June 28, 2008

TRANSFER DAY

It is hard to believe it is Transfer Day again. This was President Andersen's last transfer. We met at the Center Branch and President and Sister Andersen each gave some last words to all of the missionaries. It has been a hard week for President and Sister Andersen they started saying
good-bye last week in Kharkov when they had to tell all the Kharkov missionaries goodbye. They have had firesides in Kharkov and Donetsk to say goodbye to the members. They have been trying to pack and ship things home and get their Ukraine home ready for the new Mission President who will be arriving Sunday night. Tomorrow is the Andersen's last Sunday in Donetsk.
None of us can imagine the mission without them. We will miss them.
We finished our transfer meeting with a nice lunch and then everyone was on their way. As you can see the marshruka was waiting to take some of our favorite Donetsk Elders and Sister Ellison to Kharkov. We will miss Sister Ellison. Sister Howard is serving in Donetsk now and will be part of our District.

TRANSFER DAY GOOD-BYE'S


TRANSFER DAY AT DONETSK CENTER

HUMAN KINDNESS


I want to share a story with you that begins with a 200
 griven bill and ends with homemade breads and candied walnuts.

The goodness of people everywhere is so touching.I want to share a story with you that really touched me.
There is a little outdoor bizarre by our home. It is called a Reenik. There are little booths set up where people sell things. There is one area that looks like a farmers market with about 30 vendors selling fruits and vegetables. There is another area where you can buy basic staples like dairy products, pastas, rice, breads, spices, and teas. Then there are some booths where you can buy office supplies, light bulbs, batteries, brooms, and electrical outlets. You get the picture.

Well one day I had to buy some notebooks for the Strengthening Families class we are teaching. I went to a little booth that sold office supplies. I bought about 15 notebooks and some pens and went on my way. A few weeks later I found myself back at this booth looking for something like glue sticks. When the lady saw me she recognized me and picked up a stack of notebooks to signal to me that she remembered I had bought notebooks from her. She didn't speak English and I still don't speak Russian. So we were communicating with some simple gestures. She then reached under the counter and brought out a 200 griven bill which is 40 American dollars. She told me I had dropped it when I bought the notebooks over 2 weeks ago. I couldn't believe it. She had been saving it for me. This was so touching because I know how much 200 griven would mean to anyone here in Ukraine. That is alot of money. I thanked her and walked away in shock. I couldn't stop thinking of her and every time I would walk through the Reenik I would think about how I could show my appreciation. So today I had the chance. I got up and made zucchini bread, banana bread, candied walnuts, and packaged up some dark chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels from America and put them all in a basket. I lined the basket with a beautiful white linen cloth I purchased at Slovajorsk. I wrote a little thank you card in Russian and we headed for the Reenik. The whole way there I was praying she would be there. It is Saturday and I was afraid she may have the day off. When I approached her with the basket I think she thought I was selling something. She raised her hands and started shaking her head no,no. I said as slow as I could "this is for you, you returned my money to me, I want to thank you. She stopped shaking her head and said in broken English, " Yes, I remember" I then handed her the basket. I think she was surprised the whole basket was for her. She seemed to think I wanted her to take something out it. She thanked me and I left her standing there looking just as stunned as I was to get my money back. Anyway, the point is. I was so impressed by her honesty and by the fact that she held on to my 200 griven for almost 3 weeks hoping I would come by again. The other reason I share this with you is to tell you how fun it was to show my appreciation this way. I really enjoyed baking knowing that I would be sharing it with this nice lady. I know when we loose ourselves in service it brings us joy. It takes us out of our own struggles or worries and helps us focus on someone else. I want to thank all of our friends and family who have taken the time to write and send their love. I know you are busy and I appreciate you taking the time to let us know you are thinking and most importantly praying for us. We have such wonderful friends. Thank-you so much.

