Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Branching Out

Many religions work hard to keep young people active in their respective faiths and the LDS Church is no exception.  There seem to be at least two critical time periods when young people opt of out their religions, the middle teens when youth begin to question everything and the twenties, when important decisions are being made about developing skills for the job market, finding employment and getting married.

Within the LDS Church, one of several youth oriented programs is the Church Education System (CES), which has Seminaries for high school students and Institutes for the 18 to 30 year old crowd.  The church serves these two groups through a system that provides religious and ethical education and the opportunity to socialize.  As missionaries, we are assigned to the Institute section of the CES program in New Jersey.

Another mechanism to serve the 18-30 age group, used by the LDS Church, is the formation of congregations made up solely of Young Single Adults (YSA).  These are formed by the local Stake President (head of the diocese to some of you) with approval from Church headquarters.  The congregations may be designated as Wards (125 to 225 members) or Branches (fewer than 125 members.  These congregations provide the YSAs with more leadership, teaching and service opportunities than might be available in a family ward.  So, except for the member of the Bishopric (Ward) or the Presidency (Branch) all of the members of these congregations are YSAs.  They meet every Sunday and do everything to make the congregation run smoothly and effectively; give the sermons, form the choir, play the organ, teach the classes, and organize the meetings, service projects and social events.  

So in our stake the New Jersey East Brunswick YSA Branch was formed.  The President of the Branch is a local man named Peter Eck, and his two counselors are myself and Elder Sierer another CES Institute teacher.  This will afford us as teachers many more opportunities to interact with the YSAs and help us prepare lessons and discussions for our Institute classes that will more directly address their needs.  We've posted this picture before, but here it is again because it seems to best illustrate our branch population.

Some of the members of the East Brunswick Young single Adult Branch (Photo collage by Sister Sierer, 12/11. 

New Year Update


The mission is going well.  Yesterday we taught Institute at 11:45, had church from 1:00-4:00 and then had a break-the-fast potluck dinner at 4pm.   (In other words, we are at church from about 10 am to 5:30 pm.)

Break-the-Fast Potluck at the new EBYSA Branch
I love the testimonies we heard during the Fast and Testimony Meeting.  Some of the "kids" share their personal religious struggle and how they came to be strengthened and know that the gospel is true.  One fellow reflected on a girl's testimony at BYUI who said that "I don't have anything profound to say" and then went on to tell the basics of the restoration of the church in these latter-days.  He said the truth in its simplicity is beautiful and gave him a sweet witness that it is true.

Rog is serving as 1st counselor in the East Brunswick Young Single Adult Branch Presidency.  Their main challenge is staffing a new unit and finding the members listed on the rolls.  Missions, marriages and turnover of college students probably make the YSA rolls bigger than they need to be.  The branch covers the whole East Brunswick Stake, which compares in territory to the distance from Provo to Ogden and Park City to Tooele, UT. The population within the stake boundaries is about 1.5 times the state of UT.   Therefore, it can be hard to find lost people.  The biggest challenge for our members is transportation, since many do not have cars and some live as much as 1 1/2 hours away from our meeting house.   We find it wonderful that some actually make the trip every Sunday.  Those who have cars are appreciated for providing rides to others.
EBYSA Branch.  First meeting on Nov. 20, 2011.  Counselors Dixon & Sierer in back and Pres. Eck on right.

We have been called to work in the Manhattan Temple on Tuesday afternoons, and enjoyed our first shift last week. 
In Dec. at Christmas time we had a delightful All-Mission conference during which we were entertained by Alex Boye of the Tab Choir, son-in-law of Mission Pres. John Jeppson.  We also met a young missionary that many of the mission aged kids in our ward back home would know:  Elder Beus, a good friend of Jake Jensen.  
Alex Boye, Elder Dixon, Elder Beus

Sister Jeppson's table settings are always colorful and inviting.
Deanne is always impressed with the entertainment skills of our Mission President's wife!  

Here is the group of sister missionaries at a Christmas gathering at the Mission Home. I'm in the middle of the middle row.

East Brunswick Mission, Sister Missionaries 1/2/2011