I looked around the chapel for the people whose names had just been read by the bishop as he welcomed a new family into the ward. I resolved to introduce myself and get acquainted right after sacrament meeting.

I thought about Sister Shaw’s parting testimony at an earlier sacrament meeting. “This is my last Sunday here,” she had said. “Before I leave I feel impressed to share an experience with you.”

Sandy Shaw had lived in our ward during the past year while her husband attended school. I’m not sure when I first noticed her, but she seemed to have a special friendship with Neva Gillman, the Spiritual Living teacher in our ward.

I thought about the story Sister Shaw told.

“I felt loved and secure in my home ward,” she had said. “I had lived there all my life. When my husband and I moved here, I was terrified to attend a strange ward, and didn’t want to go for several weeks. But soon I felt a great emptiness in my life and vowed to attend the next meeting.

“I entered the church with great fear. As people went to their classes, I hoped someone would introduce himself or herself and show me the way to go. I knew I should say something to someone, but my tongue wouldn’t work. People walked by, visiting with their friends. Some even smiled at me. It wasn’t long until the doors were closed and the halls were empty. Crying in despair, I turned and left.

“That night I turned to the one person I knew I could count on: Father in Heaven. ‘Dear Father,’ I pleaded. ‘I have always been active, but I’m afraid to go to a strange ward. I can’t do it alone.’

“The next morning I opened my door to a nervous stranger who said, ‘Hello. My name is Neva Gillman. I really don’t know why I’m here, but I had the strongest impression to come by and ask if you would like to come to Relief Society with me.’

“Smiling through my tears, I invited her in.”

Sister Shaw’s testimony had made me take a good look at myself. How many times had I seen new people come to church, and, because I didn’t know what to say, walked by them or smiled and said only “hello”?

Never again!

[photo] Photography by Steve Bunderson

Elaine Vaughn lives in the Spokane (Washington) Ninth Ward.