Saturday, October 23, 2010

10-17-2010 You'll want to read "The Week in Review"

We had a pretty amazing week this week.

1. We had snow twice this week.... crazy! Nothing on the ground now but it is plenty cold and the only reason there is no snow now is because there is no precipitation. Fur coats, fur hats, fur gloves, of course fur-lined boots are coming out more and more now....

2. We had some great training meetings this week and we set goals for the new year. It was just a great week with the missionaries.

3. We had two baptisms yesterday. They were investigators who we helped teach in our home over the past number of weeks/months. One is from Accra, Ghana and surely is the blackest man I have ever seen in my life. He is here going to school in Moscow. His name is Awudu Issah (Awoodoo Eesah). The other is a Physician from The Benin Republic just outside of Nigeria, who is furthering his education by getting his PhD. His name is a little more challenging... It is Adekambi Armand Ibikounle. Needless to say, it was difficult for me to pronounce their names correctly during their baptisms. We had them both over last night for a little get together with a couple of missionaries as well. We had a great discussion about pioneers and the need for them to become great examples of the gospel to their family and friends when they go back to their respective countries. We can imagine in our minds what they will be doing in the coming years in their respective areas as they strive to serve in the Church.

4. We have discussed previously that we were featured in the Russian issue of the Liahona in Septembers issue. We just received our copy this week. It was interesting to see what they had written about the Young Single Adult Conference that we participated in this past May and also what we all performed as a service project as a group. The article is very good and faith-promoting I have attached a copy of it in English for your review

5. This didn't happen this week but we received notice this week and that we will be traveling to Turkey again for another CES training. We will not be going to Istanbul but a neighboring area. I will discuss more about that in the coming weeks. We are excited however, we have been told that we may visit some of the areas where the Apostle Paul taught and established branches of the Church of Jesus Christ.

6. Finally, we told you about the accident the some of the missionaries had last week playing football and one of them losing part of his teeth in the head of another missionary.... well, we had Elder Bogdonov in our home for two nights after his head was so infected that he had to go back to the clinic and have his cut opened up again to drain the infection, cut out the old cut and put a drain in it, bandage it up and then come to the doctor for the next 4 days and have the bandage changed and the wound cleaned and looked at. Attached is a photo of Elder Bogdonov at our home with Sister Packard. His bandage is cute isn't it? Needless to say, he was not seen outside the apartment looking like that.

We had a great week. Just wonderful. The baptismal service was fabulous! We had about a dozen investigators in attendance and the Spirit was very strong, as it always is at baptismal services. The Lord has been very kind to us here in Moscow. The work is moving forward.


Elder and Sister Packard

Liahona Article in English

Stitching Time to Eternity

Elder and Sister Chad and Bethany Packard found themselves, as they had many times before at home, chaperoning a youth/ young adult conference, this time along with other dedicated senior missionary couples. Their experience with this type of thing lead to a question asked by many of the conference participants at breakfast after the first night, “Elder Packard, why did you and Sister Packard lock your door last night?” “Oh, just because.” was the reply. “We wanted to put toothpaste on your faces.” one young man admitted. “Really? Well, we’ll leave our door unlocked tonight for you. We don’t want to miss out on that fun.” And so the bonding between leaders and youth began. We asked the Packard’s about themselves, their mission, and their experiences with the young people in the Eastern European Area of the Church.

Liahona: Tell us about yourselves and your family.

E&S Packard: We are from Dallas Texas, where Elder Packard is the CEO of our family orthodontic company. We have six grown children and nine wonderful grandchildren.

Liahona: Why did you decide to serve a mission?

E Packard: Well, that’s an interesting story. We had already decided that we would serve fulltime missions together in our mature years. When we were 40 years old we met with our financial advisor to make plans that would help us be ready to serve our first mission at age 50. We took those plans to the Lord and asked Him to help us accomplish those things. He blessed out efforts over the next several years and those preparations were met. When we were about 47 we thought that perhaps we’d been a bit ambitious about serving at age 50. (Believe it or not you young people, that’s still pretty young.) So we thought we’d postpone things until our mid fifties or so, and thought nothing more about it over the next couple of years. Then one month before our fiftieth birthdays we got a phone call from Elder Larry W. Gibbons of the Quorum of the Seventy, who was serving in the Eastern European Area Presidency at that time. (The Gibbons and we are from the same Stake in Texas.) He was calling from Moscow to ask us if we would consider serving a mission, and perhaps in that Eastern European Area. He told us to take two days to think about it. What was there to think about? We had made a commitment to the Lord 10 years earlier and asked for his help to get it accomplished. He’d done His part and blessed our business so that we’d met those goals. Now, He was asking us to keep our end of the bargain. We are so glad that He didn’t wait to call us until we thought we were ready. Besides raising our six great children, serving this mission together is the best thing we’ve done for ourselves individually and for our marriage. (Which, I will add, was wonderful to begin with.) So here we are serving for eighteen months in the Russia, Moscow Mission.

Liahona: What is your specific assignment?

