Working in the Baltic Mission

We started working in the office and quickly settled into a routine, with nothing significant seemingly happening. We get up early, prepare for the day, and then walk to the office. It is our habit to get there early, before anyone else, although sometimes the Assistants to the President beat us, but only when they have some pending deadline. We took the time a day at a time and watched the weeks flow by until I noticed it would be only three months until President and Sister Boswell would be leaving the Mission. We knew who the replacement would be but it hadn’t dawned on us how eminent that was.

In April, I felt it would be good to hold a Senior Missionary Conference so I queried everyone looking for a suitable date prior to President and Sister Boswell’s departure. By the time I received all the answers and determined the soonest date it could be held, that date got preempted by a special Priesthood Meeting. So we cancelled the Senior Missionary Conference.

This was not a bad thing because the Priesthood Meeting was to actually be two Saturday Meetings attended by six General Authorities, led by Elder David Bednar. The original plan was for them to do the first one on May 24 in Russian originating from Moscow then do the second one May 31 from Kiev, Ukraine. The hostilities in the Ukraine caused a change in venue to Riga, Latvia which meant we would host a major Priesthood broadcast from our Imanta Chapel, the only Chapel we have in Riga, and would have the six General Authorities here in Riga, something quite extraordinary and unprecedented.

This Priesthood meeting was to be given in English with Russian Translation available to attendees in the Chapel but with simultaneous translation into as many as five other languages, perhaps more. Three translation booths were set up in the back of the Chapel with the rest of the space filled with about 140 chairs. Priesthood leaders were invited to come from the four countries making up the Baltic Mission; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus, but the proceedings were sent by the Internet to Salt Lake City where additional translation was done and the meeting rebroadcast to other countries by satellite, ultimately covering nine countries.

Attending were Elder David Bednar of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Ronald Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Gerald Causse of the Presiding Bishopric; Elder Lawrence; President of the Europe East Area and Elder Senkans, the Second Counselor of the Europe East Area. I believe there was another Area Authority Seventy with them making the total number six General Authorities.

Elder Bednar Arriving at the Imanta Chapel

Elder Bednar Arriving at the Imanta Chapel

The Priesthood meeting began with a series of introductions, and then Elder Bednar asked “What are your church concerns that keep you awake at night?” After consolidating the responses from the audience, he made this list which became the topics that would be discussed in the meeting:
• Finding joy in the Gospel
• Helping youth to become converted
• Assisting others
• Correctly using the resources of the Church
• Hastening the work
• Receiving answers to prayers
• Conflict
• Family history work

Elder Bednar taught in a manner I had not seen before, based on drawing the answers from the group by asking questions then questioning more deeply to more fully understand the answer. It was a wonderful meeting. After it was completed, Elder Rasband went to Lithuania to hold a Missionary Zone Conference and District Conference for members there, Elder Causse went to Estonia and Elder Bednar stayed in Riga.

The next hour, Elder Bednar attended a Latvian Missionary Zone Conference where he taught for another three hours, using the same method he had used in the pervious meeting. This time, he told us to not take notes because we would never refer back to them, so my notes stop and I cannot recall the details, other than to report the spirit was there in great abundance.

Sunday, June 1, Elder Bednar presided over a Latvia District Conference held in the Latvian World Trade Center where about 300 members and investigators gathered to hear him. Unfortunately, the contractor who was to have provided the sound equipment failed to do so causing us to hold the conference by voice power alone. The meeting was held in English and was translated into Latvian by the translator standing next to the speakers. Since this would be the last gathering of the Latvian members for President and Sister Boswell, they each spoke, then Sister Bednar spoke with Elder Bednar taking the last hour. He moved to the front of the podium directly in front of the audience with his translator at his side and delivered a masterful message about Joseph Smith’s first prayer and the historic beginnings of the church which was directed to both the investigators and members. After the meeting, Elder Bednar shook hands with everyone who wished to shake his hand. Personally, for the three meetings I attended, I was able to shake his hand four times.

June was the final month of President and Sister Boswell’s mission, so they completed their travel around the Mission, visiting each congregation expressing their love for the people and saying their ‘good byes’.

Those of us in the office pondered what we could do to give them a proper send off gift. I commented that when we left Cambodia, I had instructed our close friends that I did not want and could not take any big heavy thing on the plane because our bags would be packed and weighed precisely, therefore to please do not give us things at the airport. What they did give us was a Cambodian Flag embroidered with our names and dates of service and a message of love. I suggested we find a suitable Latvian Flag and embroider on it their names, dates of service and the name of the Mission. With the Help of one of the branch presidents, Sasha, we were able to pull it off.
President and Sister Boswell with the Latvian Flag

President and Sister Boswell with the Latvian Flag

Sister Tuck had the idea of sending an email to all the missionaries and branch leaders asking for a letter of appreciation that would be put in a book and handed to the Boswells as they left. All this was done covertly and Sister Tuck received more than a hundred notes which she put together in a word document, printed and bound and then handed to them as they left. We also gave them the source documents on a thumb drive so they could add any other letters of appreciation they might receive and reprint the book as they wanted.

Sister Tuck and I determined we would like to have a private dinner at our home with President and Sister Boswell and the other Senior Couples here in Riga, so we asked if they could come to our apartment the last Monday evening they would be in Riga. Sister Boswell said they would and that she would make it happen, enabling us to have a very pleasant evening with President and Sister Boswell, Elder and Sister Terry, and Elder and Sister Atkinson. Much to our surprise, everyone lingered for several hours listening to stories from the Boswells. We felt blessed to have had this opportunity.
Dinner with Riga Seniors

Dinner with Riga Seniors

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