sunday was a very exciting day for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Saint Petersburg. we'd missed church for the past two weeks because of our vacation and were VERY excited to be back and see all the people we've missed so much. when we got there, we noticed that the chapel was about twice as full as it usually is and that just seemed odd in Russia. we later realized it was because multiple branches were there. there was also some guys sittin up on the stand that none of us recognized. i've been kind of getting used to surprises like that, for a few reasons. one, we don't know everyone. two, random people just seem to show up at church all the time... general authorities, the district president, and a few other others. three, we never really have any forewarning about things like this, because half the time we don't know what's going on in the opening, even with a translator, because we don't know many people.
anyways, focusing. so, we had one of our weekly friendly missionaries sittin behind us like always, and opening exercises for sacrament meeting began. who we found out to be the mission president got up and starting speaking to the congregation, with a translator. he started out speaking in russian, then said what he had to say was important, so he would say it in english. score. i love it when the speakers in church speak my language :) he started talking about changes. and how changes can be difficult, but that they're a good thing and bring about growth. he talked about how these changes have been thought out prayerfully and approved by the area seventy, the quorum of the twelve, and the church presidency. my mind instantly started hoping that we were about to be made the first stake in st. petersburg! something everyone here has been hoping and working for. but, the more the mission president talked, the less that seemed to be the case. he talked about how blesssings come from obedience. at about this point he'd been talking like this for about a solid 5 minutes, plus having a translator. and ya know how like in general conference when they're about to announce the new temples they take forever to explain how they decided where the temples were needed and everyone (and by everyone i mean myself) starts to get REALLY impatient because they just want to know where the temples will be?
yeah. it felt like that. i realize now that i really need to work on patience...
so finally, the mission president announced the changes. my branch, which i still don't know the name of, was to be split. they were changing the boundaries of the other branches, and ours was joining the others. i think it was 84 of the farther south members would join one branch, and everyone else to another. and then the two branch presidencies were realized followed by everyone in those branches. everyone was released at the same time. it was pretty sweet. the mission president went on to talk about how important it was for members to go where their records are and to be obedient and that he realizes that our ward/branch in the church becomes our family, but that everyone needs to reach out especially now to the people in their new branches and make them their family, and still remain close to their friends, and the people they became separated from.
when the changes were announced, it wasn't hard for me to see why. it completely made sense. make the branches bigger, so that they seem more like wards and are fuller. it didn't seem like a big deal to me and i didn't understand why the mission president seemed so worried and spent so much time encouraging people to be obedient. and then i started thinking about my home ward. everyone has always said it will never happen, that the corvallis ward will never split, but it's been gettin bigger and bigger lately. all i could think about at that point was how hard it would be if that ever happened. i couldn't imagine my corvallis ward family without everyone in it. and then i realized that our branch had become another ward family for me, and i started thinking about all the people i had already come to love and care about there and wondering if we would still be in the same place. and then i started to understand why the mission president was concerned, and why it could be hard for people to be obedient.
and so what's the point in all this? why am i so excited about it? because in order for st. petersburg to become a stake, first the branches have to function like wards. you can't have wards, until you have a stake, and you can't have a stake until you have wards (or at least branches that function in the same way). makes sense, right? well, making the branches bigger, and more like wards, helps the people prepare spiritually and physically- a gathering of israel i guess you could say. and although i was disappointed to realize that st. petersburg wouldn't become a stake while i was here, even though they seem to be getting close, i've still gotten to experience being a part of the process. i've gotten to see the church grow, and transition, experience an aspect of the church that i haven't seen before. and for that experience, i'm very grateful, and my faith has grown in knowing that the Lord is always mindful of His church and people, and knows far better than we do of what is needed to help it grow. maybe someday we'll have one of these in russia!