Sunday, 19 October 2008

Sundays are Different in Russia

President Karneov
(branch president of Yugo Zapadanya branch),
Sister Ireland, Elder Hunter, Elder Armstrong,
Elder Harker, Elder Mills,
Elder Aiken, Elder Terrell,
Elder Ireland

Serving as missionaries in Russia, our Sundays are quite different than our Sundays back home. We still enjoy them, but they are different. Today is the third Sunday of the month, which is the Sunday I give the lesson in Relief Society before Sacrament Meeting. (Sam gives the Priesthood lesson every other Sunday.) I am finding it challenging to be the teacher to Russian speakers, because I have to use an interpreter to relay everything I say. Then when they ask or answer a question, I have to have what they say translated back to me. The natural flow of thought is thus interrupted. The young missionaries are amazing at how well they do with the Russian language, but they will be the first to admit that it is much easier for them to translate to Russian what an English-speaking person says than it is for them to translate a Russian speaker's words to English. Therefore, there are times when I don't get all the details translated when a sister answers a question. I only hope my reply is on target.

Sister Natalia, our Relief Society president,
and her husband (counselor to the branch president)

Another difference we are having in church here is with the music. I really enjoy singing hymns, but it is difficult to sing in Russian unless it is a slow Sacrament hymn where we have time to read the words. One Sacrament meeting about a month ago, we were singing along rather quietly due to being unsure of our pronunciation when we came to the words in "I Stand All Amazed" where the line goes, "Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget? No, no, . . . " Of course, we're singing the words in Russian; and when we got to the "Net, net," which are words we instantly recognized, we sang right out. That made us almost loose our reverence, and we had to concentrate hard not to laugh.

We also miss children at church, since our little branch is made up of older members and college-age members. Once in awhile, someone visits with a child; but we have no Primary because we have no Primary-age children.

Lydia (second from left) introduces herself in
Relief Society as the "baby," being the newest
baptized sister in the branch.
(Natalia, Lydia, Elder Terrell, Elder Harker,
and Sister Ireland)

Through the years, I have not kept up on my piano playing except to accompany the hymns in our little branch back home. Before coming on this mission, I considered I might be in a branch where they needed someone to play, and I thought I would be able to do this. However, I didn't expect this opportunity to come on the second day of our being in Russia. We attended a small branch with the Browns since we had not yet been assigned to a branch, and they asked if I could be their accompanist that morning. Well, Sam readily volunteered me, and I went up to the front and sat down to a small keyboard instrument that I didn't know how to turn on or regulate the sound. As I began to play the introduction for the opening song, it was too loud. My nervousness doubled. Part way into the first line, I hit the wrong key and my nervousness doubled again. I don't know whether it was not having played on this type of instrument before or whether it was jet lag and my brain was numb, or a combination of the two. Having everyone singing in Russian while I was used to singing along in English while I played for our branch at home might also have been a factor. Whatever the reason, my confidence for playing dropped to an all-time low; and since then I have tried to downplay the fact that I know anything about playing the piano. Which brings me to today. Elder Terrell, who had been playing for the branch, has been made one of the assistants to President Collins; so I was asked to play today and it went okay. Now I have to worry about next Sunday and hope I can do as well.

Elder Terrell (left) and Elder Harker (right)
with newest members of the branch.
Anthony (confirmed two weeks ago),
Lydia (baptised last April),
Vasily (baptised in September), and
Peter (baptised last April)

Elder Terrell, Anthony, and Elder Armstrong

Of course, our Sundays are much more relaxed now that we are assigned to the Yugo Zapadnaya branch here in Moscow compared to when we used to go to Tver and had to spend about five hours on Saturday to get there and another afternoon to return to Moscow on Sunday. As much as we loved the people in Tver, we are happy to be able to stay in Moscow on weekends.

Tver branch members.
(President Akseonov is behind and left of the pulpit.
Next to him and directly behind the pulpit
Sergei, the current branch president.)

We really appreciate the warmth of the people attending Yugo Zapadnaya, and the young Elders are great. We just regret that we can't communicate better with the Russian members. We get and give smiles and hugs, and we exchange a few Russian greetings. Here are some pictures I took of the Relief Society sisters today:

The sister on the left speaks quite good English.

Sister Natasha is Sister Natalia's counselor
in Relief Society.

Alla understands some English.

Sister Lydia is very faithful. She has made
these little booties for a service project to
give to an orphanage.

Sister Lena (right) serves in the district as
a teacher trainer.

It takes us about an hour to get to the mission office where we currently hold our services for this small branch. It's about a 20-minute walk to the metro with another 10-minute walk at the other end after riding on the metro about 30 minutes. We are expecting to soon be moving into another building they have been remodeling, and our branch will be joining with another branch.

Elder Harker's birthday
(Elder Ireland, Elder Harker, and Elder Mills)

We had invited Elder Harker and Elder Mills to supper last Monday without realizing it was Elder Harker's birthday. Fortunately, I had baked a chocolate cake and found some birthday candles; and we sang "Happy Birthday." After our chili supper, the Elders gave us a nice message about the Plan of Happiness."

1 comment:

Mike and Maradel said...

Hi, Your playing in Lobnya was not nearly as bad as you make it sound. We were so grateful to have someone who would play! Your Sunday's in Russia bring back memories.
Sundays in China aren't too bad either. We have just been given the best job in all the church...Greeters!
We miss you and pray for your success.