E&S Packard: We have dual responsibilities. We are Leadership missionaries and also have CES responsibilities. We love working with the youth and young single adult age kids, so we were thrilled when we received our assignment. Most of our service in the Church at home has been with these two age groups.

Liahona: In May you were involved with a YSA Conference hosted by the Russia Moscow mission, which young people from Kazakhstan, Belarus, and across Russia attended. How did you find that this conference was similar these types of conferences in the States and what did you see that was different?

E&S Packard: Young adult Latter-Day Saints, no matter where they are from, deal with the same basic issue… How can I live my life within the bounds the Lord has set in a world that seems to have no boundaries at all? While it is true that there is strength in numbers and those who live within areas where the Church has a strong hold have the advantage of more of their peers choosing to live the same values, true conversion is an individual thing. We lose many, many young adults to the world in the in these established areas who have not put in the effort to gain their own testimonies and then do what it takes to protect and strengthen them. We have such a deep respect for the young people here who make changes, sometimes significant ones, to embrace the gospel and do it in most cases without the support of family, old friends, and their culture. These conferences serve the same purpose worldwide; to strengthen testimonies, encourage righteous living and (laughing) to promote marriage.

Due to the upcoming dedication of the Kiev, Ukraine temple, the first in this area of the world, the young adult conference committee had chosen the temple as their focus and planned seminars, workshops, games, and even their service project around this theme.

Liahona: Tell us about the special service project that they did.

E&S Packard: Oh, it was just wonderful! The kids decided to make beautiful white, laced trimmed handkerchiefs to be used during the dedication ceremony of the Kiev temple. The hankies were sewn prior and then the laced was sewn on, by hand, there at the conference. It was decided that the service would be more satisfying if they did not keep them for their own missions, but gave them to a mission whose young people were not involved in the conference. The Novosibirsk mission was chosen, so the three hundred and thirty hankies will be sent there, with love. Many said they loved the idea so much that they were going to go back and organize the same project in their home missions.

Liahona: What did the men think about sewing?

E Packard: Some jumped right in and others needed some encouragement. But in the end everyone was involved and most of the young people we talked with afterwards said that the service project and the presentation on the Kiev temple were their favorite events at the conference. One young man came up to give me his first finished handkerchief and, not very proud of his best efforts, said, “We better give this one to a blind Sister.” We had a good laugh together.

Liahona: How did you feel about the conference and the young adults you were able to meet?

S Packard: The conference was a great success for those who came with an open heart, and I’m going to say that was the majority of them. I am amazed at the valor of so many of these young people. At one point, during the service project, my heart was so full of love for them that I turned to my husband and said, with tears in my eyes, “I don’t want to go back to my old life. I want to stay here with them.” There are 10 people lined up behind me in my home ward who can do what I do just as well or better. I’m not really needed there. But here, on my mission, I can help make a difference by teaching, training, and encouraging these future leaders of the Church in Russia while it’s in its Kirkland stage. We just love them all so much.

Let me paint you a picture. There are one hundred seventy great young people, most in their Sunday clothes, scattered about the auditorium in small groups, couples, and individually, talking and laughing quietly. There is inspiring gospel music playing in the back round. The Spirit is just so strong. As I looked out from the stage over this scene I thought to myself, “Who are you young people to have been sent here to this place and at this critical time in the building of the Kingdom? Who in here are the Parley P. Pratts and Dan Jones’ of the young Church in Russia? Who will become the Eliza R. Snows or Mary Fielding Smiths whose stories will give inspiration to the following generations of new Saints in this area? The Spirit confirmed to me that was indeed the case, these were “many of those noble and great ones” (Abr. 3:22). And He whispered that to me as I watched young man struggle to thread a needle.

10-5-2010 Happenings

Hey all,

Just wanted to drop a quick line to let you know a few things that are going on here. There are in no particular order of importance but let me just get to the point.

1. ATAK is here! None of you know that ATAK is a baby ASHAN and with that said, you still don't know what I am talking about. ASHAN is Russia's closest thing to a WalMart. So what I am saying is that an ATAK store has just opened within about 100 yards from our apartment. It will take us a total of about 1 minute to walk there from our apartment. We are so excited how wonderful it is going to be for us to not have to pack a backpack full of grocery bags and get on a Metro train and ride 30 minutes, get off, ride a Marschootka (little bus) to the ASHAN store and then shop for 40 minutes, bag up our groceries in the reinforced fiber grocery bags along with our backpack, and then return the same way we came with the added 40-60 pounds of food and groceries. This will make life so much smoother with less effort, time, and money. One drawback.... what are we going to do to get the exercise we need so desperately!

2. WE HAD 15 INVESTIGATORS TO CHURCH LAST SUNDAY!!! (not for General Conference but the Sunday before). We couldn't understand where they all came from but we were pleasantly surprised that they all came. We had a great block of meetings that Sunday. Hopefully they will continue their progression.

