Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing,
whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted
him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.

Mormon 9:21

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Monday, 31 Jan 2011

Greetings from Russia,

Another month has zipped by. Winter has tightened her grip on Northern Russia and other than new layers of snow; there is very little change to mark the passing of one day to the next. That said, the Russian people are hearty and take the cold in stride. One morning as we walked past the park next to our apartment there were people walking and a mother watching her child moving about in the small playground area. People are bundled up warmly but their ability to move about in the extreme cold is impressive. We had been having large snowflakes, the kind of flakes that are the size of your thumb, falling that morning. They looked about the way you would imagine goose feathers would look falling from a large pillow in the sky. The temperature that day was forecast to have a high of 14 and a low of 4 degrees Fahrenheit. At home one would scarcely see people in that kind of weather but here it is business as usual. The Russians really are very robust and the locals tell us that February will be colder when the winds come.

As for today, the sun was shining which means it was several degrees colder in the shade but pleasant wherever the sun was visible. We did some shopping in the morning hours then spent the afternoon studying and catching up on anything we had neglected over the past week. This evening we went to visit an adult English class at a local school. It was well attended and the students asked many good questions about where we are from, how we like it here and what our impressions are of Yaroslavl and Russia in general. All of the students were beginner to intermediate English speakers. We enjoyed the experience.

It has been some time since we last wrote. We have been “anxiously engaged in a good cause”. We have been to Moscow on three occasions and we are going there again this coming Friday for another conference. We flew from Moscow to Kiev, Ukraine last Thursday to renew our Visas. We were in Moscow at the time of the airport attack but were fortunate not to be flying that day.

We are very sorry for the loss of life and sorry for the circumstances that would lead groups and individuals to believe that such acts are an appropriate venue for drawing attention to the issues they feels so strongly about. Violence begets violence. Actions of this nature do draw attention but not the kind they are wanting. Any sympathy for their cause is swallowed up in grief and returned with anger. In the book “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas, it says: “for men who are truly generous are always ready to [be] compassionate when the misfortune of their enemy surpasses the limits of their hatred.” The limits of hatred do not seem to subside when a less fortunate enemy only knows to kick at his oppressors. Generosity or compassion, if there be any, will be slow in coming while there is renewed hatred to fuel the flames.

We have had a few personnel changes in Yaroslavl. As we mentioned, we knew that we were getting a set of sister missionaries. When we went to Moscow on January 3rd & 4th we learned that Elder Smith was being transferred to Minsk, Belarus and in his place we were receiving a new missionary, Elder Aniciforov, who was recently called from Odessa, Ukraine. He is good natured and already speaks the language. We were sad to see Elder Smith go. Minsk will be better for having him.

We assisted Elder Smith as he carried his bags with him. The handle on his large suitcase broke and he had quite a time dragging it through the snow. It was good to see the other missionaries. We each enriched our spirits, enjoyed good conversation, read mail from home, ate traditional holiday foods and participated in other festive activities. We put on small skits, sang holiday songs and ate a wonderful ham dinner with potatoes, yams, vegetables and warm wassail.

Before going to Moscow we busily searched for and found an apartment for the new sisters. We spent part of New Year’s Day cleaning it and getting it ready for their arrival. It is on the same street where we live and is about a ten minute walk from our door. After the party we all rode back in the mission van. As for the sisters, we received Sister Naleafkina who is from Sakhalin Island, just North of Japan, on the Eastern edge of Russia. She is a native Russian and has been in the mission field for nine months. She is already helping us with our Russian. Her companion is Sister Taggert from Puyallup, WA. Sister Taggert is a new missionary fresh from the Missionary Training Center. We actually met her when we were there in late October.

In the few weeks we have been with the new missionaries and our time with Elder Weihing, we have gained so much for which we are grateful. Following are a few brief comments on each of them:

Elder Weihing – Elder Weihing has proven to be an awesome missionary in all aspects of the work. We enjoyed working with he and Elder Smith. Elder Smith had a warm spirit and was very giving of his time to the members. Elder Weihing is strong at making contacts; he listens well and is organized in his study and planning. He was a very good companion to Elder Smith and they were focused on their work. We have found Elder Weihing to be compassionate and giving of his time and talents. He gives service, he is a good teacher and he works hard to understand the concerns and needs of each church member and investigator. Elder Weihing is doing a very good job as a trainer and organizer with Elder Aniciforov. He carries with him the Spirit of Jesus Christ and when he bears testimony it can be felt.

Elder (Анисифоров) Aniciforov – We were very excited for the arrival of Elder Aniciforov. For the first week he appeared to be somewhat shy but that proved to only be jet lag. (He was also at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.) He is very open with members and having come from a branch similar to those here in Russia he brings personal experience as to how the work is done in a smaller unit. In branch presidency meetings he is organized and not afraid to speak up and explain how things were done at home in his branch in Ukraine. He has a strong testimony of the Gospel. He knows that God lives and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. As are many missionaries, at the beginning of their mission, he has been a bit reticent when it comes to contacting but when Elder Weihing says this contact is yours, he will jump right in and speak without hesitation. We feel that he will be an awesome missionary.

Sister (налифкана) Naleafkina – The two new sisters are a delight. Sister Naleafkina is bold and she and Sister Taggert approach everyone they meet. They are settled into their apartment and are working hard to advance the work. She and Sister Taggert are actively engaged in contacting, visiting active and less active church members and teaching investigators. Sister Naleafkina is an excellent trainer and has a good grasp of the work. It is hard to believe she has only been a member of the church for two years. Sister Naleafkina exhibits a thirst for knowledge and continues to build her Gospel knowledge. She bears a strong testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and her love for him. Sister Naleafkina is enjoys giving service, before each district meeting she is teaching Russian to us and her companion. It is our hope that she will be assigned here in Yaroslavl for some time.

Sister Taggert – When we first met Sister Taggert in the MTC we were impressed with her smile. The first week she was here that smile was a bit subdued in the hazy fog of fatigue. We are happy to report that she is over the jet lag and her smile has returned. She has a good memory and speaks easily. She is listening and learning and appears to understand more than she realizes. Sister Taggert has been a wonderful resource in the branch by playing the piano and helping in English Club. She is quiet and reserved in discussions, partly due to being new and the challenges of learning the language. She gave the spiritual thought in Russian at our district meeting and was clear in her speech. Sister Taggert has a strong testimony of Jesus Christ. You can feel her spirit and her love for the Gospel. Her lifetime in the church and her attendance at BYU has given her a wealth of knowledge to bolster Sister Naleafkina’s zeal.

