Thursday, May 23, 2013

Istanbul Dinner Cruise

One of the great blessings of being on a humanitarian mission is the opportunity to attend the conferences.  Last September we met in Kiev, Ukraine and this year we got to go to Istanbul, Turkey.  We never dreamed we would have these kinds of opportunities.  They tell us that in the future, they may stop having these conferences, but we have really enjoyed them.

On Friday evening we were treated to dinner on a dinner cruise on the Bosphorus Sea.  It took an hour and a half to get to the boat due to the very heavy traffic in the city, but it was only 30 minutes on our return that night.

A few sights along the way.  This was an original wall of the city.

Up ahead is the mouth of the Black Sea.

Lots of interesting places along the shore

E/S Edwards (and Stutz in the background)

E/S Storm, E Weaver

They give us all these beautiful salads and you think you're done, but then they bring out the main course!

We hardly ever get to see a sunset

There are a lot of restaurants along the shore and lots of dinner cruises going by.  We saw that one of them had a belly dancer for their entertainment.


We were joking that we should make a brochure to encourage more senior missionaries to serve.  With all the new missions opening, we are in need of more couples.  We have an opening in our mission since the McClellands left Almaty in April and we know of a few openings in the area for humanitarian missionaries.

Istanbul Humanitarian Conference "Providing in the Lord's Way"

After our tour of the mosques, we headed back to the hotel.  Well, most of us did anyway.  A couple of sisters got distracted by a carpet salesman and then made a wrong turn.  But they turned up later.  We had a nice dinner at the restaurant at the hotel.  Here is a view from the upstairs balcony.
We were on the fifth floor.  We are on a pretty steep hill down to the water.  We thought about walking down there, but it looked like it would be hard to come back up!
We had a two day conference in the hotel.  All the couples did a presentation about the projects they have been working on.  It was very good to see and hear of their experiences.

Elder and Sister Stone have been serving in Armenia.  They leave to go home in June.  They have done several water projects, getting clean water to the small villages with no roads.  They also talked about getting beds for an orphanage.
Elder and Sister Stutz, on the other hand have just arrived from Utah in the past couple of weeks.  They are assigned to Bulgaria.  They told about their family.  They told us that have 12 children (all girls except 10) and their 54 grandchildren, 30 of them are adopted.
Elder and Sister Weaver are assigned to Ismir Turkey.  Two of their children had genetic diseases and they told of their challenges to raise these boys until they passed away.  So they have much experience to draw on in their work.  They talked about Elder Holland's conference talk in 2011 calling for more missionaries.  That motivated them to prepare for their mission.

Elder and Sister Storm are serving in Russia.  They are based in Moscow.  They are responsible for the whole country.  Their presentation was "No More Strangers".  They talked about the quote from Ronald Reagan to "Tear Down these Walls".  The Russian people are skeptical, but the walls are coming down and friendships are being established.
Brother Vlad Nechiporov is our Area Welfare Manager.  He spoke to us about "Why do we do Humanitarian Work".  Or why do we do anything?  We either choose to do things or we are forced to do things.  We can use our agency to choose to love the Lord and love our neighbor. 
He told us about a Russian scientist, Sergey Korolyor who was arrested in 1938 and sent to a Gulag and forced to work on projects for the government.  Also about Werner Von Brown who was a German who immigrated to America and was given freedom.  He worked with NASA and the space program.
Tolstoy said everyone wants to change the world, but first we have to change ourselves.
Brother Boyce Fitzgerald is our Director of Temporal Affairs.  He and his wife were on the airplane from New York to Moscow with us last year as he was beginning his new assignment here in the East Europe Area.  He worked with Church security for over 10 years and has been all over the world.  He spoke about his experiences concerning getting the temple in Nigeria constructed.  First of all they had to build a road for the construction vehicles.  They also had issues with crime.  They didn't know how to get President Hinckley from the airport to the temple because of the bad roads.  He had been told that he would not fly in a helicopter.  But they finally found a helicopter that was owned by an oil company, so it had good maintenance records, etc.  So they went to tell President Hinckley that this was the best way they could plan to get him there and he said "OK".  So it was a short meeting!
When the temple was dedicated, they kept it open for 24 hours a day to handle all the people who had come to the dedication that wanted their temple blessings.  So, the result of this, is that even though he thought it was a bad idea to build a temple there, he learned that the Lord and his Prophet knew what was best.
Elder Edward's birthday cake, with E. Colton and Vlad
Elder and Sister Edwards are assigned to Ankara Turkey.  They were with us in the MTC.  They shared about their experiences of quilts for Syrian refugees, desks and chairs for a school and diagnostic equipment for a hospital.
Elder and Sister Cullum are assigned to Ukraine.  Their presentation was on Pure Religion.  I was hungry and you game me food, I was naked and you clothed me.  They have had many food projects, but then they discovered that starting a garden affected the tax status of the citizens.  So it was another learning experience.  They also got some containers of clothing and visited the hospitals etc.  They were able to get help to repair a pool for physical therapy at a rehab center.
Elder and Sister John have been working in Belarus.  The country has the last dictator in Europe.  They are not allowed to teach.  The young missionaries are called volunteers.  One of the main things they do is Health Fair Puppet Shows at schools.  They have also provided beds for a tuberculosis hospital, and clothing and wheelchairs.
Elder Colton taught us about the conference objectives:  To enhance our desire to serve as Christ would, To learn from each other the best methods, To "Enjoy the Fruit" uplift, instruct, inspire and strengthen one another.  The new Catholic Pope Francis said he will try to help the poorest, weakest and least important.  We cannot help everyone, but we will do what we can to relieve the poor and help them endure their circumstances.
Sister Elena Nechiporova also gave us a presentation regarding Public Affairs.  Who was Christ's public affairs director?  John the Baptist.  We follow the Savior's pattern of sending disciples into cities to help bring the Church out of obscurity.  The obscurity of invisibility, and also the obscurity of misinformation to get to visibility and understanding.  The church has only been in Europe just over 20 years, but it is over 150 years in the US.  There are 17 countries in the East Europe Area.

