Dear Friends and Family,
A week or two ago while walking from English Club to the bus stop we ran into a boy about 11 or 12 years old who was from Kirkland, Washington. He said he was here visiting relatives and proudly said that he spoke perfect Russian without an American accent. He asked what we were doing here and we told him that we were here to do humanitarian work. He didn’t know what that meant so we told him we were here to help the poor and the needy. He said, “So, is that like everyone in Russia?”
Well, regardless of the opinion of a spoiled American kid, not everyone here is in need. There is not a lot of unemployment and the median income is about 20,000 rubles per month. To put that in perspective the rent on our apartment is 20,000 rubles a month. Many older people own their apartment because when the Soviet system broke up the government gave people the apartments they were living in. They are small, old and often crowded. In addition some like our branch president here have lost them because they didn’t own the building and the buildings have been torn down or taken over by the mafia. There are a few nice homes on the hillsides that are in stark contrast to the rows and rows of gray apartment buildings. We have seen a black “hummer” and a black Mercedes going down the street here. We will let you figure out who owns vehicles like that.
There are some old ladies who beg on the streets and who go through the garbage. There are some men we have seen sitting on the side of the street begging who have had all their toes frozen off and have just stumps left. This would not be a good place to be homeless in the winter.
This week we visited a home for children whose parents are dysfunctional due to drugs or alcohol. They also have a section where they take in street or homeless children. They said they would like beds and dressers so, again, we left them paperwork to make their request. We have also made some contact with a Catholic Church in Vladivostok that has a fledgling Boy Scout Troop. They want camping equipment for the boys. Not much happens here in the month of July because so many, especially government workers, take vacation. I understand that is also true in Western Europe. So we will just have to be patient.
Yesterday (Saturday) morning we had 3 Korean workers here to fix the water damage in our bathroom. North Koreans are used here much as Hispanic workers used to be used in the States. From what I understand of the starvation going on in North Korea, they are probably very happy to come here and work. I was trying to make home made flour tortillas but these men smelled soooo bad that I had to go stand by a window and get fresh air the whole time they were here. We are accustomed to strong body odors on crowded buses because it seems only the younger generation knows about deodorant, but this smell was something else. I think that must be what comes of having to squat over an open pipe for a toilet facility.
We will be leaving on Wednesday morning this week to go to Seoul, (South) Korea to renew our Russian visa. We return on Friday. Jim has an appointment with a Korean chiropractor. The one he has been seeing here is more like a masseur (gives massages) so he is anxious for this appointment. We will go to the Seoul Temple and enjoy good food. We are told that the food is good and the people are friendly and we can buy real French’s mustard and other American style foods and products that are not available here. It has been announced that Tuesday will be another day without water here in Nakhodka – the third since we arrived here- so it will be difficult to bathe before we leave very early Wednesday morning.
There is much more I could say but I feel a need to close with something of hope. I know that a loving God is in charge in this world. We are studying the Old Testament in Sunday School this year and when I read it I realize that not much has changed in thousands of years: God keeps trying to establish a righteous people and they keep rejecting Him. We love you all dearly and appreciate your prayers in our behalf. We pray for you also and for America. Love, Elder and Sister