This week was the start of “the lasts”. For example Today was our last Fast Sunday in Russia. It is hard to even imagine that because in so many ways it seems like we have just arrived. It is hard though not to think about coming home to family and friends and when those thoughts do surface then it seems like such a long time since we have seen those so close to us.
We had another great Sunday in Berdsk. This week we didn’t go out there until Sunday morning. The Elders serving there were both on visa trip and didn’t get back until very early Sunday morning so we just stayed in Novosibirsk Saturday night and took a taxi to Berdsk this morning. The first Sunday of every month is set aside as “Fast Sunday” where we all fast for two meals and contribute the cost of those meals to the Church Welfare Fund to care for the hungry and less fortunate. Also the regular Church service that day is for the sharing of personal testimony. Our two ladies who are being taught by the missionaries came to our meeting again this week and both of them shared very sweet and touching testimonies about how they have come to know the truthfulness of the gospel and the teachings of the Savior. It was a really great meeting. We will attend again next week (our last in Berdsk) then we’ll all meet with the Branch in Novosibirsk on the 17th (our last Sunday in Russia) and that Friday (the 22nd) we will start for home. Absolutely unbelievable!!
This past week has been pretty busy and full. We were at the Gundersens on Monday evening for Family Home Evening. Natalia was the only other person there but we had a great time with her. After the lesson we played a few rounds of UNO which is one of Natalia’s favorite games. Tuesday evening we went to dinner with President Gibbons and two sisters serving in Tomsk. One of them had to return home for some medical issues and they had come into the city so President could interview the sister going home and get all the arrangements finalized for her flight home on Wednesday morning. Since Sister Gibbons was away we were privileged to accompany President while he took the Sisters to dinner. Wednesday evening there was a special performance of a Leonard Bernstein musical at the Opera house which we had been able to get tickets to attend. Quite interesting – the lyrics of course are in English but sung by Russian performers so not totally understandable. Thank Heaven they had subtitles projected over the stage – IN RUSSIAN!! Imagine. The music and singing was great and the performers were magnificent.
Thursday evening we made Banana-chocolate chip bread for district meeting the next day. Since several of our Elders were out on visa trip and the Sisters were confined to their apt (doctor’s orders as they were feeling poorly) we expected a small crew. Boy, were we wrong! Friday rolled around and the time for District meeting arrived – they just kept coming. We ended up with twelve Elders from around the mission who had accompanied their companions to the city for the visa trip and then were waiting for them here for the day. Anyway, we always have way more food than we need but we were well under prepared for this group. Twelve young men, large in stature and appetites began to eat everything they could find. We were going through cupboards looking for more before the afternoon was over. It was fun and enjoyable and we managed to get them filled up for their afternoon and evening of working in the cold. The District meeting was awesome as well. We talked about setting goals and working toward making them happen. This was particularly good for the two of us as our future begins to play out over the next several months.
We feel so blessed to have had this wonderful opportunity to serve here in the heart of Russia. The people have been fantastic and our time here has been amazing. We know that our Heavenly Father knows and loves all of his children no matter where we live or what our circumstance may be. We have seen evidence of His care for his children in the lives of the people of Siberia and we have seen and felt His love in their eyes and through their hearts.