Tot Zeins—Till We Meet
When my oldest brother, Duane, left for his mission to Holland, we anxiously awaited his first letter from faraway Europe. At last it came, with the words Tot Zeins scrawled on the back. Those two Dutch words, roughly translated to mean “Till we meet,” began a family tradition.
Faithfully we continued to inscribe Tot Zeins on the back of our letters to Duane, and even continued the tradition for our next son, David, though his mission was to the east central region of the United States. For us, the message really meant, “Do your best,” “We love you,” and “Our prayers are with you.”
Shortly after the return of the two oldest boys, Ron was called on a mission to São Paulo, Brazil. With his first letter home came the cherished words Tot Zeins, but with an added Portuguese counterpart: Até Logo.
Before Ron returned home, I received a call to serve a welfare-services mission to the Guatemala-El Salvador Mission. As I wrote my first letter home, I carefully inscribed these words on the back of the envelope, including a message in honor of David’s English-speaking mission: Tot Zeins, “Till We Meet,” Ate Logo, and Hasta la Vista.
With each successive missionary in the family came a new message of love and hope, until eight various interpretations of “Till we meet”—in Italian, Indonesian, French, and a southern variation, “See ya’ll later”—were added to the tradition.
When the family ran out of missionaries and the tradition seemed to have ended, to our surprise and delight our parents decided to go on a mission. They left to serve as leadership missionaries in Puerto Rico, and I anxiously awaited that first letter to discover the next message of love.
Following the eight various interpretations of “Till we meet” was Serviendo con Gozo—serving with joy. As I read it, I thought that, as members of the Church, we are all on missions, we are all Serviendo con Gozo, as we share the gospel with our friends and neighbors.
Loving heavenly parents await us, sending their love and encouragement not through letters per se, but through the scriptures, ancient and modern. I can almost see a tiny inscription written on the back of my scriptures. It says, “Tot Zeins—Till we meet.”
In a Class by Herself
The ward Primary presidency were deep in thought as they contemplated the organization’s needs for the coming year. “What shall we do about Jenny?” one of them asked. “She is the only eleven-year-old in the whole ward. Don’t you think we should just combine the classes? You know how difficult it is to get teachers, especially to teach just one child.”
The Primary president nodded. “Yes, that’s true,” she said. “But I just don’t feel right about that solution. I don’t think that Jenny is getting the attention she needs right now. I think we should pray some more about this decision.”
At that time, Primary was held on Thursday afternoons, and it was difficult to find sisters who could teach Primary during the week. And to find someone who would be willing to teach only one child seemed an impossible task.
The next day, the Primary president took out the ward list and looked at all the sisters’ names. It seemed that all the sisters who might be suitable already had more than one calling. So she took the problem to Heavenly Father—and prayed again about finding a teacher for Jenny.
The next time she looked at the ward list, she felt drawn to Sister Conner’s name—an unlikely choice, she thought, because Sister Conner said she was not a good teacher. In fact, Sister Conner had said many times, “I’m just not a leader. It makes me nervous to make decisions. I am just sure that I wouldn’t make the right ones.” Sister Conner had said it so often that everyone in the ward believed her. But there was no mistaking the Spirit’s promptings, so the Primary president took her request to the branch presidency.
Sister Conner was surprised to receive the call. “Are you sure?” she asked. “You know I can’t teach.”
“Yes,” came the answer. “But the Lord needs you in this calling, Sister Conner. We suggest that you pray about what you can do to help Jenny.”
Sister Conner was so nervous about her new calling that she was actually relieved that there was only one child in her class. Jenny was delighted when she found out that she was really going to have a teacher all to herself. Her parents were relieved and impressed that Sister Conner had accepted such an unusual calling.
The Primary year began. Every Thursday afternoon, Sister Conner and Jenny could be found in the same small classroom. Sister Conner gave the lessons, and they planned projects and had fun together.
One particularly cold winter Thursday, Jenny came home looking as if she was coming down with a cold. When her mother said that she had better stay home from Primary, Jenny burst into tears. “Mom, you don’t understand. I have to go. Sister Conner needs me. If I don’t go, she won’t have anyone to teach, and that would make her feel very sad!”
As the year progressed, friendship and love grew between Sister Conner and Jenny. Sister Conner taught Jenny to crochet, and Jenny taught Sister Conner how much it meant to her to have a teacher of “her very own.” Jenny learned many new skills that year, and Sister Conner learned that she could indeed teach—and that she really loved teaching!
As the time for Primary graduation grew closer, Sister Conner and Jenny decided that they wanted Jenny’s graduation to be a special time. Jenny’s mother bought fabric for a new dress, and Jenny and Sister Conner sewed it together.
At last, the day arrived. The program was a beautiful, spiritual ending to a unique year, and Jenny looked radiant in the dress she and Sister Conner had worked on together.
Jennifer is a grown woman now—beautiful and self-confident. After nine years of marriage, she has been blessed with only one child. But Jennifer learned long ago the value of “just one child.” And buried deep in her closet is a slightly faded but very special dress that always reminds her of the great love and attention that Sister Conner gave her when she needed it so much.
