The finer points of interior decorating are low on the priority list these days for Garry and Sue Borders.
Instead of deciding on a couch or a sideboard for the living room, the Spokane couple now find themselves contemplating which pieces of furniture and other personal belongings will make the trip from the Inland Northwest to their new home in Rosinka, Russia, some 5,000 miles away. The Borders will leave June 28 after being called to serve in the Russian, Moscow Mission Presidency back in November.
The shipment of their transplanted life must weigh no more than 2,400 pounds.
“You go where the Lord sends you,” said Sis. Borders. “We have definitely felt the support and prayers of everyone in the (Spokane) Stake. It’s been very humbling.”
Bro. Borders served as president of the Spokane Stake from 1997 to 2006 and was a counselor in the stake presidency for nine years prior to that. Since being released as stake president, he has served as a counselor to three mission presidents in the Spokane, Washington Mission. The Borders currently live in the Shiloh Hills Ward in the far north section of the Spokane Stake.
“I have a lot of respect for mission presidents,” Bro. Borders said. “You never see yourself in that role.”
The Borders first spoke with Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles last October regarding their availability to serve a mission. With Bro. Borders on the verge of retirement, the couple had already discussed the possibility of putting in their papers sometime in the summer of 2013.
“Elder Ballard was wonderful, very gracious, very kind,” Bro. Borders said. “He asked if either of us had any language skills.”
With only a smattering of Spanish between them, the Borders received an indication that they would most likely serve in an English-speaking area. That all changed when they spoke with Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, in November.
“Pres. Uchtdorf had called my office that morning, so I knew something was up,” Bro. Borders said. “He was very warm and personable, just wonderful.”
It turned out the call from Salt Lake would involve an invitation to spend the next three years in a country they had only read about in classic novels.
“He said, ‘After talking with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we would like to call you to a Russian-speaking mission – what would you think of that?’” Sis. Borders recalls. “I’m not sure I heard anything after that.”
Since the call, the Borders have traveled to the Missionary Training Center in Provo three times for training known as “language immersion.” While the learning curve is steep, both say they can see progress.
“When I first looked at it, I thought it was too daunting, that I would never be able to learn this,” Sis. Borders said. “But the more we’ve gotten into it, the more we realize we can do this.”
The Borders will travel back to Utah for a Mission Presidency Seminar scheduled for June 22-26. They have already had an opportunity to speak with the current mission president and his wife serving in Moscow and will also be near some old friends – Pres. Dan Lattin and Sis. Christine Lattin – serving in a neighboring mission. Pres. Lattin served as a counselor in the Spokane Stake Presidency for several years when Bro. Borders was president.
As for the shift in living conditions, Sis. Borders said she and her husband scouted out the three missions in Russia that would be opening before their call to the Moscow area was confirmed.
“There was one that was cold, another that was colder and one that was coldest,” she said.
The Moscow area experienced a “100-year winter” this past season. By early February, 85 inches had already fallen across the region. Still, Bro. Borders said living in Spokane has prepared them for the move.
“Their winter is a lot like ours, only it lasts for two more months,” he said.
There are currently about 20,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia. The Moscow Mission includes one stake and encompasses an area that is 1,500 miles long and 600 miles wide, stretching north to the Bering Sea. In addition to 20 senior missionary couples, there are 112 elders and sister missionaries that comprise the Russian Moscow Mission.
There are 15 million residents in Moscow, the most populated city in Europe. In their capacity, the Borders will be traveling extensively, mostly to branches throughout the mission.
“Over half the time we spend there, we’ll be traveling,” Bro. Borders said.
Bro. Borders was born in Canada and grew up in the small town of Curlew, WA., 10 miles south of the Canadian border. Sis. Borders, a native of Wyoming, met her husband a month after he was baptized into the LDS Church as a 23-year-old graduate student at Washington State University in Pullman. The couple has six children and 18 grandchildren.
“I knew he was committed to the gospel and we had the same goals as far as serving the Lord,” Sis. Borders said.
Bro. Borders said he “was lucky to marry an absolutely wonderful person who is warm, outgoing and beautiful.”
“She’s patient and positive – and that’s a real blessing for me,” he said. “We laugh a lot.”
As the couple prepares for the departure to their new home in less than two months, the routine at home includes bearing their testimonies and saying prayers together in Russian.
“We’re looking forward to this,” Bro. Borders said. “It’s going to be fun.”