'Fellowcitizens with the Saints'

Embassy, hospital staffs impressed by care given by 'perfect strangers'


The Apostle Paul taught the saints at Ephesus that as members of the Church they were "no more strangers and foreigners but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19-20).

I have heard that the Church is the same wherever you go and in my experience that statement has always proved to be true. How grateful I am that my family and I are fellow citizens with the saints wherever the saints are found. My family and I reside in Ethiopia where I work at the United States Embassy.

In May 2008, Audra, my wife, was flown to London to undergo an examination on a lingering foot injury. I remained in Ethiopia to work and to care for our three school-aged children. As the doctor in London examined my wife's foot, to our surprise, he recommended immediate surgery. Suddenly, my wife found herself in a foreign land facing surgery and an extended recovery period with no family and no friends — at least that is what we thought.

On the Sunday prior to her surgery, my wife attended the Hyde Park Ward in downtown London, a ward that I am told is accustomed to having numerous visitors from the many Latter-day Saint tourists and travelers to London. Still, members of the Church were quick to introduce themselves and inquire into the purpose of her visit to London.

When the members of that ward became aware of my wife's circumstances they immediately rallied to her aid. Sister missionaries who work at the Family History Center accompanied my wife to the hospital and stayed with her not only before surgery, but also during and after the surgery as well. These sisters also e-mailed me immediately following Audra's surgery to advise me of the status of the operation.

Others in the ward helped transport my wife from the hospital back to her hotel room. During the next two weeks as my wife recovered in her hotel room she received several visits and phone calls from ward priesthood and Relief Society leaders. Others invited her into their homes to enjoy a meal and much-needed company. Still others ensured she had all the things she needed that she could not get for herself.

The service of the ward was such that it gained the attention of both the hospital staff and the U.S. Embassy staff in London involved in my wife's wellbeing. Many mentioned how impressed they were with the care provided by "perfect strangers," not understanding that as members of the Church we are "no more strangers — but fellowcitizens with the saints" no matter where we are or what circumstance we face.

Gary R. Sombke is president of the Bekulobet Branch in Addis Ababa. He and his family are from the Centreville 1st Ward, Centreville Virginia Stake. They have lived in Ethiopia for two years.

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