“You Are Not Forgotten,” Elder Rasband Tells LDS Troops

Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor

  • 21 May 2015

Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Sister Melanie Rasband pose with LDS personnel at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Among those in the photo are Bahrain Stake President Kent Christensen and his wife, Melanie, near left on second row; and Kuwait City Ward Bishop Terence Harradine, at left on third row.  Photo courtesy of MSG Gary L. Qualls Jr.

Article Highlights

  • While Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Sister Melanie Rasband were on assignment to the Middle East, they visited with LDS troops at Camp Arifjan on Tuesday, April 28.
  • Sister Rasband shared her experience as a child with a military father.
  • The LDS troops were reassured that they are loved and never forgotten.

“The main thing I wanted them to know is that they are not forgotten, that we love them and are grateful for their service.” —Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy has seen much of the world in his 15 years as a General Authority. He has spoken to congregations numbering in the hundreds at stake centers and thousands at special events in arenas. However, the meeting that will live forever in his memory, he feels, is one attended by about two dozen people in a low-ceilinged room not much bigger than a two-car garage.

That meeting, held in an interfaith chapel at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, concluded Elder Rasband’s 15-day assignment to the Middle East.

His assignments included reorganizing the Jerusalem District, dividing the Jordan District, and creating the Beirut Lebanon District.

While Elder Rasband was in Kuwait City with his wife, Sister Melanie Rasband, for a meeting with members there, Manama Bahrain Stake President Kent Christensen and Kuwait City Ward Bishop Terence Harradine arranged for them to meet with LDS troops at Camp Arifjan on Tuesday afternoon, April 28.

Elder Rasband said, “This camp is on the doorstep of war and is active and busy.” The LDS members who could be contacted and were not on duty or deployed attended the meeting.

“I told them that if President Thomas S. Monson could be there with them, he would tell them how much he loves them and how grateful he is for their service in representing our country and for their faithfulness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Elder Rasband said the service members were very interested in knowing about how the gospel is spreading throughout the world and how the Church is involved in humanitarian work. “I noted that the Church has congregations in Jerusalem, Beirut, Cairo, Bethlehem, and Jordan, among other places in that part of the world, and that there are two stakes in the Middle East, the Abu Dhabi Stake in the United Arab Emirates and the Manama Bahrain Stake.”

Sister Melanie Rasband, at left, remembers when her father, then Major Blaine E. Twitchell, returned from Korea when she was five. Photo courtesy of Sister Melanie Rasband.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband addresses LDS personnel at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Sister Melanie Rasband, wearing a yellow jacket, is seated on the right of the room. Photo courtesy MSG Gary L. Qualls Jr.

He explained how the Church works with other organizations, such as the Red Crescent Society—the equivalent to the Red Cross—and other groups throughout the world in doing humanitarian work.

He said the highlight of the meeting was when Sister Rasband spoke. “They were interested in what I said, but she moved them to tears. I delivered a message, but she spoke to their hearts.”

Sister Rasband is no stranger to military bases, but she felt what she described as “sombered” as they arrived at Camp Arifjan. She noticed particularly a large sign that reminded her that they were in a staging area for war.

In a conversation with the Church News, she described her feelings as she watched the service members during the meeting.

As she spoke to them, she reflected on her family’s military background.

“I remember when my dad left for Korea for a year when I was four years old. I remember being at the airport where we walked out onto the tarmac and, as we left, kneeling in the car looking out the back window with tears in my eyes, wondering why we had to leave him there. I remember what it was like having him gone and going to the airport when he came home.”

She shared those memories with the LDS personnel at Camp Arifjan, giving them a child’s view of a parent’s absence during military deployment. Perhaps some of the soldiers’ children have experiences similar to the ones she had as a young girl.

Sister Rasband said she was keenly aware of the soldiers’ love for their families. She spoke of one soldier, one of their escorts, who showed them pictures of his family. “We were asking questions about the military base but he wanted to share things about his family,” she said.

Of her message to the service members in the meeting, she said, “I told them the army life has been dear to my heart, and being with them brought back memories of my full-bird colonel father [Blaine E. Twitchell], who passed away four years ago. I told them that they and their families are being prayed over by congregations throughout the world. I spoke of how my mother relied on prayers.

“The main thing I wanted them to know is that they are not forgotten, that we love them and are grateful for their service. I told them I hope they will be at peace, that their families will be OK, and that they will feel the comfort of the Holy Ghost.”

Sister Rasband said they were on the base at dusk. “Taps started to play,” she said. “Our driver stopped the vehicle, got out and saluted until it was done. That flooded back memories of seeing and hearing that when I was a child. I had forgotten that sweet little thing.”

Elder and Sister Rasband were accompanied to the base by President Kent Christensen and his wife, Sister Melanie Christensen, and Bishop Terence Harradine.