Challenges most always are opportunities, as was the case recently in the Adriatic North Mission. Two American musical artists, pianist Paul Cardall and David Archuleta, will perform Friday, May 13, in the Slovenian Opera Theatre at the invitation of the Slovenian Heart Foundation for the group's sold-out 25th anniversary charity concert celebration.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was invited to partner with the foundation and find the entertainers for the event, the proceeds of which will benefit children and their families in times of illness.
Cardall, whose albums have topped Billboard charts, and Archuleta, who competed on "American Idol," are not well-known in the tiny country tucked between Austria and Croatia.
Cardall, who is a heart transplant recipient, previously performed in Ljubljana, Slovenia, last September as a guest of the Adriatic North Mission in partnership with St. James Catholic Church, to benefit the Slovenian Heart Foundation.
Mission President David J. Grant, of Cedar City, Utah, strategized with the full-time missionaries on how to best use social media to spread the word about the concert, the artists and the LDS Church's humanitarian work across the mission, which includes five countries — Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina — several branches and an estimated 20 million people.
They set up a focus for posts and usage guidelines, including “four eyes on the screen and prayer” and an approval process by the mission president for using social media while working through equipment and software challenges.
“We can do this," President Grant told the missionaries, who don't regularly use social media in proselyting efforts. "It’s a perfect opportunity to use technology to raise awareness of the gospel’s messengers in this area.”
Several missionaries who helped share information about the concert and the LDS Church via social media shared their successes.
"Friends of the church and members draw closer to the Lord (when they) read positive things on the Internet about the church in their native languages," said Sister McKenna Allred, of Provo.
"The majority of the world is continually bound to their devices," said Elder Jonathan Rice, of Fairfax, Virginia. "If we want to find people, go where the people are."
"I testify that social media is another important way to get into people’s homes," said Elder Tanner Pickard of Moscow, Idaho. "It was a miracle we could do it with the equipment we had. If it wasn’t for divine help, we wouldn’t have made it."
The social media effort and the sold-out concert are "showing promise of what is possible,” President Grant said.
At the May 13 concert, Archuleta and Cardall will perform with a Slovenian string orchestra. Also on the program is local singer and 16-year-old Neja Zrimšek Žiger, who was born without arms.
The Slovenian president will serve as honorary patron, and Ljubljana Archbishop Msgr. Stanislav Zore will be an honored guest. The mayor of Ljubljana and city officials are giving their full support.
Archuleta is also scheduled to perform with local artists at the Beograd Children's Cultural Center in Belgrade, Serbia, on Saturday, May 14, with concert proceeds going to the Fund B92 Bitka za Bebe campaign to purchase medical equipment for the benefit of newborn children and mothers in select hospital maternity wards.
He will also present “A Night With David Archuleta" in Croatia at the Zagreb Branch chapel Sunday, May 15. For information about any of the three events, including tickets, email [email protected].
Linda Turley-Hansen and her husband are senior missionaries serving in the Adriatic North Mission.