Monday, August 27, 2012

Transfer Week

Transfer week brings with it a host of emotions from excitement to frustration and from uncertainty to sadness.  We are pretty sure we experienced them all this time around.  Of course there is always the excitement that fills the air as new assignments are received and new companions are met.  We had 9 new missionaries who arrived this past week from the MTC and 1 missionary who returned to us after going home for surgery and a 6 month rehab for a torn ACL.  In all there were 4 sisters and 6 elders.  Lots of training and orientation going on and Sister Webb being the mother that she is got these new missionaries through the particulars with flying colors – I think she has already adopted all of them.  Our mission family just keeps growing.  We do have to deal with the frustrations that come with sending them home when the time comes tho’ and we sent 2 sisters and 3 elders home this transfer, including one of the sisters who lived with Sister Webb for the week last Nov when I made that quick trip to Utah.  It is always hard to say goodbye but the excitement of receiving new missionaries sort of overshadows all the frustrations that come with saying goodbyes.  Let’s not forget all the movement that takes place on transfer week as well, when missionaries move around and “change up” companions and assignments.  We sent our first two transferring missionaries to Kazakhstan, 1 to Almaty and 1 to Astana.  Now this should be very exciting but one of the missionaries going to KZ is our own Elder Harrison who has worked with us side by side in the office since last November.  We knew the time would come when he would need to leave -  already he has been in the office about twice the normal amount of time.  He is an amazing young man and we will miss him terribly.  He is the most organized young adult we have ever meet so he has been invaluable in dealing with all the travel arrangements we have to make and making sure everyone is where they need to be at the appropriate time.  On top of that he is unbelievable in his ability to anticipate a person’s needs and then quick to act on that need without being asked.  He is one of the most thoughtful young men we have ever seen.  Thank you, Brother and Sister Harrison, for raising such a wonderful son.  We know he will bless the lives of everyone he touches in KZ.  If that wasn’t hard enough for us we also lost Elder Probst as he was transferred to Krasnoyarsk to be the District Leader there.  Elder Probst has been with us only 1 transfer less that Elder Harrison and he has rounded out the office team perfectly, complementing all of Elder Harrison’s strengths and making life in the office absolutely grand.  He has the analytical mind and the techno skills that have kept the office viable.  Tuesday evening these two took Sister Webb and I to dinner.  We could hardly believe they would want to take a couple of old fogey’s out in public, but they did and we had a great evening with them eating and visiting.  We are so sad to be losing these two remarkable missionaries but certainly know their skills, testimonies, and strengths are needed elsewhere.  The elders baptized two more people in our Branch this week and I had a visit from the church audit department.  Just doing his annual “thing” he said but I didn’t see any evidence that he was here last year.  Anyway, everything went perfectly well so now its back to business as usual.   We leave on our visa trip Tuesday at 5am and will head to the Frankfurt Temple.  Sister Webb’s sister and her husband are driving in from Wales and will pick us up after we finish at the temple and we will get to spend a couple of days with them.  We are looking forward that and will tell you all about it next time.  For now – everyone have a great week, our prayers for all of you are that you will recognize the blessings that come into your lives daily from a loving Heavenly Father.  We are so thankful to have this opportunity to serve and thank each of you for your thoughts and prayers.  We love you all – you are the best friends and family anyone could have.                                                                                                                                     
New missionaries arriving

Luggage lining the halls
Typical with arriving, departing, and transfering Missionaries

Baptism (1 of 2)

Baptism (2 of 2)
President with our Dynamic Office Duo
Now transfered

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Buzeem - Camp of Rest

This past week has been the highlight of our Mission thus far.  We left Novosibirsk last Tuesday evening on the overnight train to Krasnoyarsk.  Upon arrival we took a taxi to our hotel, freshened up a bit and then spent the day with the missionaries in Krasnoyarsk.  Two of them were going home the next day having finished their missions.  It is always hard to say goodbye to these young men and women who have served so faithfully and become like your own children.  They are great examples and we know they will be wonderful parents and citizens as they return home and begin their own families.

Thursday we headed for the Young Single Adult (YSA) Conference at Buzeem, a small resort about 1 ½ hours by car outside of Krasnoyarsk.  Buzeem, “Camp of Rest” is an old Soviet Military R & R camp now operated privately as a retreat resort.  There were about 200 young people (18-30) and 30 or so adults (about the maximum the resort could handle) so we were the only group there.  It was a very peaceful place and we could easily see how the camp came by its name.  Some of these kids traveled over 40 hours by train to get to the conference and they were thrilled to have the opportunity to come.  There were classes and activities every day and a dance each night (Thurs, Fri, Sat).  Activities included; ATV’s, water balloon Volleyball, target shooting, soccer, beach ball Soccer, and many others.  The theme for the conference which ended Sunday afternoon after church when we all returned home was “Where is your Treasure?”  We took another overnight train ride and arrived home about 9am Monday morning.

