Dear Friends and Family,
Here is a piece of useless trivia for you. The name Vlad in Russian means ruler or sovereign and vostok means East. So Vladivostok means “Ruler of the East”. We traveled to Vladivostok on Wednesday afternoon with the 4 Elders on a hot, humid bus with old broken down seats. Four hours later we arrived and Jim and I were able to take a taxi to our mission president’s very nice apartment with air conditioning. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We spent the night there and then went to zone meetings on Thursday. They are always so inspiring. After the meetings we went upstairs to the mission office to receive instructions for our upcoming trip to South Korea to renew our visas.
Because of that we were a little late getting to the bus station. The bus to Nakhodka was full so we walked to the train station – in the oppresive heat – and caught the train at 7:00 PM. It was way more comfortable and we were able to open the windows. The countryside is lush and green right now and really makes you think that you are in Asia and I guess this is considered Asia. There were wild orange day lillies or tiger lillies in bloom as well as purple wild iris here and there. The little potato plots at the country cottages were all in bloom. It was a pleasant ride. We arrived in Nakhodka at 11:00 PM and again took a taxi because we weren’t sure that buses were running that late.
Jim was at the Elder’s apartment last Monday ( I am working backwards here) helping them with some plumbing when he came home suddenly and told me that Stass from English Club was picking us up at 12:30 to take us to an orphanage. We hurried and got ready and rode about 10 or 15 miles out of town to a regional orphanage for disabled children. Stass didn’t know it was for the disabled. He had just passed by and thought the buildings could use some paint. There are about 400 children there from 4 to 18. They have various disabilities from Down’s Syndrome to autism. Some are victims of polio and some have various birth defects. The buildings were old but well maintained and clean. We were so impressed with what they are trying to do there for the children. The children’s art work was everywhere on display and we saw pictures of some of the older children learning to dance. They have those who are able work in the laundry or kitchen and even some make repairs to the buildings. We went to the sewing room where girls with badly twisted hands were crocheting and they sell their hand knitted and crocheted items. No one was in the carpentry shop, which is very poorly supplied with tools.
We peeked into a dormitory room where little Down’s Syndrome children had just been put down for a nap and they all popped up and one little girl with ribbons in her hair came running over to me. I wanted to pick her up but she was shooed away and put back to bed. After an extensive tour we asked them what their most pressing needs were. The director said they would like walkers and strollers to help some of the children be more ambulatory and some wood working tools for their carpentry shop. We gave her the paperwork to fill out her request. We will then submit it to our office in Moscow for approval.
This visit was hard on our Russian friend. The disabled are not visible in Russian society. And this is difficult without any faith to explain that we all wanted to come to earth and receive a body; and that these children are automatically exalted in God’s kingdom. It became difficult for me, too, when the director said that they try to give these children a happy life because at 18 they will probably all be sent to an insane asylum.
An update on our cute little blond English teacher and her son. They came again to our Family Home Evening last Monday for the second time and Stass came too. I made strawberry rhubarb pie with the rhubarb she gave me and some frozen stawberries. It was a big hit. She and her son came to church today! It was thrilling to me. I know some of you don’t belong to my church but in a Godless country like this it is thrilling to see someone try to find Him. She also asked if we were having FHE on Monday night and said she would be there.
I have heard of the rain in the Northwest from many of you and hope that your weather is getting better! I would send you some heat and humidity if I could. As you celebrate the Fourth of July this coming weekend, please think of me and celebrate double. As many of you know, it is my favorite holiday and it will be just another day here. May God Bless America!!! Love and best wishes to all! Elder and Sister