June 27, 2008

PACKAGES FROM HOME

 Another Package from home. Thank you Karrissa. I am not going to post the picture of me opening this package. Let's just say I was really excited. Our daughter sent Peanut Butter, Rice Krispies, Spices, here's the part where I got a little giddy, dark chocolate covered pretzels, mini Hershey's chocolate chips, chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels, Heavenly trail mix from Trader Joe's, sesame cashews, licorice, jerky from Trader Joe's. I think this is why Bruce looks so skinny. I got all my favorite snack foods. She also sent butterscotch chips and a recipe for butterscotch rice krispie treats which the missionaries loved, especially Elder Harris. There was also an awesome double fudge brownie mix that we just recently served at District Meeting. They were so rich and gooey that Sister Ellison had to scoop out the center with her finger. I wish I had gotten a picture of that.

Thank you for sending me the recipe's. I have been running out of ideas for what to feed the missionaries. They don't really get invited to members homes too much for dinner so I try to serve them a hot meal when they are here for District Meetings.

People have asked me what kinds of foods do they have here? We have a wonderful farmers market everyday where people sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes they pick them a little too early and the fruit can be a little tart but generally it is great. We do have hamburger, chicken, pork chops, and roast. They have sauces like mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings. The milk products are different then in America. I have to say, I still don't like the milk. The yogurt is delicious. I love the cherry yogurt. The cheeses are different here. We have found Gouda, and Smoked Gouda, mozzarella, and a combo cheese that looks like cheddar and jack but doesn't quite taste the same. I haven't found tortillas yet. The missionaries love the juices here. I do too especially the cherry juice. We found one store that makes really good bread. Our biggest problem is they probably have more foods we cook with at home but we can't read the labels. We have found almost everything for baking, sugar, flour, eggs, butter, (we get brown sugar sent in our care package from home) baking soda, and baking powder, cinnamon are all available. We have Karrissa send vanilla. So we are doing much better with being creative in the kitchen. Thanks again for any simple recipe's you can send. I have never been much of a cook but I do want to feed the missionaries and have members over as often as we can. Thanks for all your love and support. We love you.

June 26, 2008

MOTHER'S DAY AT THE BRANCH

I posted a performance by some of the missionaries on Mother's Day. I just finally figured out how to download videos. It just takes a little time. Patience once again, is all it takes.

One of the interesting things about being here is the Ukrainians celebrate different holidays then we do. I do not understand why but they don't celebrate Father's Day. On Mother's Day they honor the women in their lives it is called "Women's Day". There was a big celebration at our Branch. On the way to church the women we passed on the streets were all dressed up and carrying beautiful bouquets of flowers.
They celebrate Easter a different day then we do so in America you had Easter a few weeks before they had it here.



This picture was taken on our recent visit to a Kindergarten for children with Language Delays. In Ukraine Kindergartens are like Day Care Centers in America. The children are as young as 18 months and leave after they turn 5.

KINDERGARTEN


                   LOOK AT THESE SWEET FACES

We have discovered whenever children go outside here they wear a hat. This is so cute. We did see one exception yesterday a little girl was carrying an umbrella.

We visited another Kindergarten today. This one was for children with Language Delays. I just have to say when the Director finished taking us on a tour of the facility and she asked us if we wanted to do anything else my response was "yes play with the children". I just have to find a school to volunteer my time. I miss being with children so much. I mean look at these faces. They are absolutely adorable. She did take me out to the playground and I found a little toddler who looked lost and when I sat down she came right up to me and sat in my lap.

DEPARTING MISSIONARIES


Elder Koeven, Elder Perkins, Elder Sorenson, Elder Withers, Elder Pearson, Elder Hunter and Sister Semenisheva

When I look at the faces of all of these missionaries I am reminded of how much I have learned from them and how each one of them have left a mark here on Ukraine. They have touched the members with their love and devotion to the Savior. They have been tremendous examples to us all. We will miss them. Good-bye to Sister Godfrey as well. She loved her mission so much that she extended her mission as well as did Sister Semenisheva. She left a few days before this picture. Good-bye to Sister Godfrey we will miss you.

