Saturday, January 10, 2009

Zone Conference and the Bay of Riga

Tuesday was Zone Conference with just the Latvian-speaking missionaries and it was wonderful. President Dance challenged last month to read the Book of Mormon on a reading schedule, underlining each reference to our Savior Jesus Christ. It's been a wonderful experience. So, the first part of the conference was a discussion about what we are learning and anything we would like to share. I'm so impressed with these young elders and sisters. They are bright, sharp, and humble.

After eating a sack lunch, we boarded a Greyhound-type bus for a drive of about half an hour to Jurmala, which is a kind of resort-like place on the Bay of Riga. We had had quite a bit of snow in the area and there are so many trees that it was a winter wonderland and my first experience away from tall buildings and no open areas. Jurmala is a place with lovely homes and hotels. We got off the bus and walked perhaps a couple of blocks and there before us was a large beach and the beautiful Baltic Sea. It was quite breathtaking to see. Of course, the famous white sands were covered with several inches of white snow and the waves breaking against the shore were creating ice mounds.

We walked out onto the beach and gathered together--about 27 of us) and had our picture taken. We sang a hymn and then Sister Dance told us a bit about the beginnings of the Church in Latvia. President Dance then handed out laminated copies of the prayer offered by President James E. Faust on 17 March 1993, dedicating the country of Latvia for the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The prayer he offered was so tender and spoke of the love the Lord has for all of His children and His awareness of their situations. He desires to bless them.

It was a moving experience to be there where that prayer was offered, before when there were only two members of the Church living in Latvia (they had been baptized in Russia where they were students). The Church in these nearly 16 years now has three Districts and 16 branches, with a 17th soon to be organized.

The temperature was below zero and the wind was bitter cold, but it was a wonderful experience to be there.

And the people in the Baltic States are hardy people. There were quite a few people strolling on the snow-covered beach, and families with children playing on the beach. They do know how to dress for the weather here. Many women here wear fur coats, of all kinds of fur. I guess PETA hasn't arrived here yet.

As a side note, President Dance had asked me to type the dedicatory prayers for each of the three Baltic countries, in a font small enough to fit into the little white handbook folders the missionaries carry. It was a blessing for me to read each of the prayers, given by three different Apostles of the Lord. I typed them, printed enough copies, and then laminated them. So, there were things for me to learn and, as always, when we are challenged to learn something new, it's exciting to see the end result.

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