Wind 8-10 mph
Christmas day is one of two days that the missionaries can talk to their families; the other is Mother's Day. It started off as the Assistants were supposed to arrive at 7AM for calls to their families on our SKYPE phone line, but at 6:45 AM we get a call from them saying that our "domaphone" doesn't work. That is the call box on the outside of our building near the entry door. Just then someone with a key, coming into the building, let them in and they said they would be right up. I was getting on my sweat pants and ready to go open the door, but they never came. Ten minutes later our domaphone buzzed and it was them, laughing. I buzzed them in and when they came in the apartment they were still laughing; they had rung the domaphone on the wrong building at 6:45 AM.
They said that when the guy with the key let them in, they went to the elevator and got in, noticing that it was a very nice elevator. Part-way up they realized that they were in the wrong elevator inthe wrong building (ours smells like an airport men's room) and quickly exited before whoever was in apartment 40 came out.
Around 9 AM the Zone Leaders came to make their calls because their phone bill had not been paid and while they were in Madrid last week their phone was shut off and not working now. It is always interesting to see what comes from the next call on my cell phone, but we are always ready to respond to their needs. As it happened, four elders asked us to SKYPE their families and get them to change the phone number they were going to call because they forgot to pay their bills.
By around 11 AM we were ready to take our portion of the food and ourselves to the Mickelsen's for the day's activities. President Gushchin drove the 6 of us and we were grateful for the ride through the snow.
At the mission home we played games (the elders played Risk), sang, told about our favorite Christmas memories, and did a white elephant gift exchange. Along with that, Sister Cindy and I gave each missionary a pair of stockings stuffed with candy from America.
Actually, we stuffed one sock, plugged that sock with its mate and tied a ribbon around the end. We stayed up until 3:00 am one night to get them done to be delivered to the cities via the President and Assistants on their Zone Conference rounds and by some elders returning to their cities from visa trips.
The video clip below was started that night after we began to reminisce about our friends and family at home and their sending us the candies that we were now giving to the missionaries. It was such a sweet moment of remembering, missing, and thanking.
After the presents we watched Jimmie Stewart and Donna Reed in "It's a Wonderful Life". I cried through the last half-hour as I always do because it is so touching to be reminded how precious friends are in your time of need. We are not in so much of a need, but we are away from home and remembering what we are NOT doing with those close to us. It is one of the few times that I have really missed our friends & family and the things that have made Christmas a time of joy and celebration. I'm sure that the missionaries feel that even more keenly and we are so grateful to be able to fill some of that void, but no matter, in those quiet hours before dawn, they have to be shedding a tear for those they miss.
As the party ended and we all went to our apartments, we reflected on the day, the occasion, our condition, and the times. We opened the last of our little gifts that family had sent to us and I felt peaceful in our place.
I continue to think of the people of Russia, specifically of Novosibirsk. Whatever frustration and even anger I may feel sometimes at what people do to each other, and to me in the process, it is tempered with compassion for them and the fact that their current condition is all they have. They will not "go home" as I will in a few months, and this is all there is. It must be just as maddening to them as it is to me at times.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real hope for anyone, but especially for people who are discouraged and disheartened. To know that they are children of a loving Father in Heaven can be so life-changing. That fact alone can show you your worth and can give you a new perspective of who you really are. To know that Jesus Christ died to take away their sins, and, if they will repent, they can be clean and whole before God at the judgement. That has got to give the most disheartened hope.
Those who have been baptized and begin to live in keeping with God's laws ARE happier. They look happier and they voluntarily say that they are happier. We see it in the new converts. We see it in the old members who live their lives in keeping with the standards of honesty, charity, brotherly love, chastity, and sacrifice that the Gospel teaches and demands of it's adherents. These people are little lights in a dark place and they are noticed. When they are together, they are even brighter.
I know that God the Father has sent our missionaries here because the whole need no physician. I know that God loves the people of Russia, particularly those who are searching for the Truth. He has allowed us to be his hands and feet to search them out and bring them home to Him. He has inconvenienced a few of us for a few months for the eternal welfare of His children here who recognize His voice in the Gospel. It is a small price.
What a country. What a blessing. What a God.