Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven? . . . Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.
Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:27-29
I grew up in a small village in England where the Mormon church, first and foremost, was known as an American church. I first heard about the church when I was almost 14 years old. My friend Julie and I were sitting out on the school field one lunch time when we were approached by a girl, obviously a student as she was wearing the same school uniform that we were. She began the conversation, saying that she had heard that we were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that she was new in the village, and asked if we could please tell her where the nearest chapel was located. We were not members and had no idea what she was talking about! However, Julie and I had lived in the village our entire lives and knew that we could find out where this chapel was and help her out.
The next day, my friend Julie’s dad had located the chapel and it was actually in a town about 20 minutes away. We found the girl at school, discovered her name was Sheila and told her what we had found out. Sheila thanked us and then very boldly asked us if we would like to attend church with her that Sunday! It sounded intriguing and she had a presence about her, so we said “Yes!” My parents were a little hesitant when I told them what had happened but agreed to let me try this new experience. I had grown up in the Church of England. My mum went to church often but I only went for the midnight Christmas Carol service. It meant that I could stay up late on that night and I loved to sing!
Sheila gave us her home address as Julie’s dad had offered to drive us and the plan was to pick Sheila up on the way to the church. Sunday came and I have to say that I was nervous but also excited. We drove to the address that Sheila gave us and she was waiting outside of her house as we pulled up. All of this was before the block schedule had been introduced and so, for us, church was going to be an all day affair. Small branches and wards scheduled things in the towns and surrounding villages to accommodate the distance that the members had to travel and many had to rely on public transportation which had limited schedules on Sundays. This ward, we discovered, had Sunday School in the morning, Seminary during lunch, (everyone took a sack lunch) YW/YM in the afternoon and sacrament meeting in the evening. Sheila guided us through the meetings, explaining words and phrases that were completely foreign to us, demonstrated how to take the sacrament and introduced us to people although she was new to the ward herself.
We loved every minute of it. The missionaries talked to us throughout the day and wanted to schedule the first discussion, but being 14, I had to have parental consent. I spoke to my parents as soon as I got home. My mum agreed to let me hear what the missionaries had to say but my dad was skeptical and neither one was interested in the church for themselves. However, I was determined and so, on Monday at school, we looked for Sheila. Julie’s parents had given her permission to hear from the missionaries again and so we were hoping to find Sheila and see if we could go to church with her again the following Sunday. She wasn’t at school. We watched for her all week but she didn’t come to school. The weekend arrived and Julie and I decided that we would just swing by Sheila’s house on Sunday, pick her up and hopefully head back to church. Sunday arrived, Julie’s dad again drove us to Sheila’s house but when we pulled up outside her house, there was no one there, the garden looked overgrown and the house looked abandoned. It looked nothing like the previous Sunday. Julie and I carried on to church, somewhat confused by what we had found, but thoroughly enjoyed our experience again. We each set a date for the first missionary discussion and thus it began.
We looked for Sheila at school again at the beginning of the next week but she was not there. We started to ask around if anyone had seen her but no one could recall seeing a new student, no one remembered her in their classes. We never saw Sheila again.
I continued with the missionary discussions with my mum sitting in with me. After 4 months, the missionaries challenged me to baptism. I said “Yes,” but my dad said “No!” I kept going to church, however, and 6 months later the missionaries challenged me again. I went home to ask my parents, somewhat afraid of the answer and not sure what I was going to do if Dad said no again. My dad looked thunderous at the repeated request. My mum sent me out of the room and closed the door. Like all good teenagers, I listened through the door to what they were saying. I will never forget what I heard. My mum said to my dad, “If you can offer her something better, do it now. If not, get out of her way.” My dad opened the door, didn’t say a word and walked right passed me. My mum followed him out and said, “Call the missionaries – NOW!” I did and set up a baptism date right then and there.
That was 40 years ago. Because of Sheila, my mum, the missionaries, the tenacity of the spirit and the beginnings of a testimony (a feeling I had never had before) I am here today. I have no idea who Sheila was. I have no idea why she targeted my friend and I that day on the school field but I know that will be eternally grateful for what she did and for giving me a chance to find the gospel.
-This post was written by a good friend who wishes to remain anonymous.