This is Bob. KLynn and I returned this morning from a two-day trip to Kyiv, where we participated in the LDS Temple open house. The Temple and grounds are beautiful and impressive, especially considering how small the Church is in this part of the world. The Temple is situated on a major highway that circles the city of Kyiv and is highly visible. The Temple grounds include a stake center and patron housing to accommodate people traveling long distances. The interior of Temple uses a lot of beautiful marble that was imported from a number of countries. It widely uses a "stalks of wheat" motif, which is appropriate for Ukraine. It also utilizes the colors of the Ukraine flag (sky blue and gold) and has other Ukrainian touches. The local members are justly proud of their new Temple. On Friday KLynn and I met the Church's Ukraine attorneys and some other friends from the legal community. We plan to return in two weeks to meet with a group of Ukrainian judges who have visited Utah in the past few years and who have been especially invited to the open house. This has been, and continues to be, a rare opportunity for KLynn and me to become acquainted with interesting and wonderful people.
Kyiv literally felt like a breath of fresh air, especially since Moscow has been suffocating for weeks under heavy smoke and smog from hundreds of wild fires burning in western Russia. Kyiv is a beautiful European capital, and we have enjoyed our visits there. We stayed at the Hotel Gintama, a little 23 room hotel we found last spring that is located on the ground level of an apartment building in a quiet residential neighborhood across the street from a park that looks out over the Dneiper (sp?) River and is just a short walk from the St. Sophia and St. Michael's cathedrals and the center of the "old city" of Kyiv. The room was tiny and not fancy, but it was clean and the staff are friendly. We plan to stay there when we return.
Friday evening after the open house we had dinner with Steve Swift, a federal tax judge who is serving for 18 months as the Associate Area Legal Counsel in Kyiv, and his wife Lorraine. The Swifts are great people and have become good friends. They have given tremendous service to the Church in Ukraine. We were joined by President Lawrence, the new first counselor in the area presidency, and his wife. The Lawrences and Swifts have children who are married to each other, and it was fun for KLynn and me to join them for dinner.
Saturday we met our friend, Julia Sedyk, who works with the Ukraine Rule of Law Project, and her son Severyn, for lunch, and then did some Christmas shopping near the old St. Andrews Church, an area where local artists and craftsmen sell their wares. We stopped periodically to go inside little restaurants for a glass of fruit juice to escape the heat. Saturday evening we walked along the main commercial street in Kyiv, which was blocked off to allow only pedestrian traffic. There were a lot of street entertainers and large throngs of people enjoying the warm Saturday evening. We walked through Independence Square, which was the principal site of the massive public demonstrations of the Orange Revolution a few years ago.
This morning we returned to a very smoky Moscow and went right to church. We only held one meeting, because the chapel is the only room that is air conditioned and the rest of the facilities were too hot and smoky to hold meetings. The sacrament meeting was outstanding. The speakers included a young teenage boy from Central Africa, who spoke in French through an interpreter. He and other members of his family were recently baptized. His father is a high ranking official with the Central African Embassy and is a very impressive man. The young speaker, Christopher Jamba, delivered his first talk in Church and did a fine job. Christopher helped to bless the sacrament, and his father passed it to the congregation. There was also a profound talk by a young Filipino woman who works in Moscow cleaning apartments. These people are humble but deep thinkers. We also heard excellent talks from Geri and Scott Conlin, who have become good friends, and the concluding speaker was Elder Lawrence. It seemed ironic to me that in that little International Branch meeting in a very modest facility in Moscow we would attend one of the best sacrament meetings I can remember.
After church we gave a ride home to JB and Vlada, a young married couple, and one of their friends, a young African man, whom I don't know. JB (John Bull?) is a handsome and engaging young man from Africa -- Nigeria I think -- and Vlada is a lovely young Russian woman. Vlada gave premature birth to a baby earlier this week and was just released from the hospital yesterday. The baby is still in intensive care. KLynn didn't want Vlada to have to take a long hot bus ride home from church. JB and Vlada live in a one room apartment (without air conditioning) and share a kitchen and bathroom with several others. Vlada has "connected" with KLynn, who is quickly becoming the surrogate mother for several people in our branch.
KLynn is also becoming involved in the American Women's Group and the International Women's Club here in Moscow. They have activities every week, and she is becoming acquainted with interesting women from a number of countries.
Tomorrow there are lots of projects demanding attention, and we'll be back in the thick of things.