Dear Friends and Family,
We just returned from our fifth visa renewal trip to Seoul and now have two left. It was a wonderful trip and we were given special permission for 4 days for chiropractor visits. This time it was me (Sue) who really needed it. I have had a miserable 4 weeks with my back and some nights not even being able to lie down in bed. But I am much improved now. The best improvement is that I can once again take a long stride (well. long for this short legged lady) instead of the little mincing steps that caused pain in my entire right side. We hit Korea during their monsoon season and it rained very heavily at times and drizzled the rest of the time. Very warm and humid though.
On our first night there (Tuesday) we were able to be in the temple with a young Russian couple from Nahodka who had just been married on the Saturday before. Church marriages are not recognized in Russia. You have to go to the government run “Palace of Marriage” to make it official. Here in Ussuriysk they only perform those on Fridays and Saturdays. So you can get the flavor of it I am going to insert some excerpts from an email I received from the wonderful couple, the Alicos, who are now in Nahodka that describe some of the events of the traditional Russian marriage – well, traditional without the alcohol:
“Yulia (the bride) has asked us to act as her parents since they are both dead. We had researched what happens at a traditional Russian wedding and have been coached by Elder Lisevich and some other Russian friends.
Yulia brought her things over about 13:00. She hugged us and thanked us, and said she has been waiting so long for this day…..she hugged me again and started to cry, so I hugged her back and thanked her for asking us to be part of it and gave her a whole box of Kleenex. She left, with the box of Kleenex, to go do the things that she needed to do and said she would be back pretty late that night after she met a friend at the bus station and got him to his hotel. We told her to just call us and we would unlock the door.
The Bride came over about 23:00 (Russia uses a 24 hour clock) and was so excited to see that she had a bed to sleep on and could take a hot shower as, since she arrived here in Nahodka, she has been sleeping on the kitchen floor in Slava’s brother’s 1-room apartment which, like many apartments, has no hot water in the summer. I asked how she washed her hair, and she said the same way most Russians wash their hair, using a big bowl of hot water, heated on the stove (or hot plate) in the kitchen. She enjoyed a bowl of Boston Borsch before going to bed. (The Alicos are from Boston.)
The Groom (Slava) had to go thru a ‘Treasure Hunt’ in order to pick up the Bride. Alyona and other friends had made some pictures that they placed around our apartment building, outside and inside, with riddles that needed to be solved along the way up to the door of our apartment. Clues and needed items, like sidewalk chalk and scissors, could be purchased from the Bride’s friends for a fee, like a candy bar, from the bag of goodies the Groom’s friends brought along for that purpose. When Slava finally reached our door, it was Elder Alico’s turn to use the Russian script he had worked on. It went something like this: “Who’s there?” (“Slava”) “What do you want?” (“I have come for my wife.”) “Say it again please. I don’t understand Russian very well.” (“(in English) I want my wife.”) “Say it again, please. Your English is not very good.” “Oh, you want Yulia. Why?” “Oh, you want to get married. Just a minute.” We then had Tyeesia (who is about 75) come to the door wearing a veil and Elder Alico said, “Slava, here is a woman who has a lot of experience and is a good cook. Do you like her?” (He said something like “Yes, I like her, but I want to marry Yulia.” ) “Oh, so you want to marry Yulia. What will you give me if I allow it?” In a Russian wedding, the father of the bride always gets paid a ransom. Slava says he has a candy bar. “Do you have cookies? I love cookies!” Slava said he did not have cookies, but he had money Elder Alico could use to buy cookies. Elder A said no to the money, so Slava offered what was left of the box of candy bars. “OK. That’s enough. Yulia, come here, please.” Yulia came to the door. “Slava, do you promise to always love Yulia?” (“Yes.”) “Will you love her even when she is unloveable?” (“Yes.”) “Will you always take care of her?” (“Yes.”) “Good. Yulia, do you want to marry Slava?” (“Of course!”) “Wonderful! We are very happy for you.” Our apartment has an intercom with both video and a speaker so we can see and speak to anyone who comes to the door, so Yulia was able to listen to and watch the end of Slava’s ‘Treasure Hunt’. We then all went to the Department of Public Services, known as ZAGS, for the actual marriage.”
Then Sister Alico describes the wedding and reception. I know they would have loved to be there in the Seoul Temple instead of us to see Yulia and Slava married (sealed) for all eternity but it just happened that it was us. It was an emotional experience as we realized that this young couple and their future family represent the future of the Church in Russia. The ceremony in the Temple was performed by a Korean man and then translated by a charming young Korean lady into English, which Yulia and Slava both understand to some degree. I wished it could have been in their native language. The next day we were in a session in the Temple with them and we had headsets that gave us an English translation, they had headsets with a Russian translation and the young woman next to me was hearing it in Japanese. We are truly an international church and all part of God’s family.
The other exciting thing that happened in Korea was that we were able to pick up a “Whirlwind Rough Rider” Wheelchair and bring it back to a young man of about 21 in our branch here. Jim ordered it from a manufacturer in Vietnam and had it sent to a friend of our office couple (the Bodells) who lives in Seoul. Everyone involved felt that they were part of a grand conspiracy to smuggle this wheelchair into Russia. We even got a nice letter from the chiropractor, Dr. Lee, saying that Elder R had chronic, debilitating back pain and needed the wheelchair. He said that was his contribution and it might help if Russian customs had a problem with it. I guess I need to go back to the beginning of this story and tell how this all came about. We have a life long and dear friend in America who said she wanted to help in our humanitarian work. We told her that we are not allowed to solicit any kind of help from members or groups back home. She said she is not a group and not a member of our church. So we finally told her that we would really like to get a wheelchair for this young man. And we wanted that kind so it would hold up to the rough ground here and be able to go up and down short flights of stairs (which it does). We knew we would never be able to have it sent straight here because we have heard too many stories of wheelchairs being impounded by customs. Well, it all came through without a hitch, as they say. I am not going to mention the name of the friend who paid for it because right now she needs some blessings from heaven and not the praises of men. I do hope that the “windows of heaven” will open for her as it promises us in Malachi when we pay our tithing since she said she would look upon this as tithing.
