When a freak thunderstorm swept through Moscow June 13, toppling thousands of trees and causing millions of dollars in damage, there was little else for the missionaries to do but pick up a chain saw and join the cleanup.
"I had a hard time telling a woman we were there to talk about the [Church] while she had a tree limb in her kitchen," said Elder Wes Millard from Burley, Idaho, who is serving in the Russia Moscow Mission."It became apparent to me that we needed to do all we could to help with the cleanup, and then continue with our proselyting," he said.
Missionaries serving in Moscow in the Russia Moscow and Russia Moscow South missions joined government clean-up crews in clearing roadways, school grounds and city parks after an estimated 67,000 trees were toppled, splintered or uprooted by the storm. Some trees dated back to the time of Peter the Great.
"We have some professional lumberjacks who were pleased to show they could use a chainsaw in a professional manner," said Pres. Donald K. Jarvis of the Russia Moscow Mission, who, along with Pres. G. Lowell Wright of the Russia Moscow South Mission, mustered the missionaries into the clean-up effort.
Elder Sean King of Orofino, Idaho, and a zone leader in the Russia Moscow Mission, organized a crew of nearly 20 missionaries to clean up grounds in the "Sokol" neighborhood near the mission home.
Wearing brightly colored yellow T-shirts that bore the name of the Church, missionaries drew the attention of workers in a neighboring government office. "It was the missionaries wearing those yellow shirts that partly caught their attention," said Ron Dyer, director of the Moscow Service Center, which supplied the missionaries with chain saws, handsaws and axes.
"The big thing was the good help of all the missionaries," he said. "If they use up [the equipment] or wear it out helping the community, I think it's well worth the money. The investment in goodwill . . . is tremendous."
"We had some elders and sisters who were delighted to get out and do some physical work," said Pres. Jarvis as he considered the work of the missionaries and surveyed the debris and trees heaped in large piles along the road.
After five days of clean-up efforts, the Russia Moscow Mission estimates more than 600 man-hours were spent in the relief effort, while the Russia Moscow South Mission estimates another 200 hours spent by the approximately 50 missionaries in the city.
The thunderstorm swept through the city between 11 p.m. on June 13 and 1 a.m. on June 14. Winds reached an estimated 90 kilometers per hour and damaged close to 1,400 roof tops, including those of the Bolshoi theater and the presidential residence in the Kremlin.