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!