LDS give comfort in absence of loved ones

With some 80 percent of its priesthood holders sent to the Persian Gulf, the Junction City Ward, Salina Kansas Stake, faces a significant challenge just to operate, reported Bishop Ronald Eugene Yenser.

The ward includes Fort Riley army post from which the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) has been deployed."We've tried to make sure we're aware who is gone and which wives and children are remaining," Bishop Yenser said. "We make sure we stay in touch with them. The Relief Society has been organizing get-togethers, an opportunity for the sisters to chat and be supportive and get a break."

The stake presidency has consulted with the bishop to coordinate assistance from other wards in the stake. The two Manhattan, Kan., wards, located on the other side of Fort Riley, will assign several couples temporarily to the Junction City Ward.

"They will function as visiting teachers, home teachers, fellowshippers, or whatever we need," the bishop said. "We figure 60 or so Melchizedek Priesthood holders are now absent from the ward, and there are only 15 or 20 left."

The ward has averaged 12 to 15 convert baptisms a month, Bishop Yenser explained, and seasoned Church members are needed to serve as stake missionaries in teaching new member lessons, or generally to fellowship the new members.

NORFOLK, VA.

  • For Carole Manley, Relief Society president in the Norfolk 1st Ward, Norfolk Virginia Stake, the last few days since the beginning of the war have been "pretty rough."

Like many members in her ward and stake, her husband was deployed to the Arabian peninsula.

"Even though we knew it might happen, it was a shock to hear the news about the war," she said.

She was on her way to a Relief Society board meeting when she heard the news that war had broken out. The meeting was canceled, but those who came leaned on each other for moral support, she said. "There were more hugs and tears. I'm glad the sisters can share that with each other. Talking helps a lot. There is a lot of support here.

Through it all, Sister Manley has felt the ward and community grow closer. "The ward is more of a family. The whole community is uniting. For myself, I know what a difference it makes when I look for the inner peace. We can get that from the gospel."

The Norfolk 1st Ward has helped members keep in touch with family by videotaping ward events. The ward Halloween Party was videotaped and made available for anybody who wanted to send a copy overseas. A ward social planned for February will give ward members another chance to talk on tape to their family members deployed.

TACOMA, WASH.

  • Members of the McChord Ward in the Lakewood Washington Stake have found comfort in the blessings of the priesthood and in scripture study.

Sondra Schilling, whose husband was released as bishop Jan. 20, said about 85 percent of ward members are in the military, most being stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma.

Her husband has been deployed to Saudi Arabia.

In the past few days, Sister Schilling has spent most of her time on the phone giving and getting support from other ward members.

"All of our husbands had blessings before they left and because of those blessings, we were comforted," she explained. "The day the war started, I never felt such comfort and peace. I couldn't comprehend that I felt that way. The gospel definitely makes it easier.

"All of the sisters share scriptures with each other," said Sister Schilling, a Relief Society teacher. "That is our biggest source of comfort."

About 70 percent of the members in the Lakewood Washington Stake are in the armed services, reported Stake Pres. Reed R. Hawkes. The stake has felt a bit of a pinch since the conflict began because many key positions had been filled by members in the military, he said.

In the meantime, visiting and home teachers have been busy keeping tabs on members.

SAN DIEGO, CALIF.

  • Amidst the worry and anxiety of having a spouse with the U.S. Armed Forces in the Persian Gulf, one Church member found some peace through serving others.

Shari Hughes of the San Diego 12th Ward, San Diego California North Stake, is a committee member for a support group of families who have loved ones deployed with an Army Reserve unit in the Arabian peninsula. She is the committee's contact person, to whom others in the support group go to or call for updated information on family members in Saudi Arabia.

Sister Hughes discovered that her service in the Church and the emergency plans she and her husband formulated through the years prepared her to be on the committee for the support group, which consists of more than 400 people.

When the military unit commander requested that she be on the committee, Sister Hughes felt it would be a good way to keep abreast on information about her husband. "I knew it was a way to be closer to my husband," she said.

Sister Hughes said helping with the support group has helped her feel more in control of her life. "I try to stay strong. If my children see me all upset, then they get upset. I remain strong because it's the only way I know to get anything done," Sister Hughes said. "The Church teaches us to be self-sufficient."