When Brother Milos Pecha, of Slovakia, was baptised into Sheffield First Ward, Sheffield Stake, in 2010 no one could have imagined the floodgates that were about to be opened.
Brother Pecha relocated to the UK and settled in Darnell, a suburb of Sheffield. Darnell is home to a small community of Slovaks and over the past months the field certainly has been white as several families and individuals, upon hearing the message the missionaries had to share, shared it with their friends, families and neighbours.
Things are far from easy for these new members. Most live in financially straightened circumstances, but they press forward in faith. Attending Church means taking two buses and sometimes there is no money for bus fare. For a long time, members helped out with lifts, many of them making two trips to Church in an effort to accommodate these new brethren and their own families, but the increasing numbers rendered this impossible in the end.
The Bishop at that time, Mark Dundon, felt inspired to allow these new members to exercise their faith and make their own way to Church. Without wavering they set out on foot, accompanied by their missionaries, and walked the four miles to Church. They would arrive footsore and rosy cheeked, but with the light of the gospel glowing in their eyes and broad smiles on their faces.
The ward has embraced their new brethren, most of whom have little or no English, but with smiles and gestures these new members have been made to feel welcome. One member likened them to the people of Ammon who were embraced by the Nephites and given the land of Jershon in which to live.
In an effort to create an even stronger bond between the two groups, Brother Greg Nettleship, the Ward Mission Leader, invited Brother Alex Glenn, a returned missionary from the Czech/Prague Mission, and Lucia Vankova, also a returned missionary, who is one of the founding members of the church in Slovakia, to visit Sheffield First Ward, where a fireside had been arranged to enable both Slovaks and English speaking members to bear their testimonies, which were translated by Brother Glenn and Sister Vankova.
The fireside took place on Sunday 30th October and was a great success. The chapel was packed as new members bore powerful testimonies of the difference the gospel has made to their lives. The spirit was there in abundance as these brothers and sisters spoke eloquently about their conversions and testimonies, without having to struggle to find the right words in English.
President and Sister Lindley, of the England Leeds Mission, were invited to share their testimonies. President Lindley spoke with strong assurance to the Slovaks and told them of the love that Heavenly Father has for them, and how he knew that President Monson would have loved to have been at the meeting and would have told them of his love for them. He then went on to say that he had requested two Slovakian speaking missionaries to be assigned to the ELM. The request has been approved by the Missionary Department. This news was received with delight from all the members.
These are very exciting times in which we live. Times when we see the literal gathering of His people. Times when we see the gospel being taken to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, here in our own little corner of His vineyard.