Two months after participating in a single adult conference for Latter-day Saints living in the Middle East, Katie Shaler still feels the impact of gathering with others who share her beliefs.
“It was wonderful!” she said. “It was a joy to meet those who try to live their lives the way I try to, the way the gospel teaches us to. It strengthened my faith and renewed my vigor to continue to try my best to live a gospel-centered life.”
Single adults from nine countries in the Middle East — native to six continents — gathered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 5-7 for the conference and an interfaith humanitarian project.
They participated in many social activities, attended sacrament meeting and a devotional, and took part in workshops on relationships, finance, family history, careers and scripture study.
The participants also assembled and distributed 8,500 hygiene kits and food packages to laborers for Diwali as part of a service project sponsored by LDS Charities and the Gurunanak Darbar Sikh Gurudwara of Dubai.
Sister Shaler, who was on the planning committee for the conference, said the service project was amazing.
“What I really liked was working side by side with those of another faith. Much good was done as we labored together in love.”
Sister Shaler said she learned from the conference that there is strength in numbers.
“I think we showed and will continue to show the positive outcomes that come from those that gather for a good cause, a righteous one really. There is much good in the Middle East and most of it is overlooked. There are good people. We came together to work and to serve those less fortunate than us. It was heartfelt.”
The theme was “One Heart and One Mind,” in Arabic kullina waaHid which means “We Are One,” said Sandy Singer, Church public affairs director for the Abu Dhabi Stake which hosted the conference.
She said great unity came as the participants in the conference served together.
“We have a survey up on our Facebook group that asks, ‘What do you want to do at the next single adult conference?’ Leading the results — humanitarian service project.”
Mark Thomas said his favorite part of the conference was the service. “It can be hard to find opportunities to do service in the UAE, and particularly in such an impactful way,” he said.
Brother Thomas is new to the Middle East, but said it was reassuring to see that there are so many single adults in the region.
“The ethnic, national and socioeconomic diversity at the conference was amazing.”
Cooper Douglas Anyanwu, who will begin missionary service in the England Leeds Mission this month, said being with other Latter-day Saints was like being in heaven. “I learned that all Latter-day Saints are one big family, irrespective of who we are or where we come from,” he said. “I love this Church.”
Morad Tashman enjoyed sharing all that is sweet about the gospel during the conference. He tried to use his time wisely, so he did not waste any opportunity to be with others who share his values.
Myrrene Lamoglia said she most enjoyed the sacrament meeting.
Those who participated in the conference “came because of one thing — hope in Christ.”
“On that Sabbath morning, sitting on the pews of a dedicated chapel in an Islamic country were single adults with diverse nationalities and backgrounds, living under distinct circumstances in different cities in the region, with varying degrees of discipleship but all carry in their hearts a testimony of Jesus Christ. That is the one heart and one mind that Christ offers to this troubled, confused and chaotic world.”
She said she was greatly uplifted and inspired by the messages.
“During the community service project, we were introduced to the Sikh community based in Dubai and their beliefs,” she said, noting they provide free food every day of the year. “It was a good opportunity to serve alongside other Latter-day Saints to help those in need, which is something most, if not all, have experienced within the Church and outside Church settings, but what made it wonderful was the experience to work with and be with those not of our faith who also love God and happily share their blessings, time and talent with their fellowmen. Observing them and their act of kindness inspired me to be better in serving others.”
Carlos Nassif said it touched his heart to be with so many other Latter-day Saints. He was asked to share his conversion story during sacrament meeting and said he was strengthened and edified by the other members.
EuloGio Sabal Jr. was touched by Brother Nassif’s testimony and testimony of the Book of Mormon.
“He said, ‘It is so powerful that I could never deny the truthfulness of it.’ ”
Even though Latter-day Saints are limited in the way they can share the gospel in the Middle East, “we never lose hope,” said Brother Sabal.
He hopes there will be similar conferences in the future, “where we meet and share our testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He has remembered the words of Elder Gary S. Price, an Area Seventy who spoke at the conference. “He told us to remember who we are . He counseled us to accept the invitation to follow Christ and accept, commit and make a change in our lives.”
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