Today was another great day at church. We attended the international branch of our church here in Moscow (a branch for English-speaking members and others who are living in or visiting Moscow).
The first girl to give a talk in Sacrament meeting today blew my mind. She is a 13-year-old American, here in Russia by herself while she attends the Bolshoi ballet school. She lives in a dorm inside the ballet theater. This 13-year-old had more grace and poise than I still do at almost 35 years of age. She spoke on the importance of family, and how much she appreciates her family during this 9 months that she is away from home. What a strong young woman!
The next speaker was an Armenian mother who also spoke on the importance of families. I especially enjoyed her talk. She spoke of some things she appreciated in her own upbringing, and then of things she wanted to do differently in her own family. She spoke of how her parents taught her the value of hard work at a young age; how she used to pull weeds in her grandparents watermelon gardens to earn a few rubles to be able to buy her own things. She also spoke of how she was always taught to respect her elders. She said when she would visit her grandparents house, or any elders home, she was taught that you always helped. If there were dishes in the sink, you washed them. If the floor needed mopping, you mopped it. I really liked this (kids: we're going to talk about this when mom comes home!:-) I have seen, being a teacher in public school, the mentality of so many children these days being so selfish! They are so focused on themselves and what they get out of life, instead of helping those around them. I think this is an important lesson to pass on to our children.
The other reason I really enjoyed watching this woman speak is because she is Armenian, and she has the same ethnic look as Gabe! We were told he almost certainly has some Armenian heritage, and after seeing this woman and other Armenian people, I would have to agree.
In Relief Society (this is the last hour of church, where the women meet separately from the men), the dear Filipino sister spoke about doing good in the world, and how we should pray each morning that we are able to help someone else that day. She was such a humble woman, and I could see that she had been deeply touched by the kindness of others.
What great messages to hear today! After church, we drove back to Sally's with a different and very friendly Filipino couple and another young woman from church. They joined us for a delicious dinner that Sally prepared (pot roast and carrots/potatoes! Just like home!) During dinner and after we had the best conversations about their country, living here in Russia, and many other things. It was so sad to hear of the prejudices they have experienced here. They are stopped nearly every day on the street by police officers asking to see their passports and visas to make sure they are here legally. Jeana and I have never once been asked for documentation. Every day they hear racial slurs and have been asked at times to pay bribes to be let go by the police! Once the police officer just helped himself to her wallet and took the money himself before letting her go. It is an outrage! They live here so that the wife can teach at an international school. She and her husband both have University degrees, but the salary in the Philippines is so low, they had to move elsewhere for work. They said this is very common-for highly educated Filipinos to leave their country for work, and most have to essentially start over with very low paying jobs in foreign countries. It is sad that they cannot stay in their own country and make a decent living wage. It is even more sad that they have to endure such prejudice.
All of our conversation made me reflect on my own ideas about groups of people. I have never been taught that one group of people are superior to another. In fact, the gospel I believe in teaches that we are all equal as children of God. I wish that every person had a chance to go live in a foreign country for at least a year, and experience what it is like to be the outsider, the foreigner, the minority. How different would our world be if we could all experience such humble circumstances? I think there is a place for national pride, and patriotism-I believe it is good to love and appreciate one's own roots and upbringing. But I believe it is wrong and becomes dangerous when that love and pride turns to hate for those not in the same circumstances.
Anyway, another soapbox of mine, I guess.
I am once again feeling very blessed to get to meet people from all over the world and hear their stories. I absolutely loved looking around the church congregation today and seeing Africans, Filipinos, Americans, Armenians, Russians, and on and on. What a beautiful world we live in, and each person and culture makes it that way.
Tomorrow we find out when we get to visit our kids this week! Hallelujah! And Thursday the panel of judges meet to decide when to set our (hopefully) last hearing. I just pray they will set it immediately, and not a week out. I may come home with no hair left on my head if they do; it will all have been pulled out due to frustration by then!
The photo below is of the Primary room at church here. Don't you love the little chairs?!