I have so many other things to tell all of you about Elder R’s birthday and our branch picnic but I will try to send another update in a day or two because you can only sit and read just so long. We love all of you and most of the time we love serving here on this mission. More later!

Advertisements

Dear Friends and Family,
The local people say that this has been about the coolest Spring here in Eastern Russia for 70 years. For that I am extremely grateful. The humid and really hot weather hasn’t begun here yet. We have had some delightful thunder and lightening storms.
You may remember the pictures of the “scarey” apartment building where we visited a lady when we first arrived here in town. This lovely lady made a comment at that time that her shabby little one room apartment was all that she guessed she had earned or that the Lord felt she deserved. That comment really haunted me. Some turn of events in her life has allowed her to move to a two room apartment in a much nicer building, where her aging father will live with her so she can take care of him. But even though it is bigger and has a small kitchen and bathroom, the apartment was in bad shape. Jim finally convinced her to let us help. So we and the young missionaries have spent a few days there trying to make it beautiful for her. She said we could paint the ceiling but chips of the old paint just peeled off with the roller so we had to spend much time just scraping the ceiling. During Soviet times they couldn’t get paint so there is some kind of white rocks that they soak to get a whitewash and that is what was on the ceiling and walls. They still sell those rocks here. After much scraping and painting the ceiling finally looked good and then we scraped the walls and patched to prepare for wallpaper. We got the papering well started so that she could finish it and her brother came to help her. He has really done a lot of work for her and I can’t wait to see the finished product. I am so happy for her. It isn’t much by our standards but it will be a palace compared to where she has been living – and just a small taste of the mansion that she so richly deserves. I could not help in this situation but to think of the parable of the beggar who sat each day at the gate of a rich man and begged for the crumbs which fell from his table. When the beggar died he was in glory and the rich man in torment. Things will be interesting on resurrection morning, won’t they?
You may also remember my description of traveling about 45 minutes out of town to a mental institution where we hope to do a project. Our little church group planned some entertainment and a dance for the people at this insitution on the last Saturday in May. At the last minute our visa clerk said that the American missionaries couldn’t go there without permission from our city officials. We have no idea why and we didn’t tell her that we had already been there. But the Russian members who went said it was a very rewarding and delightful time. These people see almost no one from the outside world.
Jim is serving well as the branch president here. He is amazed at the inspiration and wisdom – wisdom beyond his own – that comes to him as he counsels with the members. We normally have about 30 people in attendance at our Sunday meetings but last week we had 44 and 48 this week. Next Saturday is our branch picnic so we will give you a report on that next time.
We received some wonderful and happy news last week – that we get to be grandparents again. Our beautiful daughter is expecting and is due early in November. I am, of course, sad that I will not be there for the event but I will certainly be home in time to do the normal grandmotherly duties – spoiling, bragging, etc.
We cannot tell you how very much your love and support (and packages) and prayers mean to us. This mission has been more difficult than we ever imagined. The young Elder who is currently our district leader said that he prayed for two years before his mission and said, “Lord, give me the most difficult mission you have.” So he is not surprised that he is here but, personally, I have never prayed for anything but easy stuff in my life. (This is Sue talking.) So, maybe that’s why I’m here.
We love all of you and pray for you as well. I so hope that the difficult economic times that I read about are not affecting any of you too badly and that all of your needs and righteous desires are met. Miss you all like crazy!! Love, Elder Jim and Sister Sue R

Dear Friends and Family,
I know it is not time for our update but this is a special edition because we are coming upon the Memorial Day Weekend. We remember wonderful celebrations with our friends of John Wayne’s birthday on these weekends, which always seemed appropriate because he so epitomized true American Patriotism. We also remember good food from those weekends. It will be so wonderful to come home and actually celebrate a holiday. American holidays here are just another day so we can never celebrate as we normally would. On the big Russian holidays we are usually cautioned to stay in and away from crowds. So we haven’t really had a holiday in a long, long time.
Monday is our preparation day when we try to do our laundry, that is if the weather cooperates so that I can hang it out to dry. We do our emails and and I even allow myself to check out some political web sites. I just can’t get over being a political junkie after all these years (since my middle teens). We also try to do our shopping. So last Monday we went to the central renok in town. It is like an open air market that has booths with all sorts of things. We like to get fresh vegetables and fruits there because there is so much more selection than in a grocery store. We set out to get ingredients to make fresh salsa because our translator and one of the Russian sister missionaries wanted me to teach them how to make it. The ingredients are all pretty much here except a jalapeno. I could always find them in Nahodka but haven’t found them here so I got a small red pepper from an Asian lady. We had to ask for it because it wasn’t on display. While it is usually easy to find the ingredients for salsa, there are no corn chips. I always carefully bring a big bag back from Korea in my carry-on and I still had my bag from our last trip. We made a large bowl that afternoon and ate it all.
