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.