VILNIUS , Lithuania — On Saturday the two branches of Vilnius Lithuania met on the shore of a small beautiful lake just seven kilometers (a little more than four miles) from the church.  Some came by private car, but the bulk of the participants came by city bus, where they were picked up in a panel truck and taken the extra two kilometers (1.2 miles) to the lake.

The menu was provided by Michel Haase, who is living in Vilnius for the summer from Mesa, Arizona. Care was taken to research early Utah recipes, and the old stew proved interesting for all.  Most were disappointed that there was no sour cream to put in the stew, which is the custom in Lithuania. Ward members drank from a big cooler of lemonade, and the children were fascinated with the spout at the bottom of the jug.

For dessert the participants were served a flat cake that was basically cold carrot pudding topped with whipped cream. The party organizers, who were from the United States, enjoyed observing the Lithuanians’ reluctance to pick up a slice of this wonderful moist cake with their fingers, and just eat it. All requested a napkin, and were reminded by the Americans that pioneers had no paper napkins.

The day’s activity began with the baptism by a local branch president of one of the new ten-year-old converts. The setting was nearly perfect. Other picnicking couples just remained sitting on the shore, and quietly and respectfully observed the sacred service.  The talk on baptism was given by a new convert of three weeks. She just talked to the boy, and shared the meaning of the ordinance. She used no notes. Just from her heart, she taught the boy as though she had been a member for years.

The kids enjoyed running in and out of a small Indian tepee, and the others liked having a private corner to change clothes for swimming. One good brother even spent the night in the tent to reserve the campsite for everyone else.   

The party organizers drove stakes in the ground and told stories of Joseph Smith’s enjoyment of that game. Everyone tried stick-pulling, where two adults would sit on the ground with their feet together and pull on either end of a stick to try to bring the other player up off his feet.

The organizers made an effort to underscore how important the 24th of July is to Utah Mormons, but the Lithuanian participants were more interesting in eating, swimming and playing soccer. The organizers hope this will become an annual summer event.