June 21, 2008

ZONE CONFERENCE

Today was the last Zone Conference for Sister Semenisheva, Elder Sorensen, Elder Pearson, and Elder Koeven. It was also the last Zone Conference for the President and Sister Andersen to speak to the missionaries. It was another emotional day. I will have to write more later.

We are back from our trip to Kharkov. We took the train there and back with Olga our interpreter. It was about a 7 hour train ride but the time went by quickly. We had a sleeping compartment so we could relax comfortably. We arrived Saturday night and went to the church on Sunday. It was a really special day. The President of our mission, President Andersen and his wife will be going home to America in a week and will not be seeing the members or the missionaries in Kharkov again. They have been in Ukraine for 3 years and have come to really love the people here. There was a special meeting on Sunday night (a fireside) and the Andersen's each spoke and told the members how much they love them and will miss them. It was very heartfelt. About 7 men and women members of the church sang a beautiful song accompanied by the guitar. When the talks were over the whole group of missionaries about 25 of them stood in the front of the room and sang a hymn. It was very touching. Once again, I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to be able to hear them sing of Christ, testify of Christ and live their lives worthy enough to represent him here in Ukraine. I have mentioned before what a sweet experience it is to hear these young men sing. I can only imagine what it was like for the members who have probably never been blessed to hear the combined voices of 25 valiant young men singing hymns. It was an emotional 2 days watching President and Sister Andersen have to say good-bye to members and missionaries that they may never see again. They had one last stop before they left Kharkov and that was to say good-bye to their siblings, the Jacob's who are serving a mission in Kharkov. Elder Jacob is Sister Andersen's brother and Sister Jacob is President Anderson's sister. The Jacob's will be in Kharkov another 10 months or so until they return to America.

The Jacob's joined us for the three day training on Strengthening Families that our Country Directors, The Lee's were presenting. It was an awesome 3 days. The participants were Social Workers, Psychologist, Educators, and Foster Parents. They absolutely loved the training. When it was over they all went around the room and commenting on what they liked about the training. Sister Lee said that she felt like they "were family" by the time the training was over. I have to say we all felt the same way. They hugged Sister Lee and asked her to come back and teach "Strengthening Marriage" classes. They were so excited about the content of the presentation and were so eager to use the skills and techniques in their homes.

Before we left we visited some of the missionaries who have recently transferred from Donetsk to Kharkov. Olga and I even went to the English lessons. We had a very busy week. Monday before the training started the Jacob's took us to a homeless shelter as a possible location to do a project. Sunday we had a nice dinner with the Jacob's and the Crittendon's who are another missionary couple in Kharkov. It was Fathers Day so we all went around the table and shared a little about our fathers. They don't celebrate Fathers Day here so most of the missionaries didn't even know it was Father's Day. We finished the trainings on Thursday and went to dinner with the Lee's and our Interpreters, Olga and Valentina and then boarded the train back to Donetsk. We arrived in Donetsk at 7 am and Olga put us in a cab and sent us home. She is so sweet she told me to call her and let her know we arrived safely. Remember, we still don't speak Russian so we are not ever sure if the taxi will actually get us to the right location so I appreciate her concern.

TRIP TO KHARKIV


June 11, 2008

WE FINALLY HAD A REAL P-DAY!!!!!!!