It snowed heavily on our return Yaroslavl and it was late before we got the sisters unloaded and finally made it to bed. The next day, Jamie took them shopping for food and other items to make their apartment livable. She also helped Sister Taggert with her purchase of winter boots, a coat and scarf. Her new coat is brick red, with a fur fringe around the hood. She won’t be cold. At the coat store they were met by the shop owner. She was from her description, a tall, full figured, exotic looking woman; who knew her craft and was not afraid to take charge. She understood color and knew how to make a young woman look beautiful. When Sister Taggert was presented to the woman she was wearing a non-descript, sedate, gray woolen scarf. The woman took it off of her and asked in Russian, “What are you, a babushka (Grandmother)?” She had her try on several coats and each was a different shade of red. In the end the first coat proved to be the best. She then gave her a pretty, textured, pink scarf. Sister Taggert was now put together and looked very nice. Sister Naleafkina has a beautiful blue coat and when the Elders saw them, Elder Weihing complimented them saying, “You look like cotton candy.”

On the evening of January 6th, Russian Christmas eve, we had been invited by a local Pravslavic Priest to attend midnight mass at his church. We had spoken with him previously about service opportunities when he issued the invitation. In the spirit of friendship we were happy to attend. It was very interesting and in many ways similar to Catholic mass. The two churches were once the same and are still very similar in many respects. He was pleased with our offer of service and when the weather warms we will meet with him to see where we can be of assistance.

The missionary work continues to expand. We are still teaching the young Catholic man Sasha. He has been faithful in his prayers and reading of the scriptures. He has expressed a desire to be baptized. He still has issues in his personal life but has met with his grandmother in England and told her of his feelings. Sasha knows that the decision is his. He says that he has received an answer from God that the Gospel is true. We will be meeting with him again.

Alex and Tania, the brother and sister from Abkhazia have been attending church and Alex has been reading the Book of Mormon. They are both very sincere and good people. While we teach Alex, the sisters, in like manner, are teaching his sister Tania. They also come each week on Tuesday to practice their English at our English Club. They both speak very well.

We are teaching another young man from the city of Rybinsk. It is an hour and a half by train or marshootka. We have several members that live there and come here to Yaroslavl to church. His name is Slava, he is Baptist and very interested in the restoration of the Gospel. He came down to Yaroslavl each of the past two weekends to meet with us. We have held scripture study with him on both Saturdays. We discussed the scriptures which foretold of the restoration, taught about living prophets and answered questions regarding salvation, the nature of the Godhead, Priesthood and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He has attended church on Sunday and wants to know more. He read the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price and is now reading the Doctrine & Covenants. At church he spent a considerable amount of time talking to Gregory, a former member of the Baptist Church. When he was at our apartment we would use Google translate to communicate. He would type his comments and questions in Russian and I would type my comments and answers in English. We would each read the scriptures in our own language. It was fairly easy to get ideas back and forth.

In other news, we attended a performance of the ballet “Swan Lake” when we were recently in Moscow. We had been attending a conference with the other senior missionary couples. It was held in the Stanislavski Theater. Tchaikovsky’s music, the sets, the dancers and the choreography were all exquisite. We have plans to attend a performance at Russia’s first and oldest theater, the Volkov Theater, in Yaroslavl.

There is always more that we could write but know that we are well and send our best wishes. Thank you for your prayers and letters. We always love hearing from you.


Elder & Sister Forsyth

PS You may already have seen this but if not, this is a good article from Oct 2010.

Future of the LDS Church in Russia seen as very bright

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday, 27 Dec 2010

Greetings from Russia,

We would like to begin by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! It is our hope that you spent the holiday with loved ones and that each of you experienced the peace that can come from remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. It has been a few weeks since our last email. If anyone is counting, this will be the third installment of our periodic “Greetings from Russia!” Much has happened and we will do our best to describe our labors and travels here in Russia.

Just after or last email we got our hot water back. The creature comforts are often taken for granted until they are no longer available. Our neighbor down stairs, Sergei, the artist who had had the flood in his apartment, decided not to wait until spring for an official city work crew to be sent to make the repairs. He got a jack hammer and chipped away the cement and found the leak. After installing new piping and a valve we were momentarily back in business. I say momentarily because another pipe immediately burst after turning the water back on. Within a day he had the second pipe replaced and after waiting to be sure the repairs would hold, has since filled the trench with dirt and poured new concrete.

We attempted to thank him with some of Jamie’s cookies but he politely declined the offer only to return shortly thereafter with a picture that he had drawn and a framed photograph of the arches from an old Pravoslavnaya church (Russian Orthodox) for our wall. The picture he drew was of a hairy caveman chipping away with a stone tool on a small carving of a stone head in style like the much larger ones found on Easter Island. It was titled “A fly in space” and had the caption of: “RUSSIA – communal services, at the level of the Stone Age, 2010”.

As the Russian New Year approaches there have been more visible decorations. Lights were put up recently on our building and there is a large decorated New Year’s tree that has gone up in front of one of the performing arts theaters. We now see signs that read Happy New Year with a smiling father winter who looks much like Santa Claus. The Russian Christmas is celebrated on January 7th; this is due to the continued use of the Julian calendar by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Most genealogists are familiar with the calendar change but to quickly answer why there is a difference in the calendar we go back to 45 BC when Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar with his more accurate Julian calendar. It had twelve months and included leap days every four years but it was not perfect. It did not take into account that our years are actually 11 minutes short of 365.25 days thus requiring the need to drop three leap days every 400 years to stay in sync. In 1582 Catholic Pope Gregory the XIII, in consultation with the Jesuit priest/astronomer, Christopher Clavius, issued the proclamation that dropped ten days from the calendar and made provisions to have three leap days dropped every 400 years. This change brought the Vernal Equinox, which had slipped to March 10th, back to March 21st.

It took a while for the new Gregorian calendar to catch on. Catholic countries adopted it first then protestant countries. America adopted it in 1752 and Russia adopted it civically in 1918. Turkey and Greece did not adopt it until 1923. Many Orthodox churches still use the Julian calendar to calculate religious holidays. I would imagine it was hard for Protestants and Eastern Orthodox countries to accept a calendar from a Roman Catholic Pope. Why trade a flawed Roman Calendar for a better Roman Catholic calendar?