While shopping we kept seeing bundles of ferns and thought that they must be food here. They are what Jim calls “fiddle neck” ferns because the tops are curled over like the top of of a violin and they aren’t completely open yet. So on Tuesday we decided to talk about food at English Club and ask about the ferns. We were told that they are boiled twice, changing the water once, and then cut up and served with butter on them. Very tasty we were told. I took dishes so we could set the table and have everyone say what each item was in English. Then we asked about their favorite foods. It was almost unanimous – borscht. So we asked what their second favorite food is. Again, it was a definite majority who like the white fat that is just under the skin of a pig. They soak it in some kind of a brine with lots of garlic and then eat it very cold but not cooked in any way. They think it is great! Sorry, I forgot the name of it. Then we asked what country has the best food and again the answer was unanimous – Russia!
When you enter almost any grocery store here your olfactory sensors (that’s your nose) are immediately assailed with the smells of fish, mostly dried fish. They also often display smoked fish heads. In this particlular apartment building we get to smell the fish again in our stairwell as it is being cooked by the residents here. I sure hope these awful smells don’t ruin my taste for fish when I return home because I used to really like salmon, halibut, and sole but now I am not sure. Being the cattle man that he is, Jim says that it is a good thing that Americans like beef because so many other countries are depleting the oceans.
There is another renok in the north end of town that is called the China Renok. It is mostly run by Chinese people and probably covers several acres. It consists of open cargo containers full of clothes, household items and all sorts of “Made in China” goods. There are other cargo containers stacked on top and the Chinese vendors live in these. We went there when we first came to town looking for some things we needed for our apartment. Word soon spread through the place that we were Americans and a couple of young people even followed us for a while. It was sort of like being a rock star. These renoks are open almost all year even in the very frigid weather, although many of the booths close down, especially most of the ones that sell produce.
We bought a white furry Russian hat for our daughter’s birthday soon after we moved to Usserisk. (She says she looks like a marshmallow in it.) We bought it from one of the few Russian merchants at the China Renok. Actually, it was a husband and wife who said that they have 5 children – extremely unusual here. Russia has some kind of monetary incentive for having children but the people we have talked to say it is so difficult to meet all of the requirements for the money that they don’t bother. So when this woman told me she had 5 children she added: “And Putin didn’t help me with any of them.” Jim went back a couple of months later to find a bathroom rug for me and this woman spotted him and asked what he was looking for, took him by the arm and led him to find one. (She only sells hats.) She got him a really good deal and also a good deal on a pillow. This was all done with sign language because Jim speaks very little Russian. It is amazing what he can accomplish without it. He could have been the cavalry scout sent out to make sign language with the Indians. He’s very good at it. We just thought it was so sweet that she remembered him and was determined to take care of him.
Word also spread quickly when we moved into this apartment building and through the neighboring apartment buildings that we are an American couple. It just amazed me that everyone knew who we were. Now that the weather is nice and there are many children out playing, many of them say, “Hello’ in English to us and I try to talk back to them to see how much English they know. Some know a little and some only know the greeting.
We are pretty much accustomed to finding what we need at one store at home but here you have to go to many to find different grocery items. If stores run out of something it is often a long time before it is restocked (sometimes never) so if you see something you like you better get it. We have found since we moved that what is available also varies greatly from town to town. I used to find some kind of brown sugar in Nahodka. Even though it was sort of large crystals I could use it to make syrup for pancakes and other things. But here I have not found brown sugar of any kind at all. I am getting pretty desperate for some but I think my sweet daughter-in-law is sending some.
I have heard complaints from some of you about a wet and chilly spring. I hope the weather is improving and you will have a wonderful, sunny weekend. I think rainy springs are pretty normal here. In that respect I think that God is very good to these people because the only garden hose I have seen here is the one at church that we use to fill the baptismal font. The gardens get watered by nature and there are enough warm, sunny days that they grow. Late in the summer they have to carry buckets to water them.
After all of this talk about food, I must say that I have learned much more clearly what the Savior meant when he said that “… man shall not live by bread alone..” We wish you all a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend! We give thanks for all those who have sacrificed to protect the country that we love and the great freedoms that we have enjoyed. We love and miss you! Elder and Sister R

Dear Friends and Family,
On Thursday, May 12th we were invited to a talent show by a long time member of our English Club, Larissa. She teaches English at the University level and each year her school sponsors a talent show all in English for their students as well as students from all of the local schools and villages. Awards are given for the best performers in several categories and I understood that this was the second day and final round. It was amazing and wonderful! In the category of recitations there were students who did sililoquies from Shakespeare and from many classical English poets. One young man did a piece from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” that I thought was especially good. Then there were skits. The ones I remember were a re-enactment of a famous Russian fairy tale and one about Alice’s tea party with the Mad Hatter and one about the Jungle Book. All of the performances were excellent. In the third hour they started the musical performances. The Russian Sisters and I especially enjoyed the old Abba songs but there was a little girl about 7 or 8 who sang, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ and she really stole the show. Her little friend accompanied her on the flute. We had to leave before it was over because the Sisters had an appointment and Jim had already left to go meet our two new Elders at the bus station. They had never been to Ussurisk before and didn’t even know how to find their apartment. (Just imagine, if you will, if we in America taught a foreign language that well, or even our own language that well?)
