Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another First in Riga

Last night, Elder and Sister Gubler, Elder and Sister Jacques, Sister Humphrey and I attended my first ballet: Swan Lake. It was beautifully costumed and performed. It was performed in the Opera House (where, a year ago, I attended the opera). I posted pictures of it at that time. It is a very traditional, ornate opera house like I've seen in the movies over the years.

Our seats were in the balcony and we had an unobstructed view of the stage. I always wanted to be graceful and never achieved it, and it was wonderful to watch the dancers so very graceful and skilled.

We had all attended the baptism of a 14 year old girl and her 8 or 9 year old brother, then went to dinner at Del Popolo's (an Italian Restaurant). The baptism was well-attended. Actually, the parents of the children are members and an older brother passes the sacrament. I had assumed these two children were baptized so was surprised when they announced that they would be baptized.

The girl, Alisa, seemed more mature this morning. I think being baptized was something she had given much thought to.

Del Popolo's has become my favorite restaurant in Riga. I've now been there 3 times. Last evening I ordered a spinach, grapefruit and homemade cheese salad that was really beautiful and delicious. The homemade cheese was cottage cheese. There was no dressing on it except perhaps the spinach leaves had been coated in olive oil. I also ordered a homemade pasta with chicken and nuts that had a delicious sauce.

Not surprisingly, it was served with the little swirl of chocolate syrup on the bottom of the bowl but, fortunately, just to the side, so it didn't "contaminate" the pasta.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Arms linked in friendship

One thing I have observed in this past year that is quite an endearing thing. We see women of all ages, and mixed ages, walking along with arms linked in friendship, visiting as they go. The comment was made that the older women may do it as a support as they walk on the uneven sidewalks and cobblestone streets here. We see teenagers, young women with mother or grandmother, and older women and it's a very friendly, warm thing to witness. It's especially a contrast to the somber people who walk along, looking ahead, not seeming to be aware that anyone else is around.

My 2nd Thanksgiving in Riga

This one is of some of the kitchen help. Sister Gubler at the stove, Sister Humphrey turning toward the camera and Elder Carson reaching for something--probably crackers and cheese--he really enjoyed that.

A year ago, I arrived the afternoon before Thanksgiving. The next evening President & Sister Dance, the other senior missionaries and I went out to dinner (not turkey nor anything like an American Thanksgiving dinner) and then to the opera.

This year was quite different. The senior missionaries in Riga worked together to provide soup and bread/crackers/dessert for the missionaries serving in Riga and Imanta. Each district came at a designated time. The 3 couples, Sister Humphrey and I each made a pot of soup and we ended up having to made a 5th pot. They came hungry. It was so enjoyable to see them gathered together and to visit with them.
Aren't they a great-looking bunch of young people! Turns out it was Elder Hatch's birthday and his 2 companions (they are all 3 Assistants to the President since last transfer) made him a birthday cake and brought it for all to enjoy. I'm told it was delicious but, since it was chocolate, I have to take the word of others.
After we bid goodbye to the last group of Elders, we walked home, picked up the rolls I had made last Saturday (and put in the freezer) and the cranberries we made the night before, and caught a bus for the apartment of Mischa Brewer. She is the young LDS woman who works for the U.S. Embassy. She has a large apartment and had invited about 15 people for a traditional turkey dinner. Included was the new secretary to the new Ambassador and a Latvian couple (she is LDS), as well as the senior missionaries. It was a relaxing and enjoyable evening with lots of good food.
One of the items on the menu was new to me, but a tradition for some others. Homemade noodles, boiled in turkey broth (from the neck of the bird). It is served as a gravy over the potatoes. They were tasty but I don't think I will adopt that tradition.
Just over a year now in Riga and I have so very much for which to be thankful. I wondered why I was called to serve, at this time of my life, and in a foreign land, but I have seen the blessings of the Lord in great abundance. Mostly, I feel His love for me and have come to know why I needed to be here at this time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another great Zone Conference

Monday we had a zone conference with our Area Authority, Elder Senkans. He and his wife were the first two Latvians baptized. They were a young married couple with a toddler when the missionaries approached Guido Senkans, who was a student in Russia. They offered him a copy of the Book of Mormon and told him it was from God. He decided to put it to the test. He set out to find faults in it, thinking that if it is from God, it will not have errors, but if man wrote it, it will. Obviously, he found that it is from God and he and his wife were baptized. They are a great support for the work of the Lord here in the Baltic States.

Some years later, Elder Senkans was asked to translate the Book of Mormon into the Latvian language. He is a very intelligent, well-educated man who taught us missionaries with power and authority, and with great humility. He taught, from the Scriptures, about Light and Truth. Truth is eternal and cannot be changed. I am thankful for Truth and for the sure knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world and is the Savior and Redeemer of mankind--individually. I am thankful for that knowledge.

8 Degrees Celsius means no heat!

At least that's what we thought on Wednesday of this week. It was one of the several Independence Day celebrations in Latvia (when you have been occupied several times and then gain your independence, you celebrate each anniversary). 18 November is one of the biggest anniversaries and everything was shut down, as far as businesses. The mission office is in a large office complex and we were the only ones working on Wednesday.

So, when we realized there was no heat in the office, we attributed it to the holiday, and looked with dread to the Christmas/New Year week+ celebration. When there was no heat the next day, nor the morning of the next, we decided that the powers that be felt it was warm enough outside to shut the heat off. Thankfully, Friday afternoon, the heat was turned back on. A couple of the missionaries came in Friday morning and said the city was probably just testing the equipment, or working on it. Hopefully, they were right and we will have heat from on until 15 April--when no matter what the temperature is, the heat is turned off for 6 months.

I surely do look forward to being in my own home again, and being able to regulate my thermometer. Until then, I am thankful for warmer temperatures outside and for heat whenever we get it.

No couple coming!!!

Well, it's 4 weeks before Elder and Sister Gubler leave and there is no couple assigned to replace them. We continue to pray for that to change, but it is likely to be at least February before they are replaced. Sooooo, Elder Gubler is teaching Sister Humphrey everything he knows about mission finance and Sister Gubler is teaching me everything she does--so many and varied things. Of course, that's all in addition to the things we are already doing. We are preparing for long days and no Preparation Days.

It is amazing, though, how the Lord does bless us to be able to increase our abilities and better learn to prioritize and work smarter.

So, if you are a couple and are looking to have wonderful experiences in a new country, put in your papers! You are needed. As I have said before, missionary couples are so needed and really do have amazing opportunities.