Dear Friends and Family,

On a raining Wednesday morning of last week we boarded a bus here in Nakhodka and went four hours to the Vladivostok airport and flew for 8 hours to Moscow. Because of the time difference we arrived in Moscow at about 4:00 PM, which was only 2 hours after we left Vladivostok. We were the last to get off the plane. We figured there was no hurry since we had to try to figure out the directions we were given to find a bus to take us to the Metro (subway) and on to our hotel. So we took some more time trying to figure it all out and as soon as we walked out of the exit a taxi driver was there with a sign with our names on it. We were we relieved. He didn’t speak much English but he could say “traffic jam” with perfect clarity. We arrived at our hotel at about 5:30 and our humanitarian supervisor was there to greet us. Boy, they take good care of us!

I went straight to bed and slept pretty well in spite of the music coming from the beer garden below. I awoke at 3 AM (10:00AM our time). Moscow is a very modern and nice looking city – a world away from where we live. There were trees everywhere, like the Garden of Eden to us. We had some amazing training on strengthening marriage and family from a licensed therapist from Utah. She and her husband (a dentist) are getting ready to serve their fifth mission in July to Jordan. They have served in South America, Indonesia, twice in the Ukraine. Because she has a master’s degree and some other good connections she was asked by the government in the Ukraine to help them establish a foster care system. At the time, they wanted to join the European Union but had too many children in orphanages to qualify. She kept telling them that they should let her teach about strong families and marriage and then they wouldn’t have so many orphans. Subsequently, the government changed in Ukraine to one that is more friendly to Moscow so then they didn’t care about joining the European Union. Then they asked her to teach about strengthening families. Then some of the women in the classes said but what about my husband? So, after she was home from her second mission there the government made arrangements with our government to bring her back to teach about strengthening marriage all over the Ukraine. That is sort of the short of a rather miraculous story. But she was great!

Also had two hours with Igor, who is the church’s chief financial officer here – more like a lawyer. He tried to explain to us the reason for all the paper work we have to do just to give charitable donations. What it boils down to is that, gift or not, things are considered income here. Talked about a church unit in Moscow that wanted to make quilts for someplace in need. The government said you should be able to get a certain number of quilts out of a certain amount of material. What did we do with the rest? Who was making money on it? And could we prove that the batting inside was the same batting that we bought? He tried to explain that we are amateurs and may not get exactly what they expect out of the fabric. They didn’t buy that story. So don’t make anything! Buy it already made. Also said that some organizations that we try to help will call him and offer a kick-back if we approve their project. Has had death threats and threats to his family. Said he has told people that they can kill him but someone just like him will replace him. The LDS Church will not take kickbacks and will not pay bribes, no matter who is in the position.

We found some time in Moscow to go to Red Square and see some sites. Also did some shopping on Saturday morning at what they call a Reenik (spelling?). This was a huge one with a lot of stalls selling a lot of typical Russian souvenirs. I came to Russia without a purse, hoping to get by without one. That has worked in rainy weather but it was beautiful in Moscow so no coat pockets. I carried aspirin and toilet paper, napkins (couldn’t find tissue) in a plastic bag because I was suffering with a head cold. So I finally broke down and bought a small cloth bag type purse. It was supposedly made by hand in Uzbekistan – used to be part of the Soviet Union but now independent. It cost 2500 rubles and they wouldn’t come down on the price. Then we found one almost the same for 1300 rubles and Jim talked them down to 1000 – that’s about $35.00, which is more than a cheapskate like me would spend on a purse but I really like it and if it lasts to bring home it will be a nice souvenir. For pictures we took in Moscow, wait about a week and go to our blog site and our daughter will have them posted. Scroll down til you find them.

Arrived home Sunday evening about 6 PM and again went straight to bed after flying all night. A very interesting thing happened today and that name Uzbekistan came up again. Our Russian missionary called us about 3 PM and told us that he invited a couple over to our apartment for family home evening. I asked if he wanted some dessert and he said, “No, a dinner. This is Russian custom to feed people.” He also said that he wanted to talk about the importance of families, something we had just had training in – Wow! Jim and I hurried to the store. I made scalloped potatoes with ham, cooked carrots glazed with honey and cinnamon, a cabbage salad and apple crisp. The couple turned out to be from Uzbekistan. They look a little Asian. He spoke Russian fairly well and translated for his wife. We also had two single ladies that the missionaries invited – that made 8 and I only have 6 plates.

After dinner as we talked about families the subject of prayer came up and the gentleman said that he was supposed to pray 5 times a day but he works and is not able to that much. He is here working as a brick mason. I whispered to the American missionary sitting by me and asked if he our guest was Muslim. The missionary replied “yes.” I was horrified to think that I served him pork. The Russian missionary remarked at what a miracle it is that people from 3 different countries were able to be sitting here together to discuss religion. He is right – it is! All for now. Love, Sister and Elder Rahi