Jamie pointed out that as children we were taught that Santa Claus had to make it around the whole world in one night. Now she has come to find out that Santa’s work load has actually been split between two holidays. The good news, at least for those of us who are Americans, we will do our best to celebrate Christmas on both days.

On Christmas day Jamie prepared a dinner for twelve including four investigators. We had decorated our apartment and hung a holiday garland to frame our door. Jamie put out holiday treats, lit a small Christmas candle and we had soft Christmas music playing in the background. Among our guests we had two medical students from South America, a twenty three year old Catholic man named Sasha, Elders Smith and Weihing, Masha and other members of the branch and a brother and sister who recently moved here from Abkhazia. Their father died ten years ago and they moved here with their mother in September. It was very evident from our conversation that they deeply miss their old home and friends. Being from the south, where it is much more temperate, they also expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the snow and cold.

For dinner we had a Russian variation of cheesy chicken enchiladas made from lavash (Russian for pita). The lavash is rectangular in shape and comes folded in a package with three strips that are each roughly nine inches by 20 inches. Lavash is much thinner than pita bread back home and in appearance, texture and taste a good substitute for four tortillas. I will send a picture of it.

We made Spanish rice with bacon, onions and green olives, had fresh cooked carrots and a fruit salad. Using a recipe from Elder Weihing’s family we made their traditional frozen holiday punch. It had sugar and water brought to a boil and slightly cooled before adding pineapple and orange juice mixed with cherry Kool aid. That mixture was frozen and chunked up like slush before adding ginger ale. It was very good. In a separate email we will try to send some of the recipes we have enjoyed.

While we ate we each talked about our various homes and the Christmas traditions that each of us has and each person talked about a favorite Christmas Memory. One of the girls from Guyana had a memory of a Christmas when she was young where she received a set of small dishes and cups as a gift. Her mother had made a Christmas cake. As she played with her dishes she served herself some of the cake and then a little more and a little more and yet more again. Before she realized it she had eaten all but a small slice of the cake. She is not a very big girl and wondered how she could have eaten so much.

Sasha talked about when he was young and would spend the holidays with his granny in England. For breakfast she would serve him porridge that he didn’t appear to enjoy. He enjoyed those visits; everything was new in the world for the eyes of a small boy. One particular Christmas, all that he wanted was a bear and when he opened his gifts he received a white bear. It was a good memory for him. Though he speaks very good English some words don’t quite come out the same. As he told his Christmas memory his pronunciation of bear sounded more like beer. Jamie and some of the others thought it was humorous that all a little boy would want is a beer for Christmas. It finally made sense when they realized that he received a white bear rather than a white beer.

Jamie and I talked about spending Christmas with family. Carrie Anne, our daughter, posted a number of Christmas memories on her blog that made us remember all of the wonderful Christmases we have enjoyed. We have enjoyed reading all of their blogs. We spoke of things that we don’t see much of here but remember, including the sound of Christmas music on the radio and in the stores, the smell of cinnamon, warm candles and Christmas lights that lift your eyes and heart. Each of us expressed gratitude for the birth of Jesus Christ. We are grateful that we could celebrate this day among friends. Most of us spoke to our families back home and we shared simple gifts of new socks and rice bags that can be heated in the microwave. It was not gold, frankincense and myrrh but gratitude for life, new friendships and the blessings of the Christ child.

After dinner we turned down the Christmas music and watched a short video on the birth of Christ, depicting the events in the second chapter of Luke. It brought a good spirit. Following the video we resumed the music and conversation. The balance of our evening was spent eating desserts and playing games. We looked at pictures of Abkhazia and learned about their customs and some of the foods they eat there. A favorite fruit adapted from Brazil is a small green fruit called Feijoa (Pineapple Guava). The young woman, Tanya, said that she felt very comfortable in our home that for once, since coming here, she forgot to be afraid.

On Christmas Eve we held a branch Christmas party. It was well attended including fifteen non-members. Our building was brightly decorated including a Christmas tree with gifts for everyone in attendance. We had a spiritual message followed by good food, fun and games. Traditional foods included Russian salads, salami, cheeses, juice and bread. From America we brought homemade sugar cookies for them to decorate with icing and sprinkles. Once they caught on to the decorating part all of the cookies disappeared. We also brought homemade eggnog. At first some were a bit apprehensive to try it but soon it was also gone. The eggnog was easy to make and gave us a reminder of what we commonly find at home.

The week before Christmas we visited three different schools as American guests. The students put on plays and sang songs in Russian and English. We taught them about American Christmas traditions, taught them some Christmas carols and fielded many questions. The students ranged in age from about eleven up to adult. In the adult class we prepared holiday treats and let them sample eggnog and decorate sugar cookies. In each of the classes we were able to tell them that we are missionaries and give them a message on the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

In a teenage class of about twenty five students the teacher turned to us and asked if we believed in God. We answered yes whereupon she asked us to please tell the class the story of the birth of Jesus. We sent around pictures of the Nativity and told the story of Mary and Joseph and of the Saviors birth in a manger. We testified that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. The students were very respectful and asked many good questions. They asked about our homes and how we liked Russia. While fielding the questions we sent around pictures of home and Christmas, followed by sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles. We gave a short demonstration on how to ice the cookies and apply the sprinkles then each student in turn decorated a cookie as they came around the room. The cookies were a hit.

One girl asked us about our dreams. Jamie said her dreams were to learn to speak Russian, have peace and understanding in the world and that our children would raise their children well. As in the other classes, we were asked what it is like to be an American. They asked us tell them about America and about the places in America that we have visited. Elder Weihing and Elder Smith were asked by a young man how they liked the Russian girls. Elder Weihing gave a diplomatic answer and everyone in the class broke into a laugh and smiled. They have asked us to come back next Tuesday for a performance they are putting on in English. It should be fun. The teacher presented us each with gifts the students had picked out. There was a genuine feeling of hope for a brighter future.

In preparing for the holiday we went to one of the large open markets (phonetically pronounced Renic). There we found the Spice man. Around him were many containers of spices. Some we recognized and a lot we did not. He did not speak English but from his hand gestures and smile it was evident that he loved his job. He mixed several spices together and motioned for us to put our noses close and for us to dip in our finger and put it to our lips. Wow, is the best description. We tried spice after spice and each time he would put some in a small bag for us to purchase. It soon became obvious that if these strange Americans smelled it or tasted it we would buy it. A small crowd gathered to watch us taste the various spices he offered. We purchased whole cumin, cinnamon sticks, curry, dried pomegranate powder, ground nutmeg and ground cloves that were a dark chocolate brown and scented everything in the room as the spice man opened the container.

