Church hosts picnic for diplomats

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve joined ambassadors and embassy officials from 40 nations at the fourth annual "Western Family Picnic" Oct. 8.

The picnic, held at the Marriott Farm in rural Hume, Va., was hosted by Dick and Nancy Marriott, Pierce and Beverly Campbell, the Women's International Committee and the International Affairs Office of the Church in Washington D.C.The day was one of warm camaraderie and goodwill as an unprecedented number of ambassadors and deputy ambassadors, along with their families, joined in the festivities. Filled with brilliant sunshine and falling autumn leaves, the day caused one ambassador to express, "Never have I experienced more beautiful weather - God must surely love the Mormons."

Suits and ties, standard dress of the Washington diplomatic communities, were replaced with cowboy hats, bandanas and jeans. Activities were plentiful. There was a chance to "swing your partner" to music played by a bluegrass band, to go for a jaunt in an authentic western stagecoach and to enjoy a hayride through the picturesque Virginia countryside.

A display of memorabilia focusing on the pioneer history of the Church, along with a musket and gun exhibition showing "how the West was won," were

hits. Elder Ballard said he welcomes this activity as a way of thanking members of the diplomatic corps for the hospitality their nations have shown to members of the Church who reside in their countries. He noted, "Events such as this are mutually supportive and are joyous ways of extending hands of friendship, and offer positive opportunities to develop and expand relationships with ambassadors and embassies."

The day also marked Elder Ballard's birthday. Helping to blow out the birthday candles on his cake were ambassadors from such diverse nations as Switzerland, Swaziland, Sri Lanka and Slovenia. "Happy Birthday" rang out later for Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich of Israel as they found they shared a common birthdate. This elicited a lively discussion as to who was the elder.

One ambassdor commented that with the busy schedules of ambassadors in the nation's capital this is one of the few places they can come to know other ambassadors and their families and make new friends outside the diplomatic community. Not only do the diplomats meet new friends but they have a chance to meet and converse on current significant issues affecting their respective

countries. In addition to the regular International Hosting group, many members of the LDS Congressional delegation traveled the 45 miles to assist in hosting this event. Despite a late-night Congressional session on Oct. 7 and a special Senate vote on Oct. 8, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada arrived just in time to play shuffleboard with the ambassadors of Morocco, New Zealand and Slovenia, while his wife, Landra, was talking with the Ambassador and Mrs. Andrew J. Jacovides of Cyprus. Sen. Robert F. Bennett of Utah was having a long quiet chat on issues of mutual importance with the acting ambassador of India while wife Joyce joined key embassy officials on a hayride.

For many, this annual event is looked forward to with great anticipation and joyous reunions. As the nametags of one ambassador and his wife were whisked away by a sudden burst of wind, she commented, "That's all right, our friends know us here - we're old hands at this picnic."

Embassy children look forward to coming to the picnic as well. The deputy ambassador of the Czech Republic arrived with his two children tugging at his arms to get to the play area. "They were up before the sun this morning wanting to know when we could go to the ranch," he said.

As diplomats expressed appreciation at having such a friendly, fun event for the whole family, the number of guests swelled to more than 300. Joy Korologos, chair of the Women's International Committee, played a key role in the organization of the day's activities. She marvelled, "This event gets better and bigger each year."

Her husband, Tom, serves each year as a roving photographer, capturing human interest shots of the little ones getting their faces painted, riding ponies or playing such games as soccer, volleyball, frisbee or horseshoes. The pictures are later sent on to the respective families.

One of the day's highlights was 12 year-old Erin Johnson's interpretation of the Mormon Trek westward. Several ambassadors and others were deeply touched and approached their hosts wishing to know more about the Mormons' story. Ralph Hardy, chairman of the Public Affairs Committee, reflected, "The value of this event which allows the members of the diplomatic community to meet and spend time together with members of the Church's Washington International Hosting Committee in a relaxed atmosphere cannot be

overestimated." A gift presented to each dignitary and his family was selected to give additional insights into the hosts' common heritage and history. A small replica of a buffalo skull with the insignia "All is Well" emblazoned on its front accompanied a story telling of the heroic struggle of the LDS pioneers as they moved westward.

"Memories of the picnic likely will last long," said Susan Faust, a member of the Women's International Committee. Her husband, Marcus, commented, "I think the Marriott Farm has the feeling of a home place for some of the

diplomats." As appreciation was expressed to the Marriotts for such an ideal location for this event, Sister Marriott replied: "I am sure that there's nothing that father Marriott would enjoy more than having this farm used for this purpose. In fact, I think he must have arranged this magnificent

weather."' Brother Marriott remarked on his pleasure at having "this opportunity to serve as a support system to these diplomats as they make a place for themselves and their children in their new homes in the United



Nations represented at Western picnic

Ambassadors and embassy officials from 40 nations participated in the fourth annual "Western Family Picnic" on Oct. 8. Nations represented included the following:

Albania Israel

Armenia Lithuania

Azerbaijan Malaysia

Bahrain Mauritania

Belarus Moldova

Botswana Morocco

Bulgaria New Zealand

Cameroon Pakistan

China Philippines

Croatia Russia

Cyprus Slovak Republic

Czech Republic Slovenia

Denmark SriLanka

Ecuador Swaziland

Egypt Switzerland

Fiji Syria

Germany Ukraine

Greece Yemen

Hungary Zaire

India Zambia

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