A Russian Connection


The Russian guard lifted the gate blocking the way from the old pre-World War II Russian military hospital to the main road. The girls and their leaders drove through the gate in silence. They had all been excited for the service project, but none of them had imagined how thankful they would be feeling after the project was over.

The young women of the Berlin Servicemen’s Ward in Berlin, Germany, had just spent the afternoon with thirty-two Russian children who had been exposed to radiation during the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion. The children had been sent to Beelitz, which was part of the former East Germany, for thirty days of treatment, and then another group of children would be sent in.

The girls had played with hula hoops with the children. They bounced foam rubber balls on a parachute, and then, in another game, they tried to clear all the balls from one side of a room to the other before the whistle blew. Before they left, the girls gave each child a little bag of fruit, a stick of gum, and a small present which contained a notebook, pen, and three colored pencils.

Once they were on the main road, the silence broke. But the car wasn’t filled with the loud noises of happiness that usually accompany groups of girls. The voices were hushed, and everyone was feeling tender about what they had just experienced.

They had gone to uplift the ailing children. But much to their surprise, the children had done the same for them.

The children sang songs, danced, and even put on a skit of “Cinderella” for the girls. Although they couldn’t understand the children, that didn’t slow things down. Seventeen-year-old Elisabeth Farnsworth says, “The language barrier didn’t matter because we were able to communicate through our spirits.”

When the children finished their program, they asked the young women to sing for them. “As we stood to sing ‘I Am a Child of God’ to these children, who didn’t understand English, tears came to my eyes,” says Elisabeth. “I received the feeling that what we sang was true and that, even though we speak a different language and come from different countries, we all are children of the same Heavenly Father who knows what each of us needs. He does love each of his children. These children were away from their families, and they needed to know that they were loved.” The Lord had provided that love through the young women.

“I learned a lesson that will certainly stay with me through the rest of my life,” says Tina Dorny, 17. She made friends with an eight-year-old boy named Sascha, who clung to a piece of a toy train track the entire time the girls were there. “For just a moment, Sascha taught me to find happiness in the little things we are given and not to be so caught up in the world that we forget each other.”

The children as well as the doctors and nurses were delighted with the visit and asked the girls to please come again. So they made arrangements to come the following Friday, only this time they would bring food, clothing, and copies of the Book of Mormon in Russian. The project turned out to be such a success that the young women of the stake have continued visiting the Russian children each month, and will do so as long as the children are receiving treatment in Beelitz.

Each of the girls left the hospital that afternoon having felt the Spirit in some way. Elisabeth wasn’t the only one to say, “While I was serving, I felt the Spirit as strongly as I have ever felt it.”

The car turned; the girls could see their own meetinghouse in the distance. Spontaneously, they began singing “Because I Have Been Given Much” (Hymns, number 219). They now understood what King Benjamin meant when he said, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

[photos] Photography by Maureen Clayton

[photos] The young women spent the afternoon with Russian children who had been exposed to radiation during the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion. “The language barrier didn’t matter,” said one young woman, “because we were able to communicate through our spirits.” Left: Jessica and Tina Dorny with their new Russian friend, eight-year-old Sascha.

[photo] They had gone to uplift the ailing children. But much to their surprise, the children had done the same for them. The children sang songs, danced, and put on a skit of “Cinderella” for the girls.