Monday, March 26, 2012

Waiting for SPRING

We thought Spring was on it’s way but little did we know.  Apparently, when it starts to warm up here (it has been in the high 20’s to low 30’s) it just means it is warm enough to snow.  We should have known this!!!  Anyway, we have been getting a lot of snow lately which wouldn’t be so bad but it seems to be accompanied by this fierce 10 to 20 mph wind that comes right out of the Artic so even though the temp says 25-30 it feels more like 10-20 but hey this is Siberia so what is one to expect!!!  It is getting better everyday though and is melting quite a bit which is also kind of messy with all the mud and water.  You have to be careful where you step because the slush is probably covering a 2 foot hole of water which is not fun if you step in----but we are loving the warmer weather.

It has been quite a week for teaching too.  This week we had a young woman, Christie, over for dinner.  She is from Texas and is here teaching English at one of the schools in the city.  Then there was Mikhail who came over one evening.  He is a young man with a wife and 2 yr old son.  Hopefully, he will bring them by next time so we can meet them as well.  Yesterday Marina was baptized and then confirmed a member today in church.  She came to dinner today and we had a great time getting to know her a little better and also helped the elders teach her another lesson.  Also, today Alexey came to church.  He is an older gentleman, a professor at one of the universities here, and just finished building his own home before winter set in.  Then this winter the roof burnt on his new home and he has had several other set backs as well.  It is always interesting to be reminded that it often takes crisis in our lives before we become humble enough to turn to God.  We are pretty prideful in our own abilities in general and sometimes it takes being reminded that without God we are nothing.  Anyway, it was great to see him come and always good to be reminded of the importance of the Lord in our lives.  We give thanks everyday for the blessings of life we are privileged to enjoy.

There was a leadership meeting on Saturday, the first one of our new District.  Elder Webb attended and gave a little instruction (with the aid of a translator of course) on the financial record keeping required and Sister Webb helped with the feeding of the whole crew.  There were about 20 at the meeting here and another 10 or so that participated via skype from various parts of the District.  It was really quite impressive to see the new leadership all together. 

It is hard to believe that it is the last week of March already.  The time seems to fly by (most of the time flys by).  This coming week should be a little slower for us so perhaps we will have an opportunity to get out and see a little more of the city.  Although it will have to “dry up” before we can get around too much.  No transfers this week, no arriving or departing missionaries, no visa trips, just one missionary leadership training meeting on Wednesday and with the reorganization all done that will leave some time as well.  We look forward to a great week.  Hope you all have one as well.  It is always fun to get a note from out there so if you have some time drop us an email.  Be good, stay safe - we’ll talk again next week.
Our Leadership Meeting

Sister Webb w/MARINA &
the Elders

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Big Day

The big day which we have mentioned before finally arrived.  Sunday the 18th of March was historic for the Church in Siberia.  All of Siberia was organized into one mission district and designated a “Prepatory Stake”.   This means that they are looking to be formally organized into a stake within the year.  It is definitely a significant event for the members here as they can now look forward to the building of a temple in Siberia.  It was quite amazing to see the people gather from several of the cities we have visited, meet each other for the first time and realize that they were part of a much bigger organization.  One young girl who belongs to the small branch of about 20 in Novokueznetsk had never been in a meeting with so many members of the church before.  The meeting was held at the Double Tree and even tho' there were just over 300 in attendance she was quite overcome.  Congregations of around 100 each met in Omck and Krasnoyarsk with internet broadcast from Novosibirsk.

Sister Webb led a missionary choir which sang 2 numbers for the meeting and one of our new and very special friends was called to be the new District President.  He is a young man and a new father.  His wife spoke as well as he during the meeting and we could feel the power of their leadership.  Their new little daughter “Sophia” has captured the hearts of everyone here as well.

Also this past week we received 5 new missionaries; one sister and 5 elders.  They will be a great addition to our mission.  The new sister is really quite amazing.  She is 32 years old, so about ten years older than most of our sisters, has a Masters Degree in civil engineering and has been working as a planner designing bridges and freeways in Utah.  It is pretty impressive for her to take this time out of her career to come and serve.

