Getting Things Started

By Richard Daniels

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    When these children set a missionary goal, they had no idea they would influence a family on the other side of the world.

    Kim and Neil Davis were getting nervous.

    You see, they come from a family that believes in setting goals and then doing everything they can to achieve those goals. When they, their parents, and their four brothers and sisters set a goal as a family, there’s almost no stopping them.

    That’s why they were getting anxious now. Time was growing short. They had set a goal to introduce a new family to the gospel every six months, and here it was, the last week of that time period, and they had not found even one interested family.

    They had fulfilled this goal many times in the past. When the Davises had lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., where few Latter-day Saints live, they could introduce lots of families to the gospel. “Not only would we have them come to our home for the missionary discussions,” says Kim, 14, the oldest daughter, “but we would invite them to family home evenings, special Christmas programs, and other activities.”

    But now the family was living in Utah, and it wasn’t as easy finding non-Latter-day Saint families to share the gospel with. The end of their six-month time period was getting closer, and they hadn’t found anyone. The Davises knew theirs was a righteous desire, so they had family prayers and fasted. The six children each asked for help in their individual prayers.

    And then, on the last day of the sixth month, their prayers were answered.

    “My dad is used to receiving foreign mail from doctors asking for copies of articles,” explains Kim. Her father, Dr. Kim Davis, has had reports of his medical research published in a number of medical journals. “So when he received the letter from Hungary, he didn’t think there would be anything unusual about it, until he opened the envelope and read what was inside.”

    “We were so excited!” says Neil, age 12. The letter was from a family in Hungary—the Keresztis. They had seen a television documentary about Utah on Hungarian national television, and it had mentioned the Church and some of its beliefs. What had impressed the Keresztis most was the idea that families could be together forever; They wanted to know more about a church which taught such a belief, so the father, a doctor, and the son, a medical student, searched through old medical journals looking for an address in Utah. The one they happened to find was Dr. Davis’s. The Hungarian family asked if their letter to Dr. Davis could be sent to someone who would send them information about the Church.

    Of course, there was no need for the Davis family to forward the Keresztis’ request. They immediately gathered all the Church information in Hungarian they could find, and shipped it to their new-found friends.

    Then they wrote their testimonies of the gospel. They put those in an envelope, along with pictures of their family, and sent them to the Keresztis as well.

    The Keresztis were amazed when they received a big box so soon from the United States and eagerly began reading the material. They were even more amazed when they received the letter and found that such a large family could be so close and have such strong testimonies of the gospel. Though the Keresztis had only one child, they felt just as strong about family unity and were excited to find something to help them.

    Soon the Davises and the Keresztis were exchanging letters and pictures frequently. “We grew very close,” says Kim. “When we got a letter from them, our whole family would pass it around, and we would read it at family home evening. We were so excited to see how they were accepting the gospel in Hungary, and we couldn’t believe it was happening to us.”

    In the meantime, the Davises contacted the mission president in Vienna, Austria. Through him, the Keresztis were able to have missionary discussions about once a month.

    “When we got the letter saying they were going to be baptized in Vienna, Austria, it was really exciting,” says Neil. “And when we got pictures taken after their baptism, that was great!”

    This would be a fine place to end Kim and Neil’s story, but there’s more. The Kereszti’s son, Zsolt, was the only Latter-day Saint single adult in Hungary, so Dr. Davis invited him to come to Salt Lake City and live with his family for a while. Since Zsolt had medical training, he could help Dr. Davis in his research.

    So now the Davis’s missionary efforts resulted in a new big brother for the family. What’s it like to suddenly have a friend from Hungary move in?

    “I remember the first day he came,” says Kim. “We couldn’t even pronounce his name. But since then, we’ve become really close. I go to early-morning seminary, and he takes me. He’s come to our school and spoken, he’s cooked Hungarian dinners for us, he’s taught us a little of the Hungarian language, and we’ve done a lot of other special things together.”

    “I was kind of shy at first,” says Neil, who was the oldest son in the house when Zsolt arrived. “We’d go out and play racquetball and Ping-Pong, and we all got used to each other. Considering he came from a family where he was the only child, he’s very patient with us.”

    As for Zsolt, he was delighted to be accepted straight into the heart of a strong Latter-day Saint family. He’s fascinated by their unity, by family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening, and he’s amazed at their support of each other. The Davises are a musical family and play their various instruments together often. They’re also an athletic family and always attend each other’s games and sports activities.

    “I’ve learned that I tremendously enjoy a big family,” Zsolt says. “It’s very educational for me to watch and learn how they handle everything. They set goals and motivate each other. I would like to have a family like this someday.”

    When Zsolt had been with the Davises for more than a year, he received word from his parents and Church authorities that the Church had been officially recognized in Hungary. That meant branches could be organized, baptisms could be performed within the country, chapels could be established, and missionary work could go forth. Zsolt’s parents, among the first members in Hungary, were instrumental in helping this happen. Since they have so many ties with Hungary now, that news made Kim and Neil ecstatic.

    But they haven’t stopped sharing the gospel with their non-Latter-day Saints friends. “First you have to love the gospel, to know it’s true, and have your own testimony,” says Kim. “Then you can’t help but share it with your friends.”

    “Sometimes it’s hard, but you can’t be afraid to approach your friends about the gospel,” says Neil. “Once you get started, it’s easier.”

    Getting started. That’s what is necessary. The Davises had no idea when they set their family missionary goal that people on the other side of the world would be influenced, or that more love and excitement would come into their home through someone from another culture.

    It just proves what can happen once you get started.

    Photos by Craig Dimond

    I’ve learned that I tremendously enjoy a big family. I would like to have a family like this someday.—Zsolt Kereszti

    I love Zsolt like a brother and his parents, Gedeon and Piroska, are like grandparents to me.—Cindy Davis

    We were so excited to see how they were accepting the gospel in Hungary.—Kim Davis

    Our experience with the Keresztis is truly one of the greatest blessings in our lives.—Brother Kim Davis

    The Davises are a musical family and they often shared these talents with Zsolt. He returned the favor by teaching them a little Hungarian culture. “He’s cooked Hungarian dinners for us and taught us a little of the Hungarian language,” says Kim. However, one of the most exciting things they shared was the experience of having Zsolt’s parents come from Hungary to be sealed with him in the Salt Lake Temple.