We also purchased chili powder that when Jamie dipped in her fingertip to sample it brought an audible gasp from the crowd as it got close to her mouth. Jamie motioned that it was okay and tasted it under their watchful gaze. In addition to the individual spices, the spice man also prepared two spice mixes. One mix was a savory mix that we put on the Christmas enchiladas and enjoy just smelling it. He said as best he could that it was good for fish, meats, pastas and salad.

The other is a sweet and spicy mix with chili and many other spices that he mixed before our eyes. We tried to watch what he put in the baggy but he was fast like as a street hustler moving a pea around in a shell game. His little spoon would dip into this container, then that container, as he added them to the blend. When finished he twisted the baggy shut and shook it until thoroughly mixed. He said the mix was good for anything that ails you. It is good in hot chocolate and milk. He uses it in Coffee and tea. Jamie has used it in hot cereal and in the cookies she has been baking. He looked to be a man in his early fifties until he told us he was seventy. His skin was clear and firm with no wrinkles. Between broken English, Russian, eye movements and hand signals he emphasized that this mix was especially good for male health. Everyone in the crowd smiled and nodded and Jamie’s cheeks were a rosier shade of pink.

While we selected the spices, vendors from other booths joined the crowd with samples of tangerines, dates, walnuts, pinion nuts, shelled pumpkin seeds, dried pears, dried apricots, dried figs and a mix of dried kiwi, dried cumquats and other dried fruits. The different vendors, observing the excitement, would bring us samples or they would motion for us come to their booth to taste their products. Each would carefully watch our expressions to see what we thought.

One woman opened a fresh tangerine and pressed the pieces into our hands. We soon had a bag of tangerines. The more we smelled, the more we tasted, each contributing to the more that we purchased. For Jamie and I it was a bit of magic. The laughing and smiles, the smells and tastes, will long be remembered. We didn’t pay much and who knows if we paid a good price but the experience was well worth it. It cannot be said that variety does not exist in Northern Russia.

We took a picture of one item we found that we will send with the other pictures for you to try and figure out what it is. Try to guess if it a spice, fruit or vegetable. Try to imagine what it might taste like (Bland, bitter, sweet, hot, pungent or tart). We are curious if you can identify it.

A couple of weeks ago we went to Moscow for a zone conference. We rode on a night train in a berthing compartment. The train was nonstop from Yaroslavl to Moscow. I don’t know what your experiences are with train travel but it reminded us of the movies. It may not have been the “Orient Express” but each passenger car had at least one cabin steward or stewardesses who were dressed in uniforms with coats and hats. They brought sheets, blankets and pillows for the berths, checked on the passengers and performed the duties of a conductor as they checked our tickets.

We left at 1:45 am and I found that sleep came easily as we moved across the countryside. The movement of the train and the sounds of the wheels on the tracks were very soothing. As we neared Moscow it was around 7:30 am and still dark outside. Our cabin stewardess knocked on our compartment until she was sure we were awake letting us know that we were getting close to the station. When we stepped off of the train we could hear trains whistles and observed as passengers hurried along the outdoor platform in the cold. The Moscow skyline was visible in the dark sky. Daylight would not come for another hour. The scene had the effect of transporting us back in time. How many people had walked on these platforms? From the look of the trains and surroundings we could have been in the 1940’s. It was a visual treat.

In Moscow our visit was brief. We visited the U.S. Embassy to have some document signed then attended the conference. As the in the previous conference we enjoyed the camaraderie and training we received. We sang Christmas carols and shared a meal. We learned that two new missionary sisters will be coming to Yaroslavl on January 4th. We will be going to Moscow again on the 3rd, prior to the Russian Christmas, for a mission Christmas party. We have missionaries from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France and the United States. The new sisters will accompany us back to Yaroslavl.

To traverse the city, we rode the subway system. The Moscow Metro stations are large and often crowded. On the way home one of the cars was so full that Jamie barely was able to squeeze in. I held the door open for her and physically had to pull her in before she was left behind. As it was, her coat was caught in the doors when they closed and we pulled away from the platform. Another passenger and I worked to successfully free her coat. Jamie looked a little scared. The rule we follow, if one of us misses the subway, is to just sit tight and wait and those that got on will go up to the next station, get off and board the subway back to rejoin them. We made it safely back to Yaroslavl.

Travel around Yaroslavl is on foot, by bus or by small bus (Phonetically pronounced marshootka). With the cold weather, the marshooka windows are completely frozen over. It is nearly impossible to find a spot to see out let alone identify where you are. Elder Smith is amazing in his ability to navigate. He is not directionally challenged in the least. We appreciate his internal travel senses. It is like he has a built in GPS.

A couple of notes about the marshootkas and then we had better close this email. In addition to money being passed to the front by the honor system most everyone makes room for children to have a place to sit down and women are quick to offer their lap to a child. On a crowded marshootka there is no place for a child to hang on, stand or to see. They would be easily crushed or pushed over. It is nice to see the kindness they show.

December has been a good month. We have seen many wondrous and interesting things. We are looking forward to 2011. One last thing, pictures will follow in a separate email. We want to wish you a very Happy New Year and we look forward to your letters. God Bless each and every one.

With Love,

Elder & Sister Forsyth

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, 6 December 2010

Greetings from Russia!

This is the second installment of our periodic “Greetings from Russia. Since we last wrote there have been a number of things to report. During the recent cold snap a hot water pipe in our building burst sending a flood of water through one of the lower apartments and out into the street. Where the sidewalk was once covered in a thick blanket of snow it now has a slick layer of ice that runs from the building to the gutter. We haven’t yet heard how long it will take to repair the pipe so we are making due by filling the tub and sink at night with cold water, letting it stand until morning, to let it come up to room temperature and then adding hot water from an electric teapot to make it warm enough to take a bath. Cold water here is just above freezing so letting it slowing warm to ambient conditions has helped.

We have met two of our neighbors, who like us, are also out of hot water. The neighbor next door was friendly and very quick to laugh and Jamie’s silliness. We do our best to try to speak Russian. The other neighbor we met, Sergei, is the one down stairs where the flood of water passed through his apartment. He is an artist and when we came down the stairs he invited us in to see his artwork. He draws and carves wood. Both are exquisite. He is a nice looking older man and Jamie hopes to give him some work by having him carve a nativity set.

