Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm Back 1/23/10 & The Couples Conference 1/19-21/10

I'm Back 1/23/10 & The Couples Conference
Weather--clear and warming Temp--minus 10F Wind--calm

Thank you for the inquiries into my condition. I have been absent from the cyber-scene due to some back problems that made it difficult to sit a long time at the computer. A couple of days ago I had considered paying someone to shoot me, but got a blessing and a message to be patient. I am doing better with a few days' rest. I would have preferred a healing blessing, but Heavenly Father had other ideas. I'm working on patience.

Twice a year, if we are lucky, the mission president organizes a Couples Conference where the senior couples gather in one spot to be instructed, to share information, and to laugh. The laughing part is the best and I will touch that in a minute.

We have seven senior couples in the mission plus the mission president. They are:
The Moleffs in Ulan-Ude
The Southams in Irkutsk
The Royers in Krasnoyarsk
The Simmons in Novosibirsk
The Millers in Novosibirsk
The Trejos in Novosibirsk (Mission President)
The Holmes in Barnaul
The Nickoliasens in Omsk

These couples serve as the eyes and ears of the mission president as well as his arms and hands. He travels to each city every 6 weeks, interviews the missionaries, conducts a training conference, and interviews the branch leadership. He is the highest ecclesiastical authority in the mission and acts as a "stake president" relating to certain church matters. The men in this group are the only High Priests in the mission.  To those of you not LDS, the significance of this is that the High Priests are those who have been called and ordained to administrative positions in Church government and those callings are generated after a Stake is created. The high priests are the ones charged with ministering and administering in the Lord's church relating to its policies and organization.

 They also serve as surrogate grandparents to the missionaries, not as parents because they are not invested in, or critical of, their every behavior or decision, but as grandparents who love them in spite of everything, listen to their woes and celebrations with equal interest, and give them a little advice when asked. Most of all, they love them, they feed them, they love them, they support and encourage them, they love them, they try to guide them away from danger, and they love them. That's why grandparents and grandchildren get along so well; they share a common problem.

We are no exception. We do all this and work in the office as well. It is a real balancing act to be available whenever they want to use our apartment, have a meal with an investigator, or just need a hug, but sister Simmons is committed to doing whatever they seem to need and I am in a supporting role, even when they call mid afternoon asking if they can meet in our home with this GREAT investigator they just met.

The best part of a couples conference is that you laugh a lot. You can sit around a table and share experiences that no one in the world would appreciate except one another because we have all had similar ones.  We are each going to go home and try to tell our friends about our missions and they are going to look at us stoney-faced and have no appreciation for the humor in it.

Sister Simmons' four rules in Russia (and my corollary) are (1) It doesn't have to make sense; (2) It doesn't have to match; (3) If you see it and you want it, buy it NOW; (4) It really doesn't matter. My corollary is if it is physically possible, someone will try it regardless of the consequences.

Now, to this group of senior missionaries, these not only make sense, but they elicit their own examples of each rule and we all understand and laugh. The one group we will not tell these stories to is the couple who have just been called on a 23 month mission to Russia. We made the mistake of going to lunch with two couples who had served in Russia and by the time lunch was over, I was about one inch from calling the missionary department and asking for a reassignment to Florence, Nebraska.

On day two of the conference we invited Brat Pyotr to come and recount the history of the mission and his experiences with the establishment of the Church in Siberia. It was not only most interesting, but also enlightening to hear about the struggles to open each of the cities and the sacrifice of the missionaries and members, which we now could more fully appreciate.

Later that afternoon, we all geared up (-29F) and walked several blocks past the park to the city museum where we saw very good exhibits about Siberia's history and how things came to be. The picture above was on our way as we passed a grove of trees covered with hoarfrost. During that visit, we were invited to see a fashion show and dance demonstration on the second floor. 

Without understanding the language, it was my understanding that the costumes and "fashions" were original and several awards were presented before the show.  The children were cute as usual, but I couldn't get a good picture with my little Sony, same with the "faeshions" except this one I named the "moth". It was certainly unique, but was way beyond my understanding of fashion.

In the basement coat room I caught this picture of a dad getting his daughter ready for the trip outside. No matter where you go in Russia you see parents taking special pains to protect children from the cold. She was so patient and he was so careful. I loved the scene.

After the museum we inspected the snow sculptures. These are done by artists from different cities in competition. They begin with a big, bottomless box into which they pack snow, watering down each laer. The box is removed and the artist forms the block of snow/ice into the desired design. Here are some of the entries. The frozen folks at the top are yours truly and sister truly. Hard to see in all that fluff,  huh.

Are we having fun yet?

From the snow sculptures, we headed to the restaurant called Mexico. The food is fair but it is close to downtown and walking distance to the mission home. We all had salad and chicken Fajitas and lots of salsa & chips. Fun time.

After dinner we returned to the mission home where I showed some pictures of the Holy Land and gave some explanation of them. Sometimes I relay more than I know, but in this group there is too much experience to go very far astray.

Finally we were entertained by the office elders, Elder Byers and Elder Ahuna. Elder Byers sang a lovely and touching rendition of I Know Heavenly Father Loves Me. He was formerly with the BYU Men's Chorus and has written and recorded his own music; quite a talent.

The final event was an unlikely combination; a Hawaiian doing the Navaho Hoop Dance. He uses twenty-three hoops and it is very entertaining.

This was a great event for us, mostly for the camaraderie and the laughing. It is so therapeutic to be with people who understand what your life is like and what you experience. It is too bad that we all live so far apart, but it is not about us; it's about the missionaries and the Lord's work.

We love our mission and our missionaries. This was just a rest from life as we know it.

What a fun event. What a country.


Carol said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'm so greatful for all of you senior couples and the work that you do there. It wouldnt surprise me at all if my daughter is one of the ones that has called you last minute to use your apt. hahahahahaah I loved the pictures of the snow sculptures. Oh and in hearing about the establishment of the church in Siberia I wonder if the name of a Bro and Sister Galbraith from Rexburg came up. They are in our stake and I believe that he was the 2nd mission president to serve in Novo. I heard them speak about their incredible experiences when they returned never to even imagine that several years later I would have a daughter serving in the same mission. Thank you so much for continueing the great work there in Siberia and for taking care of my little russian missionary. :)

Trisha said...

Sounds like a fun time. Love the ice sculptures. It does seem strange to have a place to eat called Mexico. I am glad that you were able to do two days of the conferance. I guess we all have to do things in the Lords time. I am glad that you are able to get back going with the blogg. I have sure missed hearing all about your adventures.

Shannon said...

So good to read a new post on your blog dad! I wish your back didnt hurt you...Enjoyed reading about the conference and seeing the ice sculptures! I love hearing about your adventures! Love you!

Bob Steed said...

Doug - I am glad that your back is hurting a little less. A hurt back makes doing just about anything more difficult. My prayers are with you.

I am very thankful for the new installment on the blog. I have become accustomed (addicted) to reading them. It is a wonderful way for me to share in your experiences. I appreciate all the time and effort they clearly take. In addition to all your service there, thanks for serving me here.