The following day we were at the apartment of our wonderful Relief Society President. Jim had borrowed a roto-hammer so that he could drill holes in the concrete walls (pretty standard for all of these Russian apartments) and installed a curtain/drapery rod for her. He noticed that the chair he stood on was pretty near to collapsing so he sat on a stool to glue the chair and put some screws in it. Chairs seem to be a scarce commodity here. Apartments are too small for them so they mostly have little stools to sit on. Jim was sitting on a stool to repair the chair and the stool collapsed with him. (Oh, his poor back!) So then he re-glued and put screws in all four of her stools. His tool bag is getting too heavy to carry around so he has to be selective and leave some tools at the apartment. But I drew the line at his buying a roto-hammer so he had to borrow one.
We finally have received approval for two of our projects here. One will equip a play room at the main childen’s hospital here in town. The other for the Blind Society will provide canes, a talking blood pressure monitor and blood gluclose monitor and scales. It will also provide electronic readers and a computer that will be programmed for the blind. They will even get two sets of chess and checker games for the blind.
This week Jim was at the Elder’s apartment constructing a bed so he could get one of the guys up off the floor. The Elders were in Korea on a visa renewal trip. So I went by myself back to the office of the Blind Society to get corrected invoices so we could pay for the things they are getting. The director, who is also blind, was having a meeting with about 6 other blind people. She introduced me and told what we are doing. They all applauded. It is very humbling to accept thanks for the many church members who give so generously to the Humanitarian Fund.
As I was walking to this office I was enjoying some of the many beautiful trees in town that have white blooms on them right now. (Don’t know what kind of trees.) I was thinking how much more bearable life is in this bleak and dreary place with a little beauty to look at – then I entered the little office with 6 or 7 people who couldn’t see. Another humbling experience.
We found out that the petite Armenian girl that Jim baptized a few weeks ago plays the piano and we sure need some accompanyment. Our singing was pretty sour last Sunday after we lost the Elder who could play. So Jim asked her about it and she said first she needed to tell her father that she had joined the church so he wouldn’t wonder where she went on Sunday mornings. We and the Sister missionaries prayed and fasted for her on Friday because that was the day she was going to tell him. She is in her early 20’s and didn’t need his permission but also does not want to lose her home while she is attending college. I was hoping that she told him the things I had shared with her about the Church being well established in their homeland of Armenia. Our church has been there since their devastating earthquake in 1988 that killed 50,000 and has provided much humanitarian aid. When we were ready to build a church there the leaders of the country gave us 3 acres in the capital city that has a breath-taking view of Mount Ararat across the border in Turkey. As most of you know that is where Noah’s Arc is supposed to have landed. Anyway, her staunchly atheist father said, “No problem.”
We thank all of you for your support, love, and prayers. We pray for you, too, and for our country in these troubling times. Remember that there are no coincidences, only miracles where God chooses to remain anonymous. And miracles happen every day.
We love and miss you all like crazy! Elder and Sister R

Dear Friends and Family,
Most of you know of my fascination with geography and history. I have become especially fascinated by the wonderful mosaic of different ethnic peoples who make up the former Soviet Union as well as the current Russian Federation. It has been interesting to learn about the home towns and areas of the two young Russian girls who serve here as missionaries. One is from Rostov over in the West and the other from another very interesting part of Russia called Kaliningrad. Won’t take time to talk about them here, but I have helped these two teach a young lady from Armenia named Lucenya. When I first met her I commented on her big beautiful eyes and she explained that they are part of her heritage and told me that she left Armenia about 7 years ago. It is an independent country now but her father was in the Russian military and was transferred to Georgia and then here to Usserisk where he retired. I have learned some very interesting things about Armenia and its long and sad history. She speaks Armenian, Russian, English and French. The end of this story is that Jim baptized her last Saturday, the 30th. This is his third baptism while we have been here.
We had a gathering at our apartment after the baptism and I think I could make money if I could get the rights to sell Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix here. Everyone loves it when I serve it with vegetables and I still have several packets that I have been hoarding. Everyone enjoyed the time together and some said they hated to leave. I could understand that, not just because of the fun and spirit we feel when we get together but also because I know what many of them go home to. Our apartment is like a mansion to them. I told my sister last week that cooking in our kitchen is like being in an RV but it is still way better than so many have.
On the Friday before that we were heading to the church for an appointment with a young lady who wanted me to help her to prepare her lesson for Sunday. We had to get off the bus and walk a long ways because the street was completely plugged with soldiers, tanks, trucks, etc. The formations of different soldiers were all lined up in the town square and soldiers stood guard all along the street. I was sooo nervous walking past them. Jim thought I was being silly. On our way home they were finally marching to the music provided by a band. We figured they were practicing for May Day because I thought that was supposed to be a big holiday here. But we found out on Tuesday at English Club – (yes, I forgot to tell you that English Club started again at the beginning of this month on Tuesdays) that it was actually a practice for Victory Day which is on May 9th. “But,” I said to the folks in English Club, “there were lots of fireworks on Sunday night, May Day. I could see the tops of them from our fourth floor apartment at about 10:30.” None of the people at English Club seemed to know anything about the fireworks. They said that May 9th is a much bigger holiday. It is the holiday when they celebrate victory in WWII (The Great Patriotic War), in which one in every four Russians died. They remember it well.
At English Club we were told that those who have garden space usually spend this holiday planting potatoes. The trees just this week have started to turn green and I would say that Spring has arrived. The weather is still unpredictable from one hour to the next but I guess that is how this season is in many places. Just last week it was snowing like crazy in the northern part of our mission.
