Women's Day Troika Ride in the Forest (It sounds like more fun than it was).
Ten days ago was a Russian holiday, International Women's Day. KLynn arranged for us, her brother Lary. and his wife, Marianne, to spend the day near Sergiev Passad, a monastery city about an hour or more drive from here. We met at a home with a group of other tourists who were enjoying a day outside of the city for the holiday. We followed our guide in the car for about 30 minutes out into the forest where sleighs ("troikas") were waiting to take us to a campsite about ten minutes away. They had a campfire going, hotdogs on skewers waiting to be roasted, and sundry things to drink, some of which were Word-of-Wisdom-permissible. We roasted hotdogs, took a few more sleigh rides into the forest, visited with the others in the group, and had a reasonably good time considering how cold it was. (What were Napoleon and Hitler thinking when they invaded Russia?) The woods were pretty, and we enjoyed the blue skies. Later that afternoon we returned to Sergiev Passad for dinner at the home of the tour guide's mother. The best part of the day was a lecture about the history of the area from the mother, who speaks excellent English. It is considered by many to be the most sacred spot of Russian Orthodoxy. KLynn and I had visited there our first summer in Moscow and toured the monastery and churches, which are beautiful. The monastery was founded by St. Sergei several centuries ago, and since Soviet times it has regained its earlier prominence in the Orthodox world.
This last week we had the pastor from the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy over for dinner. He is a delightful young man who just graduated from Yale Divinity School last year. He is a year older than our youngest daughter, Lizzy. He mentioned that he had told some of his parishoners he was planning to have dinner with us, which prompted mixed reviews. I'm constantly amazed at how much prejudice there is against the Church in the world. We enjoyed a lovely evening together, though, and we are looking into the possibility of joining resources in some of their humanitarian activities. The pastor and I are planning lunch next week with our area welfare director. Some of the Chaplaincy's projects are partially funded by the International Women's Club, which is how we made the connection. I hope this will be an opportunity to build some friendships with other faith based groups. There is much more that binds us together than separates us.
Meanwhile, KLynn has now been invited to take a leadership role in the American Women's Organization. This is in addition to her work with the International Women's Club. She is busy almost every day doing good things and making good friends.
The other day I spoke with one of the humanitarian missionaries in Istanbul. He reported that the Elders have now completed their initial language training and will now begin teaching in earnest. They have already started teaching some people, and there were half a dozen Turkish investigators in Church last Sunday. It's going to be great fun to watch the Church take hold and grow there. President Roth, the mission president, and I agreed to meet some day in Istanbul for the creation of the first stake. On a more mundane topic, we now have both of the rugs I bought in Turkey laid out in our townhouse here, one in the dining area and one in the living room. They are both exquisite and will be happy reminders of this period of our lives.
It is now past the middle of March, and the thermometer has crept above the freezing point a few times for part of the day. We still have a lot of snow on the ground, and it still snows a few days each week. The days are getting longer, though, and spring will arrive eventually. I am still wrestling with some sticky issues at work. Ukraine and Kazakhstan are keeping me particularly busy right now. I enjoy my association with KLynn's brother Lary, and Marianne. They are faithful souls. Lary had a health incident this past week that gave us a scare, but it turned out not to be serious and he was back in the office on Friday.
KLynn and I will be coming up on our two year mark here in another few months. Most days it seems like I just deal with a stream of frustrations and problems, and I often wonder if I am really accomplishing anything. Looking back, though, we can see some great things that have happened here, and the legal work has played some incremental role. I don't know how long KLynn and I will be in Moscow, or what will come after. I do know, however, that our lives have been altered by this experience already, and we will not be the same people when we return to the U.S. Among other things, my attitude about serving a senior mission has changed dramatically. KLynn and I are now planning to serve multiple missions. The biggest limitation will likely be how long the Office of General Counsel wants to keep me on board and whether we have other international opportunities (such as rule of law initiatives etc.) that would be the functional equivalent of serving a Church mission. There is a lot of work to be done, and it's a great ride - even better than a troika ride in the forest.