So much for a new post at the beginning of the month. We left the USA on May 18th and just returned late the night of June 13th. We are still dealing with "jet lag". President Hansen, myself and our daughter Melissa met our son Miles and his wife Siena along with Siena's parents in Germany. We started planning this trip last September and it has been a major endeavor and work in progress. But all our plans came together and we made the phrase, "planes, trains and automobiles" along with cruise ship, ferries, buses, Metros, lots and lots of walking and Hertz rental vans a reality! Just getting 7 people from point "A to Z" for that many days was a major accomplishment!
The main purpose of our trip was to visit St. Petersburg, Russia, Miles' mission. Since getting to Europe is not a frequent event we decided to really make it count. We also spent time seeing family history locations in Denmark, Switzerland, Scotland and Norway not to mention of course St. Petersburg and many places in between.
It seemed the opportune time to finally visit Miles' mission since we have hoped to do so since his return in 2004. Miles and Siena were on their way home from studying Farsi (Persian) this past school year in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
One of the highlights of our trip was going to fast and testimony meeting in the city center branch in St. Petersburg. The Spirit was very strong and thanks to the translating skill of the elders we enjoyed the testimonies of branch members. Their testimonies were beautifully expressed and you could feel the love the Russian Saints have for the Lord, the gospel and also their gratitude for the Restoration. Many also commented on their love and gratitude for the temple (Helsinki, Finland) and the blessing of finally being able to attend the temple.
Even though it has been several years now since Miles' served his mission in St. Petersburg he was grateful to see a sister who he taught and baptized and find that she is still active and growing in the gospel. The saints in that part of the world face many significant obstacles. He also sensed that the branch had grown, had more young people and families in attendance and generally seemed more stable. Russia like so much of Europe, is a difficult mission. We wished we had more time because there were others Miles wanted to try and find and visit.
We were reminded that so much of the time we take proximity to a temple and all the blessings of strong, vibrant wards or branches for granted. For many throughout the world activity in the Church requires significant sacrifice.
Another highlight was visiting the Lutheran Cathedral (sorry I can't remember the name) in Copenhagen, where the original "Christus" sculpture stands. The cathedral itself is beautiful with high arches, white stone and many windows allowing a great deal of light to enter (compared to many of Euope's cathedrals). The Christus is the original of the one that stands in the Visitor Center at Temple Square in Salt Lake, the Visitor Center at the Oakland Temple and several other places. We had a small replica in the misison office in Sacramento. There was a special feeling in the Cathedral and the Spirit was very strong as we took time to admire the beauty of this piece of art but also contemplate the mission and Atonement of the Savior. A woman who worked there told us that she had taken President Monson on a tour of the Cathedral last year. We assumed it was when he was in Copenhagen to dedicate the new temple.
Now we are home we are doing our best to get back in "full swing" with all of our family, Church and other responsibilites. As of April, I have a new Church calling. I am an advisor to Sigma chapter of the Institute Women's Association at the Universtiy of Utah, Institute. "My" Sigma girls are wonderful and I feel like this calling will really be a blessing in my life. President Hansen is still Bishop Hansen (going on three years now) so we manage to keep ourselves fairly involved.
We hope this finds you and yours all happy and well....remember...ONWARD and UPWARD!