3. General Conference was just amazing. We have only been able to watch the first Session of each day but we will watch the balance this weekend when all of the translations occur here in Russia. It was so very exciting to us to hear and see President Monson discuss a couple of things. A). He gave a great shout out to all of the temple dedications and cultural events but then gave a specific comment to our Cultural Event here in Ukraine.... it was great to hear him say those wonderful things about our group of kids. and B). It was so encouraging to hear him request the desperate need for more Senior Couples along with the regular missionaries. If I haven't said it yet, I will say it now, "We need more Senior Couples!" Our area is all I know for sure, but we are in desperate need of almost a dozen couples here in our Area. We can't wait to hear the rest of Conference.

4. Summer is gone. Fall is all but gone. Winter is setting in quick! Our highs are in the mid 40's now and the lows right at the freezing level. Who knows, we may see snow next week! Welcome to Moscow everyone!

5. Moscow Boat Trip was just wonderful... It was 2 hours of cool overcast weather and lovely scenery. I will include a photo or two. Moscow is a beautiful city but very few people recognize it as such. The photo with us in it has the Kremlin and other religious sanctuaries behind us.

6. One of our missionaries, broke his nose during a "Preperation-Day" activity of Gator Ball. A few days later, two other missionaries had a similar incident although much worse. One of the Elders broke his two front teeth out. Interestingly enough, he found them lodged in the head of a fellow missionary. Needless to say, both missionaries are out of commission for a while. Gator Ball, which is a combination of Soccer, Basketball, and Football, just might be on the new list of things in the missionary White Book that are NOT ALLOWED! I feel for our mission president who is one of the kindest men I have ever met and his wife surely has already been "translated" she is so nice.

7. We prepared a Mexican Feast for our Elder's Quorum president Timur Kodirov (who was featured in the Church's, World Report between sessions of General Conference during the first 5 minutes of the report). He invited his co-workers to his apartment and we prepared the dinner, ate it and then played games... It was a wonderful event.

8. We had two wonderful Uzbekistan men who are investigating the Church for dinner the other night. They came and prepared a Rice dish called Plove which is with Rice, Carrots, Onions, and Lamb. It was very good and was fun to eat. One of them is getting baptized in a few weeks. The other we have been personally teaching for quite some time and has been an Atheist all of his 67 years. He is also a Chemistry Professor so he seems to have very little faith. He is reading the Book of Mormon and has very good questions, but he lacks faith at this point and has a difficult still with praying vocally.

9. I may not have mentioned this in the past but Sister Packard and I have been featured as part of an article involving the Young Single Adult Conference that we had back in May where as part of the Conference we did a service project where we sewed handkerchiefs to be donated for the Kiev Temple dedicatory sessions. Apparently part of the article has a picture of us involved in helping with the service project. We have not seen it but apparently the article is in the September issue of the Liahona magazine. Your local LDS bookstore should have it. Like I mentioned, we have not seen it and we may not see it for months. Russia makes it very difficult for us to receive printed religious materials. We never did receive many copies of last General Conference. Also, it is against the law to distribute any Bibles to the public other than those published by the Russian Orthodox Church. The ROC has a strong influence on the government here.

10. We sang a duet/love song for a young lady's birthday who is getting married in a few weeks. It was fun to do and we got many compliments on our number although it was in English and not many people understood the words to our song.

So, those are a few things that are going or have gone on here in the past few weeks.

We are excited for the work and how things are going... we solicit your continued thoughts and prayers to enhance the work here and throughout the world.

We love you all and wish you the very best.


Elder and Sister Packard

Thursday, September 30, 2010

9-30-10 Liahona

Hello everyone,
In May Chad and I were in charge, along with another great missionary couple, of the YSA Conference here in Russia for five of the missions. With the dedication of the Kiev temple coming up our focus, of course, was on the temple. The service project we decided on was to make white handkerchiefs to be used during that dedication service and send them to one of the mission that was not involved in our conference. We pre made the white handkerchiefs and then on the Sunday of the Conference, after our Church meetings and lunch, we all gathers again in the big auditorium and hand sewed beautiful white lace around the edges of the hankies. It was a WONDERFUL project. The Spirit was so strong. There was lovely Church music playing, the kids were sitting alone or in small groups, the conversation was subdued, and the smiles bright. Everyone was enjoying the peace that the Spirit brings. As I watched this event unfold before me I was overcome with my love for our Savior, His gospel, and these great young single pioneers of the Church here in Russia. In the end we'd finished 360+ lovely hankies.
Many of the YSA said that the project was their favorite part of the Conference. they talked about it so much to others and on FB that we were asked by the person in the EEA (Eastern European Area) office to write up something about it and send in several pictures, including one of ourselves. They did a little interview of us also. We were told later that it had been approved by the magazine department and would be in the September Liahona. That was in June.
Last Monday night we were hosting the Senior Couples Council in our home. (Our weekly senior couples get together.) Our mission President's wife mentioned that she saw the article in the Liahona, and blah, blah, blah. We'll actually forgotten about it. We don't get the Church magazines in a very timely fashion at all. I think that last one they got was May's, the Conference edition, and we got that in July. We never did get it in English though.
You may want to check at your local Church bookstore see if they have a copy available. We'd like to share that expereince with everyone. We'd like to have someone scan it and send it email to us if possible. We would appreciate it.
Lastly, please be sure to watch the segments between sessions of GC this weekend. One of them will focus on Moscow. They production crew was here in August. They interviewed several of our District Saints, including our adopted Russian (Uzbeckistanian) son Timur Kodirov. Timur served his mission with us until his release in June. He is now back and is the EQP in our Rechnoy Branch. His story is so inspiring. The crew filmed some of our Sacrament Meeting too. They of course were at the temple dedication and spotlighted 3-4 of the dancers from here. Their stories will be on soon. (Kids, one of you DVR it and keep it for us please.)
This surely is the work of the Lord. We love Him and His gospel, and the opportunity we are having to help build the kingdom here in Moscow.
Bethany & Chad