On Saturday after lunch we held a baptism at the conference and two young women were baptized with nearly everyone in attendance looking on.  President Gibbons performed the baptisms in the little lake at the camp.  The spirit was definitely present and it warmed the soul even though the water and the weather were cold.  When one of the young ladies who was baptized and standing on the water’s edge dripping wet was asked if she was cold her reply was “I feel so warm.”  Sunday at our Church meeting these two and another young woman having been baptized the week before were confirmed members of the church.  It was amazing to be a part of such an uplifting and spiritually moving experience.  Visiting members of the Quorums of the Seventy performed the confirmations.  It was a special treat for these young ladies to have General Authorities of the Church present to confirm them members.

Sister Webb and I also spoke at this conference for a few minutes in one session.  We told our story of being married while attending BYU, having no money, no car, small apt, 2 children by the time we graduated, etc.  And yet, here we are 45 amazing years later – still married, serving together in the church, a family that has grown to 20 with 5 children, spouses and grandchildren and more in love today than we have ever been.  Our message was “find a companion and live life together” – it’s easier and more fun when there are two of you.  We also enjoyed the many one on one conversations we had with several of the young people throughout the conference. Getting to know them and hearing their stories was always very tender and strengthened us more than them I am sure.

Well, we finally got home early Monday morning only to find out that our hot water was off – again.  Lucky for us this time it had been off while we were away and came back on Monday evening so today – “all is well”

Last night was Family Home Evening which we absolutely love.  We had about 20 people this week and since Saturday had been my birthday and one of the Sister missionaries has a birthday coming up but she is getting transferred before the actual day, several of them came bearing gifts and cards, one even brought a “Tort” (cake) so we could all celebrate.  It was really fun and we all had a great time.

Everyone have a great week.  I know we will - lots going on with transfers and new arrivals.  We will fill you in next time.  We love you all.
A quick practice before our beginning session

Water Balloon Volleyball

Target Practice

The Lake at Buzeem

Before the Baptisim

Taken from the foot bridge in the beautiful city of Krasnoyarsk

Passing through one of the several small villiages
during our train ride

Sunday, August 12, 2012

HHH - Huffakers Head for the Hills

After spending the past year becoming very close to new and now dear friends, The Huffakers from La Jara, Co, exploring the city, attending Sunday Evening Firesides, Monday evening FHE, numerous activities, or just a rare quiet evening together visiting or playing a rousing game of Yahtzee, the final day arrived!!  The Huffakers are GONE.  We are sad and miss them already, but are so excited for them to arrive home with their family.  It was amazing for us to have this special opportunity to serve with such a wonderful, loving couple.  The people here will truly miss them.  As we returned from the airport with Elder Gushin and Sister Gushina they both commented on how hard it was to say goodbye to the Huffakers – we agree.

The week seemed to be filled with parties and well-wishers as everyone wanted to gather in one place or another to say their goodbyes and get their final hugs from two people who have left an unforgettable mark in Siberia.  As we would walk through the neighborhood with them their neighbors would bring friends up just to see the cattle ranching couple from America.  These two have become “epic” in the capital city of Siberia, Novosibirsk.  Everyone in the city has heard of or knows the “cowboy from Colorado”.  We had an FHE farewell on Monday evening, dinner with the Mission President on Tuesday, office celebration on Wednesday, dinner with the Area Seventy (Elder Gushin) that evening, “surprise” party with the members on Thursday evening, a couple of quite hours on Friday afternoon (just the 4 of us) and then it was off to the airport early Saturday am.

 Saturday afternoon we took the metro to the last stop, hopped a bus for about a 30 minute ride to the edge of the city to visit Sveta.  It was her birthday and we had been invited to come celebrate with her at her Dacha.  She is a very special young lady, a little challenged mentally, but very sweet and so friendly.  She lives with her mother and a cat in some pretty dire circumstance and she was absolutely delighted that we would come to visit and celebrate her birthday.

