Thursday, 27 November 2008

Thanksgiving in Russia

This was our second Thanksgiving in Russia. Last year, we had just arrived in Moscow and didn't know any of the missionaries. This year, it was fun to see missionaries we know from serving in Tver and Yuga Zapadnaya as well as missionaries we have met on visa renewal trips. President & Sister Collins served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey and dressing and pumpkin pies. Others brought an assortment of desserts. I brought Missouri Cookies. Elder Terrell thanked me for bringing them and said these were his favorite cookies.

Moscow West Missionaries
President & Sister Collins (center, sitting on the floor)
Elder & Sister Ireland (second row)

Enjoying a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
(Five have served in Yugo Zapadnaya:
Elders Aiken, DeSpain, Pollard, Terrell, & Mills.)

Sister Ireland and a group of Elders
finishing the main course before having dessert.
(Elder Cannon from Tver branch is sitting
two seats to the left of me.)

Sister Collins (center) with the Sisters.

Elders Mills, Harker, Blatter, and Armstrong
in their district's skit.

After we ate, each district presented a skit. These were well done and most were based on humorous things that had actually happened to them during their mission. They were pretty good actors, and we enjoyed all the skits.

Friday, the senior couples were invited to the Jorgensens for chicken noodle soup, and we all brought something to add to the meal. I made another batch of Missouri Cookies to bring, as the missionaries had finished up those I took the day before.

The Senior Couples at the Jorgensens

We appreciate the phone calls and video webcam chats with family and hearing about their Thanksgiving activities. We have so much to be thankful for, and we certainly had a happy Thanksgiving.

Meridian Magazine is one of my favorite online sites. Today I read an article written by Darla Isackson entitled, "Prayers of Thanksgiving." Toward the end of the article, she wrote:

"Like all commandments, the commandment to 'thank the Lord in all things' is for our good, for our well-being and comfort. When furious storms blow all around us, this key of gratitude unlocks the door to the house of joy, then lets us stay inside where the fire of faith burns bright in the fireplace. We can pull up an easy chair and warm ourselves by the fire of faith even when we know that the world outside our windows is in cold chaos.

"The promises for keeping the 'thanksgiving' commandment are amazing. The Lord said, 'He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of the earth shall be added unto him, even a hundred fold' (D & C 79:19). May we choose these blessings for ourselves by choosing to thank the Lord in all things."

To read the entire article, go to:


Saturday, 22 November 2008

One-year Anniversary

Monday, November 17, marked the anniversary of our being in Russia for one year. The time has gone by faster than I expected. We have enjoyed experiencing this new culture, bonding with new friends, learning new things, and feeling spiritually blessed. We have been impressed with the faith and dedication of the Russian members of the Church we have grown to love. We have admired the spiritual strength of the young missionaries who serve here with maturity beyond their years. We have appreciated the close friendships made with the other senior missionary couples who are truly our brothers and sisters. It feels like we have known them for years and are family.

Sister Ireland & Elder Ireland

We have become better prepared and capable of fulfilling our duties as Area Welfare Specialists through these months of serving. Thinking about our first few months, we are grateful we had the opportunity to focus on doing humanitarian projects and gain an insight from that perspective, and we appreciate Mike and Maradel Brown's support and the orientation they gave us to the work as well as to Moscow. It is a pleasure working with Vlad Nechiporov, the Area Welfare Manager. We also enjoy the friendly association with others in the Service Center, most of whom are Russian but who speak to us in English.

Mike & Maradel Brown
met us at the airport and helped us
adjust to our new culture.

Vlad Nechiporov, Area Welfare Manager,
and his wife, Elena

Sofia and Elena are some of our special friends
at the Service Center.

In the middle of February, we settled into primarily doing the office work at the Service Center, but continuing to do humanitarian projects when we can get away and when our interpreter is available to go with us. We have been blessed to have the college students we have as interpreters, and we love both of them. First, Nactya was our interpreter until she left for the summer to work in the U.S. and then returned to a full-time job. Anna is our interpreter now, and she also is a delight to be with and has very good English.

Nactya and Anna

Meeting with the director of a
rehabilitation center for the disabled

Our office at the Service Center

As we began our work in the office, we felt the need to put in long work days in order to keep up with the e-mails, phone calls, and documentation. Fortunately, we have become more efficient in knowing how to do things and we have been able to organize things the way they work best for us. Now, we can usually leave closer to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. most days.

Elder Ireland (Sam) strives to process all the project requests on the day they arrive in his Inbox. He carefully reviews them, gets additional information or clarification if needed, writes a summary to be sent for approval for those he recommends, and then later notifies the humanitarian couples when their projects are approved. He also works with the humanitarian missionaries to manage the budget for the projects in their areas.

