Local Mormon couple chosen for 16-month mission in Russia

Gordon and Carolyn Stewart are listening to CD-ROMs these days as they pick up the Russian words for "Good morning," "Goodbye," "Hello," Thank you," and "Please."

Their study of the Russian language will intensify July 15 when they travel to Provo, Utah, to begin a two-month stint at the Senior Mission Training Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Stewarts recently were notified that they have been chosen for a 16-month Mormon mission to the Vladivostok region of eastern Russian.

They will leave Salt Lake City in mid-September, fly to Los Angeles and then to Seoul, South Korea, and Moscow, where they made the final flight connection back across the vast country to its Pacific region and Vladivostok.

"Younger church members over there (in Vladivostok) speak English, but the older ones don't," Gordon said.

"The language difference is probably the only thing I'm apprehensive about."

From what she has learned so far, if she begins any question with "please," then she should usually get her meaning across and a prompt answer, Carolyn said.

She has served on school boards in Kingman for 18 years and Gordon for the past six years.

They have wanted to undertake a mission for the Mormon Church for several years, especially one to Scotland and Ireland.

"I wanted to go there so I could study genealogy of my own family," Carolyn said.

"But I'm happy to be able to do genealogy with people in Russia so they can research their own families."

Gordon expects to be involved in church education programs in Vladivostok.

He will be an instructor for leadership training, humanitarianism and community development.

The Stewarts received a call from Russia last week from William Oswald, mission president.

"He talked with us for 29 minutes and then the phone went dead," Carolyn said.

"He called right back and told us that's the way the Russian phone system works.

"It cuts off after 29 minutes, evidently because it's felt that's enough time to talk."

The Mormon Church will pay for the Stewarts' airfare.

But they must meet all other expenses themselves.

Gordon said about $875 per month should cover everything with $400 of that going toward rent.

They must not eat fish or pork while in Russia as that is part of mission policy, he said.

"They have no cake mixes in boxes like we get here," Carolyn said.

"But you can get the usual toiletries and razors.

"The mission president told us they have good fruits and vegetables, and juices that are better than in the United States."

In addition to reading about Russia, the Stewarts have picked up some information on the Internet.

Among the problems they might encounter are alcohol abuse, poverty and homeless children, Carolyn said.

The area they will be in covers thousands of square miles, and they would need to take a nine-hour train ride to travel from Vladivostok in the south to a remote northern region, Carolyn said.

The Stewarts have been married 46 years.

As to why they wish to undertake a church mission, Carolyn had a to-the-point answer.

"The church needs senior couples because they have experience in all areas of church service," she said.

"And after retiring, they certainly have the time to perform missions."