December 31, 2008

MOTHERS

I want to dedicate my first post of the Year
to Mothers I think that many of us have a tendency to be hard on ourselves. It is an awesome responsibility to be a mother and sometimes we think that we just don't measure up. I pray that as this New Year begins we will come to understand that our Heavenly Father never expected any of us to be perfect. He just wants us to do our very best. We may do things differently than our neighbors, we may make mistakes, we may not be the mother we hoped we would be but the important thing is that we are trying. The important thing is that we love our families deeply and that we keep working on becoming the mother we want to be.
I would like to share a statement from one of our Latter-day Saint Apostles, M. Russell Ballard

"There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family. Many are able to be 'full-time moms,' at least during the most formative years of their children's lives, and many others would like to be. Some may have to work part- or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work. What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."

I pray that we will make a renewed commitment to strengthen one other. We all have unique parenting opportunities. Each family faces it's own challenges. Our children are living in a very difficult time and will face unique challenges of their own. Now more than ever before we need to be there for each other. We need to reach out and support one another. There is a proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. Well today more than ever we need to be united. We indeed need a village of strong women united in the cause of protecting our children from the evils of the world.
If you know someone who is struggling please reach out to them in love. Do not judge them. There was only one perfect person who walked this earth and that was our Savior. Be an example of his endless love for us by being a good friend and neighbor.

December 30, 2008

BRANCH SERVICE PROJECT

BEFORE PICTURESOF A BRANCH SERVICE PROJECT
We got a request from a branch in Makeyevka that wanted to do a service project. They wanted to help update a treatment room at a local hospital. The tile was falling off the walls, the windows were about 50 years old. The ceiling was molding and had missing tiles and the sink needed to be replaced.The Branch Members provided all the labor and the Humanitarian Aide Funds were used to purchase the materials.
Look how great it looks
This is what it looked like during the first stage of the project




We were so happy to see how well this Branch worked together to provide service to their community. I think it was a wonderful missionary tool. They made a lasting impression on the doctors as well as the patients.

TO SEE MORE PHOTOS OF CHAPELS BELONGING TO THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS CLICK HERE

I borrowed these really nice photos of Latter Day Saint Chapels in Ukraine from my friend Olga in Kiev she use to work for the construction department of the church and has some wonderful photos of the chapels.




December 27, 2008

PICASA WEB ALBUM PHOTOS

I think I have discovered something new. If you click on the photo below you can go directly to Picasa Web album and view the photos from our trip to the boarding school. Once you are in Picasa you can view the photos in a slideshow. The photos at the end of just the missionaries are the group games we played. As you will see they got a little physical but it was really fun for everyone. We played alot of really fun games that encouraged cooperation and team building.

Christmas 2008 Boarding School visit

December 25, 2008

For the son of man came to save that which was lost
Matthew 18:11

December 24, 2008

THIS IS WHAT WE WOKE UP TO TODAY


MeRRy ChRiStMaSThe view from our balcony

Looking out our kitchen window

we love you all and are wishing you a joyous New Year filled with love and laughter

CHRISTMAS IN UKRAINE

We celebrated Christmas with the missionaries in the Donetsk area on Sunday night with a fireside and a very nice dinner. After the talks that were given by the Senior Couples including President Fry and Sister Fry the missionaries were given gifts of handmade scarves that Sister Fry made. They were also given gifts that were donated by Sister Fry's daughters, mother, her neighbors, missionary moms, and ward members. Sister Fry made beautiful blankets for the Clark's and for us which will always be a special treasure.Then on Monday we spent the whole day together. We met at the church for a few hours to play some fun group games. You will see from the pictures that the missionaries had a great time. Then we had a great lunch and then boarded a very nice bus for a trip to Makeyevka to visit a Boarding School. The children live at this school. There were over 100 children of all ages who have been removed from their homes. They were not orphans they just did not have parents who were capable of taking care of them. The children were developmentally delayed. We divided the missionaries and the children into three groups and they were able to play together for an hour. We brought puzzles, board games, and balls that we played with and then left for the children. It was so much fun and the missionaries did such a wonderful job jumping right in and having a really good time with the children. In the one room with children who seemed to be between 4 and 10 years old where I spent most of my time they started out playing with puzzles and then balls and by the end of the hour there were about 20 children in a big circle playing duck duck goose. The director told us to "please come back anytime" she said, "you don't have to bring gifts the children just love the attention". I could tell it was so hard for the missionaries to say good-bye. It felt like the time just flew by. The Elders that live in Makeyevka are going to try to go back and visit on a regular basis. We encouraged the other missionaries to find orphanages, or boarding schools in their areas and do service there. We sang Christmas Carols on the way home. It was a very special Christmas one I am sure the missionaries will always remember. I know that I will.

