Ella watched as her grandfather threw another box onto the lawn. Her grandmother stood by the door, tears streaming down her cheeks. She said nothing, though. Ella knew her grandmother would never speak against her grandfather. Tradition did not allow it.
Grandfather had made it clear—if Ella and her mother joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they would no longer be welcome in his home.
Ella hurriedly gathered her belongings from the wet grass. The breeze, heavy with humidity, did little to cool the growing heat that blanketed the small island of Saipan, part of the Northern Mariana Islands in the central Pacific Ocean.
She picked up a picture frame, her heart breaking a bit as she looked at the broken glass that held a photograph of her parents on their wedding day.
Without her grandparents, she and Mama were all alone in the world. Ella’s father had died before she was born.
The missionaries had changed everything.
Grandfather hadn’t wanted to let the missionaries inside when they had first come to the small frame house. Only Mama’s quiet insistence had won out in the face of his opposition. Pointedly, he’d remained in the kitchen whenever the missionaries visited.
The two young men spoke the language with broken accents. Even so, Ella knew that she was hearing the truth. She felt it in her heart, even when her mind was not sure. Together, she and her mother read the Book of Mormon and felt the Spirit.
Until the missionaries had invited them to start attending the Church, Ella and her mother had gone to her grandparents’ church—the same one their parents had attended, and their parents before them.
Being baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meant more than leaving their former church. It meant cutting themselves off from family and friends.
She wanted to blame the missionaries and tell them that because of their preaching, she and her mother no longer had a family or home. Even as the thought formed, she knew that the young elders weren’t to blame. They had only spoken the truth and challenged Ella and her mother to accept it.
Where will we live? Ella wondered. Her mother’s job as a store clerk barely paid enough to support them, even while they lived with her grandparents. Apartments were not easy to find in Saipan.
Then she remembered the stories the missionaries had told about the early Saints and the sacrifices they’d made for their beliefs. Some had lost homes and families as Ella and her mother had. Others had even given their lives for the gospel.
Despite everything, Ella knew that she and her mother were doing the right thing. Already the gospel had brought blessings into their lives. Mama had stopped smoking. For years Ella had begged her to stop. She knew how Mama had struggled to give up the habit she’d had since she was sixteen years old.
While Ella was still remembering these things, the missionaries arrived and calmly began gathering up the boxes and piling them into a borrowed truck.
“Don’t worry about a place to live,” one elder said as he lifted Mama’s shabby suitcase into the truck. “The Knudsens have an extra room and said that you can stay with them as long as you need to.”
Brother Knudsen taught Sunday School, and his wife was the Relief Society president. One of their daughters was in Ella’s Primary class.
Ella watched as her mother’s eyes filled with tears. “It is too much.”
“They’re already planning on it,” the other elder said gently. “Is this all?” He gestured to the boxes in the truck.
After the short trip to the Knudsens’ house, the elders carried the boxes and suitcase inside.
Brother and Sister Knudsen greeted them with big smiles. “We will enjoy the company,” Sister Knudsen said when Ella’s mother thanked them for their hospitality.
Ella had to share the room with Mama, but she didn’t mind.
“We’ll give you a chance to get settled,” Brother Knudsen said. “We hope you’ll join us for dinner tonight.”
“Why don’t Grandma and Grandpa love us anymore?” Ella asked her mother once they were alone in their new home.
Mother gave Ella a tired smile. “Your grandparents haven’t stopped loving us. But they don’t understand that we have found a new way of life.”
Ella knew that her mother was talking about the gospel. “Will we ever see them again?”
This time the smile reached Mama’s eyes. “Of course we will. Your grandma feels really bad about what happened. I think your grandpa does, too. He’s just too hurt to admit it. And too stubborn.
“Someday they’ll accept us and maybe the gospel. Until then, we have to keep loving them and let them know that being members of the Church hasn’t changed what we feel for them.”
Ella hoped so. She missed her grandparents already.
“What do you want to do first in our new home?” Mama asked.
Ella reached for her mother’s hand. “Let’s say a prayer. We have much to be thankful for.”
“New members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cannot make it alone. … They need us and we need them.” Elder Richard H. Winkel Of the Seventy (Ensign, November 1999, page 81.)