1980 was a time of great changes for our family. Our oldest daughter went on a mission to Scotland, our son joined the Royal Air Force, and my husband, Norman, was assigned to Cyprus. To be honest, I did not want to go. For many weeks after the three of us arrived (our sixteen-year-old daughter, Louise, came with us), I was very homesick.
I suspect I should have been prepared for the aloneness I felt. We joined the Church in Bangor, Northern Ireland, in 1956, but my husband is in government service and we’ve spent many years living in remote places where the gospel has barely penetrated. For me at such times, the loneliness has been mitigated only by immersing myself in Church service and feeling the support of branch members.
Occasionally, we have the best of both worlds as when, from 1975 to 1978, we went to Hong Kong, where as many as fourteen different nationalities work together in harmony in the English-speaking branch of the Church there.
But Cyprus was very different from Hong Kong. As far as we could determine, there were no Latter-day Saints in Cyprus other than ourselves.
Norman conducted our home sacrament meetings and we studied together, but I missed meeting with others. One Sunday when Norman had to work, I decided to visit the tiny interdenominational church in the village where we live. There were only four in the congregation, and so when the Scots Army chaplain appealed for Sunday School teachers, I found myself after the meeting offering my services.
Through the chaplain I learned of an army family about six miles away who turned out to be the only other Latter-day Saint family in the area. They and their four children were as happy to see us as we were to see them, and we now hold all our meetings together every Sunday. Our current aim is to increase our congregation with investigators.
I continued to attend the interdenominational Sunday School and found teaching the gospel to non-Mormon children a challenge. I was soon sending home for my visual aids and reference books.
Next came the opportunity to edit the village newspaper. In an early editorial I expressed some of my religious beliefs. Since then many of our neighbors have come to us with personal problems or with the desire to know more of our beliefs.
Upon joining the army’s Wives’ Club I was asked to give talks and demonstrations—which I felt comfortable doing thanks to my years of experience in the Relief Society. This led to a request from the Army Education Center to teach a regular class on silk flower-making. In response to another request I helped form a Poetry Circle, which led to loaning my Ensigns and New Eras to the other members.
Then one day, Louise complained that I should be doing something for the teenagers! The Youth Club consisted only of twice-weekly disco sessions where the teens were allowed to smoke and drink.
With help from the commanding officer, I and another concerned mother obtained the use of a small hall for one evening a week of board games and discussions. Our numbers have grown from the original eight to a regular twenty-four. Our record attendance was sixty, at a Christmas party. The snowball dances and games we introduced at the party were new to most of them, but we soon had total involvement and before the evening was over they were asking when the next one would be. Walking home, Louise said, “How about a roadshow, mum?”
After six months, I began to feel that we could fulfill a useful purpose in Cyprus.