Outside of our apartment the snow is about two feet deep with paths dug for walking. During the night heavy equipment is used to load massive quantities of snow into large dump trucks. The snow is then taken to the river where it is dumped into the water or at the edge of the ice to await the spring thaw. They do a good job of keeping the major roads clean and the traffic moving.

For foot traffic it is more of a mixed bag. Along most to the side roads and between buildings there is rarely a shoveled area, with the occasional exception of entranceways into buildings or businesses. The paths through the snow resemble rabbit or deer trails. Most are only wide enough to accommodate one person at a time. The trails form after each snow and appear wherever the first person to brave the new drifts has decided to walk.

Established sidewalks, for the most part, are either cleared of major snow or at a minimum sanded over the top of compact snow to provide a walking area. Persons who traverse the deer trails and make it to the wide tree lined walkway between the lanes of traffic, find that it is kept very clean and cleared of snow almost as soon as it falls. That being said, it should be noted that along the edges there is a lot of yellow snow. Many people walk their dogs and some of the owners appear to use the ample space to relieve their own needs. Public restrooms are nearly nonexistent.

One of our observations is that people are outside at all hours. We have rarely seen a time when the street is devoid of a human presence. Across from one of our windows is a very small convenience store with hot and cold drinks, pastries and snacks. It is very popular and often has a crowd around it. It is not much larger than one of the fruit stands but it a permanent structure with a small covered storefront. Every morning and anytime it snows the owner is seen outside sweeping and moving the snow away from his door. He keeps the brick walkways completely bare and accessible. The brooms here look different than we have at home. They look much like a witch’s broom with long stiff bristles made of a durable plastic material. The snow shovels are a bit different as well.

The other morning, just after six am, I counted twenty three individuals near his door. I watched as his clientele entered and exited barely leaving time for his door to completely close. One young man, appearing to be in his teens, entered the store without wiping his feet. He no sooner had entered when the door swung open and he was on his way back out to properly clean his shoes. Watching him from the doorway was what appeared to be the store owner’s wife. When he had sufficiently cleaned his shoes she let him again enter the store.

Birds in Yaroslavl are not in short supply. We see many varieties, including sparrows, crows and pigeons. At night they congregate in the trees and make quite a racket. In the mornings I have observed what appears to be an employee, at the grocery store across the main avenue, throwing chunks of older bread onto the sidewalk for the birds to eat. They fly down by the hundreds and devour the bread and crumbs, leaving little to mark their morning ritual. Throughout the city, along the sidewalks and in the parks, we have seen people feeding the birds. They are rather plump looking with a heavy coat of feathers to keep them warm.

The other animals not in short supply include cats and dogs. At one apartment we visit, we counted eleven cats with long winter coats of fur to keep them warm. Much like the birds in the trees, the cats congregate near the front door of the apartments waiting for the babushkas to feed them. One day we watched as three or four babushkas put out cat food, chunks of meat and milk for them to eat. The dogs, almost always, are on a leash but there have been a few that roam freely looking for warmth and food. Many of the smaller breeds are seen wearing little coats and sweaters to keep them warm. They can look quite fancy in their fur lined outfits.

As mentioned, the weather has been rather cold, cold enough to freeze the little nose hairs. The snow has been sparkly with the look of table sugar and there is often a chilly breeze when we walk. It has been around -14 F or colder feeling with the breeze. Jamie has been wearing the coat she purchased in Sweden but until the weather improves she has been persuaded by our resident winter coat expert, Masha, to put it away and get another coat. There will be more on Masha later in a future email.

Jamie took an 18 year old, Kristina Chernakova, with her to shop for a coat. The first reason she asked her for help was because she spoke perfect English, having lived in Burley, Idaho as an exchange student. The second reason, even more important, she knew where to shop. The third reason, more important still, she would not let Jamie buy anything ugly, weird looking or strange, as Jamie says that mature women, in a foreign country, are apt to do. Coats here are a big deal they almost always involve some fur. I would call women’s coats a form of art on a grand scale. Hats match the coats, scarves match the coats, gloves match the coats, boots match the coats and I am guessing the makeup matches the coats too. The knowledgeable 18 year old was indispensible.

She took Jamie to a “Mall”. What Jamie loved were the textured cloth coats. What Jamie desired was a fur coat. In the end, what Jamie got was a sleeping bag with fur. She looks very cute and to hear her tell it, it is the fur. A boy told her she should try on a pink coat. She told him that then she would look like a furry flamingo in a sleeping bag. The coat is close to a pewter color with a hint of purple. The coat was within budget, the girl liked it and Jamie likes it. It is warm, maybe too warm and Masha the coat expert approves. The next time Jamie falls on the ice she will probably slide better in her new coat.

I did not bring a coat or boots when I came to Russia. I purchased a very warm coat, also fringed in fur and fur lined boots while we were in Moscow, the day after we arrived. Jamie says that when I am fully decked out that people give pass me with a wary eye. Mom sent me with a good scarf and I have great gloves to keep out the weather. When we take some pictures we will be sure to send some with our coats on.

Another find was the Russian equivalent of a dollar store. Everything is thirty eight rubles which is close to a dollar. Jamie has been doing a fair share of cooking of late with more cooking set for this coming week. We shopped at most of our local grocery stores to find what we need and at the open air market which also has an indoor section out of the cold. We found a large variety of products, including very nice dried fruits, fresh fruits and vegetables. We now have more persimmon cookies in the freezer.

Part of the upswing in shopping and cooking was due to our hosting of three dinners in our apartment this past week. The first was Wednesday night we had the Mission President and his wife, Ken and Athelia Woolley, visiting from Moscow. Some of the branch members came as well, including Masha, President Chernakov, his wife and four children and Elders Smith and Weihing. No other family we have met so far has had four children. Most everyone when asked will say that they have a brother or a sister but we have yet to meet or see another large family. With one more child the Chernakov’s would qualify for the medal we mentioned.

At dinner, with thirteen mouths to feed, Jamie did a great job making the fixings stretch. For dessert Jamie served an apple crisp, (Phyllis Mason’s recipe), made from Granny Smith apples and the tart addition of bilberries. Thinking the bilberries were blueberries gave the dessert an added flavor that everyone loved. Jamie calls it a tart surprise. Sister Chernakova loved the crisp so much so that she went back for seconds and looked like she would have gone for thirds had any been left. After she finished, she came running across the room and gave Jamie a big hug while asking in Russian for the recipe. I hope we can find bilberries when we get back to the States.

