When we sit down at the end of the week and reflect on all the activity that takes place we wonder how we keep packing so many experiences into such a short time. The weeks seem to just fly by. We have decided that with so much sunlight it makes it a little easier to just keep going but we do get worn out by the end of the week. The office stuff stays about the same each week – missionaries coming and going, visa problems, dealing with money issues in three currencies (dollars, rubles, & tenge) and just trying to keep each other up to speed so one of us doesn’t get left in the dust on one thing or another. In addition to all the normal stuff this week we celebrated both President and Sister Gibbons’ birthdays, paid a visit to the Big Reenok, had a Sr. Couples conference, said goodbye to one of the regular employees (leaving to have a baby), held our district meeting, attended a Branch activity and prepared talks for sacrament meeting today. Oh – and we attended the wedding and reception (by Skype) of our beautiful granddaughter Brenna and her husband Will. Congratulations to the new couple – Mr. and Mrs. Davis!!
So how fun is this – President Gibbons’ birthday is the 10th and Sister Gibbons is the 11th of July. We had a great staff meeting on Tuesday, as we celebrated both birthdays together and since it was transfer day several of the missionaries who were in the city stopped by to share a birthday wish as well. They are so great and everyone enjoyed being with them on their special days. We also sent two of our best missionaries home this same day which is always sad. One was Elder Ortner who was serving as our District Leader – the other Elder Bounous had been our District Leader when we first arrived.
Then it was off to the “BIG” Reenock after work where we bought new shopkas (hats) for winter – it will be here sooner than we would like. They are supposed to be cheaper in the summer but we weren’t sure they were. Then Wednesday was our Senior Couples Conference. We gathered at the Mission Home in the afternoon where President and Sister Gibbons shared a few thoughts with us and we each shared our testimony. It was insightful to see what motivated each of us to serve a mission. None of us ever dreamed we would be in Russia, let alone Siberia but here we are. It was a strength to each of us to share our feelings of faith and the joys and experiences we were each having. There were 4 Senior Couples in attendance – 3 of us serving our first mission the other couple was serving their 5th mission together ( 1 in Scotland, 1 in Cambodia and this is the 3rd time they have been to Russia). Not sure we are up for that but they were amazing. After meeting for a while we all went to dinner at the Mexican restaurant (Russian version) – It is really pretty good – not like home but it will do in a pinch. Then after dinner we walked to the Opera House to see the Russian Ballet – Copillia – of all the performances we have seen there this one we think was our favorite.
Friday brought our weekly district meeting from 1pm to 4pm give or take. One of the senior couples, the Holmes’, (the ones on their 5th mission) was still in town so they attended as well. We ended up with 15 counting us for our meeting and lunch. Sister Webb fixed burritos which were a huge hit and then after we got everyone off we went back to the office for a farewell party and baby shower (sort of) for one of the employees and a welcome on board party for her replacement. It was hard to say goodbye to Yulia, she is the accountant that works for the church and has been very helpful to both of us in helping us understand many of the procedures and much of the language as we have learned our way around things in the office.
Saturday rolled around pretty quickly and it was a hot one. The humidity was high, the air still, the sky clear as a bell, and temperature around 90 - a perfect day for a boat ride with our Branch. There were just over 80 who came and once we all got loaded onto the boat we took off upriver. It was nice to be on the water. This is third largest river in Russia and although it runs south to north we didn’t get far enough upstream to make much of a difference temperature wise. It reminded us a lot of the Columbia River back home except for the color of the water!! We enjoyed the afternoon ride, most of the folks got off the boat at a big island upriver for a couple of hours (they would catch the boat back on its next run) we returned with the Huffakers, a few of the missionaries, and our District President and his wife and new little daughter Sophia. We all went to Carl’s Jr. for a hamburger before heading to our separate homes.
All we can say about Sunday is – it is great to have it over. We both had to give a talk in church so we were greatly relieved when that was over and we could let go of the stress. Speaking in church partly in bad Russian and partly through an interpreter and hoping that what you want to say is coming out okay is a very exhausting experience. We think it went pretty well though. The people were very nice in telling us we did well and are getting better (a little) with our language. Anyway, we did what we could and let the spirit handle the rest.
It has been a magnificent week for us (as we have discovered every week is) and we hope it has been for you as well. We are loving our time together and taking care of each other as we go from day to day. We know there will always be a piece of our heart here in Siberia.
|Gibbons' Birthday & Visitors|
|Mr & Mrs Davis|
|Yulia and Yaroslov|
|Boarding the Boat|
|Little Sophie on her first Boat Trip|
|Off Loading at the Island for a few hours of |
|Returning to Port|
|Sister Webb with Elder Ortner|
getting ready to return home