Serving in Nicosia, Cyprus has been a very interesting experience. The northern part of Cyprus has been under Turkish occupation since 1974. A border and UN buffer zone make it difficult to travel between the two sides. Members residing in the north do not have a branch of their own, but are included in the Nicosia branch where we are currently serving. They used to meet at a house in the buffer zone, however, the buffer zone is currently closed because of the pandemic.
There are more than a dozen members scattered throughout the north part of the island. Because we were no longer able to meet for sacrament meetings, we felt strongly that we should have lessons through video calls with these members to uplift and strengthen them. Because we were both transferred to Nicosia during the closure of the borders, we have not yet been able to meet any of them in person. Our video calls however have been enough for us to quickly come to love these faithful members.
A. is a student living in the north of Cyprus. He was referred to us by missionaries in California, who know his girlfriend because she is a member living in their area. We started to hold video calls with A. and noticed that during our lessons, he would take notes and ask many insightful questions. We extended an invitation to be baptized and he gladly accepted. That was an amazing feeling, although we had no idea what to do to make the baptism possible with the borders closed.
Quickly realizing that we would not be able to attend A.'s baptism in person, we called upon our members in the north to help. This was the best thing that could have happened. These members jumped at the opportunity to help with the baptism. In preparation, we held group calls with A. and several of the members, who brought so much power to our lessons. This also allowed A. to become friends with the people who would ultimately baptize and confirm him.
Because the members and A. all live in different areas in the north, we identified a convenient location to perform the ordinances and organized a plan for them to travel to the beach together. There was a slight delay when we learned that the buses were not running for several days, but we rescheduled for the day that they would resume and then fasted and prayed for the baptism to happen. It was strange to plan a baptism in a place where we have never been, but we were relieved when we called Hector (one of the members) and he told us they were all on the bus heading to the beach. A. was finally baptized, confirmed and even ordained to the office of a priest.
A.’s story proves that nothing can stop the Lord's work from prevailing. His baptism was the first to take place in the north of Cyprus since its division. We are grateful for the involvement we were limited to because it allowed for our precious members in the north to baptize our brother and in the process create eternal friendships.
We have yet to meet any of these devoted members in person, but we are inspired by their commitment to living the gospel and fellowshipping those who desire to join Jesus Christ’s Church. We know that the Lord is mindful of all His children and makes it possible for those chosen souls to learn of Him and accept His gospel, even when a pandemic or borders stand in the way. When Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin dedicated Cyprus for the preaching of the gospel nearly three decades ago, he prayed that the “marvelous Saints… [would] be a catalyst around which strong units of [the Lord’s] Church will be established” and that the “Spirit [would] be poured out upon the inhabitants of this land.” We rejoice to see this apostolic prayer being answered in full force and trust that the Lord’s work in Cyprus will press on with increasing might.
Elder Lewis Wark and Elder Collin Free
Adriatic South Mission