This was a really fun day. The Zone leaders, Elders Permenter and Crawford arranged a mini zone conference. We all boarded a bus and headed for a "zoo park" as Elder Permenter called it. We got off the bus after about a 40 minute ride and walked for about 10 minutes. We were quite a sight carrying blankets, plastic bags with our lunches, and all the necessary materials that were needed by the people who had been assigned talks. Even though we had a few sunny days it was really cold. But that didn't stop us. We found a nice spot to put some benches in a little cluster and all bundled up in blankets as we had some wonderful talks. The theme was "Improving Ukraine". We had lessons on Humanitarian work, Service, How to find young men, and Involving the Branch members in service projects. I was so impressed with all of the talks. Elders Permenter and Crawford also provided us with nice sack lunches. This activity was so well prepared. We were given a program with the opening and closing songs, we started with a song and a prayer, had very well prepared talks with handouts, or visual aids, and ended with a song and a prayer. We took a short break for lunch and relocated to a spot behind a building where we were hoping to find a little warmth. We had a little "skills practice" exercises and a few more missionaries shared some wonderful stories about awesome young people they have met in Ukraine. The best part of this whole experience was we had such a great day and we didn't have to plan any of it. We just had to show up and give a talk. I found myself thinking, "I can't believe these young men are only 19 and 20 years old. It is so amazing how they grow into such awesome young men on their missions and great leaders.
Oh by the way, it was called a "zoo park" because we were at a zoo. Our little meeting was held right next to the Llamas and small horses and we passed a cage with 2 beautiful bald eagles on our way in. I'm sure there were many more animals to be seen but we spent our lunch break trying to find a way to stay warm. Some of the missionaries were more adventurous than we were and wandered through the zoo during the break. We decided to come back on a P-day and see the animals.
March 30, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 14, 2008
We brought 6 young missionaries with us to visit the second Orphanage and when we went to meet with the Director I asked if the Missionaries could go visit with the children. The Director said yes, but you should have seen the missionaries faces when they realized they were going to be on their own. They said, "what should we do?" It was so cute, Elder Kinghorn said, "you don't have to worry it will come to you. They'll love you. Just go and you'll know what to do." I was so relieved when we returned about 45 minutes later and found them sitting on the floor in two circles of missionaries and young boys and girls playing what looked like "duck duck goose." They were all laughing and having a great time. I told the Elders I was so relieved to see them having fun. I felt like a mom who had left her kids at Daycare crying at the door and I didn't know when I returned if I would find them still sitting by the door crying. The Elders said, " It was really bad at first. We all just stared at each other for about 2 minutes. They were watching TV and when one of them turned it off some of them got mad, one girl said, lets listen to the missionaries. We didn't know what to do or say so we decided to play the game. They said, "they caught on faster than the students in our older English Classes. It was really a blast."