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Dear All, 9-19-10
What an eventful couple of weeks. You know our days are just filled with so much wonderful activities and happenings that it is hard to keep up with all of them and share them with you. I will try to get you a few things that will be of benefit to you and enlighten you and help you through some challenges.

All of you know that we finished all of our “Big” events (Institute Fall Kickoff and Kiev, Ukraine Cultural Event and Dedication). Those were just spectacular. When General Conference is shown in a few weeks, you will want to watch some of the info “between” sessions to view some of our events that we have been talking about (The Cultural Event and Dedication). We had some “interviewers” from Salt Lake City here in Moscow just prior to the events and interviewed some of our members who are somewhat unique. For example, the first member of the church in Russia is a member of our Rechnoy Branch. We also have a young man by the name of Timur Kodirov who is from Rostov, Russia and served his mission here in Moscow just finishing a few months ago. He has moved back into our area and is in our branch. This young man has a spectacular story of success, heartache, challenge, and happiness. His Father was killed by the mob as he was a successful businessman. The mob doesn’t permit that to happen often. His mother died shortly thereafter due to the trauma associated with her husband’s death. Timur, was in and out of jail as part of his own difficulties due to that same traumatic experience. He is the only member of the Church and had an extremely successful mission. Since his return from his mission, he is now the Elder’s Quorum President in our small branch now. He will be a great leader of the Church someday. His nationality is Uzbekistani which is a Muslim country. He is one of just a few handful of Saints from that country. His ultimate goal is to become a diplomat and work within his native country and help bring the Church officially into that country. He begins his schooling next month. Look for a short story on his young life and experiences.

Last week, Elder Russell M. Nelson was in town shortly after the Kiev, Temple Dedication. He stayed for a few days and spent some time with the Saints and fulfilling other assignments. He took the time to do some special training for our District of Priesthood Leaders. It was quite and intimate meeting with about 40 participants. I along with a few others were asked to sing a special musical number for the meeting. We had just a few days notice and we only got together just an hour before the meeting… talk about unprepared! We were all honored to sing and would do our best. Here is the story…. We practiced and practiced and when it came time to start the meeting Elder Nelson wasn’t here in with us yet… they started the meeting anyway… After the opening hymn and prayer, we got up to sing. We did our best to do the song Acapella….It was not that good, in fact, in some spots, it was very weak, but thank goodness, Elder Nelson wasn’t there yet. Within a few minutes after we finished, he came walking in… I for one was grateful. The interesting thing about the fact that he was late was that in reality he was not late at all. He had been visiting with the Woman Leaders of the Church here. They had a great visit with him along with his wife and other wives of the General Authorities from this Eastern European Area. One of the things Elder Nelson spoke about was his first visit to Moscow over 43 years ago. He spoke of that event as a very dark and scary event. He knew that he was the only member of the Church in this vast country. He had visited at that time being a world renowned heart surgeon and was teaching some techniques here in Russia. About 20 years later he came back officially as a General Authority for the Church and was trying to work with the Russian Government to officially “recognize” the church. It is too difficult to explain and would take too many pages on this already long letter, but suffice it to say, Russia made it all but impossible for the Church to be “recognized” officially in the country but within a period of time the Church had accomplished all of the complicated requirements to this status. A myriad of miracles were required to make that a reality.
Elder Nelson, now another 20+ years later has been here a number of times since and during this visit he was visually amazed at how the Church as progressed to this point and what the Lord has in store for this land in the coming years.
It was such a wonderful visit to hear him speak and share experience on how to raise families successfully in the gospel and in our busy lives. He truly is an inspired leader, even a prophet, seer, and revelator of the Lord at this time on earth. It was very very interesting that he spent less than 5 minutes on training from a Church Government structure standpoint. He just spoke about how to improve our families…. It reminds me of what President Ezra Taft Benson said that the world takes men out of the slums but that the Lord takes the slums out of men and then men take themselves out of the slums. He taught us well. If any of you would like more specifics on what he suggested to us as fathers and husbands, please just email me and I will send you more information.

We love you all and are so very grateful for your continued support and prayers. The work here is hard and challenging. We know that it is that way all over the world as well. We work and plead for His inspiration and guidance to help us fulfill the needs here in this portion of His vast vineyard.


Elder and Sister Packard

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9-7-2010 Here it is... finally!

Dear All, (this letter took me three days to write and finish... sorry for the delay)

Well, it’s over! All of our big events have culminated as of 11:30 last night! We finished our Institute Fall Kickoff last night. Here is how that event went down.

