Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Family Night Seminar 4/5/09

Family Night Seminar 

Partly cloudy
Wind 3-5 mph westerly

Many of you know that our first mission was to help develop and promote the Family Enrichment Program book and process. This is simply an adaptation of the LDS Family Home Evening that has been promoted and encouraged for 50 years in the Church and we spent 2 years helping non-LDS organizations to teach that concept to their members. We supervised the translation of the book into French, Arabic, and Kyrgyz and became aware of a Russian translation that was made, but considered too poor to be used. By the end of our mission we had assisted over 300 projects all around the world involving over 87,000 books.

Imagine our surprise when one of our CES couples showed us a FEP book in Russian. That finally resulted in our getting 6,000 books printed in Novosibirsk and introducing it as a missionary tool to our mission. Tonight was the first (for us) of what we hope will be a series of public seminars to teach LDS and non-LDS people about the power of family night and how to start and maintain it in their homes.

The first seminars were conducted by the Bowdens in Tomsk and Kemerovo, north of Novosibirsk, around the first of the year. They are Humanitarian missionaries and Elder Bowden is on fire about the FEP program and how it can help families. He held two seminars in those cities and we took his outline as the basis of what we did here tonight. We owe a lot to his energy and push to get something going in his cities.

The biggest problem with any public meeting is, "If we build it, will they come?" The Zone Leaders here, Elders Bressler and Bindrup, prepared a proposal for President Mickelsen to have the seminar and with his blessing they really caught the vision of advertising and promotion. They developed an invitation to give on the street, asked the missionaries to promote it among the members and encourage them to bring their friends, made announcements in English Club and Institute class that happens at our building (at right), and finally had announcements made in every Sacrament meeting this morning; the people responded.

As we set up for the seminar after the last block of meetings of Second Branch, we were still concerned about the attendance, but we moved ahead as if we would have the room filled. Faith precedes the miracle, right? Here Cindy gives directions to Sasha, the "papa" for our Family Night demonstration skit as Elder Bressler watches an expert at work. Sister Cindy knows how to direct. I even enlisted Elder McBride to make some balloon animals for the tables to set a fun atmosphere. (He is rarely this serious). Elder Olson, in the background here is preparing to video tape the seminar so we could evaluate and modify what we did.

By 6:00 people began to filter in and by starting time, 6:30, the room was packed. "Way to go missionaries". They did their job in filling the room and now it was our turn to do our job. We had spent the last two weeks planning the details and this last week fine tuning the program down to who would talk about what and what that what would be. If it is possible to over-plan, we were approaching that territory.

There were 75+ in attendance including people from off the street. Among them was a woman who was a psychologist who was on her way home and decided to stay around for an hour and come to see what this was about. After the seminar, she sat for half an hour with the Zone Leaders asking questions and showing enthusiasm for the program. The fellow in the white T-shirt at right center of this picture came up afterward and was genuinely excited about everything. He asked me if I was in athletics when I was younger and I said I was a swimmer and scuba diver. He got even more excited and said he was a swimmer and scuba diver too. He grabbed me in a hug and gave me a big squeeze; Strong guy. I relished his excitement.

Among the members present there were the two families that were the subject of my last posting. They sat at the front table and seemed to absorb every idea we offered. It was a joy to see the "aha" in their faces and the enthusiasm during the activity. I love to see the realization in their eyes when they really get it. That is the only real reward that teachers get.

We developed some basic concepts that we hammered all through the meeting. We even had them printed out and stuck on the walls of the stairwell and up on the whiteboard in front. They are: Families are important; Time together creates a bond (I shortened it later to "Time = a bond" and I would slap my hands together like they were glued); and strong families make a strong community which makes a strong nation. Here I am at left doing the "slap".

The family night skit was a great hit and when they did the activity of making a family shield, everyone in the room got to make a shield and when they had a treat everyone got a cookie. It kept them engaged and helped keep the momentum up. Sasha and Lena were believable parents and Anna (5), Mesha (11) and Serge (16) played their parts well. They were the hit of the evening.

Finally, Olga, our office registrar and translator for the night, had the last word and we closed. As we took down the signs and folded up the "Families are Important" banner behind us, it was a magical moment, having brought family night to so many people and touched some of them deeply with the importance of their family relationships.

Russian parents love their children as much as anyone in the world. It is just that life is hard here and it is easy to lose sight of your kids and their needs, but Family Night can bring the family together within a new bond of love and fun that may have been missing. We will follow up with another seminar on the 26th in hopes of building on the relationships we have established tonight. We hope that those who attended will bring their friends and family and we can have as many or more people. Faith precedes the miracle, right?

What a program. What a country


Shannon Simmons said...

Full circle. God is good! I love hearing about how the work is so related and how your mission then affects your mission now. Definitely a sign that its true. Not that you or I needed that, but to anyone who reads this who may question the veracity of God and his work, this is evidence that God is real.

cathyg said...

Hi, I am Elder Adam Gardner's Mom...he is in Tomsk...thank you for your blog! I love feeling connected to the work he is doing! You do such a great work! We pray for Adam's success and the work there and will be sure and pray for you too! I loved this story of family night!!!