When I took a position working for the United States diplomatic corps we knew that we might wind up living in a place without many members, but being assigned to Djibouti really drove that point home. Our primary concern was finding a way to help our children to feel the Spirit and gain a testimony without all of the programs provided in established units of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our second child, Larissa, would be turning 8 shortly after our arrival and we wanted to make sure that she could be baptized. After researching on lds.org, we discovered that Djibouti fell under the Africa Southeast Area and that there was a servicemen's group active at Camp Lemonnier - Djibouti (CLDJ). In order to find out when services were and what we needed to do to have Larissa baptized, we sent an email to the Africa Southeast Area office and the servicemen's group leader. The group leader responded very quickly and from a gospel perspective, helped us hit the ground running upon our arrival.
Having the servicemen's group here has been a huge blessing for our family. The work week in Djibouti, including at the Embassy, runs from Sunday to Thursday while the CLDJ operates on the Monday to Friday week and the servicemen's group has Church meetings on Sundays. We were afraid that we weren't going to be able to meet with the group very often, but fortunately the services start at 4pm and my managers have been very accommodating, so I have been able to come in to work and leave early to enable us to make services most weeks. The kids also have school on Sundays, so it is a long day for them, but the brethren at CLDJ have gone out of their way to welcome our family and enable our kids to benefit from meetings. They have truly become our family in Djibouti.
This is not to say that we have not encountered any challenges in maintaining our activity here in Djibouti. It is difficult to tailor lessons for children ranging from 10 to 2 years old and keep them engaged, particularly our toddler. Our children also miss some of the activities and fellowship with other members their age. But we truly feel that the Lord has provided us with experiences here that more than make up for the programs and other things we are missing out on by not attending a larger unit. Because we have school and work on Sunday, we have tried to make Fridays our family Sabbath day, during which we have a short lesson and gospel discussion. In the short time that we have been here, these discussions have turned into some of the most powerful spiritual experiences we have had as a family unit, and I know that my two oldest children have felt the Holy Ghost testify to them of the truth of the eternal principles we were teaching them.
We have also been able to have experiences that I know would not have been possible living in the United States. First, at the end of April we were able to baptize Larissa in the pool at her school and extend an invitation to many non-member friends, colleagues, and classmates. Between 45 and 50 people attended the baptism, almost all of whom were non-members and many of whom went out of their way to tell us what a special experience it was for them.
Second, we were also blessed to be able to host Elder Hamilton in our home. My wife and I have both been privileged to hear General Authorities speak in person, but this was the first time either of us have been able to have one on one, personal conversations with a General Authority. I know that the members of the servicemen's group appreciated the reminder that the Church is mindful of us, whereever we are. Even more importantly for us, my wife and I will always treasure the opportunity we had to have one of the Lord's servants in our home sharing his testimony with us and our children. The sight of my children curled up and listening intently to Elder Hamilton despite their fatigue and the late hour is one I will never forget.
We have just begun this journey as a family, but I already feel confident in saying that this is where the Lord wants us to be. In five short months, I have had this confirmed to me over and over again through the people He has sent into our lives and the experiences He has provided us. I know that He is mindful of us and loves us each individually. I know that there will be hard times and challenges ahead, but with His help I know that these experiences will ultimately be a blessing for our family. We are truly grateful for the opportunity our entire family has to see just how blessed we are and to help spread the message of the Gospel in a part of the world that has yet to hear it. Most of all, we are grateful for our knowledge of the Lord's plan and the framework it provides to build our lives and family upon. No matter where we live or the size of the unit we attend, we know that the peace offered by the Lord will always be there for us as a family.