Yesterday around 12:30 we left our weekly baptism for the mission. We had 4 this past week, 2 of which were young men who we had been involved teaching in our home. All 4 of them were men who in the next week will have the Aaronic Priesthood. What a blessing. Anyway, we left the baptismal service and headed back home to begin the rest of the day’s events to prepare for our Kickoff. We arrived at the house and bagged up everything we could… (3 large crock pots with beans and ham still hot! 5 large quilts, utensils, 4 pans of corn bread, plastic plates, plasticware, and cups, as well as table cloths, napkins, and fresh flowers for the table settings). Now I have told you that we live just a three-five minute walk from the church and being true to the Russian way of doing things, we made several trips to and from the church walking with all of these items in bags in our hands. These items listed don’t include the 8 other batches of food that we took over the previous two days and put in the freezer at the church. Needless to say, this young man is not so young anymore and I am beat! Up and down 4 flights of stairs with or without an elevator, then walking to the church and back got old real quick, but, that is how we do things here and how virtually everyone else does it too. No cars for most of us… a lot of carrying things and walking.

In addition to what we were doing, we had help from several senior couples with regard to cooking the food and transporting it all to the church via the Metro trains. (Interestingly enough Saturday was the City of Moscow’s Holiday, so major streets were shut down and so all of our participants, including our Area Attorney for the Church and his wife, as well as our Area CES Coordinator and his wife and family came by Metro train into the Center of the city. We had over 120 people (100 Young Single Adults) show up for the event.

We started out with Dinner which we set up where we normally have our Sacrament Services. We had a bandana for each young man and a sash for each young woman. Our pioneer theme was complete with decorations and background western music from some of the older Western Epic films of days gone by. After dinner all of the students went up 3 flights of stairs to the Institute room and we had a Spiritual Program prepared with special guests from Pioneer Church History. We had 9 guests in costumes and told the stories of Parley P. Pratt, Eliza R. Snow, W.W. Phelps, and others. Following each of their stories they stepped out of their characters and introduced themselves and told the young people their own brief story of how they found the gospel of Jesus Christ. They then bore their testimonies of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel. It was wonderful.

Following the spiritual program it was back downstairs to where we had dinner but thanks to all of the help of our other senior couple missionaries, the room was now a dance hall for all of the kids to learn the Virginia Reel and the Patty Cake Polka. It took about 10 minutes or so of hearing the music and seeing Sister Packard and I doing the dance (more of just watching Sister Packard), that they started to get the hang of it. We ended up turning off the music and just counting it out for a while as they learned but when we turned on the music the kids went nuts! They had such a great time with it.
Following the dance we prepared to watch a pioneer movie (The Work and the Glory). Most of the kids had not seen that movie so we had great participation. They loved eating their dessert too… we had prepared Apple/Pear Cobblers…. They were awesome! If you want the recipe, write back to us…. It is really good.
Tearing down everything was easier than setting up but washing all of the dishes including the crock pots was no easy task. Each of you who have ever cleaned up after an event at the Stake Center know what I am talking about…Now take that experience and three of the sinks out of the kitchen and with the remaining sink divide it into 4 sections, take one of those sections and that will be the size of the sink we have in our building. Do the same thing with regard to Counter Space. Needless to say, it was difficult and challenging but we got through it. By the time it was all said and done, it was 11:00 p.m. and we had 6 heavy bags of goods, pots, pans, quilts, computers, and speakers, and just three of us left to carry them all home. This third person, a young man (Pasha), received a prize gift from us for helping so much. It was a much coveted King Size Reeces Peanut Butter Cup. He had never had one. What a night. We were glad to be home finally.

