Portrait of a Convert: Martha Poston


Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Martha Poston joined the United States Peace Corps in 1972. The Peace Corps trains and sends volunteers around the world to use their abilities to help others. She joined, she says, because, “I wanted to share my skills and knowledge with those less fortunate than I.” After she studied health and sanitation, child care, food and nutrition, and sewing, Martha began serving in rural Jamaica, where she organized classes to improve living conditions. Soon, however, she was transferred to Liberia in western Africa.

During her Peace Corps service, Martha recalls wanting an understanding of eternity and her place in God’s plan. She had inborn faith in a loving Father in Heaven. “I began feeling spiritual promptings telling me to set my house in order,” she remembers. “But when and for what reason was not clear.”

So Martha kept serving. To help combat the ever-present diseases, she taught rural Liberian women how to do their domestic chores off the ground, where mites and bacteria abounded, in sinks and ovens made from large oil cans and raised-hearth stoves constructed from earth and cement. She introduced clotheslines to the villages. Natives had been drying clothes on the ground and using a charcoal iron to kill mites that would settle in and lay eggs on the clothing. Those that survived would multiply and infect the wearers, causing misery. She also taught them how to boil and crack open palm nuts for their butter, to store grain, and to build iceless refrigerators from the oil cans. These they insulated with fabric-stuffed rice bags soaked with water, creating a crude thermos good for several days.

As Martha continued to lose herself in service, she began to awaken spiritually. She occasionally became discouraged, but remembers that she felt very close to God. “I relied on his Spirit to strengthen and direct me,” she says. “During this time, I had a dream similar to the one I would later recognize when I read the Book of Mormon—that of the rod leading to the tree of life. Other dreams assured me that my Heavenly Father would lead me from darkness into the light.

“I began reading my Bible daily but did not understand it,” she says. “I didn’t know what my next step should be—I just trusted the Lord. Then my mother became ill and I returned to Atlanta to care for her. I still continued to search the scriptures.”

While Martha stayed at her mother’s home, two missionaries came to the door. “We are here to teach you the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” they said. After the first lesson, Martha felt grateful for additional knowledge, but she wasn’t inclined to join this “true church.” But by the third lesson, she began to receive answers to her prayers. She felt strongly that she was being led to this church where she would find people who would love and accept her.

On 1 May 1983, Martha Poston was baptized. She recalls that “my soul hungered and my mind and spirit were athirst, and God didn’t fail me.”

Two years later, Martha received a call to serve a temple mission in the Atlanta Temple, where she enjoys bearing her testimony of “having found the Spirit of God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ. He is alive,” she says, “and is blessing those who will open up their hearts and let him come in.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Lori Anderson