These kids were so cute. We were having a tour of the facility and came upon all these girls. They were so happy to see us. They kept saying "hello" in English. Then they would say, " my name is _____". Then they'd laugh. They love speaking English and having us understand them. We were swarmed in a matter of seconds. This orphanage is for children 6-16 years old. They have 157 children housed on 4 floors. They said 67 children are under State Protection. I think that means they were permanently removed from their parents. The Director said that the children here do not get adopted because they are older and people just want younger children. That was so sad. They also go to school at the orphanage. The second Orphanage houses about 82 children who are 3-18 years of age. They said they have about 20 children a year get adopted. They go to school in the community. The director said some of the children have been adopted by Mormon families from America. We were very impressed with both orphanages. The first one the children were housed in dormitory style rooms with about 6-8 beds in each room. They have been doing alot of remodeling in the last 2 years and had a very impressive facility. The children's rooms were so clean it was hard to believe children actually slept there. They had separate floors for the girls and boys and each floor had a very nice lounge with a big screen TV. They even had a gym with a basketball hoop. They had a recreation room with a ping pong table and very old weights. I think their request for Humanitarian Aide may be for some weights for the rec room or exercise equipment. We visited the classrooms while the students were in class and it was so cute. They would all stand up when we walked in. One class had 6 year- olds who said they don't know English they are studying French so they all wanted to show us what they could say in French. Elder Kinghorn said he could take any one of them home they were so adorable. They all had little black and white clothing on skirts, vest, sweaters. The teacher was very proud to tell us, "this is not just for the holiday, they look this nice everyday". It was a much nicer facility than I could have imagined, however, the sad fact is this is their "home." This was very apparent to me when we entered the hallway where the 3-5 year- olds were in their beds napping, with their little shirts and pants laying neatly on the chairs next to their beds. As we walked by and saw a few of them stirring I thought of how Wyatt and Monroe like to crawl into our laps when they wake up and just "snuggle" for a little while. Where do these little children wander off to when they wake from their naps and whose arms hold them? Who tucks them in at night and who do teaches them to pray to Heavenly Father. Yes, these were nice facilities but there is no substitute for a HOME. These children are being raised without parents. I can't imagine what it would be like to grow up not having a family. The other thing that is hard to comprehend is these children go to camps in America where people come to see them to decide if they might adopt them. I can't imagine what the rejection feels like when they are not selected and they must return to the orphanage. They already have to live knowing their birth parents didn't want them and then they have to continually be disappointed when they meet potential adoptive parents who do not want them either.
March 12, 2008
People who write us always ask "How can I help you? What can we send? My answer to you is attend your Stake Humanitarian Workdays. The above picture is an Orphanage Module that is shipped over in the containers I have mentioned. This is where the quilts, wall hangings, newborn kits, baby blankets, handmade dolls and toys go that are made in those meetings. The Hygiene Kits and School Kits are also sent over in the containers. One of the fist ladies I met who represented a charity that is from a very poor community pulled out a "School Bag" that she distributed the last time they received help from us. I can't tell you how exciting it was to see those bags go from our Relief Society to Welfare Square and end up here in Ukraine. I see your faces sitting over your sewing machines at home making these beautiful quilts and school kits that are so cherished by these children. Sister Ray told me the first time she took Hygiene Kits to an orphanage one little girl just clung to it. She didn't even want to open it. She just held it close to her chest. The first time I went to an orphanage I spoke with a little girl who was clinging to a very old raggedy barbie doll with no clothes and a little broken comb and empty perfume bottle. Your handmade gifts are so very special and greatly appreciated. My dear friends, the blankets or school bags, or hygiene kits that you make may not come to Ukraine but I promise you the Humanitarian dept will send it to a country where some little girl or boy will cherish it and feel the Saviors love through your act of service. I want you to know that we are distributing these items all over Ukraine and I am so proud to be able to say "they come from the families in America". We also tell them that the money we use to purchase other items they request is money that comes from families in America. This money comes directly from your donations. Some of you may not be able to attend meetings or sew at home but you can help another way; you can donate to the Humanitarian Fund on your tithing slip. I am so grateful to be able to be here in Ukraine bringing the love of the Savior to these people. I love this work.