We have had several interesting interactions this week with people we have just “bumped” into or have been introduced to by our missionaries.  We took our Zone Leaders to an Italian restaurant this past week.  We are always looking for good restaurants because they seem to be few and far between.  This is not from a lack of places to eat but rather because the cuisine here is rather bland; from sweets to spices the flavors are pretty mild so it is a treat to find a place that actually has a little zing.  Anyway, on our way there we were stopped in the metro by a man who just wanted to talk and find out more about us and our church.  Mostly, I think because we were American but we had a great time visiting with him.  Then later while we were looking for the restaurant we talked for a while with a young woman who we had stopped to ask directions.  Both of these gave us their phone numbers and wanted to talk some more.  Always fun.  Dinner was great, quite tasty, great atmosphere, piano player and all, and very reasonable as far as dinner out goes.  

Also, we had a young doctor come to our home this past week to be taught by the missionaries.  It was another great experience for us to be involved in teaching and answering many his questions.  Sister Webb also visited with a man on our elevator who lives on the 16th floor.  He is Russian, speaks great English and spent 6 years living in Boston.  We have commented to each other several times how exciting it is to meet someone who speaks English.

We love serving here in Siberia.  We continue to meet so many wonderful people and have made friendships that we know will last a lifetime.  Even tho’ we spend a lot of our time working in the office we are having many opportunities to help teach the gospel and when we can watch the change in people and see the light come into their eyes when they realize that our Father in Heaven lives and loves them as he loves each of us; that there is more to life than just the here and now and that Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to return and live with our Father in Heaven again – it is absolutely amazing.   

 Have a wonderful week – we know that we will.  Life is good and surprisingly it is good everywhere.  People are people the world over – they love their families, they hope for a brighter day, they care, and they are for the most part very good people – just like each of you.  We love and miss you.
Sister Webb warming up the

Little Sophia
Always a heart stopper

Getting ready for the
Big Meeting

Dinner Out

Sunset on another wonderful week

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Special People

30 degrees Fahrenheit and climbing.  It has been amazing to watch the ice melt away – good news, bad news – it leaves behind acres of mud.  We are loving the warmer weather though.  This week we actually packed away our winter coats, heavy gloves and scarfs and got out our wool coats – still a step away from our lighter spring/fall weather coats but warmer nonetheless.  We are getting very comfortable in our new apartment, enjoying the views of the city, the longer days and practicing our Russian on anyone with a little patience.

This week we celebrated a couple more birthdays at our district meeting; one of our Zone leaders and one of the AP’s (Elders who are Assistants to the President.  They both turned 20 (those were the days)!    We have new District Leaders, a new AP and a 3rd Sister.  She will be here serving in a threesome until next week when we get some more new missionaries and then she will take the new sister to Omsk and serve there.

Also this week Italya (the pianist for the ballet company here) got back from London where she had gone to audition for a spot with the London Symphony.  She was one of about 20 trying for one open place.  She did not get it so came back somewhat disappointed as she so wanted to move to London.  She came to our home and met with the missionaries again – it is always such a treat to have her come.  She is a wonderful young lady and works so hard and she speaks ENGLISH pretty well so that is a bonus for us. 

We thought we should tell you a little about Yuri Gushin.  He serves as a counselor to our Mission President and works as the driver for the mission.  We may have mentioned him before.  He is a very short man and in his day was a professional gymnast.  He drives us every Monday morning to the grocery store to do our shopping for the week, to and from the airport, train and bus stations, and just about anywhere else we need to go whenever we need to go there if we ask him.  He and his wife are some of the most wonderful, kind and loving people we have met anywhere.  He is always smiling and is trying hard to learn to speak English.  He has a daughter who will be graduating from BYU next month so he and his wife will be leaving for the U.S.A. and will gone for a month.  We are trying to figure out how we will get along without him.  They were introduced to the church one day about 15 years ago when they saw two young men walking down a street in front of their apartment during an exceptionally cold winter.  They looked cold and the Gushins felt impressed to invite them in for something warm to drink, something that is very unusual for Russians to do especially 15 years ago.  Well the young men (missionaries) accepted the invitation of course and the rest as they say is history. 

The most important thing in our lives to happen this week was the entry into the world of Emilie Regan Webb, our newest granddaughter.  Tyler and Janae are the proud parents and Emilie is making a hit with her big brother Harrison.  We are finding it pretty difficult to reach through the computer to hold her and try not to think about the fact that she will be nearly 1 year old before we get to actually hold her.  She is so cute and Mom and Emilie are doing well, resting comfortably at home and Janae and Tyler tell us that Emilie is sleeping and eating, and eating and sleeping.
Well that is our week in a nutshell.  Hope everyone is doing well, enjoying spring and finding lots for which to be thankful.  We love you all.  We pray for all our family and friends each day that the Lord bless you in your lives with peace and happiness.

