Saturday, April 24, 2010

Farewell to Riga!

With only 5 days left to serve in the Baltic Mission, I decided I should write a farewell entry in my blog.

It's nearly 18 months since I entered the MTC and service as a missionary. As is always the case, it seems just yesterday and, on the other hand, so much has happened in that time, that it seems forever ago.

Sister Hardy is great and, although feeling overwhelmed often, she is learning and the office will be in good hands. Elder Hardy is almost completely trained and being given additional responsibilities, as well.

I know that on Thursday, 29 April, I will board an Air Baltic plane on the first leg of my flight home. I know that and I say that, but it doesn't quite seem real.

I didn't ever plan to serve a 2nd mission but, as is always the case when we choose to serve the Lord in His way, the blessings have been many and varied, and I am thankful I've had this opportunity.

The members of the Church have been warm and loving and I have great admiration for their faith and desire to serve the Lord. I have learned some Latvian words but can't "speak" Latvian. I am in awe of the ability of nearly everyone here to speak at least 2 languages, and most often 3 or more. They are thankful for the opportunity to "practice" their English on me.

If not literally, at least in my heart and mind, I will kiss the ground when I land on U.S. soil. I am thankful to be an American!

President Dance asked me what I will miss and I told him it will be the people and the opportunity to serve. I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve with a part of the great Army of the Lord. The young elders and sisters, as well as the senior missionaries, are a great example to me and have blessed my life. These experiences will always be a part of me and I believe I am a different, and better, person for having served here.

What am I looking forward to? Seeing my family, who have been a loving support to me. My younger grandchildren have grown up a lot in 18 months. I just want to look at each one and enjoy the time with them. I appreciate the wonderful friends who have taken a moment to write from time to time. I am richly blessed with good family and friends.

We made my last trip to Alfa Rimi and to Santa Barbara Veikels (market/store) last night and today. Can't wait to walk into Dick's and Costco. Can't wait to have my car for trips to the grocery store and everywhere else.

Outside of our apartment building is a lone tulip that has no chance of ever blooming. Can't wait to see the beauty of Bountiful and my yard.

After having worked 4+ years in the Bountiful Temple and now 18 months without having a temple even in the entire mission, I can't wait to enter the Bountiful Temple again.

I have felt the Lord's love for me and for my family. I am completing this service, and look forward to serving in whatever way He chooses for me.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Unexpected trip home for the Jacques

Elder and Sister Jacques are our wonderful senior couple who work with the youth and do many other things in the mission. She has knee problems and they have had to return to the States for a month so she can have surgery.
Sister Humphrey, Sister Dance, the Jacques and I went to dinner at Murales, an Italian restaurant (we were told). I didn't really see anything Italian on the menu, but it was good food. Sister Jacques ordered the most interesting item on the menu: salmon baked in salt crust. None of us knew what to expect and were very surprised to see it. It was a nice piece of salmon inside of a thick shell of salt. She was told by the waitress to whack the shell to break it open. You remove the shell completely and eat the salmon. It was a little salty (she let each of us taste it) but then what would you expect, baked like that. When it was served, it looked like a baked Alaska, and maybe that's where they got the idea.

Elder and Sister Hardy arrived

After 3 1/2 months of waiting for an office couple, they arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and were in the office late the next morning, to begin their training. They are a delightful couple and will do a great job. As always, training someone to do something takes longer than doing it yourself, so I'm having to remind myself that Sister Hardy will be doing this all on her own in 4 weeks and she has to learn at her pace and do it her way. I'm sure after a weekend away from the office and getting over the jet lag, they will be ready to begin again on Monday. And with the Lord's help, I will be able to teach her enough. Can't help but wonder what is next in my life.

Spring arrived!

