Oasis of Faith

by Diane Shurtliff

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They might be on a desert island, but they are definitely not lost.

A beautiful night in the desert, the sound of camp songs in the air, and the smell of … camels? This isn’t just any camp. It’s girls’ camp in Bahrain, an island in the Middle East where the Church is legally recognized.

The girls are from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Philippines, and South Africa, but since their families are all far from their native countries, and since they all love the gospel, they have a lot in common. Many of them are the only Latter-day Saints in their schools, and they have few opportunities to get together with other LDS youth. And those opportunities only come when the youth are willing to sacrifice. All the girls belong to the Arabian Peninsula Stake, which covers seven countries, so they traveled long distances to come to Bahrain.

“When we get together with everybody else, it makes me realize that I am not alone. There are others in the same situation,” says Anne Wellington, a young woman from England.

The three days of camp were filled with activities and spiritual experiences. The girls made fast friends while they swam and toured ancient ruins. They also provided service for a school for disabled children by bringing needed supplies to the Hope Institute. Margaret Tueller says, “We had warm feelings. It was as good to give as it was to receive.”

Beth Chapman said her favorite part of girls’ camp was “the way everyone had a bright and cheerful spirit.”

Although living in the Middle East might sound exotic, these girls face the same challenges of Latter-day Saint youth all over the world. Emilie Shurtliff, a Mia Maid from the United States, tries to stand for clean language and set an example. “When I am around people who swear, I feel uncomfortable and out of place. I am the only LDS member in my school, so for a long time I just ignored the language around me. After a while I asked the people closest to me not to use bad language.” She says she tried not to condemn others and to be very careful about her own language as well. “Eventually, I noticed that I didn’t hear swearing very often, and when I did, I often received an apology without having to say a word.”

Many of these young women are the only contact with the Church some people in the Middle East will ever have. They are allowed to teach the gospel only through the way they live their lives. Liz Taylor, a Laurel, said she was questioned in science class one day during a discussion about the effects of illegal drugs. “One student blurted out that Mormons don’t even drink coffee. My teacher asked if anyone was Mormon, and I timidly raised my hand. The rest of the class was spent asking me questions—genuinely interested questions.”

Although the girls know they are growing from their experiences in the Middle East, they still get lonely sometimes. “We are like pioneers,” Anne says. “It’s hard because there are so few of us.”

The young women of this remote stake are seeking the blessings of the gospel in their lives through their personal righteousness as they learn to trust in the Lord. The young women each confirmed that reading the scriptures, praying, and participating in their branch or ward family helped them meet their everyday challenges. Despite the political restrictions they face, they are seeking to be good and to do good in their homes, their schools, and their communities.

Living as Examples

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“Brothers and sisters, the Lord expects us to do something. I believe we are expected to increase our own faith, shake off any possible feelings of apathy, and by the power of the Holy Ghost reaffirm our commitment and intensify our service to the Lord. Then, when we seek to clarify someone’s understanding of the Church, our lives—well and faithfully lived—can serve as a magnifying glass through which others can examine the impact of gospel living. Under the light of our good example, the Spirit can enlarge understanding of the Church and its mission to all with whom we have contact” (Ensign, May 2000, 33).
—Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve

Photography by Diane Shurtliff

Background photo by Dynamic Graphics, Inc.

Background photo by PhotoSpin, Inc.

But the blessings are the same everywhere, too. There is always the opportunity to learn, to serve, and to develop friendships nurtured by the things Latter-day Saints everywhere have in common—their testimonies and love of the gospel.