RUSSIA: The Missionaries' Tales
(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
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
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
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
"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:
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.
- Trevor Collon, "The call to love the people"
- Christopher D. Johnson (co-author), "Encounters with
- Troy Tingey, "Police encounters"
- Matthew Ray Kilner, "Police sting: Christmas in
- Jonny Moon, "Money too is different"
- Scott C. Leger (co-author), "Tracting"
- Travis Webb (co-author), "Getting to know Russians"
- Matthew K. Alleman, "Russian value their culture"
- Tia Snodgrass, "Russians are superstitious people,
and how they'll cure you"
- Shane Sarlo, "Not the way I had planned"
- Monica Yates, "The Lord sends angels to Russia too"
- Ryan Bastian, "Language and culture: Learning despite
- Jeffery Clark, "Mafia 'Protection' in the Far East"
- Andrew T. Gunn (co-author), "The accident and the
- Charles Campbell, "Keep your guard up"
- Mary Weggeland, "People can be different than
- Hunter Brady, "The landlady, the toil, and the rat"
- Jeremy Ecton, "Our Ukrainian landlady"
- Aaron Miles, "Notes from a missionary's journal"
- Alma and Virginia Lee, "Going as a couple"
- Jen Prokhorov, "Knocking doors and getting in"
- Nathan Thompson, "It's a different world and must be
- Bryan M. Moody, "What's in a name?"
- S. Zachary Tanner (co-author), "Adding a soul:
- Seth Anderson, "Learning a language is a life-long
- Trent Ostler, "Confidence builds with contact"
- LaRae Majors, "English for Russian in exchange"
- Rich Miller, "Sometimes you only think you're
- Austin Nilsson, "Fluency rises with each move"
- Taryn Burton, "Motivation and immersion are the keys"
- Allan Marvin, "Advice and encouragement"
- Ashton Thatcher, "The value of intonation: Just
listen to the music of the language"
- Ben Groen, "-ovat verbs"
- Elizabeth Bradford, "Language learning and culture
- Christian Bennion, "Learning Russian in Ukraine"
- John Bennion, "The Siberian road to cultural language
- Jacob Soloman, "Dealing with dialectal variation"
- Teresa Harry, "The Russian spot in my brain"
- Lance Webb (co-author), "Prayer helps language too"
- Postlogue tale: Jacob and Alison Willson, "Serving
another mission — in Iraq"
Citation: 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
Book Presentation and Signing
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.
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.Croft@ASU.edu
Lee B. Croft,
Senior Professor of Russian
Former Head, Faculty of German, Romanian, and Slavic (GRS)
School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC)
ASU, Tempe, AZ 85287-0202