Last weekend was just as, if not more exciting and that was the Kiev Temple Cultural Celebration and Dedication.
What an extraordinary event that was. We took off Thursday night on an overnight train from Moscow to Kiev and that ride, in and of itself was a very interesting experience. If any of you have ever traveled by train overnight in Eastern Europe you know what I am talking about. Because we were traveling from one country to another, the train not only stopped at a few locations during our travel, they stopped and check everyone’s passports and immigration status…. On Two Separate Ocassions! So we began our trip around 6 p.m. that evening, then we stopped around 1:30 a.m. for the first Passport check. This check lasted just over an hour as several officers checked each and every traveler’s passport. They took a particularly good long look at our passports since we were the only ones on this 30-car, 60 passenger per car train that were Americans. With the language barrier but with the help of one of our two fellow berth guests, we were able to get through it. The train took off and things were back to normal until 4:30 a.m. when we were stopped again and checked again for passports and immigration paperwork. What an experience.
Once we arrived in Kiev, we had a great time and got to the Church and began to practice and practice and practice. The kids were tired of dance practice for all day and they were happy to be finished that night as we traveled to our hotel. The next day was Saturday morning and we were off to the Event Hall to practice on stage and show the rest of Eastern Europe how great Russia really was going to be. Well, our first mishap happened just after we arrived. We were scheduled to have the stage at 9:30 a.m. for an hour of time to practice (the show was to be performed that evening at 7 p.m.). We were told that we would not be able to practice at that time but that some other countries would be taking our place and that our time would be at 12:30. We were fine with that but it turned out that we got bumped again to 3:30 p.m. The show was divided into segments of time and each country was allotted a certain amount. Since Ukraine was hosting the event and the temple was in their country, they were allotted the bulk of the time (13 minutes) in the program. Russia, due to its size and the number of participants coming from 5 separate missions throughout Russia, we were also allotted the same amount of time as Ukraine. The other countries were each allotted 3 minutes making the total time for the program about an hour. As the time for our hour on the stage arrived, we were notified that we would not get an hour… we were not just shocked but stunned. We had never practiced on this stage and we never even practiced on any stage all together. Remember, we had 5 other missions that arrived just the day before that we had never practiced together with until that time. That was a huge challenge in and of itself, so we were running scared now since the show was to begin within just a few hours. Needless to say our directors were fit to be tied and very nervous for our kids. We had 80 kids all wanting to practice their parts, in costume at least just one time. Once we got on stage, the final mishap happened… our music was on an MP3 format instead of an Audio format. This sent chills through all of us but it didn’t take long to change things and get it all together. When it was all said and done, the technicians didn’t get our slide show presentation coordinated with our music and it was all a mess. The directors wanted us off the stage and the next group on but we demanded the chance to at least go through our entire portion at least once… emotions as y’all can imagine were high and stress levels created some other challenges with some of our personnel. All in all, we got just about 25 minutes of time on stage and were nervous for the forthcoming show time. We did our best and prayed not only that we would perform well, but that the stage crew and technicians would somehow know what needed to happen on our portion since they never had a chance to go through our program once!

The time of the show arrived and makeup was frantically put on all of our participants, including our young men, which didn’t go over too well with them and gave the girls plenty of things to chat and giggle about.
About 15 minutes prior to showtime, the Prophet arrived with Elders Uchtdorf , Nelson, and their wives. The Area Presidency and their wives also arrived and the place began to settle down and prepare for the show. President Monson spent some time back stage visiting with members of the cast from different countries as well as with the Choir who spent the entire time on stage. He also went to the piano and played a little and got the attention of the audience and everyone else. Then he spent some time waving to us in the audience and then sat down. There was a make-shift rostrum set up and a short program with President Monson speaking to begin the festivities. Once that was finished he and the rest of them went to their seats in the Loge and the program began.
The program went very well for virtually every country. Those represented were: Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria, Khazakstan, Armenia, and Russia. The costumes were very colorful and the dances varied. As our kids went on stage we were all so very nervous. Our prayers were answered and the kids did just great…. Our portion wasn’t perfect technically but we did well and the audience loved their performance. We had a few “snaffoos” but all in all, things turned out fine.

The bottom line to it all was that our young people had a wonderful experience as they worked together these last 3 months. That part, the preparation, the journey, is what it is all about.
We took so many photos and if any of you are on facebook, you have seen plenty. We will post more soon, but there are hundreds of photos of every aspect of the Cultural Program.

The next day was the Temple Dedication. This part of our trip was spectacular. What an opportunity we all had to be able to go to the House of the Lord and participate fully in this historic event. This temple in Kiev is the first temple in an Eastern Area (Block) country. The temple was officially announced 12 years ago (that is not a typo) in General Conference. From the time they officially announced to the time that they were able to break ground, to the time they were able to finish, to the time they were able to open, was these 12 long years. The adversary was working double overtime to keep this temple from opening but now it is open and ready to bless the lives of the people of the Eastern European Area. People from all over this land will come to Kiev and receive the blessings of the temple. A young couple from our area who were married civilly just a few days before and participated in our portion of the Cultural Show were the first couple to be sealed in that temple just the next day (Monday) at Noon. They are just a wonderful, beautiful couple. He returned from his mission just about 8 months ago.

The Dedication ceremonies were wonderful. Our tickets allowed us to attend the Noon session which was in Russian. The other two sessions were in Ukrainian. Our kids all had tickets to attend and what an experience it was for all of them. 3 members of our branch here in Moscow participated in the Choir which was asked to sing during that session. The bulk of the rest of our group were able to sit in the temple, two in the Celestial Room and most of the rest of us in the two Sealing Rooms. What a privilege it was to sit and participate in that glorious ceremony. President Monson a few minutes prior to the session walked into both small sealing rooms and spent just a short moment and thanked us for coming and asked that we remember this day. He also came back after the session and spent a little time in each sealing room and shook hands with a few people. One of those young people was a young man in our group whose name is Nikita. He is a big boy… really big. He is the Silver Medalist in the Shot Put here in Russia. President Monson went to shake his hand and Nikita touched President Monson’s arm and said… “You are really real.” Other kids had all sorts of things to say about their experience. All had a wonderful experience.
We took lots of photos of the grounds and the Temple. It will be a light to all in that area. Soon we hope to hear of another temple to be built in Moscow. It will be interesting to see how long we wait to hear about it…., then to see it come to fruition. Hopefully we won’t have to wait 12 more years.

The trip home was a little nicer, just a little. We were still interrupted twice in the middle of the night but we paid a little extra for our tickets and came home with just the two of us in our berth. It was great.