After dinner we gathered everyone around and watched a short Christmas message in Russian about the birth of Jesus and the signs that were given of his advent. It was accompanied by beautiful music from the Tabernacle Choir. Here in Russia, after so many years without religious freedom, there is still a dearth of the signs that this was a Christian nation. Many of the signs of Christianity have been removed from public view or were driven underground. Even after over twenty years of freedom they are still not outwardly visible. After the video, President Woolley spoke to us about the childhood of Jesus and of family values. Everyone seemed to have a very pleasant evening.

The people here in Northern Russia are good people but so many that we have met have no idea what it is to have a personal relationship with the Savior. Even prayer, in its simplest form, is missing. They know what it is but it does not apply to daily life. It is not that they are negligent or ignorant, they are not, they just have not been taught. One man that we taught early in the week said that when he was ten he was curious about God and where he came from. He asked his father and his dad said to forget it and walked away. Now the man is in his sixties and he still wants to know.

It would be very sad to grow up not knowing who Jesus Christ is. I cannot imagine growing up without that knowledge. As missionaries we teach the message of Jesus Christ and invite all we meet to come unto Him. Jamie and I know that Jesus lives and know that He loves us. We have been commanded to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In exchange for a contrite spirit and a broken heart He promises us salvation. We are here to lift up the spirit of the people and to teach and to bear testimony of Jesus Christ. There is a lot of work to be done here in Russia.

Our second dinner was Thursday night with a younger single man named Pavel. He is very quiet individual who was baptized some time back. He comes to church and usually sits in the back. He travels a great distance to attend church, over an hour each way and looks starved for friendship. He works maintaining the trolley railcars. Jamie made a hearty stew with black bread and more apple crisp with bilberries for dessert. We shared a prayer with him and conversed in our broken Russian about families as we ate. We all ate well.

We asked him if he had any hobbies and he said that in his spare time he likes to knit. He showed us a pair of house slippers that he had made. They were very good and would be handy to carry in ones bag for all the times we enter apartments and have to remove our shoes. On Sunday, he said that if I would like, he would knit me a pair of house slippers. Judging from the size of my 14EEEE feet it could be a daunting task. We also watched the same Christmas message in Russian with him from the night before. He said that he really enjoyed it. We had a discussion about the life of Jesus and will visit with him again next week. Jamie sent him home with a container of stew and bread for later.

On Friday, Jamie was invited to teach a special English class, just for women, which focused on female related topics and issues. They learned English words for household items and home decor, names for items from the kitchen and bathroom and terminology for clothing (color, size, type and style). Other topics discussed included hair (cut, style and color), nail care, cosmetics, jewelry, accessories (watches, glasses and handbags), holiday traditions and gardening, baby care (food, blankets, diapers and pacifiers) and to finish their lesson they discussed relationships (family, friends and boys). Jamie said that it was interesting trying to translate and explain words like glitter, sparkly and shiny without pictures. Even so, everyone left the room with smiles so it must have been good.

The third dinner of the week was held Sunday evening where we broke our fast with Sergei and Olga Varnavski, the couple who had attended Thanksgiving with us. We had meat with onions and peppers over rice with green beans and beet salad. It was delicious and once again we had the apple crisp with bilberries. Does anyone get the idea that this dessert is a winner? I may be going to the market at any moment for more Granny Smith apples and bilberries. We had a fun evening with them and showed a different video on the life of Christ from Luke 2. We finished the evening with discussion of the mission of the Savior and how we can each serve and love Him.

It is time to end for now and we hope that you have caught a taste of what we have been experiencing. Have a good week and we will write again soon. As always, you are in our prayers and we love hearing from you. God bless you all.

With love,

Elder Mark & Sister Jamie Forsyth

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Friday, 26 November 2010

Greetings from Russia!

We have had a wonderful week. It could be described by saying that the snow was falling softly as we walked along the street. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and here in Russia the hearts of the people have proved to be very warm but we have to admit that the weather has been cold. For Thanksgiving we had a fresh foot of snow and the night before it was accompanied with a biting wind.

Inside of our apartment it is like a sunny day in Hawaii. It is very warm, so warm that we need to leave our windows cracked open to counter the effect. The other evening we went to bed with a steady snow fall. The next morning we awoke to a small snow drift on the inside window sill. The good news is that the inside window sills in our apartment are from 18 to 24 inches wide. We have found that we do sleep better when the room is cooler.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful. We had some challenges in matching the Russian ingredients to our list of needs but we did as well as we could. Our first challenge was learning the word for Turkey and then trying to find one. In the end we did learn the word but our search for a Turkey was in vain. We each made use of our good imaginations and we were able to pretend that the chicken we ate was a very fine Turkey.

Present with us for dinner were Elder Smith, from Vernal, Utah, Elder Weihing, from Herriman, Utah, Shondra Jacobis, a convert to the church and medical student from Guyana and Sergei Varnavaski and his wife Olga who are originally from Uzbekistan. Sergei has joined the church and Olga was given a baptismal challenge on Tuesday. She has felt the Spirit and wants to be baptized. The young Elders here are so good and faithful. They are a tribute to their families back home.

Jamie had the table festively set with yellow chrysanthemums to brighten the occasion. Both Elders ate their fill, so much so, that Elder Smith had to lay down on the floor to recuperate. Our meal included Turkey (Chicken), stuffing made from black bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied carrots, green beans with bacon and onions, black and green olives from Spain, fruit salad, pasta salad, sparkling cowberry juice, strawberry cheesecake and homemade pumpkin pie. We each, in turn, told of things that we were thankful for and had a very pleasant afternoon of friendship and conversation.

We continue to improve as we study the language. We teach in a mix of broken Russian and translated English. We feel the Spirit and love the people. The branch here, as in other developing areas, is small. We are impressed with the tenacity and the love that we feel from this handful of people who have testimonies of Jesus Christ and call themselves the Yaroslavl branch.

It is our desire to help where ever we can. We have been helping with the English club and as of last week we have also started a Spanish club. There is a large university here and many students wanting to learn English and apparently Spanish. The medical student who joined us for Thanksgiving dinner is returning to Guyana next summer and needs to learn Spanish. Along with others, she is one of the students in our Spanish club. Though we do not actively proselyte during the language club meetings, a number of converts have come from this venue.