March 11, 2008
Today we went to a school for the blind. It was registered in 2005. They have 2 very small classrooms for blind students. Each classroom is used by 4 students at a time. The students rotate throughout the day. They have a total of 24 students. However, they also work with older clients as well. Some of the students receive instruction in the home. I remember reading about this organization in a journal another Humanitarian Couple kept. I was so impressed with the Principal Anatoliy and how much he has accomplished in just a few years. We met one of their students who is entering the University soon. We also met about 4 or 5 women who we were told were all retired teachers who volunteer their services. Anatoliy really wants to teach people how to function as productive members of the society. He wants them to become educated to do more than just menial work. He said he would like to see them be able to enter professional careers and be treated like "normal" people. He asked the Church for a computer to assist with teaching their students. He would also like to send some of the children to a Summer Camp so he is trying to find Sponsors to send his students to camp. It seems to be very common for children in Ukraine to go to camp during the summer. Many of the organizations we visit are looking for sponsors to help send children to camp. The unique thing about this request is most of these children would not have this opportunity because of their visual impairments. His goal is to give them the same opportunities as "normal" children. We then visited a shelter for young adults 18-23 who were raised in orphanages and now have nowhere to go to live or learn job skills. They are housing these young adults as well as trying to provide support in finding jobs. They only stay at this shelter until they find a job. Their goal is to try to find jobs that provide housing. Olga said these are usually unskilled factory jobs, they use to have dormitories for Mine workers but she said it is so dangerous nobody wants to work there. We found this place on our own and the lady was so surprised we were offering help without anyone asking. It is kind of a strange concept isn't it. I want all of you at home to know that this is one of those organizations who would benefit from the HYGIENE KITS, BLANKETS AND BEDDING AS WELL AS CLOTHING DONATIONS THAT COME FROM AMERICA. All these young people were abandoned at birth and lived in orphanages their whole lives. Can you imagine how special it would be to have a homemade quilt. Keep up the work sisters I am so proud to represent our Relief Society.
Today, Anatoliy told me there would be a "special reward in Heaven" for me for doing this work and I want you to know that I am just the messenger your love comes through to them in these blankets and hygiene kits. Thank-you Thank-you Thank-you. It was a good day.
One more day of being very thankful for Olga and these wonderful people who dedicate their lives to making other peoples lives better.
This past week we Celebrated Women's Day in Ukraine. It is similar to Mother's Day in America. Our Branch had a really fun evening that the Men were in charge of. There was music, skits, and food. All the women were given chocolate candy bars just like home. It was well attended and a fun evening. A new couple arrived who will be going to another area in our mission. They have served a previous mission in Croatia. So they felt they were prepared for Ukraine. The second day in Country we had the branch party and when I asked how they were feeling they said "overwhelmed". I guess you just can't get around the "Culture Shock". We took them to see a new 2 story branch building that is being built. It is so beautiful and much bigger than any of the other buildings here. It sits next to a very popular park right on a walking path that goes through the park so it will get a lot of visibility. I mentioned before that Baptisms have dropped by 50% this past year. The building gives us hope that the church will keep growing and have need for that large building in the near future. It is great to be here now while the foundation is being laid. Yesterday was our Wedding Anniversary. It was a beautiful sun shining day here. We got up and went for a walk and bus ride to the store and came home and prepared for a District Meeting at our home. We were all fasting so we had a nice "break the fast meal" afterwards that everyone helped prepare. Elder Permenter showed us his Tennessee Shake after dinner and we all got the cameras out and had a good laugh. We are going on a bus today to visit a school for the blind. It is an hour and a half bus ride. I'm getting a little worried about the bathroom situation (that is always a concern when we leave town). Sunday after our tour of the church building we had a nice dinner at President Andersen's home. We had a great weekend and really enjoyed spending time with the other couples. Oh I almost forgot, a package from home came again. That was great. I have new clothes to wear for spring and Bruce is excited he can charge the electric toothbrush and we have an adapter for our computer that actually fits. Life is great.
March 5, 2008
I know this is hard to see but this is what the stage looked like at the end of the event. There were a total of about 6 women who had won in various categories on the stage with their awards ( little statues) and flowers while confetti was dropping from the ceiling. It was unbelievable. Oh, and the other strange thing, there were what looked like professional photographers there who as Sister Clark said "Kept taking the Kinghorn's pictures". I don't know if they noticed that the event was being translated for us, or just thought we looked important because of the "nametags" not to mention, Elder Kinghorn was probably one of the few men there who was not a presenter or photographer. I didn't mention that in between each presentation there was so very good entertainment. We saw Ukrainian Folk dancers, a great Children's Dance Troope, A few solo singing performances, and a wonderful number with a man singing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" in English with a Russian accent, while two women hung on beautiful scarves that came from the rafters and performed acrobatic moves. Well that just about explains it. Like I said, we don't always know what to expect but were glad we went. Valentina and her group of women seemed happy to have us and invited us to attend another performance soon. Sister Clark ask me "Why do they invite you? Is it because they hope you will help their organization? I don't really know, but as one of our friends say, "more will be revealed."
