New book
RUSSIA: The Missionaries' Tales

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40 stories of Mormon missionaries' work in Russia

(March 6, 2008) — Russia: The Missionaries' Tales describes in a personal way the adaptation to the Russian language and culture of the American missionaries to Russia of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter- Day Saints ("LDS" or "Mormon") missionaries. The 40 missionaries' tales here detail the adventures — harrowing, exciting, humorous, interesting, and always educational — of the LDS elders and sisters in the course of their two-year terms proselytizing the Post-Soviet Russians into a restoration and refocus of their religious identity. The book's main focus, however, concerns the effect of the mission upon the missionaries themselves.

Since 1997, 35% of ASU's Russian Language Bachelor's Degrees have been awarded to students who are former LDS missionaries to Russia. The intellectual and emotional rigors of the mission in Russia have made these students more mature and more dedicated to school work by applying their language skills. Their knowledge of Russian and the Russian people is far in advance of what might be expected of the non-missionary undergraduate, and altered our teaching methods to accomodate them.

These tales, many with photographs of "what they are doing now," show the missionaries to be people male and female, young and old, all trying persistently day in and difficult day out to help the transitional- society Russians they encounter physically, emotionally, and spiritually as best they can. This constant, often one- on- one, giving of simple human help winds up giving the giver of it a number of life-long-lasting behavioral and attitudinal benefits, astonishing Russian language fluency among them, that they bring back home to America to benefit us.

Our non-missionary students of Russian benefit by their exposure to our former missionaries in every class they take at ASU. The lectures of the professors are often bolstered by first hand reports of these missionaries. The stories they told were so fasinating that we decided to write a book. In planning this book we discussed what might be the impact of such a book. Would our reporting tales of adventuresome intercultural contact, occasional personal risk and hazards, discourage an LDS parent whose child was comtemplating a mission in Russia? We hope not.

A Foreword addressing this issue is written by Brigham Young University Professor Emeritus of Russian Donald K. Jarvis, president of the Moscow Mission 1996-98, and the Ekaterinburg Mission 1998-99. Jarvis outlines values he finds in this book: "Much has been written .. about the effects of missionary work ... Far less ... about the backwash of mission work on those doing it ... the missionaries themselves. Profound culture shock and homesickeness are nearly inevitable, as is questioning the value of one's mission. ... On the postive side, many American missionaries have found themselves profoundly changed and enriched..."

Most of the research and text is by 7 ASU students — 5 are contributors (Andrew T. Gunn, Christopher D. Johnson,  Scott C. Legler, S. Zachary Tanner, Travis Webb) listed below, and 2 were tale contributors (Electronica Kolasa and Heather Nyhart). The book is dedicated to Viasheslav Ivanovich Efimov (1948-2000), the first LDS Russian Mission President, Russia Ekaterinburg Mission (1995-1997).

The book inlcudes a map of all locations reported and is divided into two major sections:
      Cultural Tales       Language Tales
  1. Trevor Collon, "The call to love the people"
  2. Christopher D. Johnson (co-author), "Encounters with police on the roadways"
  3. Troy Tingey, "Police encounters"
  4. Matthew Ray Kilner, "Police sting: Christmas in Belarus"
  5. Jonny Moon, "Money too is different"
  6. Scott C. Leger (co-author), "Tracting"
  7. Travis Webb (co-author), "Getting to know Russians"
  8. Matthew K. Alleman, "Russian value their culture"
  9. Tia Snodgrass, "Russians are superstitious people, and how they'll cure you"
  10. Shane Sarlo, "Not the way I had planned"
  11. Monica Yates, "The Lord sends angels to Russia too"
  12. Ryan Bastian, "Language and culture: Learning despite myself"
  13. Jeffery Clark, "Mafia 'Protection' in the Far East"
  14. Andrew T. Gunn (co-author), "The accident and the gypsy"
  15. Charles Campbell, "Keep your guard up"
  16. Mary Weggeland, "People can be different than you"  
  17. Hunter Brady, "The landlady, the toil, and the rat"
  18. Jeremy Ecton, "Our Ukrainian landlady"
  19. Aaron Miles, "Notes from a missionary's journal"
  20. Alma and Virginia Lee, "Going as a couple"
  1. Jen Prokhorov, "Knocking doors and getting in"
  2. Nathan Thompson, "It's a different world and must be lived"
  3. Bryan M. Moody, "What's in a name?"
  4. S. Zachary Tanner (co-author), "Adding a soul: Reading/Writing"
  5. Seth Anderson, "Learning a language is a life-long task"
  6. Trent Ostler, "Confidence builds with contact"
  7. LaRae Majors, "English for Russian in exchange"
  8. Rich Miller, "Sometimes you only think you're communicating"
  9. Austin Nilsson, "Fluency rises with each move"
  10. Taryn Burton, "Motivation and immersion are the keys"
  11. Allan Marvin, "Advice and encouragement"
  12. Ashton Thatcher, "The value of intonation: Just listen to the music of the language"
  13. Ben Groen, "-ovat verbs"
  14. Elizabeth Bradford, "Language learning and culture understanding"
  15. Christian Bennion, "Learning Russian in Ukraine"
  16. John Bennion, "The Siberian road to cultural language understanding"
  17. Jacob Soloman, "Dealing with dialectal variation"
  18. Teresa Harry, "The Russian spot in my brain"
  19. Lance Webb (co-author), "Prayer helps language too"
  20. Postlogue tale: Jacob and Alison Willson, "Serving another mission — in Iraq"
Alma Lee, number 20 above, was a former president of the GCC Russian Club. He and wife Virginia were active in sponsoring and hosting the club. They continually study the Russian language with plans to return to Russia on another mission.

: Lee B. Croft, Andrew T. Gunn, Christopher D. Johnson, Electronica Kolasa, Heather Nyhart, Scott C. Legler, S. Zachary Tanner, and Travis Webb.  RUSSIA: THE MISSIONARIES' TALES. Capstone Publications, 11622 S. Tusayan Ct., Phoenix, AZ 85044, 2008, 216 pp. Illustrated.  ISBN is 978-1-4357-1264-5.

The Capstone Publications is an enterprise the other co-authors and I are starting together.  The most august editorial board is listed on the back of the title page. The book is an ASU RUS-498 credited (3 sem hrs) "Capstone Experience" project for all of the co-authors except Christopher D. Johnson, who graduated several years ago.  Of the co-authors, five (Gunn, Johnson, Legler, Tanner, and Webb) are returned-from-Russia LDS missionaries.  We decided to start the publication venture because this may become a continuing outlet for future RUS-498 "Capstoners."

Buy the book and preview the first 12 pages online free at the links below.
Book Presentation and Signing Thursday, May 29, 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm, at the store Russian Oasis, 8 S. San Marcos Pl. Ste #105, downtown Chandler. Presentation 4:30 to 5 pm, then signing. All the co-authors and contributors are invited. Buy the book, have the authors sign it, and visit the writers and new store. Call Russian Oasis store for more information and to RSVP: 480-664-3490.

More Books by Dr. Lee Croft and ASU students.
For more information contact:
Lee B. Croft, Ph.D.
Senior Professor of Russian
Head, Faculty of German, Romanian, and Slavic (GRS)
School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC)
ASU, Tempe, AZ 85287-0202

Books by Dr. Croft at
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