Meanwhile, Sister Conner has become a great Primary teacher. She still prefers teaching small classes, and when questioned about the year she taught Jenny, she downplays her major role in helping to shape Jenny’s self-worth.
“I didn’t do much,” she recalls. “It wasn’t a sacrifice; it was really fun. I just loved Jenny. I enjoyed that year more than almost anything I have ever done. Even after all these years, I still miss her.”
It had been an aggravating, irritating, nobody-appreciates-me day. All the packing, planning, and preparation for our annual camping trip had been left to me. Taking for granted that I would see to every detail, my husband, Dave, a surgeon in training, had stayed at the hospital long past our departure time. Again.
Before we even got out of the city, the kids were restless and bored with the confinement of the station wagon’s back seat. When Dave said I hadn’t packed enough activities to entertain them in the car, I snapped.
“She’s just mad at Dad,” ten-year-old Owen told his little sister. It was then that I flipped a tape of Primary songs for children into the car cassette and attempted to smolder in silence.
But the joy of the Primary songs was contagious. One by one each family member began to sing along until even my own anger melted and I couldn’t resist joining in the chorus of “Listen, listen, the Holy Ghost will whisper. Listen, listen to the still small voice.” How quickly the music changed the mood of our little family on that desolate 62-miles stretch of freeway. How quickly and how timely.
“We need to turn around,” Dave said as a refrain from the last chorus faded.
“What for?” I asked. “What did I forget?”
“Nothing,” he laughed. “I just have this crazy, compelling feeling that we need to turn around.”
Just as we had been in unison in our song—suddenly we all felt the need to turn around. And as crazy as it seemed at the time, we followed our instincts, listened to the compelling feeling, and turned around. Shortly afterward, we reached a parked camper we had passed earlier. Now a truck was parked behind it, and its driver stood by the side of the road flagging us down. As we slowed to a stop, his frantic words tumbled out.
“There’s been an accident down there,” he said. “She was driving a motorcycle and it flipped. I think she’s dying.” He motioned to a slight body fifty yards away—a mangled motorcycle beside her. We parked the car, and my husband got out.
We had never carried a first-aid kit, but this time we happened to have an emergency kit with us consisting of medical supplies Dave had picked up at a hospital sale just three weeks earlier. For the first time in our lives, we had it in the car! Feeling helpless and scared, I huddled with the children by the side of the road as Dave grabbed the kit and waded through the grass toward the victim.
When he reached the girl, my daughter said, “We should pray.” Thankful for her suggestion, we bowed our heads. “Heavenly Father, please help Daddy. Help him to know what to do to save this girl’s life …”
As I watched my husband kneel beside the young woman and assess the situation, I was humbled. The young girl was indeed dying—unconscious and not breathing. Dave took out the last two items he had added to the kit: a tube-like device called an oral airway, and a bag that allows the doctor to breathe for the patient. He used them both. Along with his CPR skills, they probably saved her life.
When the ambulance arrived, my husband rode with the patient. In the ambulance, he was able to start an I.V. and talk over the two-way radio to medical personnel at the hospital, preparing everyone for their arrival.
I drove the car behind the ambulance as my mind raced. What if we hadn’t had the first-aid kit? What if Dave hadn’t gone to the hospital sale? What if he hadn’t been trained in CPR? And most of all, what if we had continued to argue instead of sing? Would we have then heard the “still small voice”? Would we have recognized it?
The tape in the car recorder had continued to play throughout the entire drama. Silent and shaken, the children and I listened:
“For all his creations of which I’m a part. Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.”
Rummage-Sale Book of Mormon
When the Fargo North Dakota Stake Relief Society Board set a goal for the sisters of the stake to distribute ten thousand copies of the Book of Mormon, my friend Kathy Douglas took the challenge seriously. She included family pictures and sent her books out monthly. But she wasn’t quite expecting the outcome that fellow branch member Cheryl Wells called to tell her about when one Book of Mormon found a home.
Cheryl had seen one of Kathy’s marked books at a rummage sale and, after wondering whether to leave it for someone else, decided to buy it. A few days later, a young college-age man appeared at her door selling books, and she felt impressed to give him Kathy’s Book of Mormon.
Cheryl asked the young man to return the next day when her husband, David, would be home, and upon his return, David and Cheryl bought a book from him. They visited with him, and before letting him go, gave him the rummage-sale Book of Mormon.
“I have many Mormon friends,” the salesman replied as he thanked them, “but none of them ever gave me a Book of Mormon.”
A few weeks later, the young salesman returned with Cheryl and David’s book.
“I’ve read the Book of Mormon,” he said. “I’ve even called my dad in North Carolina to tell him about it.”
The young man’s parents apparently did more than just read the book. Several weeks later, the salesman phoned Cheryl from North Carolina to tell her that he and his parents had been baptized. He had written down her phone number from the check she and David had given him for the book they had purchased and wanted to share the news. Of course Cheryl then shared the news with Kathy, the member-missionary whose enthusiasm to give away copies of the Book of Mormon resulted in this conversion.
When I heard the story of the rummage-sale Book of Mormon and its unusual journey, I realized that, somehow, the Book of Mormon falls into the hands of those whom the Lord has prepared to receive it—provided we have done our part to make the book available.