Sister Webb with our dear friend

Our Mission Driver
a very tender special man
More Birthdays in our District
notice the Rice Crispy Treat
Birthday Cakes
A real hit - first ones since coming to Russia

A birthday for our little friend
March 5 2012
A special blessing to our entire family

Big Bro
Keeping a watchful eye!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Birthdays and Baltic Sea

It is getting warmer in Siberia.  We actually saw some water droplets falling from the roofs this week.  It is so exciting to be welcoming in the spring – last night we noticed on our computer that at midnight it was 12f above in Novosibirsk!  We, however, were sitting in our hotel room in Helsinki, Finland the last night of our 2nd visa renewal trip.  We flew in on the 1st, Sister Webb’s birthday, with about 15 of our missionaries who also had to renew their visas.  They all left Friday evening (remember they give the senior couples an extra day) and we leave today, Sunday, arriving home in Novosibirsk tomorrow morning around 6am.  Yesterday we took the ferry which is more like a small cruise ship, from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia.  It is a 2 and ½ hour trip and the whole time I have Gilligan’s Island theme song running through my mind.  All was well though and no one got stranded on any uncharted islands. 

Tallinn is an interesting combination of old and new.  The Old Town is surrounded by “the wall” built in the 500’s A.D. and contains within some grand old churches and various other buildings all built over the years.  The city of course grew continually and has always been a sought after strategic location by the various ruling powers so has been conquered and reconquered several times.  Last of course by the Russians.  Then in 1991 when Estonia became independent they began a modernization program and have brought many new businesses and of course the building that goes with to the city.  We enjoyed the afternoon walking the streets of Old Town with its shops, narrow streets and big open squares.  We were taking a picture at the top of a hill when a lady called out in English and asked where we were from.  Turns out she and her husband were from Utah serving a mission in the temple in Helsinki and were also enjoying the day in Tallinn.  Very strange.  Then when we stopped in a shop to browse the lady spoke in Russian – we were able to carry on a fairly decent conversation with her.  She could understand most of what we said and we could understand a little of what she said.  We thought at first this was strange also since most of what we had been hearing was Finnish, but the more we considered it the more sense it made since the people here have been under Russian rule for so many years they are mostly Russian in culture.

Since we left early in the morning of “the birthday” all the folks in the office threw a big party for the birthday girl the day before.  Such a party, big red roses, cake, ice cream, singing and enough food for three parties.  If there is any excuse to party the Russians will make sure it happens.  Kind of like Americans I think.  People are People the world over!!  The Sister Missionaries also took time out to decorate our apartment door for the occasion.  Sister Webb is their favorite person in the whole mission.

This past week we also welcomed another Senior Couple to the mission, Elder and Sister Holmes who are serving their 5th mission and the 3rd (by their request) to Novosibirsk.   They will be in the city of Barnaul where they have served each time they have come.  The people there love them very much and are so excited to have them back.  We had dinner with them and President and Sister Gibbons at the Mission Home on Wednesday evening.

Tuesday we sent home 4 sister missionaries; two Sisters from Samara (Russia), 1 from Ukraine, and 1 from Germany.  What a production.  They had so many people who wanted to say goodbye that we had folks coming and going through the office all day long.  Finally, though all the goodbyes were said, buckets of tears shed and the Sisters made their way to the Mission Home for their last night in the Mission before catching their various planes home early on Wednesday morning.

Well that has been our week – we hope you enjoy the pictures representing a “snapshot” (no pun intended) of the events of this past week.  We are loving our mission, the people here, and the many varied experiences we are able to share together.
Building to right of blue neon sign is
Hotel Seurahone where we stayed
in December

Crossing the Baltic
Great to smell the Ocean again

Still lots of ice

Gates to Old Town
Tallinn, Estonia
Russian Orthodox Church
in the Background
My Bud - from Tallinn

"The Wall"
Surrounding the old town
circa 590's

One of many open squares
in Old Town

Overlooking "Old Town"

Typical Street

The Birthday Door

Singing Happy Birthday at the Airport
March Visa Renewal Trip

The Birthday Girl