Missionaries get to call home twice a year, on Mother's Day and Christmas. Following are some random thoughts from Spencer’s phone call on Sunday:
The airport in Russia was interesting. After landing, they exited the plane down some stairs to the runway. They were crammed into a bus that drove them about 200 feet to a small building, which was the airport. He said that it would have been faster to just walk. As they went through customs, no one smiled, and they all looked very Russian, for lack of a better word.
When he went to church for the first time, all of the members were excited to meet the new missionaries. He admires them because they are trying so hard to live the gospel. A choir sang on Sunday, and although they weren’t very good technically, he felt the spirit very strongly as they sang. Like so often happens with us, we offer the best we have, which may not be that great, and the Lord can make it into something wonderful.
They visited the babushka again on Sunday, and since it was Victory Day, the Russian celebration of their winning World War II, (He was told it would be useless to argue that point.) her family was there and they offered them food. They were very full as they had already eaten, but ate anyway. They fed them Plov, which is a rice dish with vegetables, such as carrots or onions, and meat. He has a hard time understanding her because she is older and slurs her words a little, but she is very kind and thankful for their visits. When they leave, she says, “Bye, Bye” in English, which he thinks is very cute.
He had a wonderful weekend. They had a City Conference that sounded similar to our Stake Conference. Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer, second counselor in the Europe East area presidency, was a visiting member of the Quorum of the Seventy. (He gave the talk about Mary in Martha in our most recent General Conference.) He met with the missionaries on Friday, with the Priesthood and adult members on Saturday, and with all of the members on Sunday. Two of the missionaries from another city, stayed with them in their apartment. It was a wonderful conference and very uplifting for him. He especially liked that he could understand what was being said, since Elder Schwitzer spoke in English. One of the Russian missionaries translated his talk for the Russian members, and Spencer could understand what he was saying in Russian because he had already heard the English version, and knew what he was trying to say. He taught the members the importance of teaching our children and recommended three places to do it: On the refrigerator door, at the dinner table, and on the walls of our homes.
When asked about the food there, he said that milk tastes very different. It’s not as sweet or something. He had a difficult time describing it. He said that he doesn’t enjoy drinking it, so it’s only good for baking or putting on cereal. The ice cream is also different, but still good. Although he didn’t elaborate on it, he said that Russian juice is really good. He loves it.
Matt wanted to know if it was cold there, and he said that it’s not too cold now, except when it rained the other day. It’s also windy, which can make it feel cold. The buses are hot, so you kind of go from one to the other. Riding the buses is pretty wild. They weave in and out of traffic, and it can be a little scary. He also said that the elevators are really small. They only fit about two people at a time.
They have an English Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They aren’t allowed to teach English, but they can have an organized club where Russians can come and practice speaking English. People will sometimes come up to them on the street and say “Hello, how are you doing?” in English. The missionaries will ask if they speak English, and they often answer that they only speak a little bit, so they invite them to the English Club. He said that it is mostly the young people who come. Spencer enjoys it because he can understand what is being said. He said that the Russians often have difficulty pronouncing their American names, but have no problem with his. They all know Pres. Bush. The Mission President considered changing the name on his badge (maybe using his first name instead) because he was concerned about it being a political distraction. So far, when people ask if he is related to Pres. Bush, he just tells them that he’s not and that he doesn’t know him, and then moves on to something else.
One last funny story. The other day his companion flushed the toilet and water started squirting out of the back of the toilet. They called the landlord, and he brought a “plumber” to the apartment to fix the leak. When they got back, the plumber had encased the pipe with concrete (see picture). That’s one way to fix it.