BETA

Service project binds welsh community

Three-and-a-half years ago John Kidgell set about to save a Baptist church in Wales from closure and demolition.

The Carmel Chapel, which had been built in 1844 and had not been used for more than 20 years, was in a state of decay; the carpet was rotten, the walls were riddled with wood worm and dry rot, and the grounds and graveyard were overgrown and dangerous.And Mr. Kidgell, secretary of the Calvinistic Baptist congregation - which then consisted of about three elderly women - knew he could not do the work alone.

"I was called upon to open this and I was desperate for help. I had no help at all," he said. "I had never done anything like this before."

Mr. Kidgell, a history teacher, said the only thing he had going for him was a knowledge of a group of Latter-day Saints who worshiped in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, in a church not far from the 151-year-old Carmel Chapel. He located the bishop and asked for any assistance the ward could give him.

The Latter-day Saints, Mr. Kidgell said, did not let him down.

David Jeffrey Harris, bishop of the Merthyr Tydfil Ward, Merthyr Tydfil Wales Stake, said he felt inspired to help.

He provided the congregation with 20 LDS hymn books, 20 copies of the King James version of the Bible and a set of chairs. He also suggested that many ward members might be able to help clean up the Welsh chapel.

Bishop Harris said much of the work was done by his ward's more than 40 youth and their advisers during a 42-month period.

"The youth loved it," Bishop Harris said. "They learned tolerance for other religions. . . . I think our youth have recognized that people of other religions are just as committed to their religions as Latter-day Saints are."

Bishop Harris said the project also gave the youth the opportunity to be of service within their own community.

"When they pass the chapel they will think to themselves with pride, `I was part of helping that chapel be reopened,' " he said.

Mr. Kidgell called the ward's youth "fine people."

"They have been really wonderful to me and have gained my upmost respect," he said. "I have always told them, `I know your chapel is much, much bigger than ours and we probably wouldn't ever be able to help you in any practical way like this. But if ever I hear anybody running down The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our chapel will be in the forefront defending them.'

"We owe them such a debt of friendship and such a debt of gratitude. I just thank the Lord that they were there, that we could call on them and that we have become such good friends."

Mr. Kidgell explained that the service from Church members had a mushrooming effect throughout the community, and that many local residents pitched in to help after seeing LDS people lending assistance.

The Carmel Chapel re-opened and was re-dedicated June 9. Today between 20 and 24 members attend weekly services in the building, and 15 children attend Sunday school. The Latter-day Saints, Mr. Kidgell said, helped it happen.

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