After our entry of last week we were thinking it just couldn’t get any colder – but – IT DID!! It has warmed up a touch this weekend but the end is not in sight – we still have a good 2 months of WINTER left to go. Check out this link (control click) about the record colds all over Russia. This has been the coldest winter in over SEVENTY, yes 70, years – and we are here. WOW.
Except for the cold it has been a fairly normal week for us with missionaries going home, new arrivals coming in, visa trips and transfers; pretty exciting to say the least. Sending missionaries home is always hard for us as we come to love each of them so much and knowing we will likely not see them again makes it very difficult. This time was particularly hard because we sent home Sister Sanford who had served most of her mission very close to us and we watched her grow in her missionary service. She is a shining example of devoted service and one who will forever be close to our hearts. We also had two sisters and one elder who arrived this week to begin their missions here.
Along with all that we had a pretty big transfer intertwined with a big visa trip so we had elders and sisters coming in and out of the office all week. Things finally settled back to some state of “normal” if there is such a thing just in time for our Branch Christmas Party on Saturday. An interesting point – at our English Conversation Group on Wednesday evening we talked some of Families and traditions and the conversation naturally came around to Christmas Family traditions. Most of the young people in attendance really couldn’t think of any in their families and then one of them explained that during the Soviet Times they did away with the religious holidays including Christmas and began celebrating the day on Jan 7th as the Russian New Year more of a political holiday. So “traditions” shifted to different days and Christmas was lost - quite sad and interesting. Today much of Christmas is re-emerging and the people and of course the “businesses” are making much more out of Christmas. We went shopping on Thursday evening to one of the malls close by and it looked like Christmas at any city mall back home. We also can notice a great deal of difference between this Christmas season and last as there is just more “Christmas” everywhere this year. And people are much the same the world over; i.e. when I was browsing through one store I saw an older couple shopping together in the women’s department. The husband looked bored out of his mind and kept looking for a place to sit and I thought to myself – “I feel your pain”. Anyway, I just chuckled inside thinking about how much we are all the same no matter what language we speak or in what country we happen to live.
Yesterday we were back out in Berdsk for Sunday meetings with the little group out there. Elder and Sister Gundersen came out with us on Saturday evening so we had a “sleep over” and then on Sunday they both spoke at our meeting. They did a great job speaking mostly in English but some in Russian. It was great to have them with us. On our way home we took a little detour t into a different part of Berdsk to visit what is purported to be the oldest Orthodox Temple in Siberia, built in the 1600’s. We have been told that Berdsk is also one of the oldest towns in Siberia. This church/temple was much more elaborate on the outside and the inside was more simply decorated than many we have seen but very impressive all the same.
We want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and hope that the Spirit of Christ fills your hearts and homes this holiday season. We love you all very much and are excited to be coming home soon to our family and friends. We will cherish our last couple of months here in spite of the cold among the many new friends we have met.
|Sunrise in Berdsk|
from the Apt window
|Berdsk Ice Sculpture Park|
Very Impressive and Unique
|Just us on a cold Sunday afternoon|
in front of the Xpam(Temple)