For those of you who don't know what a P-day is, the "p" stands for preparation day. I think the missionaries seem to think it means "play" day. Well to be truthful that's what we thought at first too. So this week it was a "play" day for us. So for all you parents who missed your e-mail yesterday this is where your missionary was. We had and official P-day and rented a bus and took a trip to Slavajorsk. I say a "real p-day" because most of the missionaries spend their p-day at the Internet cafe and playing sports. We all try not to complain too much when we hear how our friends in other countries are spending their p-days. Let's just say most of us have not seen the ocean, a river, taken a hike up a mountain, or been on a game preserve since we left home. Most of us have seen several war monuments and statues of Lenin. Ooops! I think that sounds a little like complaining. Sorry. You just have to come to Donetsk Ukraine to know that we don't have many natural wonders of the world here to see. Slovajorsk is a Provaslavik monastery on the river. The Elders arranged the whole thing. This has been one of the perks as a missionary couple. We don't have to be in charge. We just got a phone call from Elder Burrup inviting us and the Elders did all the rest. So we all packed a lunch ( well some of us packed lunches) and jumped on the bus at 8am and drove for 2 or 3 hours to this beautiful spot on the river. I want you to know that P-day starts as soon as you get up and slip into jeans instead of a suit or dress. We took the bus to the office where we were all meeting and as we exited the front door Elders Summerhays and Oldroyd came out the back door. I don't know who had the bigger smiles lets just say I think we were all excited to be going on this trip. As we entered the office we found about 20 Elders and two sisters with the same big smiles anxiously waiting for the bus to arrive. Elder Burrup was disappointed when the bus arrived without the promised air conditioning but he was assured it did have a fan above each seat. I don't know about the fan but it didn't take long before the open windows were keeping us cool. You would really have to be here to know that this is a huge luxury to open the windows as much as you want in the bus. There is some superstition I think they call "Swasnik" that the locals believe about having windows open and causing a cross breeze. I don't exactly know what it is but I think it has something to do with getting sick. So when you ride public transportation here nobody wants to create a cross breeze. There are just little narrow windows at the very top of the big window that slide open to let some air in but they are usually just opened about 3 inches. So needless to say, the first thing we did was open all the windows that weren't nailed or screwed shut. The curtains were just flying in the breeze. I mentioned some of us brought lunches. I have to say I am reminded so many times that this is a growing experience for the missionaries. I know, going hungry is a good consequence for not preparing and packing your lunch the day before but I was never really good at the "natural consequence thing" when it came to being hungry. So I had to throw in a couple extra sandwiches and cut up apples and carrots "just in case". I didn't see anyone who looked too faint from not bringing a lunch but let's just say every last carrot, orange, and apple I brought was gone. One of the Elders even said, "I think this is the first vegetable I have eaten since I came into the country". Anyway, we had a great day. We hiked, we did a little shopping at the stands that were set up and some people got to enter the underground caves in the monastery. When we hiked to the top of what seemed like a huge hill to me we sat under a monument and ate our lunches. I was surprised that the young missionaries were just as happy as we were to just sit and visit after we finished our lunches. We boarded the bus around 3 and got back to Donetsk a little after 5. Most of the missionaries still had to board public transportation to get back to their areas. So it was a long day and I am sure most of you didn't get your weekly e-mail but we had a wonderful adventure.

June 7, 2008

HYGIENE KITS

Last week when we visited Ukrainsk they had just received a delivery from the IRD(International Relief Development) of items from a Latter Day Saints Charities container. So when we arrived we were able to be there as they unpacked the boxes. I can't tell you how thrilling it is to see these Hygiene Kits, School Kits and Newborn Kits be delivered. They were so happy as they took them out of the boxes. This weekend was a big celebration. It is called, "The Day of Protection of Children." Ukranisk had a very big celebration with a parade, picnic, and performances. They delivered the items from the container to families during this day sometime. This is Nadya and our interpreter Olga and me in the center. Nadya is the lady who lost her husband in the mining disaster. Nadya told me the families were so thrilled to receive them. So keep up the great work ladies it is definitely going where it is needed. I am so proud to be associated with you all and to be able to do the Lord's work here in Ukraine. Your hard work at home makes all of this possible. Thank you so much.

WE HAVE FINALLY CLOSED OUR FIRST PROJECT!!!!!!!!!!!!


We are so excited. Our very first project has closed. The request was written,(in January) approved by Kieve, approved by Moscow, contracts were signed with the vendor and the organization, and the blankets were made and have been delivered. 64 blankets were delivered to a shelter for families and a shelter for teenagers. We opted not to take the very long drive back to Nikoliav for the ceremony so the Branch President attended the presentation for us. This is President Dobrovolsky presenting the blankets. We hope that the rest of our projects will not take quite so long now that we finally know what we are doing. We are just thrilled to see this day and look forward to many more wonderful opportunities to be instruments in the Lords hands.

