Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Natives Go to America, 8/30/09

The Natives Go to America

Weather - heavy rain at times
Temp 66F Mind Westerly 2-4 mph

Here I am with a few of our young adults who have formed a choir that I work with now on Wednesday nights before my 2 hours of veggie washing.

This past week three of our young adults left for the Missionary Training Center next to the BYU campus in Provo Utah where they will receive a month's training on how to be a missionary. Non-Russian speakers go to the MTC for 3 months to learn the language and the missionary discussions from the Preach My Gospel manual.

In years past they would memorize these lessons in their assigned language. Now they must actually learn the concepts and the language enough to carry on a discussion about that concept in their own words and according to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Two of these new misionaries are from our YSA group in Novosibirsk; Svetlana (Sveta) Labodna, at the right receiving her Laurel YW medallion from her friend Ina who is also the district Young Women's president, and Yevgeny (Gzenya) Karpenkov, below with pre-missionary haircut. Sveta's friends here gave her some home-made mementos, below, to keep their love in front of her.

That makes four of our young adults who have left for missions during the last few months. We also sent Dema and Mesha, earlier this year. They are all strong spirits with stronger testimonies of the mission of Jesus Christ and His restored Church. We miss them and they have left four big holes in our group.

As I watched Gzenya give his talk in 4th Branch this morning, I was struck with the vision of these young people as the leaders who will come back in 18 months (sisters) or 2 years and take their place in the leadership of the branches here. These are the ones who will take the Russian branches of the Church into "the Promised Land".

By that I mean, they will have a very different set of experiences from their parents who joined the church in their later years. These young people have had Gospel teaching in their homes or in their branches for many years. Then they will go to the MTC and see what the Church really looks like in its fullness. They will get the training their parents never had in Church government and leadership. They will receive daily training in Gospel Principles and gain a deeper understanding of Keys, stewardship, authority, power, the Godhead, salvation through the atonement, and so on. This will be a crash course in four weeks, but it will be thorough.

Then will come the real training. For two years (for elders) they will teach these principles, discuss these concepts, experience leadership responsibility, and really live the Church 24/7. They will have two hours a day to study the scriptures, they will have leadership responsibilities and training along with real-life experience, they will train and counsel branch leadership in the cities where they serve, and they will have mentors to train and teach them before they become mentors and trainers for the new missionaries. This will be the ultimate preparation for their time to lead the church here, a preparation the current leadership never had.

Well, that's not exactly the case. We now have a 26 year old Alexander, returned missionary in stripes, in the Novosibirsk District Presidency. We had a 24 year old Vanya, returned missionary, as counselor and then mission leader in First Branch before he and his wife went to Utah for school. We have another 22 year old returned missionary in the Second Branch Presidency. We have a 30-something member of the Novosibirsk Mission Presidency who is also the Church Education System (CES) manager in ours and the Vladivostok mission (right). We have returned missionaries as Young Women's presidents, Primary presidents, choristers, pianists, branch missionary leaders. Now that I think of it, these returned missionaries are already taking their places in leadership and will soon be running the Church with a new vision of what it can and should be. Their parents are running on vision, faith, and inspiration, but no experience. Soon we will have leaders with the foundation to take the Church, as I said, into "the Promised Land"; into a bright and fast-moving future with less need for missionaries to lead them.

I have nothing but love and admiration for the older generation of leaders here. They are the pioneers. They are the trail blazers who forged a Church out of a spiritual wilderness. Many have fallen by the way for one reason or another, but these have carried the Gospel banner and planted it firmly in the Russian soil, giving their children the foundation to take them to greater heights, mounted on wings like eagles.

Those "old timers" who have survived the trials and temptations that drove others from the Church are strong, they are tough, and they are immovable. They are to be praised, revered, and admired, but soon comes the new generation of leaders with more than stubbornness, more than surviving, more than enduring; they will have experience and vision. They will know where they are going and how to get there.

God has given me a vision of what can and will be and I am stoked! It gives me energy and hope to continue our work in this difficult place. It gives me confidence that even though it seems that good counsel sometimes falls to the floor unnoticed, there will be others who can and will take it and expand on it. It gives me courage to keep teaching, keep exemplifying, keep mentoring, keep pushing today's leaders to put the new ones in place and let them lead. It keeps the fire burning in my gut to do the work.

What a generation. What a country.


Bob Steed said...

An important perspective. I found out last week that they are expanding the chapel in a town where I served as one of the first missionaries. I can imagine the leadership they have their now. Back then, I was the Branch President. I am sure they now have deeper leadership with more experience. As difficult as it was (I even got to teach Relief Society!) isn't it a blessing to be one of the first? To see the seeds planted?

Trisha said...

What a vision to behold. The joy beauty that can come from hard times is the most glorious to behold.

Shannon said...

how exciting! The church is so very true!