These past 3 weeks have been extremely busy , hectic, and trying. Luckily enough we have remained healthy and “sniffle” free. Many others are sick and having health challenges. The Lord is taking care of us. We sincerely appreciate all of your continued thoughts and prayers. We need them over here. This part of the world is special. The challenges here in Russia are great but its people are great too. The work is rolling forward. As I mentioned we had 4 baptisms this past Saturday and we had 2 others the previous week. More and more people who read, ponder, and pray about the Gospel and the Book of Mormon are sincere enough to receive answers to their prayers.
I will attach a few photos for your viewing… but if you want to see many more photos… just go to our pages on Facebook.
Elder and Sister Packard

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Hey All, 8-15-10

We want to thank you one and all for your sincere thoughts and prayers in the behalf of all those who have been suffering over here. It has been quite bad for some, even fatal for others, and mild for people like us. Although just over 50 people have officially died due to the fires, the mortality rate here in Russia has doubled in the past 3 weeks since the fire began. They estimate that 15,000 people may due to the fires/smoke/smog. One of our elderly members of the Church just passed away this week. They had no A/C and no fans in their apartment. They kept the windows opened in order to have circulation in their apartment. We hear stories of many people in this same scenario that drape wet sheets and/or towels over them at night to be able to sleep comfortably. It is sad to hear stories like these. We have been inconvenienced but all in all we are very good. For the past 4 days the smoke/smog has been gone and since the temperatures have dropped significantly (10-15 degrees) everyone is much more comfortable. We have learned that the sky is indeed blue still and we are happy to have witnessed that. Today however, the smoke is back and we don't know why. We really don't follow the news here or abroad so all we can say is that our eyes and lungs recognize that something is different again and we are saddened by that. Your continued thoughts and prayers are welcomed.The work is moving forward here at a slightly increasing pace in contrast to what it was even just 6 months ago. We are excited that we have baptisms scheduled for each of the coming 7 weeks. We know that some will not come to fruition but we also know that the missionaries are working hard and the Lord will continue to bless them with others who He is preparing to receive the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Let me tell you just one story that is one of these examples of the Lord doing his part in His work. Elena is a woman who is in her late 60's. She is one of the tiniest women I have ever met. A photo will accompany this email to show you the contrast between her and Bethany. We met her three weeks ago when we attended a baptism that she attended and the missionaries asked (Sister Packard, “Bethany”) to sit with her. Of course Bethany obliged and face it folks, anyone who has the good fortune to sit next to her is going to fall in love with her and/or anything that Bethany says. The people here in Russia just adore her. Anyway, Elena immediately bonded with Bethany and Bethany with her. On Monday of the following week we had an activity that Elena sponsored which was taking us to a famous Moscow Monastery. It was a wonderful experience and we had a great time. Two days later Elena came to our home for a missionary discussion in which the missionaries told us prior that Elena was “teetering” as to what to do. She had felt the Spirit often and was sincere in her desire to know the truth of the gospel but she had so much tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church in her she was really struggling. During this discussion, Elena told an interesting story which proves my point that the Lord is involved in His work and we are just instruments in helping Him. Her story is as follows: Seven years ago she had met the missionaries and was having discussions with them and they taught her the gospel. She was nice and enjoyed the missionaries very much. She even had them teach some of her friends in her home. This went on for some time but she never could understand why the missionaries stopped coming by… (most likely because she never continued progressing toward getting baptism and the missionaries needed to move on). Anyway, seven years went by and she began feeling the desire to visit with the missionaries again… (Now with over 20 million people that live in and around Moscow and only 42 missionaries in this area, you don’t see missionaries very often, even if they are easy to recognize with their white shirts and name tags…. We don’t ride bikes here though). So she had been pondering about seeing the missionaries again. Now, just a few weeks ago, she prayed specifically to try and find them. As she was coming up out of the Metro station on the escalator, she arrived at the top, got off and as she was about ready to walk out the doors, she distinctly heard a voice which said, “Elena, look up.” She, opened the doors, looked up, and there, just a little distance off were two missionaries standing outside the Metro station. She walked right up to them and introduced herself to Elder Miller and Elder Bogdonov. Now, three weeks later she has read much of the Book of Mormon, she loves the DVD of President Thomas S. Monson (“On the Lord’s Errand”) and interestingly enough, she has learned that her baptismal date next Saturday is the same day as President Monson’s birthday. She is very excited.
In the coming weeks we have so much happening, I wanted to give you some ideas as to what we are doing. It is just a list…
Elena and Bethany

1. The Kiev Temple Cultural Event. We are in charge of Russia’s portion of the Cultural Event. This has been an overwhelming and daunting task. It is difficult to explain just how challenging this has and continues to be. Let it be known that there will be lots of room for miracles that this event comes to fruition. We have faith that it will and are working hard to make it happen. Bethany and I have been given special permission to go to the Event in Kiev and participate in it as well as be at the dedication at the Stake Center there in Kiev. No other Senior Couple missionaries have been allowed to go so we feel very honored and privileged.

