I still remember our first Sunday at the tiny Regina Branch in Regina, New Mexico, where we would attend church for the next five years. We found the little building without too much trouble. It was an old three-room school that had been donated for use as a church. The white building was centered in a large lot bordered by a barbed wire fence. Outhouses were in each rear corner. Neighboring cows gazed at us as we walked from the car to the building’s entrance.
The nine members of our family outnumbered the five branch members who were standing outside to greet us: branch president Wayne Swenson; his wife, Sharon, and their baby; recently baptized, 20-year-old D. A. Evans; and his nonmember friend Hoot. The last two were wearing cowboy clothes.
When the meeting began, President Swenson did almost everything himself. He had been there one and a half years with no counselors and only a member or two now and then, with occasional stake visitors from Albuquerque, New Mexico, over 100 miles away. So he greeted everyone, led the opening hymn, and gave the opening prayer. When it was time for the sacrament hymn, he hit a note on the piano to give us the pitch, began leading us in singing, then prepared the sacrament while we sang. He administered the sacrament, and D. A. passed it. Then in Sunday School President Swenson taught the lesson.
After the meeting, President Swenson asked me if I would be the music director. Shocked, I replied that I couldn’t, I didn’t know how. No one else knew how either, he said. As I looked around the room I realized he was right; there was no one else. So I learned. That was the beginning of many other assignments.
Wonderful things happened in those years. We always felt the strong, comforting presence of the Holy Spirit during our meetings, and visitors almost always commented on the Spirit they felt with us.
I learned to rely on prayer and the Spirit to be a better teacher. When I prayed before preparing lessons, it saved time, and I received better ideas. I taught Primary, Sunday School, and home study seminary and helped with Cub Scouts, all at the same time. I sometimes traveled as much as 50 miles to do my visiting teaching. I also had other callings within the different auxiliaries, such as music director, president, and secretary. When the Swensons moved, my husband was called to be branch president.
Of course our family didn’t do everything. Keith and Ruth Elmer and four children moved in and shared the load; they had three good pianists and a lot of talents that enriched us all. In time about 10 more families moved in and out, but everyone contributed something. We became close friends and stuck together.
We worked together to get cars out of the snowy parking lot during winter, and after our Sunday meetings we often had potluck dinners to honor visitors, some of whom had traveled hours to meet with us. Their extra efforts made us feel important. Of course, with so few of us, the source of greatest excitement was news that members were moving into the area.
Yet with all our good times there were also some unhappy, lonesome, discouraging times. Sometimes I wondered why we were there, even though my husband Wayne and I had felt that we were where we were supposed to be. Sometimes I missed the closeness of family members and the programs and greater numbers of a ward.
Once, in discouragement, I traveled the 15 miles to the church building in Regina. Inside the room we used as a chapel was a pot-bellied stove, which kept the room warm during the winter months. Heavy wooden beams held up the ceiling, and the large, partitioned windows let in sunlight. I sat at the piano and plunked out melodies to a few hymns. I sang; I cried. Then I pondered as I sang, “It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord may have need of me” (“I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, no. 270). I kept on singing through my tears and let the words penetrate my heart; “So trusting my all to thy tender care, and knowing thou lovest me, I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere: I’ll be what you want me to be.” So that day I committed to keep on, to try harder, to have faith in God’s plan for my family.
Despite our occasional doubts, the Lord wanted to keep the Regina Branch alive. We had missionaries off and on, and they eventually reaped the seeds that had been planted and nourished through the years. We were all thrilled when one of our own members even served a mission! D. A., the new member in cowboy clothes who had helped greet our family when we first arrived, was sent to New York to serve the Lord and helped strengthen wards and branches there.
In time it became necessary for us to move away. Although our absence created a vacuum at first, the Lord was in charge. Brother Elmer became the branch president, and D. A. eventually became a branch president too. The branch still thrives under the Lord’s watchful eye.
From my years with the dear members of the Regina Branch I gained a sweet testimony of the words that helped me one lonely day to resolve to keep going and have faith in the Lord: “But if, by a still, small voice he calls to paths that I do not know, I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine: I’ll go where you want me to go.”