Elder Hulet showing the kids how to flip a coin
The children playing duck duck goose with the missionaries



Elder Green playing catch with a group of children

Elder Doxey's group proud of finishing their puzzle

Elder Whitehead with some new friends
Elders Thompson, Norman and Goodfellow with some of the children they played with

Elder Williams and some of his friends

Elder Fedotov and a buddy he played catch with

This was the cutest scene Elder Kalian had these little girls sitting in a circle around him for the whole hour that we were there

December 13, 2008

THE HOLIDAYS

Dear friends and family,

If you are wondering how we are all doing here during this holiday season just take a look at the happy faces in these slides. We just had transfer day here in Donetsk and it was so fun to be together. We have such awesome young men and women in our mission. They are so faithful and eager to share the gospel. We have been busy with the Zone Conferences with President Gibbons the missionaries were certainly inspired by his wonderful talks. This week Khakiv will begin their celebration of the birth of our Savior with a fireside with the Fry's, The Crittendon's, and the Jacob's on Sunday night. Monday morning the Kharkov missionaries will be going to visit an Orphanage to bring games, balls, and books to play with the children for a few hours. They will be leaving the games as gifts for the Children. The missionaries will spend the afternoon together with games and a program that the Fry's have organized. The day will conclude with a nice meal. We will repeat this same Sunday night fireside and Monday visit to an Orphanage the following Monday in Donetsk. We are excited that the missionaries will have an opportunity to provide service during this Christmas season. What a joy and blessing it has been for all of us to help others come unto Christ and to witness his atoning sacrifice take effect in their lives. We are filled with gratitude and love for our beloved Savior. Peace, and love to you and your families.

December 11, 2008

HOSPICE HOME

Today was another hard day in Ukraine.
I don't want to complain but my heart is heavy and I think I will feel better if I write a little. We went to visit a Hospice Home with two women who are from a large Humanitarian Fund here in Donetsk. During the hour long car ride we had an opportunity to talk about various organizations that we have both worked with. They asked us about our impressions of Ukraine. I found myself reflecting on the difficult things I have tried to understand about this Country. I shared my impressions of how the Elderly and the people with Special Needs are not treated with much respect. We were soon deep in a conversation about "invalids" (which is the word they use for anyone who is handicapped in any way, even the elderly). They wanted to know how the "invalids" in America are treated.
It made me reflect on what it was like for children born with Special Needs when I was a child in school. They did attend the public schools but they had their own "special" classroom and we never interacted with them. I remember they were often referred to by a term by mother never allowed us to use. Retards. I remember that they always rode a special bus to school ever day. Sometimes children would make fun of them as they walked to their bus after school. It brings tears to my eyes to think that this is how we treated children with Special Needs in my elementary school. There really was no mainstreaming. There was no Americans with Disabilities Act. We really had no opportunity to interact with these children and had such strange ideas and beliefs about their mental and physical capabilities.
Which makes me wonder about the way people here in Ukraine view the "invalids". Maybe things will change here someday.
So many times I get frustrated that the people here don't understand the capabilities of these so called "invalids". I can't understand this mentality of "shipping them off" to homes to be forgotten. I am appalled that the "invalids" in the orphanages and baby houses have no toys. There seems to be the belief that they are not "teachable". For example, we are going to visit an Orphanage with the missionaries for Christmas and want to bring games to play and leave with the children. When Olga, (our interpreter) asked what the mental ages of the children were we were basically told "they are mentally delayed so they won't be able to interact with you".
In a facility of nearly 100 children the Director felt that only 30 of the Children could play with us
Long Sigh here.............................
however,
Maybe there is hope......
As I reflect on what life was like just 40 or so years ago in America I am amazed at how much has changed. Having worked in the field of Special Education I have seen how from the moment a child with any type of disability or delay is born the parents are given options that were not offered to parents 40 years ago. Maybe there is hope that one day things will change here too. I thought about the day I saw a mother struggling to get off a Marshruka with a very large child who clearly had a cerebral palsy in her arms. There are no accommodations anywhere in this country for wheelchair or strollers. So a trip to the doctor requires that a parent carry their handicapped child to the bus stop and hold them in their arms on a crowded bus and then walk to the doctors office.
I have a whole new appreciation for the "Americans with Disabilities Act".
So, that is how our day started........
Then we arrived at the Hospice Home.
It is a home for the Elderly and people infected with HIV or people who have cancer. It is run by the Provaslavic Church. We were greeted by a Priest who volunteers his time at the Home. He introduced us to some of the guest. One elderly woman was brought there after a severe beating by her son that left her with broken arms and legs. Another lady was dropped off at the front door by her children who took her belongings and her passport so that they could continue to collect her pension. Another persons family who left him at the home never came to visit however after he died they came to collect papers that would allow them access to some property the man owned. They didn't even pay for his burial. In the winter the Home opens it's doors to people to come in out of the cold during the day. These are local residents who do not have heating in their homes so they just come to sit and stay warm.
Perhaps that is why I have been feeling like I have this incredible weight on my shoulders. Feeling like I just want to cry.
Today was another day that I found myself just wanting to sit and hold someones hand. When I found myself walking with Angels on earth. I am filled with gratitude for the people we have met here who are committed to making changes even when they have so much resistance and so little support.
Today was a day I found myself filled with gratitude for the loving family I grew up in and the family I have waiting for me at home.
Some days I look around and I feel a bit overwhelmed. There is so much pain and suffering. I feel frustrated because the numbers of people who seem to be involved in trying to make Ukraine a better place just feel so small and insignificant. I feel like I am once again looking at a beach filled with starfish that have washed ashore and I desperately want to save them all. I want to call out to the strangers walking by, "come, don't you see, they are everywhere, come help, please, they are going to die if we don't do something,"
So my plead to you this beautiful Christmas season is look around you. Find someone who needs your love, or your time, or talents and reach out in Christlike love to them. We can't save the world but we can make it a better place by reaching out to one another. If you would like some ideas of how to do this go here. This is a new sight I found and it is filled with wonderful service ideas. Bless you all.