Elder and Sister Storm were awarded the Kazakh Barbie for their acting job in showing what not to do when visiting an organization.
We really enjoyed sharing experiences and testimonies with our friends!

Istanbul Tour / Cistern, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome, Blue Mosque

On Wednesday afternoon after everyone arrived in Istanbul, we were given a tour of several sights in Istanbul.  The history of this city is incredible.  The first place we visited is the Underground Yerebatan Cistern.  This was made in 532 AD for fresh water storage.

There are fish in the water
A lot of slave labor went into making this place

There are two Medusa head column bases.  One sideways and one upside down.
They tell us that this site was in the James Bond movie "From Russia With Love"

Our guide, Emin, is a member of the church in Istanbul
Next we went to the Hagia Sophia Museum.  This place is unique because it was originally built as a Christian church in 537.  For 916 years it was a church, then Istanbul was conquered and it was used as a mosque for 481.  In 1934 it was made a museum.  However, many of the Christian art work has survived.



E/S Edwards, John, Stutz, Colton, Anderson, Cullum, Stone, Storm, Bro. Fitzgerald

Next we visited the Hippodrome or Sultan Ahmet Square.  This was a huge arena began in 203 and completed in 330 for the ceremonies of Constantine the Great (!) 

This oblisk is dated at 15th century BC and was brought to Istanbul from Egypt to celebrate the Pharoah's victory here.

Next, the Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmet Mosque.  Construction began on this in 1609.  Many of the tiles are blue and green, thus the name.

Massive column
Stained glass windows

We had to remove our shoes to go in here, and cover our heads.  Sister Cullum, John, Storm, Edwards, Colton, Stutz, Stone and me.  Elder and Sister Weaver had gone back to the hotel.



Istanbul Spice Bazaar

This is an entrance to the Spice Bazaar which is behind the Grand Bazaar.  We walked down here Saturday afternoon to see where the locals do their shopping.

Talk about sensory overload!  You can smell the spices as soon as you enter.

This is just one of many many spice markets

Every kind of Turkish Delight candies you can imagine

Beyond the spice bazaar is the Bosphorus Sea.  We wanted to see where the cruise ships port.

There were many fishermen catching little fish

There are many day cruise ships.  Our friends from the MTC, the Edwards, took this tour on Saturday, but sadly, we did not have enough time for that.

These are the kitchens for the sea side restaurants.  It looked like most of the people were eating fried fish sandwiches.

These banners were over lots of the streets in the area.  Apparently we were in the garment district of Istanbul.  Buyers come from all over to purchase clothing for their stores.  Too bad we didn't have more time and more money!  We saw people hauling bundles of clothing, cases of shoes, bread and all kinds of things up and down the streets.