Entrusted with Her Care
On an early morning in January, my husband and I drove to the hospital for the birth of our fifth child, Charlotte. I had been anxious during my pregnancy, and now I fretted to my husband, “What if our baby isn’t all right?”
“Then we’ll love her just the same,” he answered consolingly.
When my daughter finally lay beside me in the delivery room, I examined her. She looked perfect. But when she was whisked away, I asked in alarm, “What’s the matter? Is my baby all right?”
“The doctor will talk to you,” the nurse responded. My stomach knotted, and my worst fears began to surface.
The doctor soon told us that our baby had Down syndrome. Sorrow, disbelief, anger, and guilt boiled up.
“Why us? Why Charlotte?” I questioned. My world seemed to have changed forever, and I didn’t know how to handle it.
Charlotte’s birth was the beginning of the hard times. A short time later my mother-in-law had a stroke; two of our cars broke down; our business struggled; Charlotte required surgery on her eyes, ears, and heart; and the medical bills flooded in.
One particularly overwhelming day, I took Charlotte to our bedroom and said a discouraged prayer. “Heavenly Father, this is more than I can bear. Please help me.” Slowly I got to my feet and turned on the television news, looking for a distraction.
The top story described a plane crash that killed all the passengers. For the first time, I listened to the news in a different way. “Someone’s husband was killed in that crash,” I reflected. “If I had the power to trade places, would I rather be a widow?”
The next story told of a young man arrested for selling drugs. I thought, “That is someone’s son. Would I rather be his mother?” Dawning understanding brought a simple but important realization: we all face trials to help us progress.
I looked over at Charlotte, and some words came clearly to mind: “Why are you so sad when Heavenly Father has sent you a sweet little baby to love?” That was my answer. No plane crashes or drugs—I got to love little Charlotte. Rather than deserting me, Heavenly Father was entrusting me with a child who needed extra care. Realizing the confidence He had placed in me, I felt my bitterness slip away.
Charlotte has taught us peace and appreciation. Although frustrating times come, she is an integral part of our family. She is a little piece of heaven sent to us to love.
I Didn’t Find God—He Found Me
In 1975 my wife, Sabine, and I were a young married couple with a 16-month-old son. We lived in Celle, which was then part of the Germany Hamburg Mission.
The missionaries probably never would have found our home, which was hidden behind a gas station and an automobile repair shop. But they did find me—sitting on a bench at the train station one sunny June day. I was probably smoking a cigarette.
The two young Americans introduced themselves as representatives of a church. I don’t remember what we talked about, but it must have been interesting because I agreed to let them call at our home the following day.
They arrived on time and began discussing principles that most people believe. Both Sabine and I had a good feeling about them and enjoyed the conversation. But then the subject turned to God. I told them I did not believe in either God or Jesus Christ. The missionaries seemed somewhat dismayed and left us a pamphlet describing a visit by Jesus Christ to the Americas.
We didn’t make another appointment, but we read the pamphlet attentively and had the impression these Americans were crazy. Christ in America! Who ever heard of such a thing?
One Sunday in September we found ourselves near the home of some friends we hadn’t seen for several months. We decided to drop in. They were just getting ready to go to their new church, which they were very enthused about. Quite spontaneously, we decided to go with them. We too found the atmosphere of the branch enchanting, and everything we heard there was interesting and believable. We were eager to return the following Sunday.
Soon we were learning all about the Church from the full-time missionaries and from member missionaries. Brother Horst Klappert taught a class for investigators. Horst and his wife, Rotraud, had a lot in common with us. We became good friends, and soon we were being invited everywhere by Church members. We enjoyed many wonderful evenings that were different from anything we were used to.
One of the full-time missionaries was an elder named Max Fisher. When we got to the third or fourth discussion, Elder Fisher asked me—me, Jochen Beisert, someone who did not believe in God—to offer a prayer. At that moment I suddenly remembered something that had happened to me more than 10 years before.
