Sister Samuel is from Dominican Republic originally. Spanish is her home language. English is sometimes a struggle for her. She had a job but the economy has had its effect on her like so many others. She has a car but often struggles to buy fuel to run it. She is a single mom with a daughter living with her. The daughter is mid-twenties and has been sick. Diane is in her fifties. She makes a living by selling ties and other small items at a little stand. Some days she doesn’t do very well but she always says tomorrow will be better. One day she was at the church enthusiastically washing the windows and cleaning the area for Sunday meetings. She worked hard and made it shine. I suspect she was receiving assistance from the branch fast offerings. She was happy in her work.
Diane has been the branch accompanist, but she doesn’t read music or play the piano. She has had the assignment to push the buttons on the electronic piano to play the recorded hymns that were chosen for each Sunday’s meetings. President Kalama has released her from that calling because he wants to support having a live keyboard player playing the hymns each Sunday.
She loves music and when we announced that we were teaching the keyboarding class, she was one of the first to sign up for lessons. She has had a hard time learning the keyboarding, but I think she will catch on to the conducting lessons. (Diane does better counting the music in Spanish than in English. Of course. She speaks Spanish.) She loves to sing with our little choir, and in the congregational singing. She has a deep contralto voice. She sings the melody and soon gets lost when she tries to sing parts. That doesn’t matter to this choir director (me) however. I love the spirit she brings.
I have a standing assignment to teach Sunday school class, so as part of my lesson last week, I asked her and some others to tell their conversion stories. Everybody has a story and they are all fascinating. (Every couple also has a story of how they got together, and they are all interesting, too.)
Diane said she had a burning desire to know Jesus Christ. She searched for ways to satisfy that yearning. She told her friends and the people she was working with of her desire. Then one day she saw two young men in white shirts with name tags that said they were from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (At this point in the story she became quite excited as she told us in her broken English about the encounter with the missionaries.)
“Do you know about Jesus Christ?” she asked them. They assured her that they did.
“Can you teach me about Jesus Christ? I want to know Jesus Christ!”
Diane was baptized three weeks later as she gained her own testimony of Jesus and His mission to rescue fallen mankind from the hopeless morass of a fallen world. She has been faithful since then.
Diane tells with fondness when she went to Salt Lake City to the temple. She is excited when she tells about meeting President Hinckley when he stopped in St Thomas a few years ago on his way to Africa. She said she didn’t want to wash her hand for a month.
These are sweet people. Not the Church members only but everyone we meet. Gaye and I love them. Our lives will forever be better because we are having this opportunity to be with them and to serve them. That is really what a mission is about. We love the people we serve and all are blessed by that love, a real extension of the love Jesus has for each of us.
Have a great day, and a great 2013.