T'BLISI, Georgia In the country of the Republic of Georgia, smaller than the state of Utah, the gospel is taking firm root. Georgia is located south of Russia and is part of the Armenia Yerevan Mission.
The land was dedicated by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve for the preaching of the gospel on March 15, 1999. The first senior couple sent to Georgia as humanitarian missionaries arrived in June of that year. Phil and Betty Reber of St. George Utah, serving in Russia Rustov Mission, were transferred to serve in Georgia.
More senior couples were sent to care for humanitarian work in orphanages, schools and in teaching English.
In June 2002, a branch was organized with Church meetings being conducted in Russian. Elder Blaine Wilson was called as the first branch president. The Church was registered in August 2005 as a foundation, paving the way for full-time missionaries.
Mission President Lamar Bartholomew brought four full-time missionaries to Georgia on March 31, 2006. Elders Aaron Seiter of Tempe, Ariz., and Richard Brown of Orem, Utah, had been serving in Russia Rustov Russia and Elders Dylan Feik of Mountain Green, Utah, and Alex Booth of Bellingham, Wash., had been serving in Armenia.
They learned their respective mission languages and, when arriving in Georgia, were able to communicate with the members, many of whom spoke Armenian and Russian.
The missionaries began learning Georgian. Their success in teaching and baptizing led to the call of more missionaries. Two senior couples now serving in Georgia are Elder C. Joseph and Sister Arlene Rowberry of Provo, Utah, serving as country directors over Humanitarian Services, and Elder R. David and Sister Caroline Blunck of Santa Clara, Utah, proselyting missionaries. Both couples teach English conversation classes and serve in the branch.
President Victor Khatsevich, the first local branch president, was sustained April 2, 2006. The branch has grown to the point that plans are now being made to divide.
For many years while Georgia was under communist rule, people were not allowed to worship according to the dictates of their consciences. In 1991, following communist domination, the people were hungry for the gospel, a hunger that is now being satisfied.
One member, Eleonora Arakelova, recently bore her testimony, saying, "Since I have come to Church I have come alive again." Contributed by Arlene Rowberry