A Spare Prayer
It was eight-year-old Janene’s turn to offer the family prayer before we left on our final summer outing. Janene thanked Heavenly Father for “our many blessings” and asked that “we will be blessed to travel safely and have a good time together and return home without harm or accident.”
My wife, Flora, our daughter Marie, and Janene packed the car, and we were off for the day. We traveled over a rough gravel road to reach Goose Creek, and I drove carefully to protect tires. Nevertheless, when we had been at Goose Creek for about an hour, I returned to the car to get a drink of water and noticed the left rear tire was low. It’s good I saw that now, I thought. I can slip on the spare and we’ll be able to have the flat repaired at the service station on our way home.
Late that afternoon we started for home and stopped at a service station to repair the flat tire. As I was putting the spare tire into the trunk, I decided the gravel road was rougher than I thought: the right rear tire was also going flat.
“I guess we had better repair this one too,” I told the attendant.
He agreed. “You wouldn’t want to be on the road between here and the highway at this time of the evening when there is no traffic.”
But as we were driving along the gravel road, I felt the car sway—as incredible as it seemed, we had another flat tire. I mounted the spare tire and we were off.
We were about fifteen miles from the service station when the car began to sway again. I stopped, opened the car door, and leaned out, hoping that I wouldn’t see what I knew I was going to see. Sure enough, we had yet another flat tire! Now we were in serious trouble. It was dark, there was no traffic along this road, we couldn’t move the car, and relatives in town didn’t know where we were.
To calm everyone, I said, “We have plenty of food. I’m sure someone will come along soon.” I was just going to propose a prayer when I heard Janene mutter, “I didn’t think my prayer was a very good one anyway.” Now I couldn’t suggest that we have prayer, or Janene might doubt our Father in Heaven hears her prayers.
I got out of the car and looked at the tire again. I noticed that the bead of the tire had not slipped off the rim of the wheel even though the tire was completely flat. I began to wonder if we could still drive. Still doubting, I got back into the car and started the engine.
We began to move slowly along the road. One mile, two miles, three miles. “No one ever drives three miles on a flat tire without the tire bead slipping off the wheel rim,” I said in amazement. Five, ten, fifteen, sixteen miles rolled by. Flip-flop! The tire bead slipped off the wheel rim, and we thudded to a stop right next to a farm house.
A man was standing in the front yard tending an open fire. “We’re having a little trouble,” I began.
“I can see that,” he replied.
I asked to use the telephone and was waiting for the operator to call back when he said, “I just might have a mounted tire that would fit your car. Let’s go out and see.”
We dug through some machinery in a shed and found the wheel with a tire mounted on it. We rolled the wheel over to the car and put it on. “It fits exactly!” I exclaimed. “Could I buy the wheel and tire from you?”
“No. I don’t want to sell it, but you can borrow it if you will bring it back. In fact, I think I have another one you can take along as a spare.”
He smiled as he put the other wheel in the trunk. “That should get you home.”
As we were skimming along the highway with all tires inflated and a spare in the trunk, I reviewed with the family the almost unbelievable events of the day.
Then I reached over, took Janene by the hand, and asked, “Now, what do you think of the prayer you asked this morning?”
She turned to me, and a smile brightened her tired face.
I first heard the captivating charge at a devotional at Provo’s Missionary Training Center (MTC). “Bloom where you are planted,” urged Sister Pat Pinegar, the MTC president’s wife, to a sea of attentive missionaries. I relished the counsel, grateful to have been called on a Spanish-speaking mission to San Jose, California—a fertile garden, I assumed, where anyone could bloom.
But the blooming I’d so eagerly expected didn’t come so easily. Shortly after our arrival in San Jose, my MTC companion, Sister Buttars, and I discovered that we were an experiment of sorts. We were the first Spanish-speaking sisters in our mission. After one month with different companions, Sister Buttars and I were transferred to a small Spanish branch at the southern end of the mission.
Salinas resembled a small bit of Mexico. In our first fumbling attempts to speak Spanish and to get acquainted with the people and culture, we felt helpless and conspicuous. But knowing we’d been sent to bloom, we worked hard to prepare the ground for an eventual harvest.
We ate cactus soup and pigs’ feet, gave driving lessons, planned branch activities, translated for the telephone company, and served those around us in various ways. In the process, we began to understand the language better and see the people in a true light. Their hearts were humble and pure, and we rejoiced when flickers of testimony led to glorious baptisms.
The little branch began to grow, and so did our testimonies. We were always exhausted after a day’s work, and yet we felt full and complete. The members finally stopped asking where the real missionaries were, and we stopped praying for new “gardens.”
But after six months in Salinas, I was transferred to Sunnyvale. A large branch with devoted members and loving leadership, stable jobs for the people, no cactus—it was the garden I’d once dreamed of. I bloomed there, too, but part of my heart was in Salinas, my refiner’s fire.
For the last two months of my mission, I was transferred back to Salinas to train a new sister missionary. Nothing could have felt more right. In my last zone meeting, I overheard two missionaries talking about how a change of companions or areas would help bring them the greater success they desired. At that moment I was grateful I hadn’t reserved my best efforts for a “perfect” garden.
Now my mission is over and Salinas is many miles away. But my favorite motto, “Bloom where you are planted,” still motivates me to bloom in any garden—fertile or not—to which life’s changing path leads me.
Lost in the Fold
Recalling Aunt Lucy’s fruitless years of research, I knew it wouldn’t be easy locating records on Robert Mugleston, my husband’s direct-line great-grandfather. Nevertheless, I’d been bitten by the genealogy bug and looked forward to going to England with my cousins and sister-in-law as part of a research tour.
The brief entry on our pedigree chart—“Robert, about 1715, of Diseworth”—wasn’t much to go on, but it would have to do. Once we were in Leicester, England, a county comprising Diseworth, we began a search of all available records. I’d already combed the microfilm records of Diseworth back home, but I decided to check the original parish records anyway.
I’d been working my way through a stack of brittle, rough-edged parchment dating to the early 1700s when I made a breakthrough I’ll never forget. Overcome with emotion, I lowered my head to the table and wept.
My sobs drew my companions to my side. I was speechless, but as they looked over my shoulder, I showed them my discovery. Smoothing out a crease in the parchment, I exposed an entry that had escaped detection by the microfilm camera: “Robert, son of William and Mary Mugleston, baptized 11 February 1714.”
With a quick, almost inadvertent motion of my hand, I had brought to light what had eluded generations of genealogists.
In a little cemetery near an old church in Breedon-on-the-Hill, we found a double headstone marking where Robert Mugleston and his wife had been buried over two centuries ago. I hope their wait hasn’t seemed as long to them as did the relatively short time it took for us to get home with the information, submit the names, and learn of the completion of their temple work.