POCATELLO — After spending the past 40 years living in Pocatello, Gary and Karlene Dance are now preparing for a temporary, but drastic move.

    On April 2, the couple will leave for Kyiv, Ukraine, where they will live for the next 18 months while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Gary, a partner with the Idaho law firm Moffatt-Thomas, will serve as the associate area legal counsel for the church’s Eastern European Area, with headquarters in Moscow, Russia, and extending from Latvia to Turkey, they said.

    “We are excited to go to the Ukraine and travel throughout Eastern Europe, learning the culture of the people in that part of the world,” Karlene said.

    The Dances have never been to Eastern Europe and are still trying to learn the Russian language they will need to speak as they interact with people from several countries, but they say they are looking forward to the opportunity that will likely change their lives forever.

    “We know that it will be quite an adventure and that we will come back with a greater appreciation for our own country, but are sure that we will always have a love for the people and the culture of that area,” Karlene said.

    They are also looking forward to enjoying some of the arts while they are there.

    “We have heard that they have wonderful ballets, operas and symphonies and 40 museums, as well,” she said.

    While they are in the Ukraine, Karlene will receive assignments from church officials in the area, and Gary will be required to use his law skills to help increase religious opportunities.

    “As you can well imagine there are a great many legal issues where the laws come into play in allowing the freedom of worship that we enjoy in this country,” Karlene said. “Working through local attorneys who will actually be representing the church, he will be able to direct the representation in such a way as to hopefully expand the religious opportunities for the people of that area.”

    Although the Dances are looking forward to the opportunities ahead of them, they say they will also miss the five children and 14 grandchildren they are leaving behind.

    “(The hardest part will be) leaving our family and many friends and neighbors in Pocatello,” Karlene said.

    Still, they believe they will be blessed for the personal sacrifices they are making.

    “We are most grateful for the opportunity to serve and look forward to the personal growth that always occurs when such service to the Lord is given,” she said.