Yesterday we were invited by a Women's Organization we have visited to attend a celebration. When Olga called to tell us she said it was a "performance" and a "Woman of the Year"ceremony. Valentina, the President of the organization invited us to bring anyone we wanted, she said she had 5 tickets. So we brought Sister Clark, the office missionary. We approached this much like most things here with an open mind. Sometimes we just know that we should go. When we approached the Cultural Palace, Valentina was waiting and quickly ushered us in. This was great except we hadn't met up with Olga yet (our interpreter) and didn't think we would be able to communicate. But not only was Valentina waving at us when we approached but there was my friend Masha from church who is one of the few people we know who speaks English. What a relief, she and her two friends joined us and she instantly became our "stand in" for Olga. We were amazed as we walked through the doors to see two lines of men dressed in white uniforms at the entrance. We were to walk between the lines as we entered. It seemed most of the women were dressed in their best attire. We were now getting the impression this was a huge thing. We felt like we were attending the Academy Awards. The hall was packed. I was worried that were were over our limit of the 5 Valentina had invited as we now had Masha and her two friends with us and Olga who had joined us. Valentina led us to a section that apparently had been reserved for her organization and there appeared to be room for all of us. I recognized some of the women we had met at the organization when we had previously visited. We were greeted with warm smiles and handshakes. It turned out this event which lasted about 2 1/2 hours was honoring women from all backgrounds. Women were nominated, called up on stage in groups of 6-8 and a winner was announced. I mean, beautiful girls in long flowing gowns came out with the awards, a platter with the "envelope" and scissors to cut it open was handed to a gentlemen who made the presentation to the winner and she gave a little "thank-you" acceptance.
March 3, 2008
I decided I had to take the Michael Buble song, "Home", off of my playlist. It was the first song you heard when you got to our blogsite and I didn't want you to have the wrong impression. It's true we do miss home but I am so grateful to be here. The Lord teaches us something new each day. We told you early on we were learning patience. Well we are still working on that one. Today, I believe it is gratitude. I am realizing that so much of our lives we wish away. We are like a little child when given a nice cool ice-cream cone on a hot summer day who says, "but I wanted a snow cone". When it is summer, we want it to be fall, and when the fall comes we dream of springtime. I am learning to appreciate what I do have and not focus so much on what is missing.
So for today, yes I still miss my friends and family but we have met so many wonderful people here. We have practically been carried by all of the missionaries here both young and "not so young". They have supported us in so many ways both physically and emotionally. We have met some wonderful members of our Branch as well as other Branches we have visited. They let us know how much they appreciate the work we are doing here. We have been blessed to see the people of Ukraine come to know Heavenly Father and receive his blessings by living the Gospel.
March 2, 2008
When we first started telling our friends and family that we were going to serve a mission people kept asking "aren't you going to miss your kids?" and of course, the answer was yes. But Bruce and I both were sure that we were being "called" to serve the Lord at this time in our lives. So we made the very difficult decision to leave everyone we love behind for 2 years and go where the Lord wanted us to go. As the days got closer to our departure date we both felt the tugs at our heartstrings each time we spent time with our children, our grandchildren, our siblings, and my mother. When we were asked "how can you leave your family?" my answer was "how can we not". Bruce and I both know that our lives have been blessed. We have had a wonderful rich life together. It hasn't always been easy but the Lord has blessed us with everything we have needed to deal with the challenges we have faced. We see the Lords hand in our lives and know it is from him that all our blessings come. We both know without a doubt that the Lord needs us in Ukraine right now and he will bless the lives of our family as we serve him here in Ukraine. We love our children and grandchildren very much just as we love our friends dearly. We are grateful for all of you who support us with your prayers and letters as we are away.
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