It is relatively an easy job for me to process the payment requests and expense reports that come in from the field relative to doing humanitarian projects. In the beginning, there were some inconsistencies in what was being reported, especially in Russia where their JPMC cards cannot be reimbursed. After our Area Conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, in April, we worked out guidelines for Russia and a second set of guidelines appropriate for the other countries in Eastern Europe; and now the reports are coming in with very few changes needed.

My job that takes more time is processing the final reports for the projects as they are completed. Somehow, there had gotten a build up of projects from years earlier that had not gotten closed. Last summer, Salt Lake sent me a list of 328 projects that were over due to be closed, some going back several years. With the help and cooperation of the humanitarian couples in the various countries, we have that list down to just a few that are pre-2007 and most are 2008 projects. Several of these projects required corrections in posting; others needed a supplementary request for funds to cover projects that had gone over the budgeted amount. Some had not been closed because the missionaries who originated the project had gone home before the project was completed, and there were other projects that somehow Salt Lake had no record of the final report that had been filled out by the missionary couple. My goal is to have all past due projects officially closed with a Final Report and a Historical Report filed.

We are grateful we got to know the members and missionaries in Tver, although traveling to Tver and spending our weekends there was something we were glad not to have to do any more when we got reassigned to the Yugo Zapadnaya branch in Moscow. We will always remember with fondness the special friends we made in Tver.

Sergei & Svetlana's wedding reception in Tver.

We appreciate now the warm welcome we feel when we attend the Yugo Zapadnaya branch. It's a challenge to give lessons to Russian speakers, but we do the best we can with the help of the Elders translating for us. I give the Relief Society lesson on the third Sundays, and Sam gives the Priesthood lesson every other Sunday. The members are good to participate in discussions, and they are very supportive of each other.

We enjoy hearing the missionaries sing
in the Yuga Zapadnaya branch.
(Elders Salinas, Aiken, Harker,Mills and Armstrong;
Elder Terrell playing the piano)

Last week in FHE, Renee Mason commented how close we senior missionaries have become to one another. This is truly one of the blessings of our mission. We miss those who have completed their missions and returned home, and we welcome those who have more recently arrived. Those friends who have left since we came are David & Anne Richards, Mike & Maradel Brown, Al & Barbara Price, Joe & Nancy Abram, and Craig & Lorna McCune. Those who arrived after we did are Darvel & Kathy Gregory, Clark & Renee Mason, David & Sharon Yorgensen, David & Linda Nearon, and Steve & Linda Rees (who came last week) . Currently George & Beryl Curbishley have been here the longest and will be going home in February. Greg & Chris Shepard came the month before us. We treasure these friendships.

Dave & Anne Richards

Mike & Maradel Brown

Barbara & Al Price

Joe & Nancy Abram

Craig & Lorna McCune

Beryl & George Curbishley

Greg & Chris Shepard

Darvel & Kathy Gregory

Sharon & David Yorgensen

Renee & Clark Mason

Linda & David Nearon

Linda & Steve Rees

We are happy that we could share Moscow with five of our children and their spouses who have come for a visit this past year and hope the two sons and daughters-in-law who have yet to come will be able to make it before we leave. This mission has been such an important part of our lives that we are grateful to be able to share it with our loved ones.

Because of trainings we do as well as the visa renewal trips, we have been fortunate to travel to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Turkey, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Spain and in Russia to St. Petersburg and several cities near Moscow.

Elder & Sister Ireland
serving and traveling in Europe East Area

It's been a memorable year. As I am writing this, it is snowing outside, so winter has arrived. We walk many miles and enjoy walking, but we are not looking forward to walking on ice and snow again. But our health has been good, our work is rewarding, and we cherish our testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are happy we can serve as humanitarian missionaries in Russia.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Talent Show

We received invitations to attend a concert November 15 where the young performers were the final winners of five stages of competition from 40 cities in Russia. It was held in the same theater where we had seen the Chinese circus. The talent was amazing.

Those attending the concert with us were the Jorgensens, the Shepards, and our interpreter, Anna. A lady we had met at an organization that works with troubled families gave us the letters of invitation and insisted it was free when we tried to pay her.

Sharon Jorgensen, Chris Shepard, Anna Smirnova,
and Narene by the Moscow River with
the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer
in the background. We took this photo on
our walk to the metro after the concert.

The lady giving the young man a special award
is a professional singer, and she also performed.

This competition was began by a professional actor whose poster cut-out can be seen at the left of the picture above. Other professionals continue as sponsors. The lady who gave us our invitations is the mother of a famous actress who got her start as a child playing the part of Little Red Riding Hood.

These dancers were identical twins.

One twin appeared first on stage. After his energetic dancing, he acted tired and left the stage, but then quickly appeared all rejuvenated. It came as a fun surprise then when both appeared at the same time, and the audience realized they were twins.

