Sometimes things happen that can’t be explained. Big things. Amazing things. That’s how it was this September, in Southeast Europe, when an American Pianist came to Slovenia to research his wife’s family history.
What it was, really, was a convergence of sorts, of four points of purpose.
The convergence began in April when internationally acclaimed pianist Paul Cardall informed President David J. Grant of the Adriatic North Mission (ANM) that he and his Slovenian/American wife Tina, planned to come to her ancestral homeland in a family history quest. He would share his music, while there, if Grant would like.
President Grant, whose mission it is to expand the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his five country mission gladly agreed to host the Cardalls. It would take a little time to define how best to showcase the popular pianist, but Grant knew he had a soul touching talent coming his way.
At the same time, my husband David and I were preparing to depart for a senior service mission to the ANM. Elder Hansen was assigned to be the acting President of the Celje, Slovenia Branch. I was intending to happily be his “help-meet.”
I could not have known that my knowledge of event-building, media and news writing, would soon be called forth to aid the ANM in a major undertaking.
And, unknown to any of us, at that very time, Slovenian citizens were anticipating an international report to be released in a few months, regarding questionable medical care for their children with congenital heart disease (CHD), in a small country where an estimated 200 children are born each year with CHD.
For a good number of years, Slovenians have been caught in the politically sensitive debate on the quality of that care. Standing with families and children are several support associations including the Slovenian Heart Foundation.
Tying all this together is Cardall’s heart transplant six years ago. Since birth, he suffered with CHD. He was born with basically “one-half a heart.”
Four points of purpose were aligning. Within weeks, all entities would arrive at a pinnacle where all stood for one purpose: Children and families who need community to be actively aware of the number one, worldwide birth defect and the need for more science and better care.
Upon our arrival at the Zagreb, Croatian mission home in late April, I was alerted by President Grant that I would coordinate a Paul Cardall tour, whose music I was unfamiliar with.
“But, President,” I protested, “I don’t speak the local languages, I have no social contacts. How in the world can this happen?” The President gave one of his tolerant smiles and quipped, “You’ll figure it out!” The next day we left for our assigned residence in Celje.
I would soon become humbly dependent upon the spirit that blesses humanitarian and missionary efforts worldwide and with that spirit, the gifts of divine intervention.
The apparent obstacle was the date of Cardall’s arrival. Summer was soon setting in. Cardall would arrive the first two weeks of September, leaving the summer months to organize an event that, even under good circumstances, could take up to a year. Plus, in the ANM region, citizens go “on holiday” en masse, thus it is nearly impossible to gather consensus or partners or turn-out when decision makers are absent.
But, I quickly discovered while within the “missionary bubble,” amazing things happen. With each prod and nudge, inquiry and plea, ideas blossomed and people would appear who were unafraid of the time frame.
After false starts, we made progress in Slovenia with the introduction of a Kranj Branch sister, whose husband Uros is a counselor in the Slovenian District Presidency. Sister Urška Štampe, a busy young mother, warned me, “I’m too busy to help you figure out how to get started, but I know I must.” And she did.
Of course, it was a given, cost had to be heavily controlled. The plan was to offer citizens a free concert, but a venue was needed, which would not charge rent.
LDS churches were too small for what we had in mind. It was Stampe who suggested using the parochial church of St. James, “a monument of mature baroque.”
The good Priest agreed. Joze Kokalj would open his chapel in Ljubljana City Center for the Mormon pianist.
Read the rest at Meridian Magazine