We interrupt the ongoing adventures of the Lainharts in China with the following timely announcement.
I was sustained today as the 2nd Councilor in the Elders’ Quorum Presidency of the Central China International District Branch (English). Can’t say that it wasn’t expected, when it was announced nearly a month ago that the EQ President moved out of the Branch, I knew that the upcoming changes were going to impact me.
I got a phone call yesterday from President Latimer, the Central China International District President. I don’t know how many of you have had those kinds of phone calls but it is a little unnerving even when you expect them. I was not expecting this call and joked with President Latimer when he asked, if now was a good time to talk, that it is never a good time to have the District President call you.
I am excited about the opportunity to serve here in China as part of the Elders’ Quorum; I think that it will be a learning experience for me. Even though I am a High Priest, I am a member of the Elder’s Quorum. I suspect that the new handbook specifies that the Melchizedek Priesthood brethren in a branch will be an Elder’s Quorum rather than a Melchizedek Priesthood Group. By far the most exciting part of the telephone call is that the calling wasn’t for me to be the President.
I was last in an Elders’ Quorum Presidency in 2004 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I was the EQP for what I thought was probably the largest ward (in square miles) in the United States. I am pretty sure that it wasn’t true, but the ward boundaries covered more area than my mission boundaries did in California. I am now quite sure that I am in an Elders’ Quorum that covers the most area in any one country. In terms of area it has to be the largest in the world, as it covers all of the country of China that is not covered by other individual units, like Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Macau, Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin, Qingdao, etc. Even subtracting the landmass that is designated for these units it has to be the largest since China is considered to be the 3rd or 4th largest country in the world (depending on who is measuring; the USA and China alternate between 3rd and 4th by most measurements I have ever found).
I struggled in Arkansas making the Home Teaching assignments work. It was nearly impossible to make assignments that were convenient for anyone and still cover all of the families. Those problems pale in comparison to what we are up against. Where we had families that lived up to 50 miles from the next nearest members we have orders of magnitude greater problems here. So, I thought I would share some perspective.
The Elders’ Quorum President lives in Nanning, Guangxi Province. The 1st Councilor lives in Tai’an, Shandong Province. I live in Haiyang, Shandong Province. Nanning is roughly 90 miles from Vietnam. I live roughly 250 miles across the Yellow Sea from South Korea. Nanning is just above the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere, it is 2500 KM (1553 miles) from Haiyang and 2150 KM (1338 miles) from Tai’an. Haiyang is 460 KM (285 miles) from Tai’an. So, some perspective for my North American friends; it is 300 miles from Salt Lake City, UT to St. George, UT; it is 1345 miles from Bellingham, WA to San Diego, CA; and finally, it is 1552 miles from Concord, NH to Miami, FL. The distances involved there are going to provide some serious challenges to holding a Presidency meeting. It is quite probable that we will never meet physically together as a Presidency. We may never actually meet each other, we will know each other’s voice but only see pictures of each other.
While the presidency is spread out we aren’t even as spread out as the branch. We have members that are living even further north in the Jilin Province which is another 1450 KM (900 miles) further north from Shandong Province. Talk about a Home Teaching logistics problem.
As I sit here the last few days wondering how we are going to make this all work out so that the members of our little branch have all of the blessings of the gospel possible in their lives, I am impressed by the foresight that came from living Apostles in establishing a branch for such a situation. It would be impossible to do what we are doing here in China without having the steadiness that the Church provides for us. We are certainly living on the edge of Christianity and the opportunity to meet together helps keep us grounded and focused on the gospel principles which makes our lives better. It makes us better at what we do for our employers and it makes me a better representative of the country I love so much. We are very fortunate to have the gospel here with us. I am sure that we will figure out how to make the whole thing work; we are just going to have to be as creative in our solution as the Brethren were in creating the branch. I am looking forward to receiving the inspiration that will be required to solve the unique problems we are going to face in this calling; there really is nothing better than learning through inspiration.
Here’s to perspective. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Our Chinese adventures just keep getting more interesting and exciting, at least for us.