Fellowship in a far-off land

William Courtney Fisher likely spent much of his recent deployment in Kyrgyzstan with a dental drill in hand, fixing the teeth of servicemen and women stationed in the former Soviet-bloc country as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

But for an hour each week, he stepped from his military duties to direct a group of Church members gathered in a tent for Sunday LDS sacrament services. The weekly congregations were small, typically no larger than a half dozen or so. Yet the gospel's spirit was strong.

Indeed, the LDS service group was a blessing for Brother Fisher and other members serving at Kyrgyzstan's Peter J. Ganci air base earlier this year. The ache of being far from family and friends during the deployment was eased a bit by the fellowship found inside the group.

"I looked forward to each Sunday," said Brother Fisher, an Air Force officer and dentist who has since returned to his home in northern Utah.

His words were echoed by Ron McCabe of South Jordan, Utah. Brother McCabe added he found relief from his six-day work weeks as an Air Force serviceman by participating in the weekly Sunday services and "home evening" gatherings.

The group consisted of U.S. service personnel from around the country performing a variety of military duties. Their weekly services were held in the base "chapel" — a tent shared by congregations of several faiths. Besides gathering in the chapel for Sunday sacrament service, the LDS group came together for ice cream parties and mid-week gospel study classes.

"No matter what the lesson, there was a lot of participation," Brother Fisher said.

Brother Fisher — who was set apart as a group leader by his stake president in Utah — generally taught the lessons. Church supplies were scarce in Kyrgyzstan, so the group leader came to depend on The Church's website provided him with priesthood lessons, talks from General Authorities and reports on the April 2002 general conference.

An LDS servicewoman also crafted a web page that allowed the group to stay in contact and post announcements throughout the week.

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