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