New Area Seventies: Struggles and hope during the pandemic

One of the lesser-known stories from the Bible tells of Jesus appointing seventy of his followers to serve and preach. In the ministry of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Seventy” is an office derived from this account. In the midst of the pandemic, a Dane and a Frenchman recently called to this position are finding ways to edify and help others.

If you can give a little bit of yourself, your love and care will inspire and encourage others”, says Elder Franck A. Poznanski, whose calling was announced during a global virtual gathering last April. “Elder” is a religious title accorded to missionaries and high-ranking Church leaders.

A native of Angers in western France, Elder Poznanski is one of two new area seventies from the Europe Area – an administrative entity of the Church stretching as far north as the Nordic countries and as far south as Spain and Cape Verde. The other one, Elder Erik Bernskov, comes from Jyllinge, 40 kilometers west of Copenhagen.

Both were called as Area Seventies. Unlike General Authority Seventies, they live at home, provide leadership to assigned congregations within the area, and continue to work in their professions, serving as volunteers.

Contributing to Church and community has always been a matter close to their hearts. “Just before the Covid-19 pandemic, my wife and I began serving breakfast to the homeless once a week at 6 a.m., Elder Poznanski recalls. “Having the opportunity to serve people, the needy and the poor, always is a blessing.” He and wife Veronique are parents of five and grandparents to nine children.

When the pandemic first hit and attending services at Church meetinghouses was not an option, Elder Bernskov and his wife Anne, together with another couple, safely visited lonely and elderly members of congregations in their stake at their doorsteps. While keeping a distance, they would sing a hymn and drop off home-baked cake. "Just seeing the smiling faces of those who just had not been with other people for a while had an effect on me,” he remembers.

A recruitment consultant by profession, Elder Bernskov values his family. He and his wife are parents to four and grandparents to five. Prior to travel restrictions, he enjoyed taking his children to visit the Church’s temples. Located in several cities throughout Europe, these sanctuaries are places of holiness and peace. On two such trips to England, he also took the opportunity to attend football matches.

As the world shut down, Elder Bernskov recalls taking long nature walks and spending time with family. The last year has reinforced to him the value of connecting with those around us. “As the pandemic is becoming less rampant in some places, I hope that we will again minister to each other, visit each other, and enjoy each other's company,” he says.

Elder Poznanski directs the Church’s educational programs for youth and young adults in Europe, which is his full-time employment. He remembers worrying that students enrolled may face challenges during the pandemic that would lead them to miss classes or take a break from attending. However, classes were moved online and he witnessed divine help. “And at the end of the year 2020, we had more students than the previous year,” he remembers.

Being called as Area Seventy has also helped him to learn to trust God, Elder Poznanski says. He was overwhelmed by anxiety and uncertainly, but at the same time, by the love of Jesus Christ. “I could feel that I shouldn’t worry. The Lord will help me,” he concludes.

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