Scott Gardner, a marriage and family professor and family life coach, and his wife, Brenda Gardner, were asked to pack their bags and head to the Czech Republic to teach students about charity.

During the winter semester, Scott Gardner received a phone call from Cumorah Academy. The call resulted in a life-changing experience.

With only a month and a half to prepare, Scott Gardner finished teaching his students at BYU-Idaho. With only two out of the 20 lessons planned, Scott Gardner and his wife hopped on a plane with faith and headed to the Czech Republic.

“We really felt the hand of the Lord guiding us to that opportunity,” Scott Gardner said. “It was really quite remarkable how it came about.”

The moment their feet hit the Czech Republic soil, they were put to work. They met the students and learned that 10 out of the 60 students were not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Naceradec, Czechia Czech Republic.

Naceradec, Czechia Czech Republic. Photo credit: Scott Gardner

The students mostly came from Ukraine, Peru, Colombia and Albania.

The first principle the Gardners taught was that God loves his children. Their students questioned this idea, and they asked the Gardners why a loving God would allow the Russo-Ukrainian War to happen.

“Finally, we had to just say, ‘There are certain things that people have done, that are just so traumatic, that you don’t need to worry about loving them right now,‘” Brenda Gardner said.

Scott and Brenda Gardner witnessed many Ukrainian students crying at lunch due to their neighborhoods being attacked the night before. Some of these students didn’t know where they would go once their leadership training was complete.

“It was just heartbreaking,” Scott Gardner said. “… it was very real.”

According to Cumorah Academy, their program has a mission of assisting {{,}} “individuals in their desire to follow Jesus Christ and positively impact their lives, careers, homes and communities.”

Before each lesson, the Gardners would give the students a summary of what they would be teaching that day. If the students felt as if they couldn’t take a spiritual message, they could step out of the classroom.

“You could read on the faces of a lot of those Ukrainians that what we were saying was either hitting or hurting,” Brenda Gardner said.

By the end of their semester abroad, the Gardners witnessed many of their students change.

Cumorah Academy in Naceradec, Czechia Czech Republic.

Cumorah Academy in Naceradec, Czechia Czech Republic. Photo credit: Scott Gardner

Some of the Ukrainian students believed in God but didn’t think that God had any interest in their lives, so they were unsure about praying to Him.

“By the end of our semester there, some of those same people were giving prayers, and just the most touching prayers,” Scott Gardner said. “Praying for their war-torn country and their families and their homes and just clearly (they had developed) a deep belief in God.”

While serving in the Czech Republic, Scott Gardner was able to conduct an assessment of the impact that the charity curriculum made on the students. He reported that the numbers were positive.

Naceradec, Czechia Czech Republic.

Naceradec, Czechia Czech Republic. Photo credit: Scott Gardner

Scott Gardner has been working with a group of individuals to develop a charity curriculum at BYU-Idaho. The goal of this curriculum is to help students understand that charity can be part of their everyday lives.

“If it’s so important, perhaps we could dig in and give people a little more understanding of what it is and how you do it,” Scott Gardner said. “And {{,}} how you do it when perhaps you don’t feel like doing it.”

The Gardner’s experience in the Czech Republic has impacted the way Scott Gardner teaches within his own classroom at BYU-I.

“If we want to learn charity, we need to understand the true nature of our Heavenly Father’s love for us and how deeply and unconditionally He loves us,” Scott Gardner said. “His blessings are conditional, but his love is unconditional.”

More information about Cumorah Academy can be found on its website.