Sister Chandler and I wish to thank you for your notes of encouragement and gratitude. We express again that it is our privilege to serve with these incredible young missionaries who continually amaze us with their constant faith, optimism, and desire to continue the Lord's work even during these uncertain times. It is so evident that they were raised in homes where they were taught to love and follow the Savior. Thank you for trusting them to the Lord and to us.
In a Zoom conference call yesterday afternoon, Elder Kopischke, Second Counselor in the Area presidency, shared the following scripture:
"Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation" (D&C 58:3).
I cannot think of a more appropriate scripture to describe the situation in which we find ourselves. The Lord knew what would come and knows what yet will come as a result of this pandemic. Although we may not know the details, we do know that much good will come because of it and that His purposes will continue to be fulfilled.
Our missionaries here in Poland are showing great resilience as they adjust and adapt to their new reality and daily routine. As you are aware, the Lord prepared our mission in the months preceding this event as we transitioned to add an on-line approach to missionary work. As a result, our missionaries are actively engaged in finding and teaching using technology and are using their time appropriately, wisely, and effectively.
One of our missionaries said it this way in his weekly letter to me (shared with his permission):
Technology is absolutely amazing. I cannot believe that about a year ago we had neither smartphones, nor facebook, nor training on how to use it effectively. These tools have become not only helpful, but indispensable in the progression of the Lord's work both in Poland and in all the world. This preparation day I have literally been saddened by the emails I have received today from friends and family members in missions across the world who, despite having smartphones and wifi, complain about the incessant boredom they feel every day because they don't know what to do with their time. I compare this to us missionaries in Poland who continue to find and teach. The work has not slowed down...here...and I am so grateful for that."
Although we are all feeling a bit more cabin-fever after another week of isolation, your sons and daughters are happy, engaged, and increasingly aware that they are part of a unique history that is being written in an unprecedented way.
Due to the many varying reports throughout the Church, social media, and others, the following should help to clarify the status of our missionaries and their future in the mission.
On March 26, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles sent a letter with the following subject: Further Adjustments to Missionary Service.
This letter included the statement: "where possible, in some areas of the world, missionaries will remain and complete their regular term of service."
Elder Brent H. Neilson, executive director of the Missionary Department then sent our mission this specific statement:
"Decisions regarding which missions this would apply to were left to the Quorum of the Twelve for implementation. These Brethren have determined that missionaries in your mission [Poland, Warsaw] will remain in place for now. This decision is subject to change, based on future direction from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles." (emphasis added)
Although some adjustments may be made to get missionaries home when flights are available (given airport closures and the significantly reduced number of flights), these adjustments will occur within the normal thirty day window of anniversary dates of service and will be left to the discretion of the mission president. For example, it is possible that our June-departing missionaries may return home in May, pending the ease or difficulty of travel as we get closer to June. We certainly pray, however, that this crisis will be in our rearview mirror in a couple of months and that they will return home as scheduled in June.
In addition, missionaries with health concerns will not be required to return home unless recommended to do so by the mission president, in consultation with the family. This decision is dependent on many factors. I appreciate those of you with whom I have recently conversed regarding a specific missionary. Your faith and trust in the Lord is remarkable!
At this time, NONE of our missionaries (younger or senior) will be returning home. Based on the current guidelines, we are cautiously optimistic that each missionary will complete their full-time mission as planned. Of course, this is a very fluid and dynamic situation and these decisions are subject to change.
Regarding the work, we have seen miracles and blessings since self-isolating began nearly 2 1/2 weeks ago. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
Baptisms! We had two today in Warsaw and have another 16 scheduled in April. One of today's baptisms was the mission's first "Facebook Baptism." She was contacted by the assistants on Facebook about 8 weeks ago, came to sacrament meeting the next Sunday with her daughter, and was baptised today. We know there are many more like her who will be found through technology.
Prior to COVID-19, Facebook work accounted for approximately 25% of new people found each week and 35% of non-members in sacrament meeting. We are seeing similar numbers of individuals being added each week to the teaching pools but, of course, they are now nearly all from Facebook. This has naturally led to an increase in the percentage of those found through technology who are attending sacrament meeting.
Nearly half of the persons being taught are participating in sacrament meeting via technology. According to missionary department guidelines, their "technological participation" in these meetings counts toward the required number of sacrament meetings needed for baptism.
The missionaries faith and trust in the Lord is increasing as they embrace this unique time to serve and to be part of history as a missionary. They are thinking more deeply about life, goals, relationships, and what really matters most. This is clearly a refining experience for them.
Gospel knowledge is deepening as they spend more time in the scriptures and other approved sources.
Some missionaries are getting into great shape as they spend an hour each day exercising.
The mission is united in a way not seen before. Through daily devotionals, Zoom zone conferences, regular media shares, and messenging about the work throughout the day, they feel closer than ever. This has lifted the mission as they experience a truly life-changing event together. There is also a palpable connection to the other missions in Europe and throughout the world.
As I see these blessings and the literal miracles that are unfolding, I am reminded of the following scripture:
"The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught" (see D&C 3:1-3).
How grateful Siostra Chandler and I are for the privilege to serve with your sons and daughters at this historic time and to see the works, and designs, and purposes of God come to pass in Poland.
As a mission, we are joining Prezydent Nelson and his invitation to fast so that there may be relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. We trust the Lord and His purposes and know that He is in control and will continue to protect His servants. We have seen that protection as our missionaries remain physically and spiritually healthy.
We pray that the Lord will continue to watch over and bless each of you and your families.
With love and gratitude,
David L. Chandler
Polska Warszawska Misja