We had a busy week preparing for an open house at our little branch which was held on Friday, May 6th and Saturday, the 7th. It was to commemorate the church being in Russia for 20 years and I am told that it has been in this town for ten. Jim and I taped the hallway doors, light switches, etc so that it could get a fresh coat of paint. We also prepared a special display for Humanitarian Services and the many projects that have been done in this area in the last 10 years. On my way home from the open house (Jim was in a meeting) on Friday night I saw the same line up of military equipment and soldiers practicing for the Victory Day parade and had to walk a long way to catch a bus. I don’t feel that I need to see the parade now that I have seen two practices. And it is a good thing because the young missionaries have received permission from the Mission President to come and use our computer so that they can have a Skype call with their mothers for Mother’s Day. We have them all on a schedule for Monday morning, which will be Sunday there. The two Russian Sisters will come over Sunday night to call their mothers in western Russia because it is only 7 hours behind us here.
I guess the last and most difficult news from us is that Jim was made the President of our little Branch here in Usserisk today (Sunday). For those of you not of our faith, that means he is like the Pastor of this congregation. He was so overwhelmed when the mission president first asked him but he is getting used to the idea. Though he speaks very little Russian the people here love him and he has been “Mr. Fixit” for all of the single ladies. All I can do is quote Luke 1:37 – “For with God nothing shall be impossible…”
On what old TV show did they used to sing, “Thank you for all those cards and letters, you folks in television land”? We received very welcome mail last week : a wonderful newsy letter from our friend PJ (in Mitchell, Oregon) and two cards from our dear Hilary (in Aberdeen, WA) all in just 2 1/2 weeks. They sent them to our apartment address rather than the mission address. We also received an Easter Card from the Evelands in Madras this last week which arrived in about the same time and was sent to the mission address in Vladivostok. We LOVE mail from home!
I am going to close this and send it off earlier than usual because the missionaries will have the computer tied up. Happy Mothers Day to all of our precious female friends. Whether you have born children or not you are all mothers in God’s eyes because of your nurturing and loving hearts. We love and miss you all sooooo much! Next Mother’s Day in America! Love, Elder and Sister R

Dear Friends and Family,
Probably while you were out on some grassy field participating in an Easter Egg hunt on Saturday, we were enjoying snow. It snowed a wet, slushy snow all day. Mind you, I am not complaining and am not anxious for hot summer weather. We had an activity at Church in the evening to color easter eggs. They don’t actually color them here, they paint them with a brush and paint. Didn’t see any of the regular egg dye that we use.
We just had 10 people in our little apartment for Easter Dinner. We had 6 missionaries and a mother and daughter from our little branch. I have mentioned her before. She is a well-known pediatrician here in town and when she joined the church about 3 years ago she converted all the people in her podyez (stairwell), including another doctor. She told me at church this morning that she has a soggy apartment and no electricity. There is a hole in the roof of the apartment building and everytime it rains they get leaks and lose electicity. They own their apartment but I guess the city owns the building and won’t do anything about the leaks in the roof. I thought she could use an invitation. We had a great time eating and then I had a candy hunt using clues from the scriptures about the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior.
We had a fun and spirit-lifting 4 days in Vladivostok last Saturday thru Tuesday. We stayed in our favorite hotel with the beds as hard as the floor but still enjoyed meeting the two other couples who are now in our mission. It used to be just Jim and me. We especially enjoyed the new couple that are now in Nahodka – great people. My daughter put her in touch with us before they came and we emailed back and forth for several months before they came. From her emails I thought she was going to be an annoying person but I found her and her husband to be completely delightful! They have been kind enough to go close a couple of projects that we had to leave undone in Nahodka. The man used to work for an international company that made and installed hospital equipment all over the world. He said that Russian hospitals are on a whole different standard than anything he has ever seen anywhere.
A year ago when we were at this annual meeting there was an American ship in port and sailors everywhere. This time there was a ship from India and Indian sailors were everywhere. We tried to be friendly and spoke to many of them. The Russians aren’t too friendly to strangers. We even went and had lunch at a restaurant called “Bombay” and had delicious Indian curry.
This will be interesting to those of you who are members of our church. Elder Larry Lawrence of the Second Quorum of Seventy was at our conference. He related his experience of returning to Salt Lake City before General Conference for training. He was able to spend time with Elder Holland and Elder Holland told him about being in Japan before the earthquake and tsunami. He felt impressed to leave an Apostolic blessing on the members in Japan and blessed them that they would all be safe. As soon as he returned home he heard of the disaster and finally the reports that not one of the 128,000 members in Japan was lost in the disaster.
Just before the trip to Vlad we had to go visit the little library that had been set up in town by the Blind Society to make sure that most of their members would have access to the things they requested. It was a small room in a large building and next door there was a large hall where there was an art exhibition. We went in to look. The artist was a native of somewhere north of here. It was amazing to me that both he and his art reminded me of native Americans. After seeing this and the collection of arrowheads in Nahodka I am pretty much convinced that there must have been a land bridge from Siberia to Alaska at some time. Or maybe they just went back and forth by boat. Jim was able to get some good photos of the art work which we can share when we get home.
I struck up a conversation with a nice man there who told us that he is an musician and actor. He got out his guitar and played and sang a few Russian folk songs for us. You never know what delights await you in any given day. We hope and pray that you can find some delight in each day and know that each day is a gift from a Heavenly Father who loves you. Love, Elder and Sister R

Dear Friends and Family,
We got back from Korea on Friday night, April 1st, and moved on Saturday April 2nd. The young Elders and Sisters helped us and that was so wonderful since we are on the fourth floor and no elevator, of course. The new apartment is so wonderful. We have a bed, a hot water heater, a comfortable place to sit, and when I look out the window I can see sky. For the last year all I have been able to see is other gray, drab, shabby apartment buildings. This apartment has been rented by senior missionary couples in the past and the landlord was so anxious to lure us back that he tried to do everything he could. He even bought us a computer desk. It’s still a Russian apartment but so much better than what we had!
