Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eastern European Area Conference 10/26/08

Eastern European Area Conference 

Wind calm

A big welcome to Mike and Deb and Maddy to the Grampadoug blog group. Thanks for following our story. You make the 20th official follower as a group. There are more that read the blog, but most are not computer literate enough to register. We love them too.

It is difficult sometimes to recognize a historic moment while you are in it, but this weekend has been such a moment. It actually began yesterday (Saturday) afternoon with the 3 pm leadership meeting for our District where President Nikoliachev (Brat Pyotr), President Chudinov (2nd Counselor) of the District Presidency and President Drachyov, the new 1st counselor in the mission presidency instructed us. The attendance was about 30 people, the core of the leadership for the four Novosibirsk branches; the branch presidents, relief society presidents, maybe a counselor or even a Young Women's president. They came to be instructed by their file leaders.

In Gospel terms it was like the deacons being instructed by the teachers presidency with a bishop silently presiding. These are sincere, trusting, faithful members trying to learn their duty and wanting to build Zion, but not knowing exactly how. I love each of them for their faith, for their willingness, for their dedication to doing what is right as they learn it day to day.

It is like being in Kirkland listening to a recently baptized "Apostle" teaching the more recently called branch leadership who lead the even more recently baptized members what Joseph had just taught them in the School of the Prophets. It is like being present at the birth of a baby with all of the effort, pain, blood, and sweat of the mother who is being coached by those gathered around the bed who want so much to help but cannot really do more than encourage and support. It is a beautiful, agonizing, and exciting event full of groans, cries, and prayers; wishing it were easier, but admiring the immense effort and courage.

The message in this meeting, and the entire weekend, is watch-cry of the moment; missionary work. It is the EEA version of the home teaching message we get all the time in the states. With the reduction in foreign missionaries, we (the Russian membership) must become the missionaries. Every member must accept that reality and step up to the plate. There is no other reality and no one else to do this work. It is the Zion's Camp of our day and those who survive and stay faithful will emerge as the foundation of the church in Russia. We, they, will be the ones quoted in future Sacrament Meeting talks, honored by memorial pageants, sung of in Primary programs of the future. We, they, are the pioneers, the elect, the Believing Blood of Israel, the remnant of the tribes of Jacob who were scattered to the north and are being gathered in preparation for Christ's advent. We, they, were gathered first and must gather the rest ourselves.

These are the decedents of those spoken of in Jeremiah 9:16, "I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them." We, the missionaries, are then described in Jeremiah 16:16, "Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks" so that it may be as in verse 21, ". . . I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The Lord."

As we hunt them out of the holes in the rocks, we must teach them to become hunters and fishers themselves and swell the ranks of those sent to gather Jacob to the Lord. This weekend was a shift in that effort from primarily the foreign hunters and fishers to the native hunters and fishers, courtesy of the new restrictions placed on those foreign hunters. What Satan thought to destroy shall become stronger through the transfer of responsibility to the native members and their awakening to their own destiny.

Later that evening at 6 pm we heard from President Gushin (District 1st Counselor), Sister Mickelsen, President Mickelsen. These were good, solid instructional meetings with positive messages and good counsel.

At right is the Gushins with sister Gushina wiping tears from her eyes as we all laughed and laughed about their adventures at Disneyland in California and their attending Conference in Utah while on their recent trip to see old friends and their daughter Dasha at BYU.

Today at 12 30 pm was the first direct broadcast of the East European Area Conference of the Church and it was viewed by many of the 34,000 members in the EEA by satellite transmission in meeting halls and chapels all across the Area. In Novosibirsk we hosted saints from Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk. Others gathered in Omsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk to hear the Area President, Elder Peiper, the Primary counselor Sister Matsumori, Elder Quentin Cook, and President Monson talk directly to these great Saints of the EEA.

As we gathered at the "left bank" chapel, a refurbished bank building on the west side of the river, the excitement of the members and missionaries was palpable. Many members had a chance to greet elders and sister who served formerly in their cities and a lot of digits were used in cameras that went off minute by minute. Handshakes, hugs, and a variety of cultural greetings made it more like a family reunion than a church meeting.

The main body of saints was gathered in the second floor chapel with an overflow room on the fourth floor for the Russian version. A small room off of the second floor foyer was used for the English transmission. Some of the missionaries sat with their investigators in the chapel while the rest listened in English. Here we are just before the broadcast started.

As we sat, listening to the leadership fill us with instructions and the Holy Ghost witnessing its truth, I glanced out the window to at the world of Russian doubt and fear that these "hunters" will go out into later today. What a contrast of realities. A room full of light and a world full of darkness. I love these young missionaries. They are truly the best of the best. They are my sons and my daughters doing the Lord's work in faith and strength.

President Peiper gave a masterful talk in Russian, speaking to his people with power and love. He answered some of the questions most often asked by members such as When will we get our own Temple, can I have a Patriarchal Blessing, how do I find someone to marry in the Church? The answer to every question is in growth. We need more members and he mentioned Jeremiah's prophecy. He then put the burden back where it belongs. If you want the blessings you must do the work.

He then focused his remarks on the need for every member to be a missionary, the very message of Saturday's meetings. He listen four things the Lord needs from these members.
  1. A willing heart and mind -- desiring to do the work. We don't need to know everything. We just need to be willing to use what we know and go forward with the work of gathering.
  2. Pray to find the Elect -- Believe that people are prepared to listen and God will help you find them. They are out there.
  3. Go about doing good -- Be a good neighbor. Openly show love and do things for others. Say hello to strangers. When asked why, say "I believe in God" and they will ask for more.
  4. Invite them to come and see -- Sceptics will doubt, but just keep inviting to branch events, church meetings, FHE, English Club, Game Night, Sports Night. Help them to feel welcome.
He ended with this, 20 years ago there was no light is EEA. Today there are 34,000 lights. The Lord needs your light to shine and welcome others into the fold.

Sister Matsumori focused on the family and helping others to see how we love and teach within the family. Elder Quentin L. Cook focused on the need to strengthen converts and creating Zion here in the EEA. President Monson based his remarks on the charge to build the Temple in D&C 88:19 and what each of our lives must include: fasting, faith, learning, glory. He concluded with a line from the play, "Shenandoah" where it is spoken, "If we don't try we don't do; if we don't do, why are we here?" He finally reminded us to learn our duty and act in the office to which we are appointed.

This has been an important event and it can be the door to greater things in the Novosibirsk Mission. We will do our part and help the missionaries teach the members to do their part. There is much to do and the Elect are waiting for us. They just don't know who we are yet; but they will.

What a Church. What a country.


Shannon Simmons said...

Oh,how exciting. I love to hear about the work going forth. It reminds me of how much I love missionary work! What a fantastic meeting & a great nod to the blessings of modern technology to bring such a meeting to pass. Keep up the good work my missionary parents!

Lelia said...

Cindy and Doug, you are both so wonderful - I love your blog with all the descriptions of your life and adventures as missionaries in a barren land.

Scott said...

well happy birthday doug. pictures will soon be arriving soon black socks and duct tape to the rescue