June 2, 2008

I LOVE THIS PICTURE
BRUCE LOOKS SO HAPPY. IT REALLY CAPTURES THE JOY OF THIS WORK

VISITING UKRAINSK





I find myself sitting at the computer wondering how I even begin to share with you the experiences Bruce and I have had this past month. My mind is filled with images of places we’ve been and people we’ve met.
I think this picture of Bruce captures some of the feelings we’ve had. This was what Bruce and I both agree “our best day in Ukraine”. This is one of those times that I know words can’t even begin to convey the amazing day we had. We found ourselves at the end of the day sitting with Olga under a make shift gazebo in the middle of a green meadow that surrounded a pond with 5 new friends who hours earlier had been complete strangers. We had just spent the last hour snacking on cheese, and bread and toasting (with juice) to, “helping others, and friendship”. We had been invited to join the representative from the International Relief Development (IRD) to visit the Mayor of a small town called Ukriansk. We had told her previously that we are looking for organizations that are teaching people to become more self-reliant so we went to see if we might be able to do a project in Ukrainsk. The Mayor, Vitaly has been working to rebuild the city since 2002 when they had a terrible mining disaster that trapped and killed 35 men. The Mayor and one of the women whose husband had been killed in the mining disaster had been our tour guides as we came to know the small town of 13,000 people though their eyes. The woman, Nadia was a representative of a woman’s organization and was hoping we could help them purchase some playground equipment for a public park. There is not one park in the whole town. The Mayor is a true Hero. He was proof that one person really can make a difference. He told us how in 2002 when he became Mayor he got busy firing the people who were responsible for the mining disaster, and other city officials who were not doing their jobs. He told us how the city was in desperate need of proper heat and running water. They had 241 apartment buildings and only 19 of them had hot running water. He said in 2002 they had electricity breaks that lasted 1-2 weeks. The mine closed and the town was slowly dying. The Mayor and his friends began the transformation by physically going out on the streets and picking up trash. He went to the Media and pleaded for help rebuilding the town.

What we saw when we began our tour was a lot of old buildings but many happy people. The Mayor had asked some parents to meet us at the location where they want to build the playground and as we stood in this vacant lot around the corner comes mothers and fathers pushing strollers or carrying toddlers in their arms to meet us. They told us how much they need this play area, and how much the Mayor has done for their town.

Then we went to see the Kindergarten. Nadia had taught here for 24 years. She just lit up when we entered the building. I have to admit so did I. When we entered the first classroom all these little 2 year olds were sitting in a circle reading a story. Bruce sat down and they all started smiling and performing for us. It was so cute. I didn’t want to leave. Then we went into the next classroom of 5 year olds and they were even cuter. They were more than happy to pose for pictures and stood with their arms around each other. One little boy said to his little friend, “she took my picture twice”. They were adorable. Smiling faces everywhere. I want you to know that I could feel the endorphins kicking in. There is nothing like being in a room of happy children. Then reality hit. We learned that last winter the kindergarten had no heat and when the children needed to take naps they had to put hot water in water bottles to place in their beds to keep them warm. I couldn’t believe the condition of the old water boiler. I just kept saying, “Wow”. It was so old and rusty, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
In an attempt to try to rebuild the city the Mayor has made affordable housing available to young families. The mine has reopened and some other plants have been opened in the area. So now they have 2 kindergartens with about 100 children each and 80 children on the waiting list. The Director told us when mothers are pregnant they put their child on the list. We saw one woman walking up to the building with a small child at her side and she was holding a plant. The director said, “she wants us to get her child in the school but we don’t have an opening right now.”Remember that Kindergartens are like our Day Care in America and the children begin when they are as young as 18 months old. We left the kindergarten and headed for the mine. What a grim contrast. I didn’t realize how much so until I got home and looked at the pictures I had taken of the Mayor and Tatiana. The expressions on their faces showed the pain of the memory of the needless disaster that had claimed 35 lives just 6 years earlier. I saw that pain again as we sat under the gazebo at the end of the day and our friend told us of the love story of her and her husband of 20 years and how she was left alone with her 17-year old son.