I think since you last heard from us we have visited an orphanage that has about 80 babies from newborn to 3 or 4 years old. We walked into a room with toddlers and they all came running over like a gaggle of geese. We were told that we couldn’t hold or touch them because we didn’t have government health certificates. They sure tugged at our heartstrings – also the babies. We would have loved to scoop them all up and take them home. The director and staff are very cautious now because all adoptions to America have been cut off for a year now and they wanted to make sure that we didn’t take pictures. They are submitting a request for a washer and dryer to keep up with the laundry there. We have also visited a children’s hospital. There were about 4 or 5 babies there who will go to that orphanage. This is a very large hospital that takes care of the whole area ( Usserisk has a population of about 170,000) and they would like some play equipment for a waiting room to start with. We have received a request from the blind society for canes, speakerphones, and a couple of computers with readers.
When we were at the childrens’ hospital Jim noticed an old metal clock on the wall and admired it. They gave it to him and I thought he would cry. It is a seven day clock and needs to be wound but what makes it a treasure to him is that it says сделано в СССР, which means “made in the USSR”. He also has an old wrench which says the same. Boy, his suitcase is going to be heavy on our trip home!
On Friday we had an adventure. A guy who attends church wanted to take us to the institution where his sister resides. We rode a broken down bus for about an hour way out into the country and were dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Our translator, Nina, and I were laughing and joking in an attempt to cover our real concern about how we were going to get back home from there. The bus driver said he didn’t come back through until 5 that evening. This was at 9 in the morning. We walked down a dusty country road a ways and came to a tiny village and a compound that was the institution for the mentally impaired. I guess they figured that if any of these people escaped they wouldn ‘t have anywhere to go. There were many visible needs here. Some were sleeping right on the wire bed frames with no mattresses and they could use a washing machine. They had an old Soviet model. Jim commended them for keeping it going but it was leaking all over the floor. We always let the places we visit make their own requests of what they consider their highest priorities and then go from there. They arranged a ride for us back into the nearest town and then from there someone else gave us a ride back to Usserisk.
Our internet connection is very slow. It hasn’t been working at all for the last 3 days so I am grateful for even a slow connection now. It is in the landlord’s name so we haven’t been able to upgrade to something faster. He lives somewhere out of town and says he doesn’t like to come into town. So I guess we will have to wait until the rent is due again to get something done about it. We weren’t able to get General Conference on the internet last weekend but we were able to watch the DVD this weekend at the church. All of us Americans gathered in one room to watch it in English and the Russian members were in another room. We so enjoyed hearing talks and music in our native tongue! Plus the fact that they were all so inspiring.
Warm weather is definitely coming upon us quickly, the snow seems to all be melted and in the last week even the ice in the streams and rivers seems to have all melted. We open our windows and in one day the window sill is black with soot (or whatever). The smokestacks from the central heat and hot water plants are still belching out black smoke from burning coal or oil. It has been very windy every day for the last few weeks until this morning. Now I can appreciate the wind because the smell of smoke is heavy in the air and I want to hang some clothes out to dry.
We get a little down sometimes and our sweet little Sister missionaries do as well – even the Russian one. But we try to lift each other up. If the young Elders do, they sure wouldn’t let you know it. We keep pressing forward with faith and hope that we are doing some little bit of good here. May you all be blessed and enjoy each day of your life! Love, Sister and Elder R

Dear Friends and Family,
We stayed home from church today, recovering from bad head and chest colds. The last two Sundays, though, there was a delightful young couple there from Sakhalin Island which is north of here. They were here visiting her family with their 10 month old baby girl. She actually let me hold her for a few seconds. It has been so long since I have held a child. They came to our apartment last week before they left town to load some things onto Jim’s I-Touch that our daughter sent him and to do some work on our computer. He works for an international oil company (he didn’t say but it is probably Exxon) on Sakhalin and is their computer whiz. I mention them because it was so wonderful to get to know a family that has a mother and father, who are thrilled to have found the Gospel, and who are happy to be in Russia, Nearly everyone else we meet wants out. They want to go to New Zealand, or Australia, or the United States, almost anywhere but here and I can’t say that I blame them.
Again we had a large crowd for Family Home Evening. I invited a few from English Club who wanted to try some American foods. I made some deviled eggs with the wonderful spices I got from home. I set the plate on the table and when I turned around again they were all gone. I made some vegetables and dip with the Hidden Valley Ranch mix from home and it also disappeared in a flash. I made an angel food cake in loaf pans because I didn’t have a regular pan and it also was a big hit.
We made three humanitarian visits this week. First we visited what our translator called an infectious or abcess hospital. It was a very sad place. We saw shriveled bodies with sores on them and amputees. Everyone wants beds. I told our translator that we will be known as the bed missionaries. The places we have seen have old plywood beds or army cots with only a thin mat on them. We have not seen a real hospital bed with a crank that lifts the feet or the head. Now, of course, these are electric in the States but they would be happy here with the old crank up kind. Jim went in a room to take a picture after he asked permission and there were some nurses out in the hallway who lit into our tranlsator and told her that she should not be bringing Americans to this place because they woud get a bad impression. Our dear translator held her own and told them that if we only went to the nice places we would never be able to help the poor and the needy which is what we are here to do. She won them over as they followed us down the hall and began to add to the list of things they might like to add to their request.