TRANSFER DAY GOOD-BYE'S

Tomorrow is Transfer Day. That means we are probably going to have many new Missionaries in our District. Sister Chiriac went home, and Elders Oldroyd, Williams and Southerland have all been told to pack their bags so that will just leave Elder Johnson and Sister Jadamba here in Donetsk. We will sure miss this group we had an awesome District. Four new missionaries arrived from the MTC yesterday and we will have a chance to meet them tomorrow. I will post more later.

December 8, 2008

BRUCE'S LETTER TO THE HAFEN'S IN SOUTH AFRICA

I just wanted to share a note that Bruce recently wrote to our friends who are serving a mission in Africa. I have been trying to get him to do a post for the blog for a long time now. I am sure many of you have been wondering about his impressions of the mission. I have still not convinced him to write a post for the blog but he did agree to let me share this letter with you. I thought it expressed very well how our Mission experience has affected him personally.

Bruce's letter to the Hafen's
Thank you for the birthday wishes. You can see from Melinda's blog that I was the center of attention for the day of my birthday. We love being with the missionaries and sharing their experiences. There were some days during the last year when I thought the mission would never end, but when you reflect back over the entire year it went by quickly. We enjoy the mission experience and, on many days we can even say we love the mission experience. We have the pleasant duty to provide help and material assistance to organizations that assist and provide comfort to the poor and the needy. The people who staff these kinds of organizations are most always good and caring individuals who really appreciate the help the church provides. Because Melinda and I represent the church we are the benefactors of their good well and expressions of thanks. We both feel, that in some small way, we are making a difference for the people we are able to help. However, the best part of this mission has been our growth in the gospel and the unity and deepening love and respect that we have for each other. Our lives have become richer, fuller, and more appreciative of the things that we have been blessed with in this life. I believe this growth could have only come through our mission experience. Melinda and I have become better saints, better parents and grandparents, and stronger role models for our member and non-member friends. Who would have thought that these blessings would extent out of serving others?

We are looking forward to returning home to family and friends. I have used this time away from home to improve my health so I can be more actively involved with my grandchildren. Before the mission, I had let my weight and physical condition deteriorate to where I wasn't very active or pleased with my self image. Since leaving the MTC, I have managed to lose 75 pounds and, with all of this walking, believe that some of my physical conditioning has returned. Looking forward to seeing you when we return to the United States
LOVE FROM UKRAINE, BRUCE AND MELINDA

December 7, 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRUCE


HaPpY biRthDaY

BrUcE

Today was Bruce's birthday and we celebrated with all of the Elders in our District, Elders Oldroyd, Williams, Southerland and Johnson and Elder Hunt and Elder Doxey, Olga and her friend Vitaly, and Elder and Sister Clark. They came over for dinner and dessert. The Elders were so great they cleaned up the whole kitchen. At one point there were about 8 people cleaning our little kitchen. We love these guys they helped make the day special. thank you to all of our friends and family who sent Bruce e-mails. He really appreciated it, he kept saying, "I wonder how they knew it was my birthday". I finally had to fess up and tell him that I let everyone know. So thank you to all of you. It means a lot to us both.

December 4, 2008

DISTRICT MEETING

For District Meeting this week Elders Williams and Oldroyd made Borshe and it was fantastic.
They are spoiling us I may never cook for District meeting again. Last week we had Mongolian Food and this week Borshe.
They even cleaned up after themselves.

This has been a great week. We made contact with the Director of a Humanitarian Relief Organization here in Donetsk. He invited us to to a performance at his facility of a group of young people with Special Needs performing. It was quite a treat. Tuesday we started the day with a staff meeting and then Sister Fry, Olga, Elder and Sister Clark and I all went to the Book Reenik. I was looking for some materials for the scrap booking class I will be teaching on Saturday. It is really quite funny because I have only made one scrap book in my life and that was because they asked me to show them how to make them. Anyway, it was a fun day. It kind of felt like a day off.............. just hanging out at the Book Reenik with other English speaking adults. Elder Kinghorn went grocery shopping (hey someone has to do it)
We got home from the performance on Wednesday to find Elders Williams and Oldroyd putting the finishing touches on the Borshe. It was delicious. Today Bruce and I both got haircuts and then we did some work in our office at home. I have been working on my lesson for tomorrow nights Strengthening Marriage Class. Tomorrow we have another meeting with the gentlemen from the Humanitarian Organization and President Fry. We are excited because he asked us to tell him more about our church and when we invited him to come meet President Fry and told him that he would be more than happy to answer any questions about the Church he agreed.

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