matter what the temperature is.