I had been living in Osnabrück in a large apartment building where almost none of the residents knew each other. I lived across the hall from an elderly woman named Frau Köhler. One day she asked me if I could thread a needle for her. I was very willing to do so, and over the next few months I stopped by once or twice a week to help her in various ways or just to visit. I was probably the only person she spoke to for many months.
Just before I moved to another part of the city, Frau Köhler invited me to her apartment and thanked me for threading her needle and for doing other small things for her. Then she asked me to sit in her favorite chair. She opened a drawer, took out an old hymnbook, and in her quavering voice sang three verses of the hymn “Great God, We Praise Thee.”
My heart softened. At that moment I knew with absolute certainty that there was a God, that He was my Father, and that He cared for me. It was a humbling experience. I promised to come and see Frau Köhler as often as I could.
Five weeks later I stood in front of the apartment building again and rang the doorbell. Through the intercom an unfamiliar voice informed me that Frau Köhler had died two weeks before. I felt very sorry.
Over the years my hectic lifestyle, combined with the trials of life, had caused me to forget this experience. But now when I started to pray, it came back to me, and I had a tender talk with my Father in Heaven. All those present—our recently converted friends and the missionaries—felt the Spirit and were close to tears. A few weeks later, on 18 October 1975, I was baptized by Elder Fisher. Sabine was baptized by one of our member missionaries.
When I received my patriarchal blessing about a year later, the patriarch said: “The Lord would like to tell you that you did not find Him. He looked for you and found you for a wise purpose.” The patriarch could not have known how meaningful this statement was to me.
Eventually, Sabine and I had three more children, all of whom we have raised in the Church. Together with Frau Köhler, my dear old neighbor, we have much cause to sing, “Great God, we praise Thee.” I am so grateful to Him for bringing me and my family to the truth.
Thank You, Mrs. Pfeil
When business meetings brought me to my childhood hometown of Mansfield, Massachusetts, I looked up the Web page of my old middle school. At the end of a list of current faculty members was Mrs. Christine Pfeil, my eighth-grade English teacher who was a truly influential person in my life.
When I was in eighth grade, difficulties at home left me angry and distracted from school responsibilities. Other teachers didn’t pay attention to my altered attitude and slipping grades, but Mrs. Pfeil took a personal interest. She would never accept less than my best. Often she would write on my assignments, “You can do better—try again.” Grudgingly, I would redo the assignment, thinking, “OK, you want something better? I’ll give you something better!” In her class, I felt intelligent and appreciated. When I left Qualters Middle School after eighth grade, I knew I could succeed scholastically because of Mrs. Pfeil’s belief in me.
As I looked at her name on the Web page that day, it suddenly seemed overwhelmingly important to tell her as soon as possible how she had influenced my life. I determined to find her, so at noon the next day, I excused myself from a business meeting and sped to Qualters.
I had just tried her locked classroom door when I saw Mrs. Pfeil walking down the hallway. “Carl Nelson!” she exclaimed. “I haven’t seen you in 25 years! What are you doing here?”
Impelled to deliver my message, I began abruptly. “I feel I need to tell you personally how important you were in my life. In eighth grade I was going through difficult times, but you expected my best. Precious few demanded that much from me then. As far as I can tell, your faith in me was the major reason I began trusting in my own abilities. I don’t know what my life would have been like without a teacher like you.”
As I spoke, Mrs. Pfeil’s eyes became wet. “I have to tell you a story,” she said. “I have always wanted to be a writer, even though I felt God wanted me to teach. Last night I was feeling hurt that I had never received any appreciation for my work. I told God that unless I received some thanks the very next day, I was going to retire from teaching and work on my writing. And now here you come after all this time to thank me on this particular day—this blessing is almost too much!”
Mrs. Pfeil and I were unable to talk longer. Her students began arriving, and I left, humbled that Heavenly Father let me share in helping one of His children. Reflecting upon my brief experience with Mrs. Pfeil, I remained impressed that no matter who we are or what church we belong to, our loving Father works in our lives to answer our prayers.