Thursday evening we had a lovely dinner at the mission home and then a testimony meeting and we bid farewell to 4 more of our missionaries. Elder Fulcher returned to Australia (can you imagine an Australian speaking Russian--what kind of accent would that be?) The sister next to him is from the Ukraine--a very humble and faithful young woman who wants to have 12 children and serve every kind of mission possible. The sister next to her is from Bountiful, but was born in Russia and adopted by a family in Bountiful. The last sister is from Salt Lake City and served a Latvian-speaking mission. The other 3 served Russian-speaking missions.
And, of course, in the back are President and Sister Dance.
I asked Sister Karpenko (the one from the Ukraine) about Odessa, which is where the Klundts and Geisslers came from (after having left Germany and before coming to the United States). She said it's a beautiful place on the Black Sea with lots of beaches.
Sister Karpenko flew to Donetsk in the Ukraine, to be released by the mission president (no ward or stake in her area) and then had a long train ride to her home in Kharkov (pronounced Harkov). When I learned that she lived that far from the mission office, I thought it was probably a small farming community. But, to my surprise, she told us that the population is 1.5 million and there are 34 universities in Kharkov.
I was touched when, the next morning, I read in her file that her brother had been killed in an accident shortly before she began her mission. He had been in the process of filling out his mission papers when he was killed. Her stake president had written in her application that she felt she needed to serve her mission for herself and for her brother. I was very touched by her strength and humility as we visited the night of the dinner.
She also told us of the wonderful 36 hour trips she had made with other members from the Ukraine to the Temple in Helsinki, Finland (before her mission). She said they had such spiritual experiences and bonded as friends and Saints as they made those trips. One reason the trip took so long is that they would sometimes have a 4-5 hour wait at the Russian border because they wouldn't give the border patrol the bribe they requested. They weren't kept from going, just had to wait at the border.
Very humbling to realize what sacrifices some of the Saints make to attend the Temple. Especially since I am less than 5 minutes from the Bountiful Temple. However, I do remember temple trips from Walla Walla with the youth, to Salt Lake City. Those, too, were wonderful experiences.