Last weekend we went to a city north of Kharkov called Sumy (pronounced Soomy) which is in our mission area. We observed an Institute class on Saturday afternoon and caught the tail-end of a seminary class. We are impressed with the teaching done here to the youth, especially in the Institute classes. It’s done exactly as we were instructed in the MTC. By and large, the seminary classes are doing well, too. We still have a few more to visit. We have teacher inservice training for these teachers once every 6 weeks. In Sumy we gave a Saturday night fireside to introduce ourselves to the members and taught as many gospel principles as we could in the process. On Sunday we spoke for 5 minutes or so in the Sacrament meeting along with a few other speakers. The church members here are wonderfully warm and friendly. There are many women in the church, but the Priesthood is sorely lacking in representation. This will take time, I’m sure, to bring more dedicated, faithful men into the gospel fold. We took a WWII train up to Sumy (about 90 kilometers) and it took us 4 hours. It stopped at every little village, nook and cranny! Plus it doesn’t go very fast between stops. We stayed in a comfortable hotel which was warm (something we appreciated because it was very cold there). Some of the buildings in the area do not have their heat turned on yet for the season, and they were frigid – including the church building. We had an interesting breakfast at the hotel on Sunday morning which was included in our stay here. First came a plate of tomato and cucumber slices, a piece of breaded fish, and some bread, cheese and butter. We thought that was it, but then there appeared a plate with rice mixed with corn, mushrooms, and some other vegetables, and pieces of chicken on a skewer. The drink was orange juice. I guess eggs and toast just isn’t done around here!
We walk most of the places we go, so we are getting plenty of exercise this way, plus we exercise each morning in the apartment. There is a subway which takes us around, and periodically we have to take a taxi to reach a destination. Kharkov is like any big city (1 1/2 million), honking cars, lots of people walking here and there, shops of this and that, and many apartments. The food is good, and we can get most of the things we need, if we can figure out what the labels say (a real challenge at times). I have come home with a few unexpected things in the bags! It takes forever to cook or bake something in my 1940′s kitchen with a l940′s oven. We soak all the fresh produce in water with a bit of bleach in it, and then rinse it with our filtered water. All the missionaries have a special water filter on at least one of their water taps which filters out all impurities plus any radiation which could be in the water. In my vintage oven I have managed to bake brownies and chocolate chip cookies, and both were decent, to my surprise. I had to keep rotating the pan to keep the back content on the pan from burning to a crisp while the front is barely cooking. There is no exact temperature control on the oven, just numbers on a dial 1 through 9. So baking is trial and error, for sure!
With our Russian lessons each week we are learning a little more each week, but it is a slow process. But with the Lord’s help we will be able to speak a bit by the time we leave. The Elders have been wonderful to us, very helpful to whatever we need or information we may require to be able to function and get things done. We are very impressed with the caliber of missionary being sent here by the Lord. There is so much to be done, so many people to reach and teach, and they are doing a fabulous job.
We are so blessed to be able to serve here in Ukraine. The church is in its infant stage at this point in the country, but with the work that is being done, it will grow rapidly with the up and coming generation. We love working with the Institute and Seminary programs. The young people who come have very strong testimonies, and they truly want to be there. Every day is a spiritual uplift for us as we do the work of the Lord. We love being missionary companions – planning together, discussing the scriptures together, having this wonderful spiritual adventure together. There is a great need for another senior couple to serve here in Kharkov. If any of you are interested, get those papers in! We can promise you more fulfillment in your lives than you’ve ever had.