I really was questioning whether Spring would arrive and the snow and ice would be gone before I was. I am amazed how quickly it all happened. But, it did, and I still have nearly 4 weeks in which to enjoy it. It was actually 60F for a couple of days this week. It was so wonderful to not have to bundle up good and to not dread going outside. I'm still waiting to see any sign of green grass, or flowers or shrubs in bloom, but I have hope that that will happen, too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Visiting the homes of the Latvian Saints

I am now a visiting teacher and last evening my VT companion I went to the home of a woman in her 40s, who has Schizophrenia, and who lives with her mother. We caught a bus near the office just after 5:00 and then caught a 2nd bus and by 5:40 had reached our destination--at least got off the bus and began the walk. As I have mentioned before, there has been more snow in Riga this winter than in 15 years (or some say, in 100 years). Which ever is correct, it's more than they have known how to handle, so walks aren't cleared. We walked for about 15 minutes, on ice, arriving at a fairly new and large apartment building. My companion, Simona, told me the Government is building these apartment buildings for those on pensions, or low-income. It's modern in that the elevator is digital and it's more like an American elevator than any I've been in here (except the one at the mission home). They live on the 8th floor and we exited the elevator into a dimly lit hallway. We walked all the way to one end, only to figure out that they must live on the other end.

The apartment has an entry which leads into a long room that is combination bedroom, kitchen, and living room. The daughter has her own bedroom; the mother sleeps on the bed in the other part of the apartment. We were offered tea (herbal fruit--very popular here) with some home bottled berry juice added. It was very tasty.

It didn't take long for me to realize that the mother speaks no English and the daughter speaks very little English. So Simona did the talking and translating.

The mother is a loving, caring woman who seems to have learned how to deal with her daughter's behavior, which went from smiling to laughing, to anger (toward her mother), and was repeated several times during our 1+ hour visit.

As we left, Simona mentioned that she has never lived in as nice a place as that apartment. She lives with her mother in a home they have been building.

I have become so aware of the privileges of my life, from childhood. I have always lived in a home, as long as I can remember (except for early marriage in an apartment). A home with bedrooms (plural) and a yard and a car (or more) are just things I guess I've taken for granted. I do believe that if most of the people in Latvia could visit my home they would consider me a millionaire.

Part of that is because of a father and husband who worked hard to provide for their families, and our desire to be self-reliant. Part of it is the advantages of living in America.

Anyway, the longer I'm here, the more I wonder how I will feel about returning to the "luxuries" I have in Bountiful UT.

My continuing education

My visiting teaching partner is 24 years old, a member for 6 years, a single woman who teaches school and hopes to become a translator/interpreter for the deaf. Her dream is to go to Gallaudet School for the Deaf in D.C., but a more realistic goal is to study Latvian sign language and serve the deaf here.

As a side note, it never occurred to me until I came here, that ASL is just for Americans. I mean, that's rather obvious, but I just didn't think about the fact that sign language has to be tailored to the language the people speak verbally.

Anyway, having lived in America all my life, and having never really visited outside of the U.S., I am learning many things that I probably should have known before.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The end is coming!

No, not the end of the world (as far as I know) but the end of my mission. I learned from my sister Karen that a couple with whom she works in the Provo Temple just received their mission call--to the Baltic Mission. They leave in March.

I had reason to question whether anyone would be coming. I learned from a couple in Ukraine that their office couple went home the first of December and they were called in to learn how to run the office. Their assignment is as a CES couple, so office wasn't what they knew to do. They still hadn't received word of an office couple coming.

The week before I learned that in another mission in Europe the office couple goes home in May, one of 2 senior sisters goes home in June and the mission president changes in July. So, I was beginning to wonder if my mission would end.

Not, that I'm in a hurry to leave, but I do want to leave at the end. Unless this couple coming with tremendous skills and/or are quick-learning, my departure date will be 11 May. Otherwise, I may leave sometime in April.

It's been a unique and, in many ways, a wonderful experience and, inasmuch as the more we learn to rely on the Lord, the more we grow, I may say that this has been the best 18 months of my life. The hardest in some ways, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.