Our first Sunday evening fireside tonight without the Huffakers, we were poor substitutes but they ate all our treats so in the end it was all good.  Next week will be busy – first there is the annual budget to prepare and submit by Tuesday afternoon and then we are off to the YSA conference in Krasnoyarsk on the Tuesday evening overnight train.  We won’t be back until Monday morning so our post for next week may come out a little late.  It should be a fun and exciting week.  We love you all.
A few revelers at the Office Party
Huffakers on the right

One of Sister Webb's famous "CandyBar" posters
They had never seen such a thing- it
was quite a hit.
Huffaker's Last District Meeting

At the Novosibirsk Airport
Headed Home
They look pretty happy!
Birthday at the Dacha

Hadn't seen one of these since my mother
ran her finger through the one in
our basement when I was a kid
Some of you should know what this is
or are we just older than we think!!
My favorite of the week
Sister Webb getting her "Granma Fix"

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sister Webb's Famous Cinnamon Rolls

Every week begins with Family Home Evening in our apt (at least until the “new” couple arrives next month!!).  We had 21 who showed up.  The Elders taught a lesson centered on the Olympics, training and accomplishing hard things and how that all relates to our everyday lives and the relationship we desire to have with our Heavenly Father.  It was all in Russian but everyone seemed to be making the connections and in the end it was all good.  Great job Elders.  We served cabbage salad with a Russian flair, bread and Fruit for dessert.  Everyone went home full except three of the young ladies who stayed and visited with Sister Webb until about 10pm or a little latter.  Tuesday of course is our big staff day but we were able to get away a little early as three of young women (two recently married and one a little younger) came over in the late afternoon to have Sister Webb teach them how to make cinnamon rolls.  If you are one of the lucky ones to have been on the receiving end of those cinnamon rolls you know why they wanted to learn how to do it.  Well 4 women in a small apartment, baking, is no place for a male to hang-out (at least until it is time to sample) so I headed out to run a few errands for the office and of course I managed to return at “just the right time”!! The cinnamon rolls were just coming out of the oven and this was the best batch ever- must be the Siberian air.  They all ate some (more than two) and there was still plenty for them to take a bunch home to their families.  They stayed and played a game of Yahtzee (first time for two of them), visited a little more and left for home tired.  They all had a blast and it was fun to have them in our home.  Sister Webb said it was really funny how they took pictures of every little step in the whole process so it took a little longer to get things in the oven than usual because they were constantly stopping to take each other’s picture doing each step along the way.

Wednesday evening we did English Group again and this week we tackled some tongue twisters and went on a treasure hunt.  It was a lot of fun and we so enjoy visiting with the people who come each week.  We get group 4 who are all good English speakers so it is a real pleasure for us to be able to visit with these folks each week, some consistent attenders, some new faces every time. We learn so much more from them than they from us I am not sure it is even fair; but we make new friends every week and enjoy it so much.

Thursday was kind of a downer for everyone.  First of all, President and Sister Gibbons were denied their permanent visas so that put a wrench in their upcoming travel schedule and plans.  We scurried around and got things in place to get new 90 day visas for them which entailed sending our office elders as couriers to Helsinki to get the new visas.  As it turned out the visas for the upcoming renewal trip by 22 of our young elders and sisters also had not been processed by Madrid (the registrar was on “vacation”).   We spent Thursday evening typing new applications for all involved and having everyone come in to sign their papers so we could send the whole batch to Helsinki with our “couriers” in an effort to get them processed in time for the Aug 16th trip.  We were at the office until after 10pm and now are just keeping our fingers crossed that it will all work out or else we will have 22 missionaries who will have to leave the country and not be able to get back in until things can be worked out again!

Saturday morning we went to our local Reenok to pick up some fresh fruit and veggies.  It is so fun to visit with the local Babushkas (grandma types) who bring the produce right from their garden.  There are dozens of them and they each have just a few things they have picked that morning to sell.  Some have tomatoes and peas, some potatoes and cucumbers, others something else.  We tried to buy a little from each of them.  They are all so cute and want so badly to talk to and sell to the “Americans”.  We stand out like a sore thumb you know.  There is one little booth about 10ft long and 5ft deep piled high to about 10ft with stuff, everything you could possibly imagine.  The best way to describe it would be – imagine all the merchandise in Clifford’s Hardware Store shoved into a 10wx5L x10h spot and there you have it.

Our dear friends from Colorado, the Huffakers, will be leaving this week, so as a last outing together we all went to the circus which is playing in town this month.  We had a great afternoon together, the entertainment was amazing (the circus had some great acrobatic acts), but mostly we just enjoyed the time visiting and being together.  We are really going to miss them when they leave. 

We have learned to cherish friendships having been away from all of you and we will cherish our new friends as well.  Friends and family are what life is about.  Love and cherish yours – make a new friend this week.

A little bit of everything
See how many diffeent items you can find

Orthodox church near the Circus Arena
Sister Huffaker and Sister Webb

A Balancing Act

And another

Sign on the door to our Building
It says the Hot Water will not be working from 10am
on the 13th of Aug to 10am on the 18th
Wish us luck