This was the winner of the ballet category.
It was the story of
two young lovers in
a circus group, but the young girl falls and dies.

With music as an accompaniment, she kept
adding hula hoops until these were all swirling.

This juggling act was fun to watch.
While on this stack of rocking blocks
and cylinders, he never missed a ball.

This was an interesting performance. The photo is
blurred because they were always moving
to the music. The dancers were completely
encased in stretchy material.

This group inpersonated famous people.

All performers appeared on stage for the finale.
The young man supporting himself on one hand
moved with the music.

Before the concert, we went to Ismaly Park
to do some shopping.
Pictured here: Narene, Linda, Sharon, and Chris.

On the way to the concert, we followed the
Russian tradition for good luck and touched the
nose of the dog in the
Ploshad Revolutsy metro station.

We ended the day by going to Red Square.
How many times have we taken our picture
in front of St. Basil's!

It was an enjoyable day.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Walking Tour of Madrid

We enjoyed having Clark & Renee Mason with us once more on our second visa trip to Madrid. Since the blog posted August 15 has pictures of Madrid from our first visit, I will feature in this posting some of the new things we did this time. We also repeated some of the things we enjoyed on our first visit - going to the temple, seeing the young missionaries and President & Sister Hill at the MTC, walking through Retiro Park, seeing the paintings and sculptures in the Prado Museum, and walking around looking at the different architecture of the buildings and monuments. Our sightseeing trip to Segovia on Tuesday was really enjoyable, and my previous blog highlights that experience with quite a few pictures.

We had enjoyed taking a tour of the Royal Palace in August, but the Cathedral of Almudena, which is just across the courtyard from the Palace, was closed the day we were there; so on this trip we took a tour of the Cathedral.

A view of the Royal Palace
as seen from the top of the Cathedral

The Cathedral of Almudena
is adjacent to the Royal Palace.

Inside the Cathedral of Almudena

The Cathedral of Almudena is 104 meters long and 76 meters wide. It contains 13 chapels, 3 altars, and a huge dome 20 meters in diameter. In its various stages it took about 100 years to complete, and it was consecrated in 1993 by Pope John Paul.

Cathedral of Almudena

Narene standing by one of the numerous
satues around the top of the Cathedral of Almudena.
The statues are of the Apostles and other
disciples from the Bible.

Walking around at the top of the Cathedral
offered a good view of the city.

Another view from the top of the Almudena Cathedral.

The Virgin of Almudena, the patron saint of Madrid,
in a side altar in the Cathedral.

One of the numerous side alcoves in the
Cathedral of Almudena.

This was my favorite alcove.

One of the doors to the Cathedral.

We went to the Prada again on Monday evening from 6:00 to 8:00 and used the brochure they provide to locate the famous paintings by Raphael, El Greco, Velazquez, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Goya, and more. We had intended to get tickets to see the Rembrandt exhibition, but we must have been in the wrong line.

This picture was taken as we
walked back to the Hotel Convencion
after our visit to the Prada Museum.

On Wednesday we went to a free museum the lady at the information center had told us about. It was in an interesting modern building with an accompanying wall of vegetation without earth.

Caixa Forum's wall of vegetation

This "garden" is 24 meters high on a vertical wall and consists of 460 square meters with 15,000 plants from 250 different species. It is a wall of vegetation that lives without soil and only needs water and nutrients.

Caixa Forum Social and Cultural Outreach Projects

We enjoyed seeing the Etruscan exhibit at the Caixa Forum. The building itself was interesting and unusual. Here is a picture of the spiraling stairs.

Narene walking up the winding stairs in the
Caixa Forum.

Golden plates with inscriptions in
Etruscan and Phoenician, around 500 B.C.,
was one of the exhibits in the
Caixa Forum.

We enjoyed walking through Retiro Park.
This picture was taken by the Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace in Retiro Park

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

Retiro Park

Water wheel in Retiro Park

Atocha Railway Station.

Plaza Mayor

King Philip III memorial in Plaza Mayor

Clark & Sam waiting in Plaza Mayor
while Renee & Narene looked through the shops.

The green hat in front is for money paid
to have a picture taken with "her"
on Plaza Mayor.

This WC is very different from those we see in Moscow.

The following photos are a sample of the different buildings and architecture we saw on our walking tour of Madrid.

Apartment building in Madrid

Picture taken from the station where
we took the train to Segovia.

Minesterio de Agricultura

Chariot statues on top of this building.

Palace of Communication

Bank of Spain

Clark, Narene, Renee, and Sam
standing in front of an olive tree.

Looking out the window of the MTC down on
the grounds of the LDS Temple where these men
were planting petunias.

Saving the best to last: The LDS Temple

Our next and last visa renewal trip will be the end of January.