As BYU students prepare for Pioneer Day on July 24, some might be unaware of a modern-day pioneer among them.
Lavdie Imeri, 22, a freshman from Ferizaj, Kosovo, who has not yet declared a major, was the first person in Kosovo to be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Imeri was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ by Joe Ross, a U.S. soldier.
Imeri said Serbians recently killed her father because he was teaching at an underground university for Albanians.
Imeri said she was working to support her mother and three younger siblings. Ross was her boss.
Imeri was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ on June 4, 2000. Allen Maschek, who baptized Imeri, had his wife send a temple dress for Imeri to wear. A wooden box served as the baptismal font.
Imeri’s immediate family was opposed to her baptism.
“They still don’t like it. They’re still cold,” she said. “But still, they love me.”
Imeri said some of her uncles threatened to kill her and fearing for her life, Imeri fled the country.
Brent Bingham, an LDS soldier in Kosovo, helped Imeri obtain a visa to Germany.
While in Germany, Imeri met Evan Ivie, a professor from BYU on a welfare mission. He helped Imeri gain admission to BYU.
In Germany, Imeri met the Stalkes, a missionary couple.
The Stalkes and Imeri were leaving for the United States at the same time. They brought Imeri to the Morris family, who became her foster parents.
“We’re the ninth stop she’s had in her life since she’s been baptized,” said Shirley Morris, Imeri’s foster mother.
Imeri started classes in Spring Term, 2000.
“It’s nice to be with other members of the church,” Imeri said. “However, it has been a hard adjustment.”
Imeri said she has had to learn a new way of taking tests because there are no written tests in Kosovo, only oral examinations.
Imeri also had to learn to live in a different culture.
She said her foster parents have been very supportive.
“I couldn’t have made it without them,” she said.
Imeri said her foster parents help her overcome fears she acquired in Kosovo. She said loud noises still scare her because of the bombings she experienced.
She said it was difficult to trust people when she first came to America.
Imeri said things are getting easier for her as she grows more comfortable in her new surroundings and makes more friends at school and church.
She teaches Albanian to new missionaries. She continues to support her family, sending $200 a month to her mother, Imeri said.
Imeri is the first counselor in the Relief Society Presidency in her student ward. She said whenever she gives a talk in Relief Society, she tells the sisters to love one another.
Mrs. Morris said it is wonderful to see Imeri’s strong testimony. She said she believes Imeri’s bravery and faith will bring generations into the church.
Before her father was killed, Imeri said he had her memorize the family’s genealogy. She said she plans to have temple work done for her ancestors, starting with her father.
“I always thought pioneers were from the past,” Mrs. Morris said. “But Lavdie, she’s a modern-day pioneer.