We walked about a half hour from that place to a children’s hospital. I was sweating so profusely when I got there that I am sure I didn’t make a very good impression. The director offered me some tea, which I politely declined. This place was in much better shape from what we could see of the administrator’s office. And this appointment was made by our friend Kate and not by our translator who knows all the forgotten places. They want some expensive medical equipment. Our Area President who has to approve all such requests is a former American emergency room doctor , so he has the ability to determine what is really necessary and useful. They are not only a children’s hospital and outpatient clinic but keep abandoned babies there until they are 3 years old. We didn’t get to see any of the facilities. It was near the end of her work day so the director had us ride home in an old Soviet era ambulance. The driver dropped her off at her apartment building and then took us to ours. Doctors here have no special status as far as I can tell and certainly no special income. They live in the same shabby apartments buildings as everyone else.
On Thursday we went to the apartment of one of our little old ladies in the church. Tamara is only a year older than me but seems so much older. We never know how hard a life has been and few people over 40 here have many teeth or else a mouth full of gold. She insisted that she had to teach me how to make borsct because she had already “taught half of America”. I had to forget everything I knew about proper sanitation as I helped and watched her. I figured it was all going to get boiled anyway. It is good and It is something Russian that I like. I drew the line, though, when she tried to get me to take a spoonful of the brine from a large mushroom that she had in a jar on her counter. You couldn’t tell that it was a mushroom and I have no idea how long it had been sitting there in a sugar and water solution. She kept insisting that it was good for you and “all natural”. I said that opium and marijuana are all natural as well, but I don’t want them either. It was just as well that she didn’t understand what I said. Russians here are very into folk medicine. I guess they have to be because the state of medicine in hospitals is not good. They also believe that a draft is very bad for you and her apartment and little kitchen were stifling. You can be on a steamy bus but don’t dare open a window because someone will glare at you or just close it. They also have a million superstitions that they live by.
It could be drafts that have made us sick, who knows? We sleep with a fan blowing over us but we are just as wet and sticky from perspiration when we wake up as we were when we went to bed and we never feel cold. Oh, what a humid place!
On Friday morning we made our third humanitrian visit to a village quite a ways out of town. It is fun to travel with our new translator because she has written two books on Nakhodka and the local history. She made the taxi driver stop at what remained of a small Ukranian village. She said they were among the first settlers here and took our picture in fromt of a brick school they built in 1905. There was a church next door also but it did not survive the Soviet era. We visited a hospice in the village of Yujno-morski (trying to spell it in English). She said this village was a large town when Nakhodka was just getting started. It was full of Chinese who ran a large fishing fleet and cannery. The Soviets expelled almost all of the Chinese and Koreans who first lived in this area. This hospice used to be a hospital but now people are transported into the city of Nakhodka. It was very sad, indeed: an old, dark, smelly, run-down building with none of the amenities you would normally associate with any kind of medical facility. Can you imagine, dear friends, a hospital in America with a laundry facility down a path, almost a block away? It has a large old, Soviet era washer that leaks water all over the broken concrete floor. There is no hot water from April to October when the central hot water is turned off. They dry clothes on a line and I know how much it has rained this summer. It was sprinkling the day we were there. I tried to imagine trudging down the path to the laundry through the snow. There is so much need here. They also want beds. They gave us a ride home in an old Dodge ambulance that was so dirty inside that I was afraid to touch anything. It wasn’t equipped but had a guerney with a dirty blanket on it.
I was so utterly miserable with a chest and head cold on Saturday that all I could think of was being home. But two thoughts drew me back. One was the memory of that place we had visited and the thought that if we weren’t here to help them who would? The other was the memory of the horrible experience I had flying from Moscow in May with a head cold. I thought my head would burst and I lost my hearing for two days. This is definitely not a place to be if you ever had to go to a hospital or get medical treatment.
I know that this is getting long but I have to tell you that on Thursday evening at Englsh Club I think we had a spy – an older man named Yuri who acted rather strangely and then asked if we would teach him about the past perfect tense in English. His English wasn’t that good but I explained through one of the Elders that we do not teach English we can only carry on conversation and practice. We have had a wonderful young man the last couple of weeks from Vladivostok who just graduated from medical school as a neurosurgeon. He and I have had great discussions about a common interest, cooking and food. He jumped right in almost before I could answer and said “They don’t teach English!” I could have kissed him. Our translator says that she worked for the American Peace Corps here right after the fall of communism in 1991 and she was always being questioned by the authorities about whether the Peace Corps workers were spies or not.
Our new translator’s name is Galina, just like the old one. but she is older. She asked if I would proof read and try to make corrections and suggestions for an article that she wrote in English about Russian history in the 20th Century. It was delightful to read and realize that she recognizes and acknowledges the evils of communism and the old Soviet regime. She grew up in Nakhodka and saw many of the prison/death camps that were around here. She admits that things are not a lot better but still they do not have that anymore. We have had some interesting political discussions as I tell her that I am sad to see my country following in those Socialist footsteps.
Well, that is quite enough for one week. We are on the mend and feeling better. The Elders came over after English Club last night and gave me a blessing and Kate brought some “good Russian medicine”. Our love to all of you! Elder and Sister

Dear Friends and Family,
We started the week with about 17 people in our little apartment for Family Home Evening. It was a little chaotic for me but our young Russian friend Kate brought piroges (some stuffed with cabbage and some with egg) and some kind of a small jelly roll type dessert. She is a great cook for a 19 year old girl. I fixed lunch for the Elders the next morning and left all the dishes so that we could have another Gospel discussion with Kate. Then the Elders and us left on the four hour bus ride to Vladivostok for our zone meeting. This meeting happens every 6 weeks but I understand that it will soon be only 4 times a year. It was a wonderful meeting as usual. These young, dedicated Elders are a constant source of inspiration. We also got to meet our new office couple who are great people!