There is just a bit more about warm apartments before we leave that topic. When we go outside we are bundled up for a trip into the arctic. We are dressed in layers. We have on long thermal underwear, a pair of pants, shirt and tie for me and slip, skirt and stockings for Jamie followed by a sweater or suit coat that is covered by a heavy winter coat, a scarf, warm hat, gloves and insulated shoes made to keep out the cold. That is all wonderful until you go into a Russian family's apartment, where inside temperatures can be in the 80's or 90's. They dress in light clothing and appear, with few exceptions so far, to greatly enjoy their warmth. While standing in their doorway we immediately shed our shoes then go through a complete metamorphosis and try to shed as many layers as we can. By the time we bundle up again to leave we usually end up drenched in sweat.

Getting a grasp of the language is one of our most pressing needs, so as a learning tool for Russian we have stickers in our apartment placed all over the many objects of daily life. Each sticker has the name of the object spelled in Russian along with a phonetic spelling to help with pronunciation. They have proved very helpful. Recently, after giving a lesson at an investigators apartment, Jamie was preparing to put her boots back on to leave when she found the sticker for shoes stuck to her stockings. Pointing the sticker out to our investigators we found it somewhat amusing.

A fruit here that is in large supply is the persimmon. There are persimmons in many varieties, shapes, sizes and colors. They range from the typical orange color to red, purple and yellow. The local fruit stands here are like mini insulated huts. They are found along most streets, close to housing and near news stands and other similar huts for small food and drink. The fruit is displayed behind glass windows or on tables outside if the temperatures permit. At one such stand, on a busy corner, Jamie has made friends with a woman who has a warm smile and who found Jamie's smelling of the fruit amusing. Purchasing some of her persimmons, walnuts and raisins, Jamie has made some very delicious cookies and brought the lady some to sample. She seemed taken with the gift of the cookies and we found out that her name is Sabrina. The other day when we passed by we purchased more walnuts and Jamie gave her a copy of The Book of Mormon.

In talking to people we find there is a genuine interest in us and in all things American. They almost always ask us why we have come to Russian. When we tell them that we are missionaries, some have asked how much money do people get paid to be a missionary? We tell them that we are not financially supported by the church, that we pay our own way. Most people here know very little of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Almost everyone wants to know what it is like to be from America. They ask if life in America is like they have seen portrayed in our movies. They ask us what we like to read and what our home is like. They are interested in knowing about our schools and we field many questions about politics. Russians seem to love President Obama and at the same time have very little good to say about former President Bush. When we show them pictures from home and of our family we are greeted with broad smiles.

There are three McDonald’s here in Yaroslavl and most have eaten there. With Burger King now in Moscow as a comparison they have asked which we prefer. To say that there are masses of people at McDonalds would be an understatement. If you compare it to standing in line with three busloads of football players and the opposing teams band at a US McDonald's, there are still more people at the McDonald's here. The astonishing thing is how quickly the lines move and how efficient they are. With six to eight lines at the counter they are very fast with their service.

In thinking about what to write there are several odds and ends that may be worth mentioning. In Russia people are amazed when they learn that we have a large family. We have been told that women who have five or more children are given a medal of recognition by the state for their contribution to building the nation. Several have mentioned to Jamie that if she were Russian she would be considered a hero of the state.

Though they have keys and locks similar to what we are accustomed to seeing, many of the keys here look like those that might have been used to open a door in a medieval castle. We would best describe them as skeleton keys. They are five or six inches long with a flat and wide, notched end. In the apartment buildings there is almost always a large outer door to enter the building. These doors are made of steel and have a call system to let tenants approve a visitor’s entry to the building. Each individual apartment will then have two heavily locked doors to enter the apartment. These doors are also made of steel. Each door is thick and hangs on heavy hinges. They would seem suitable for use as a door to a gun safe, a bank or perhaps a door in the Harry Potter movies. These double doors each have two or more locks and dead bolts, some requiring the skeleton keys. Taking into consideration the size of the keys and possessing a set of keys for our apartment, a set of keys for the church and another set of keys for the family history center, we try to only carry one set at a time. Carrying keys is better than wearing ankle weights for keeping in shape. Jamie likes the sounds they make as they jingle jangle in our pocket.

For those who like to shop, there are stores and shops all over the place but it can be tricky to find them or just the right shop with what you need. Often with only a non-descript door, barely noticeable or advertised from the outside it will open into multiple small shops that are stuffed with goods. In the grocery and department stores the shoppers put their bags into a locker and many have a place to check your coat. They have a large department store called Globus that is much like Wal-Mart.

At the open markets we have found all sorts of items including a large assortment of clothing and products with fur. There are fur lined boots, fur lined hats, fur lined coats, fur lined gloves, fur lined bags and fur lined scarves. There appears to be no end to the uses of fur. Animals covered in fur need to be very careful here in Russia.

Before Thanksgiving, after we had given up our hunt for a Turkey, we kept a sharp eye out for fresh whole chickens. We had seen them in the store but they disappeared quickly. Preferring fresh over the frozen, two nice looking birds made their way to the poultry section. The young missionaries were quick to fend off the savvy babushkas and secure them for our meal. To hear them tell the story they used a combination of slow motion moves from football and Kung-Fu to keep the wily bab’s at bay. They made us smile.

Finding spices proved to be an odyssey of sorts. When we looked in the stores we did not see a familiar spice aisle or anything resembling spice bottles. We found that they don’t use bottles for their spices here. Spices come in little packets. Vanilla is not liquid but also comes in a packet similar to what we had observed in Norway. Baking powder packets are small with about two tablespoons per packet. We were able to look up the words for spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and eventually found most of what we were looking for.

Another curiosity is the placement of advertising. Often it is painted on the sidewalk, especially noticeable on the sidewalks in Moscow. Russians walk with their heads down rather than looking straight ahead. There are so many people who walk and with sidewalks and walking surfaces that are somewhat inconsistent, it makes sense to watch where you are walking. Sidewalk painted ads probably don't do as well when there is snow on the ground but it is something different.

It has been our observation that the simple movement of people from point A to point B or points in between consumes a huge amount of time. A great majority of the people own one or no personal vehicle and are extremely dependent on public transportation. Their public transportation system is efficient and easy to access with large and small buses running at all times. Passengers use the honor system to pay their fares often needing to pass their money from the back to the front of the bus.

We would like to end by giving thanks for what we have received and experienced. We are grateful for finding hidden treasures, a good grocery store, a beautiful pumpkin to make into pies, the prospect of 100's of lilac trees in the spring, a genuine smile from a weary human, the generosity of a stranger, figuring out how to say baking power in Russian and for finding out that Harry Potter speaks Russian.