We got back in the cars and headed for the sports center. It was more like an American boys and girls club. As we approached we got out and entered this little Garden of Eden in the middle of town. The old building was surrounded by beautiful flower gardens. There was a little wrought iron fence in the front of the building with a fresh coat of bright blue paint. We were greeted by more smiling faces, this time teenagers. There were a small group of girls talking with one or two boys sitting on a bench. They quickly came over to greet the mayor and pose for a picture holding the new sports balls that Lubov had brought from another sponsor. Around the back of the building we found a group of boys playing soccer. The mayor and Lubov joined a small group of teenagers for a game of volleyball while Bruce and Olga and I stood and watched. I want you to know if I wasn’t wearing a dress I would have jumped right in. We watched as the Mayor and Lubov both turned into kids again for just a few moments. More smiles and laughter were exchanged by all. When we entered the building we found a room with a ping pong table, another room with a boxing ring, with some punching bags, and a room for gymnastics and dance. Lubov had told us earlier that this sports facility was the dream of the Mayor. The mayor had felt it was really important that the young people had this opportunity to develop talents and participate in healthy activities. We were impressed when we approached the group of boys playing soccer when the Mayor asked one boy by name where he was yesterday. Lubov says he knows everyone by name.
Our next stop was the music and art center. This was located in another building that we had to drive to. We were greeted by the Director of the music school. The children come here for art and music lessons after school. The lessons aren’t free but they make them available to the low income families at a very low cost. The director said that they don’t have a piano, and the children have to buy their own instruments. So I gather all they have is the building and the teachers. Well, you have to start somewhere. The Mayor says they have many talented students but no money for instruments. Then we entered a room where three teenage girls were taking an art class. It is hard for me to describe the limited amount of supplies they have. Let’s just say, this was definitely another lesson in gratitude. There was a still life display in the front of the room and I was so impressed with the drawings the instructor showed us her students had done of it.

I don’t know how to summarize this experience. Except to say that we started the day sitting at a long executive table across from 2 complete strangers and we were ending the day sitting in a meadow under a gazebo having a picnic with two people we would never forget. Can one person make a difference? You bet. This man, who was raised in an orphanage, was breathing life into a city that had died. We had seen the fruits of his labor. The buildings were still old and dilapidated; many were still without proper heat and running water. But the people were happy. They now had jobs and were raising families. This one man was contributing to the future success of hundreds of Ukrainian children. Our new friend, Nadia had been raised in an orphanage as well. She was amazing. She had lost the love of her life in a tragic mining accident and yet I laughed more with her than I have laughed with anyone since I came to Ukraine. When it was time to leave we joked about just getting a tent and staying there for the night. It was one of those moments that you just don’t want to end. It was one of those moments when you wonder as you reach out to shake hands, if they felt what you felt. Somehow you know that even without sharing the spoken language your souls have shared something that surpasses anything words could convey.

Saints in Ukraine (put music on pause)

My music


click on the photo to see the captions

Armenia Trip

Our last Zone Conference

Some of the faces we will miss

Our trip to Mariupol

March Zone Conference in Donetsk(click on photo to view a larger version)

Missionaries helping the International Relief Development unload a container from America

Health Fair click on the photo to see what is coming up

To listen to this talk you will need to put the music on pause first

Sometimes we forget what divine gifts we have been given. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Thanksgiving

Look at the fun equipment we got to deliver to this internat for Special Needs children

Europe East Area District Meeting

I LOVE THESE MISSIONARIES

OUR APARTMENT (this is not an average missionary apartment)

THIS IS WHAT MISSIONARY APARTMENTS LOOK LIKE ON INSPECTION DAY

CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO SEE A MORE COMPLETE VIEW

LEADERSHIP TRAINING IN THE KALINSKY BUILDING

Click on photo to see more photos of the Open House at the Kalininsky blg