I was able to weigh myself on the the scales at the mission president’s where we spent the night. I have lost another 10 pounds since the last meeting 6 weeks ago. If I hadn’t found Crown Pies I’m sure I would have lost more. They are like moon pies that you can get in the states but these come from Korea. I eat one and think, “That was good!” Not something I ever say here. So then I have another one or two. I eat to stay alive but nothing ever tastes good. But things are looking up: we received packages from our daughter and from our dear friend, Linda. They spent a small fortune, something I didn’t want anyone to do, to mail us goodies.
The Mission President asked us to go from Vladivostok to a town called Usserisk to check it out with a couple who are there but who are going home in September. I think he wants to put us in that town. We will fill you in later on that and the town, which is about 40 miles as the crow flies from the Chinese border. We didn’t get home until Thursday night and the Elders had put the packages in our apartment for us. So we finally got to open them. I am rather ashamed to confess that I cried like a baby at the sight of all the wonderful seasonings, taco seasoning, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix, a large bag of bacon bits, jello, canned tuna and canned chicken, peanut butter and other goodies. I hope it isn’t just that I am too attached to food but maybe because it was a touch of home, or maybe because I am hungry most of the time. Anyway, I couldn’t stop crying that night and the next morning. We had a wonderful dinner tonight (Sunday) – tuna salad sandwiches. They were so good.
On Friday evening we went with a group of disabled children that we are trying to help to go see some trained dolphins who are in a tank in a cove about 20 miles out of town. It was a great experience.
Our internet was down most of the week but it was OK since we were gone so much anyway. We had received a lot of monthly reports from other Humanitarian Missionaries around Eastern Europe that are always interesting to read. The ones near Moscow had pictures of the devastating fires there and spoke of a village that was completely destroyed. They were busy putting together a relief package for them. We also finally heard from the couple in Ismir, Turkey about the young man who had put in his mission papers. He was called to serve in Everett, Washington. He is the first LDS missionary ever called from Turkey.
Here is a great link for those of you who have something more than a dial-up connection. It is our former translator, who is now off to BYU telling about her conversion to the Gospel when she first entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo a couple of years ago. I think you will love it!
http://sethadamsmith.com/2010/07/27/russian-mormon-missionary/
Well, Jim has been on the phone inviting people left and right to our apartment for Family Home Evening tomorrow night so I better go rein him in and do some preparation. We think of you all constantly and miss home but are grateful for this opportunity to serve the Lord by serving our Russian brothers and sisters. Sweet is the work! Elder and Sister

Dear Friends and Family,
The whole month of July has been wet and muggy. A friend at English club told us that in a couple of weeks the humidity should decrease and the monsoon season should be over. We can’t wait! A wet, dense fog at 80 degrees is a new experience for us. And even rain at 75 degrees is new. Any kind of exertion like walking causes us to sweat profusely and it doesn’t evaporate. It has been very difficult to dry clothes, especially towels. This week it took 2 or 3 days for them to dry and then they smelled like an old wet dog. I went and bought some new lighter ones that may dry more easily. Well, that’s enough from the complaint department.
Our humanitarian project for 25 beds for a children’s home was approved. We are in the middle of submitting another one for the disabled children’s orphanage. And we made another visit this week with our new translator to a support group for parents of children with chronic illness or disability. Their two room office was in the basement of a shabby building and it was a mess. Although we are unable to help fix up buildings, I hope there is something we can do for them. They have one child who needs an operation and wondered if we could help, but we cannot. Our guidelines are to do things for groups and not individuals. That is the second time we have been asked about money to help with an operation and it is sad to tell them that we cannot help. Medical care is free here but it is only basic care. Anything extra like some surgeries or cancer care you have to pay for yourself or forget it.
Our young friend Kate has been a delight to us. She brought a thin layered tort to family home evening last Monday and saved the day for me because I sat down in a chair to rest for a minute and fell asleep. That isn’t like me but I awoke to her ringing our bell at 6:15 and everyone usually arrives at 6:30 so there wasn’t time for me to bake anything. It looked like it must have taken her all day to make it. She said that she would rather hang around with us than with her friends because we talk about important things and they don’t. Keep in mind she is 19 years old.
Russians here who can afford to, go to some town in China to go shopping. I haven’t been able to figure out the name of the town yet. A young girl in our English Club group (probably 19 or 20) went there and brought back some little figurines for me. One symbolized money, another one peace or harmony and she wasn’t sure about the third one. She also brought me a small figure of Jesus. I was so touched by her thoughtfulness and her gift because she doesn’t believe in God but she knows that I do. She is so shy that it took her a while to work up the courage to give them to me. She is one of the many that I just want to bring home with me.
We look forward each Monday to seeing our grandsons on Skype. That keeps us going. When we left, the patriarchal grandfather clock that came from Jim’s grandfather found a new home with our son. It will go to his oldest son Cole who is 3. The 2 year old Tyler felt left out so our son went to our storage unit and got my buffalo head and said that was for him. I love to hear him argue with me and say “my buffalo” when I tell him it belongs to Grandma. Of course, I could hardly deny those boys anything. We miss home but the work we are here to do is sweet. We pray that each of you enjoy the sweetness of God’s choicest blessings! Love, Elder and Sister