2. Institute Fall Social/Kickoff. This event will be wonderful and fun. We have planned a Chuckwagon Dinner, Western Dancing, Pioneer Games, a Pioneer Movie (The Work and the Glory),and visits from Pioneers from the past. This should be a great event if we can pull it off. It is just 4 days after we get home from Kiev. Keep your fingers crossed on this one as well. Getting the food there to the event at the church is a major challenge since none of the other senior couple missionaries who are helping us have cars to drive. Everything has to be carried by hand on the Metro…. Wish us luck.
(Bethany made
this Poster)
3. Young Single Adult Choir to start up again. Those of you who have followed our choir escapades know that we have challenges in this category. We are getting familiar in how the Russian people teach and train culturally. Let me just say that it is different than we do it back home.
I just want to close by thanking you all for all you do for us out here in the mission field. Your support is greatly appreciated. Keep doing your part in helping this work move forward. We love you.

Elder and Sister Packard

Saturday, August 7, 2010

August 7th, 2010

My parents with Red Square and St. Basils Cathedral behind them
Hey Everyone,

By now most of you, if not all of you have heard of the wild fires that have taken the lives of scores of people and made life miserable for millions of people in around Moscow and across vast lands here in Russia.

Today, we have been advised by the Area Presidency to stay indoors unless you must be out for legitimate reasons. While indoors, keep your windows closed and fans going... if you have no fan and no A/C (very few people here have A/C), open your windows but drape wet sheets over your openings of your windows and allow cooler air to penetrate the house but inhibit the smoke. You guessed it, it's a mess here in Russia right now and many people are suffering horribly. An interesting sight yesterday however, many people are wearing masks now to minimize inhaling this smoke. I mentioned to Bethany in the Metro that it would be amazing and funny to see a person smoking who was wearing a mask as well. Sure enough, within about 30 minutes we saw a guy walk across the street with a mask draped over his ears with the mask under his chin and he was smoking a cigarette. Lot's of smokers here as most of you know.

I am going to include a few pictures of the smoke here in Moscow but if you want to see all of my photos, as well as get up to date info on what is going on here in Russia, please go to Facebook and check things out. Chad N Bethany Packard is our name on Facebook.

the Cathedral about 300-400 yards away

Other than the fires and smoke the work has been progressing. In the mission for the first time in years we have had baptisms every single week for the past few months and into the foreseeable future. One baptism that did not happen today to keep the streak going was one that we have been teaching in our home. I will spend the bulk of this letter discussing Ivan and his story during this letter and then I will attach the photos of the smoke.

Ivan is from Cuba and has been here a year in Moscow. He speaks Spanish of course and very little Russian and even less English. Since I served my mission in Ecuador over 30 years ago, I was asked to help the missionaries translate for him. We had great discussions with Ivan and he had a great command of the scriptures. He joined the Pentecostal Church in "Cuba" about 11 years ago and has been a preacher for them for quite some time. He loves the Lord and the scriptures and when he was given the Book of Mormon, he was enthralled with it. He had no problem reading it and had little difficulty accepting the prophet Joseph Smith as a prophet. As we got to finishing our lessons with him over the past number of weeks I could see that he may have had some other ulterior motives to learning, one of which may have been to get the Church to help him financially to leave the country and get to another country possibly a Spanish speaking country or even the U.S. He did NOT want to go back to Cuba and Cuba wouldn't take him due to the fact that he had been gone for more than a year... (not sure the significance of that but he continued to refer to that issue). The other possibility may have been that he wanted to be a preacher for the Church because that is what he did at the Pentecostal Church. Regardless, there was something that wasn't right as we continued to teach. Turns out that as we taught he continued to say that "all" religions teach the same as we were teaching, except for the Book of Mormon. He continued to press us as to what made us "different. We finally had to tell him that the real difference was that we had the "whole" truth and the "authority" to administer the ordinances of salvation and that these other churches, although well intentioned, did not have that authority. He didn't like that. He thought that we were trashing other religions but we made it very clear that all religions had some good in them... He did like that either and he began to kind of trash the Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Churches, (Interesting). What later came up was that not only did he believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet but that all of the other churches had prophets and apostles too! That is where the "rub" came and we just couldn't get past that. Both sides agreed that he was not ready to be baptized and then ultimately he said that he was going to quit going to "any" church and was just going to go around and preach from the Bible and The Book of Mormon... It was a very interesting situation. All of us bore strong testimony to him that as he continued his search for truth, that he was going to end up here again some day. I sincerely hope that this will be the case. He is a good man who loves the Lord, believes in miracles and also in latter day revelation. But he also believes that anyone can be a prophet today. He doesn't understand that in ancient times, the Lord needed multiple prophets, but that today in the age of the internet and open communication networks and things that the Lord has his "order" and has prophets, seers, and revelators, called to do the work.

This was difficult for us to let this baptismal commitment go but we also felt that he was not ready and may not be ready for quite some time.

It is great to be here in the mission field. We love the work of the Lord. It is difficult to do out here but we continue to work through the challenges. We need more missionaries, that is the bottom line. We appreciate your prayers and thoughts toward us and other missionaries in the world who need those prayers to sustain them.


Elder and Sister Packard