Oh and lest we forget we want to say thank you for the two fantastic, amazing and sweet young Elders who have taken such good care of us. Thank you Elder Smith and Elder Weihing and thanks to the many who have given their words of encouragement. God bless us all in this work. We are thankful every day that we are here. We are thankful for the gift of tongues. We hope you have enjoyed your Thanksgiving as much as we have ours. May it have been all things wonderful!

With Love,

Elder Mark & Sister Jamie Forsyth

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Greetings from Russia!

This past Saturday we moved out of the hotel where we had been staying and got into the apartment we had selected. It has two bedrooms, a spartan kitchen, Bathroom facilities and a nice living room area. We paid first, last and a deposit and filled out the required documents for registration with the city in exchange for two sets of keys. We are very satisfied with our new surroundings.

At some point in the past the apartment was extensively remodeled. It is fully furnished and has a new bed. Out of our window we can see what would be in English the equivalent of Lenin Blvd. There are two lanes in each direction with a wide tree covered walking area in the middle. Most cities in Russia have at least one or more streets using the name Lenin. The apartment is located on the second floor of a building in an older urban area with shops and stores at street level. There is a smaller grocery store just across the street and a larger one just around the corner. Most amenities are very close. The church is only a ten minute walk up the street.

During the summer Yaroslavl held a celebration commemorating the 1,000th year anniversary of the cities founding in 1010 AD. Streets have been repaired, buildings painted and banners still hang on doors and on buildings. A stylized 1000 with the zeros in the shape of onion domes is seen everywhere. We are told there are over 150 old churches in this city of 800,000 +/- inhabitants.

Though it is quite cool outside, we have been told by the locals that this area is experiencing some of the warmest November days in the last fifty years. The apartment heat is provided through the use of radiators that have no adjustment. If you want it cooler you just open a window. We have most of our suit cases unpacked and have set up our computer. We hope to get the internet hooked up soon so we can communicate with the outside world. We wrote a short email last week that, due to lack of internet, did not get sent. It follows and will fill you in on our first week here in Russia. This week’s note will be the same and will hopefully get sent out soon.

During the past week we were taken on a short tour of the historic section of Yaroslavl and took a walk along the Volga River. The Volga looks much like the Columbia River or any other large river with ship traffic. There is a very nice walking area along the river bank. We have been impressed by the many parks and open spaces. There are trees throughout the city and it has a very family oriented feel. Even though it is cold out there are children and families spending time outside of their apartments. The apartment buildings are numerous and usually five stories in height. Higher than five stories requires the installation of an elevator. Most of the apartments we have visited are small but functional. Single family dwellings are a rarity in the city environment and many go to the country where they have a dacha (summer or country house).

Our teachings have been good this past week and we have met many of the members of the branch. We have had many prayers and lessons with a number of investigators. One young couple, from Uzbekistan, has been very interested. We visited there twice, taught about the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and about the principle of faith. We have invited them to share Thanksgiving dinner with us and the other missionaries on the 25th. We also helped with the English club on Tuesday night and started a Spanish club. Those classes went very well with more than a dozen in attendance.

We did not mention it but we finally seem to be over our jet lag. Our flight into Moscow, back on the 1st, was uneventful other than the lack of sleep. It was good that we had a few days in Moscow to get our legs under us. One thing that we were taken to see in Moscow was their WWII museum. The enormous scope of what Russia endured during those years cannot be expressed in words. They made use of three dimensional dioramas, expertly displayed and haunting to look at. They have done their very best to honor their 27 million dead. We felt privileged to be taken there.

It appears that this is all for now. We have much still to do to get ourselves settled into our apartment. At some point our landlord has promised to bring us some additional chairs and we still need to do some shopping for basics and household items. Thank you again for your prayers on our behalf.

Our love to you,

Elder Mark & Sister Jamie Forsyth

Tuesday, 9 Nov 2010

Greetings from Russia!

Last Friday was our multi-zone conference in Moscow. Most of the missionaries were in attendance other than those serving in Kazakhstan. It was wonderful to feel the spirit of the young missionaries and the other senior couples. We received good training and instruction from our Mission President and his wife. After the conference were taken on a nighttime driving tour of Red Square and around the Kremlin walls. It is very impressive. Our first few days were spent learning about the mission and what was to be expected of us in our assignment, then on Saturday we were driven up here to Yaroslavl. It was a beautiful ride across the Russian countryside. We saw many typical Russian homes, small communities and lots of forest on our drive. The trip took us about four hours. When we arrived in Yaroslavl some of the members had come to the church and later to our hotel to meet us. They had prepared a gift for us that they had written notes upon. We have been made to feel very welcome here.

On Sunday, though it was lightly snowing as we walked to church, the weather was not been that bad. At Sacrament meeting there were 23 in attendance with a warm spirit. We each had the opportunity to bear our testimony in Russian and afterward we got better acquainted with the church members. On Monday, Rather than take a preparation day, we went apartment hunting and saw many potential locations to choose from. There was one in particular that stood out and we hope to have it rented by Friday. For now we will stay here at the hotel. Out of our hotel window we have a view of a shiny gold covered onion dome church. We would love to send a picture but our camera was left in the van we rode up in. It is back at the office in Moscow for us to pick up at a future date.

Last night the young single adults had a Family Home Evening at the church. Two of them were celebrating birthdays. There were about a dozen in attendance and an investigator. We were given more gifts and practiced our Russian. You can feel a hunger for the Gospel. The Church is so new here that is not unlike the early days of the Church. A member of the branch presidency shared how the Patriarch had given him his patriarchal blessing. He had just recently been to the temple and he marveled at the blessings he has received.

We have been working with the Zone leaders here on a plan to visit all of the members and give them Gospel instruction in their homes and on how to expand the work they have been doing. We have yet to visit the small genealogical library but there have been several who are anxious to gather names for the temple in Kiev. Today we have four lessons to teach and tonight is English club were there have been a number of converts over the years. At home evening two of the members, one from Guyana who is studying to be a doctor and another who teaches English at the university, have expressed an interest in learning Spanish. It appears there are some Spanish speakers here at the university.

Once we get into our apartment we hope to set up an area book and get lists of the branch membership. The Elders here have been a great help. That is all from here for now. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Please know that we keep you in our prayers and send you all of our love and best wishes.


Elder Mark & Sister Jamie Forsyth

Thursday, October 21, 2010


have not left, too many things to pack. so I'm learning to blog san u read my English?