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.

No comments: