Monday, July 7, 2008

July 5, 2008 Why are we here?

Why are we here?
July 5, 2008 
Ever since our call came we have asked ourselves and one another,” Why Russia?” Since our arrival and getting things in order we have again had time to ask” Why am I (we) here?” The answer may have come in an email from Wendy Sheffield, one of the authors of the Family Enrichment Program manual that was the subject of our first mission together where we shepherded this little book from 2002 through 2004.

In case you, collectively, need reminding, that was the generic Family Home Evening book written for non-LDS groups to instruct in the basics of the Family Home Evening program as a humanitarian effort managed by LDS Family Services and specifically by us under the management of Lee Hardy. As you may remember when we took the assignment the project had distributed less than 500 books in the prior year. After two years we had shipped out 87,000 books in 330 projects all over the world.

We have no idea what may come of this, but the events of just these last two weeks are very interesting. First, Wendy sent us an email saying that she was leaving on July 1 for Asia (Taiwan, Indonesia, & Singapore). She writes, “The East Asia Area are holding “Family Enrichment Seminars” (printed 200,000 FEP manuals in English, Bahasan Indonesian, and Mandarin Chinese in preparation). I’m going over to present many, many training sessions on FEP.” That’s a lot of books and a very big project. It more than doubles what we did in 2 years.

She goes on, “Here is some email info that was forwarded to us from a missionary couple in the Ukraine re an FEP pilot currently underway.” This email, summarized, says that a senior missionary couple, the Lee’s, are promoting the FEP among the Humanitarian and CES missionaries in the Europe East Area—that includes Novosibirsk. They are using the books in four ways:
  1. NGO and Government social service agencies
  2. CES senior missionaries as teaching tools in seminaries and institutes
  3. Humanitarian senior missionaries for possible projects of strengthening families classes in their areas
  4. Family-to-Family projects where a member takes a book, practices the program, invites another family to Family Night, teaches the concept and gives them a book to try for themselves, and finally invites the family back for a repeat family night and feedback on the book.
With the exception that we were not allowed to “promote” the use of the manual like they are doing, everything was word of mouth, this is almost word-for-word what we said to people who heard about the FEP books and wanted to somehow use them. The Lee’s are doing exactly what we trained groups to do in 2004. Their area president asked them to have 200 books printed in Russian and they have been distributed. They received approval for another Area Initiative project to print another 1,000 books and were told that they could print more.

They write, “We know that couples in our Area are now teaching the “Strengthening Marriages and Families” classes. All but one of the couples in our Kiev Mission are teaching.” They just heard that the humanitarian couple in the Donets’k mission has started classes.

I know that I am speaking into cyber space here, but I cannot adequately tell you, collectively, how excited we are to hear that four years later “our” little manual is being used right here in our Europe East Area with the blessing, and even the encouragement, of the Area President. If this is all true, it is a blessing and a miracle that it and we, should be here.

During our initial interview with President and sister Mickelsen we were asked about other missionary experience in our past and we mentioned our FEP mission. During our second week, after we received Wendy’s email, I again mentioned it to President Mickelsen and he got interested in a possible pilot project here. We later found out that our mission's CES couple, the Hughes’, received a copy of FEP at a training seminar last month, and to top it all off, our mission humanitarian couple, the Bowden’s, were introduced to the FEP and want to do some projects right here in our mission. Is this incredible, or what?

As far as I can tell, Family Home Evening as we know it is not wide-spread in the branches we have visited. If the Family-to-Family method takes hold here it could strengthen the member families as much or more than the guest families. I hope the branch presidents will catch the vision.

When the Bowden’s return from their “visa trip” to Madrid, we will spend some time talking over how we used the book and how they would like to approach the projects they have in mind. Who knows, maybe we can help in some way help them to strengthen the families of our mission, both in the branches and in the cities. We don’t know if anything will come of this, but it is exciting to contemplate.
Why Russia? Why are we here?


Shannon Simmons said...

Hi! I have become somewhat compulsive about checking your blog - and I love when I am the first to leave a comment. Its so much fun for me to read your posts Dad. It is almost like I am there. Minus the cold weather. We are enjoying really really warm weather here- traditional Sacramento summers.
That is super exciting about the FEP manuals!!!! Its somewhat hard to really process how amazing the Lords hand is. Everything comes full circle, yes?!! The Lord ALWAYS prepares us for what is ahead.
Keep up the great work. You are doing wonderful errands for the Lord.

Marilyn said...

We are excited to learn of the connection of the FHE mission and your 2nd mission in Russia! Who'd have thought? You are in the right place at the right time. Question: When you worked for a week to clean your apt. was it all day every day, or after your office work? What is a typical day in the office, so far? It appears that Cindy is getting better/faster on the computer. Right? We are enjoying the blog/journal. Marilyn

Trisha said...

What a small world we really live in. How cool is this. My mornings start with a check of the blog, and my days are the best when I have something to read from you about your spiritual experiences. I love you guys. Thanks for the blessings.

Belva said...

Hello, Love seeing the pictures of your new home. I know that you have been very busy among the lucky elders, and members who have the privilege of getting acquainted with you. They have many surprises in store for them.

What an amazing thing that our little family night training would find its way into your mission. You never have a real answer to the question- Why am I here? Because you never know where your influence and sweet spirit begins and ends. But Heavenly Father has a great plan for you..probably many plans. If Sister Simmons keeps making her lists on little napkins and scraps of paper and Brother Simmons keeps finding new and creative ways to implement those lists.. what a pair you will continue to be. Keep up the good work. and thank you for all the news that you share with us. we love you. Belva

Phil Ronzone said...

I think you've answered that question Bishop. You two where chosen to be at that place, at this time, because our Heavenly Father needed your very special talents there for his children. I have no doubt in my mind that you two will be successful in your mission and return home with honor.
I can't wait for the next installment of your adventure. Maybe I can beat Shannon to the first post next time. Probably not, but it's worth a try. Take care and may the small still voice guide you in your work.
With deep respect and love,

Doretta said...

Love your blog. I am behind in reading and will catch up tonight.

What a coincidence! As I was cleaning a bookcase the other day, I came across one of your FEP manuals and wondered what had ever become of the program. It is great that can do a "follow up" to your first mission.

We love you, Doretta