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'They need us,' says young deacon

Children in small branch in Ukraine fulfill callings; 9-year-old leads music

KYIV, Ukraine — Nastya Miroshnikova and Dmitri "Dima" Vishanov, members of the Bogatoye Branch, Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission, have entrenched their lives in the Church.

A primary class in the Bogatoye Branch, in Kyiv Ukraine.
A primary class in the Bogatoye Branch, in Kyiv Ukraine. Photo: Photo by Kenneth Ray

They attend meetings, hold important callings and volunteer to fulfill the many needs of the branch. They are also young children.

Twelve-year-old Dima's first calling came at age 7 when he became the branch greeter. Now as the only deacon in the branch, he does all the home teaching with his branch President Sergey Miroshnikov, walking an average of seven-and-a-half miles to complete their visits each month.

Nastya, 10, taught herself to lead the music at age 7 and now alternates with Dima in leading the music for the 18-member branch.

The two also started teaching themselves to play the piano out of a desire that their branch always have music, said Dima.

In Ukraine, branches of the Church are often small and require a lot of work from many members.

"Even the children are thrilled to serve," said Sister Christine Ray who has been serving with her husband, Elder Kenneth Ray, as a missionary couple in Eastern Europe for more than a year.

Sister Ray said the children are what most impresses her about the Church in Ukraine.

Nine-year-old Nastya Mroshnikova leads the music for her branch in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Nine-year-old Nastya Mroshnikova leads the music for her branch in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo: Photo by Kenneth Ray

"From the ages of about 3 and older, they are willing to do whatever they are asked and oftentimes do things without being asked," she said.

Not only are Nastya and Dima willing to serve but they take their callings very seriously.

"I was so surprised," said Sister Ray, speaking of Nastya's musical abilities. "It's not like a little kid to lead the singing. Nastya leads music as if she were an adult who has had years of training."

Recently a family of Church members was injured in a serious car accident. A 7-year-old girl and her father were hospitalized. Dima and President Miroshnikov visited the members in the hospital and brought food, since Ukrainian hospitals do not provide food for patients. Dima played games with the child, while the adults visited. It was the first time anyone had seen the little girl smile in a long time.

Dima walked nine miles to the hospital nearly every day to visit the members. When asked why he did it he simply said, "We are their home teachers and they need us."

Though the young duo's testimonies are evident in their willingness to serve in any capacity, music continues to be the preferred way of expressing them.

One Sunday, after hearing Sister Ray sing the alto part to a particular hymn, Nastya said, "I'm going to sing like you." She quickly learned to harmonize as an alto. By the next Saturday she and Sister Ray were practicing "That Easter Morn," just in time to perform it for the congregation Easter Sunday.

Sister Ray again was surprised. She said, "It is unusual for children so young to decide on their own to rehearse and sing a song in sacrament meeting."

She said Dima and Nastya's maturity is evidenced by their favorite hymns, which are "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" and "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" respectively.

Dima said the hymns help him come to know Jesus Christ and to feel the Spirit working in his life.

Dmitri Grishnakov plays the music during sacrament meeting.
Dmitri Grishnakov plays the music during sacrament meeting. Photo: Photo by Kenneth Ray

Nastya said she finds enjoyment in the hymns because they help her feel the love of Christ. The Church hymns, she said, "say what I feel, and what I would say."

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