Lisa Toemei* paid extra attention to sweeping the floor of the one-room house. It was a special occasion. The missionaries were coming today. It would make the fourth time the American elders had visited her family.
Lisa had never been off the island of Pohnpei, which is just north of the equator in the Pacific Ocean. She looked forward to the visits of these missionaries from a land so far away. She had many questions for them.
At last the missionaries arrived. As was the custom, they removed their shoes before entering the house. “Brother and Sister Toemei, thank you for inviting us into your home.” Elder Choate greeted them in their own language.
Elder Tyson did the same.
Lisa liked listening to them, even though they spoke with a funny accent.
Barney, Lisa’s little brother, smiled shyly at the two young men.
Elder Choate and Elder Tyson came from the United States of America to teach the people about Jesus Christ. They were dressed in dark pants, white shirts, and ties. Their name badges proclaimed that they were from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Choate was tall and fair, his hair so light that it appeared almost white. Even the hair on his arms was white! Lisa had never seen such pale skin and blue eyes. He was from Colorado. He showed it to her on a map. It was a small square surrounded by other squares and shapes—and very far from the ocean!
Elder Tyson was not so tall, but he still towered over her papa. His hair was bright red, making Lisa think of the sunset.
During each of the missionaries’ visits, Lisa and Barney couldn’t get their questions out fast enough. What was the United States like? How did people live without being near the ocean? What made their skin so light?
The missionaries answered the questions and then asked questions of their own. Did they know that their family could be together in heaven? Did they want to be an eternal family? Did they believe the Church was true, and if so, would they be baptized?
“An eternal family,” Mama said, her hands clasped. “It is the truth you bring us. Always we know there is something more than what we have, but we do not know where to find it. You honor us with this gift.”
Papa nodded, his face grave. “This baptism you speak of—you can do it for us?”
The elders grinned. “It would give us great joy to baptize you,” Elder Choate said. “Since Lisa is ten, she can be baptized along with you and Sister Toemei. Barney will have to wait until he is eight years old.”
“You will stay for a meal,” Mama said, already bustling about in the far corner that served as their kitchen.
What will we feed the Americans? Lisa wondered. The family had only a little food to last through the week.
Mama prepared the meal, all the while listening as the elders continued teaching from the dark blue Book of Mormon.
Lisa’s eyes widened when she saw the amount of food on the table. Rice, fresh tuna, and bananas filled the serving bowls! There was enough for several meals.
The elders held up their hands. “This is your family’s food,” Elder Choate said. “We cannot eat it.”
“You hold the everlasting gospel in your hands,” Mama said. “You must have our best.”
The young men continued to protest until Papa said quietly, “Would you turn away a gift from a friend?”
The elders looked at each other. “Thank you,” Elder Tyson said at last. “We would be honored to share your meal.”
Why?” Lisa asked her mother in a low voice as the missionaries went to wash their hands. “Why do you give them all our food? We will not have enough for the rest of the week.”
“Did you not hear what these men of God said? They bring a message from the living prophet. What is a bit of food compared to the truth and light that they teach to us?”
There was much laughter at the small wooden table during the meal. Lisa felt the Spirit warm her from the inside out. She especially liked hearing Elder Choate bear his testimony about Joseph Smith, the first President of the Church, and President Gordon B. Hinckley, the current prophet. She listened closely as Elder Tyson told of his recent visit to Guam.
Lisa scraped the last of the rice from the bowl as she put away the leftovers. She knew there would be little food for the next week, but she didn’t mind anymore.
The elders returned the following day. Each carried a sack. There were boxes of cereal and cans of fruit and vegetables.
“It is too much!” Mama said, tears bright in her eyes. “Too much.”
“Would you turn away a gift from a friend?” Elder Choate asked, using Papa’s words. “The gospel of Jesus Christ makes us all brothers and sisters. We could not let our brothers and sisters go hungry.”
Brothers and sisters—Lisa liked that.