This post is dedicated to my friend, Bridget. When she comes to collect her prize, she can add Baku to her list.
Wherever Brandon and I are posted across the world, no matter what country or culture or situation, we know we will always go to church. And although that fact never changes, exactly how church itself is run can vary a lot.
In Cairo, we were part of a lovely branch that met in a rented villa every Friday. We had enough members (between forty and ninety depending on the time of year) to have a full three hours of church, complete with a primary of twenty-five children.
We knew when we left that our branch was a rarity for the region, and prepared ourselves to have the Sherwood Family Group in Baku, meeting in our house every Sunday. We were happy to learn, however, that we would not be the only members of the LDS church in Azerbaijan.
When we came in December, we brought the number of LDS members in Azerbaijan to a respectable thirty-seven. The adults barely outnumber the children, with twenty adults and seventeen children. Joseph is the youngest child and takes turns with the three other babies making disruptions during sacrament meeting. The primary has twelve children including Edwin, who got to attend primary the same time Sophia did, since primary and nursery are now combined. There is one youth. And he gets his own Sunday School class.
Just as in Cairo, the church is not officially recognized in Azerbaijan, so we are not allowed to proselytize. We have mostly Americans with a Brazilian, a Taiwanese, a Russian, and two Scots adding to the mix. About half of the branch works for the Embassy, and half for oil companies.
We meet at the Branch President's house, and if you're early you can snag a comfy couch to sit on and avoid the folding chairs or dining room chairs. The whole meeting block lasts two hours, with the time split evenly between sacrament meeting, sunday school, and Priesthood/Relief Society.
Since sacrament meeting only lasts forty-five minutes, we only have one speaker a week. When it was my turn to speak last week, I looked at the number of adults in the room, and realized that it would be less than six months before I would be up at the front again giving another talk. If you come visit, I may or may not recommend a guest speaker.
But it doesn't matter how long church is, or where it meets, or if you get to speak a lot, the spirit is the same and so are the people: wonderful.