Missionary Focus:
The First Step Was the Hardest

by Patti Wiltbank

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    She was my best friend, the one I had grown up with and known since that first frightful day of first grade. Since then we had shared everything from doll cradles and humpty-dumpty cookies to high school classes and slumber parties. There was only one big difference between us. You see, she did not yet know the truth and I did.

    It took me 12 long years to realize that the gospel belonged not only to me but to her too and that it was through me that she might be able to find it.

    I took my problem to our missionaries, thinking I would give the job to them; but I was fooled.

    “You ask her and we’ll teach her,” they said.

    Teaching her seemed to be no problem. I had the most difficult job of all.

    I called her on the phone.

    “Hey, how would you like to come and see a movie at my house tonight?” I said. “The new missionaries in our ward are showing it.”

    She came. She saw the film and left without saying much about it.

    A week later the elders dropped by. “Have you set up a time when she can hear the gospel?” they asked.

    “Well, she hasn’t really said much about the movie. I didn’t know whether to ask her again or not.”

    “Call her and ask her,” said one. He was the type who hated wasting time. Well, I couldn’t argue with an elder, so hesitantly, shakily, I picked up the receiver and dialed. I’ve always wondered why things like this are so hard.

    “Hi, Cheryl,” I said. “I was wondering … well, the elders are here now and … well, I was just wondering if sometime you’d like to come and … learn some more about the Church?”

    There was a long pause.

    “Well, yeah, I guess so.”

    I breathed a sigh of relief. “When can you come?”

    “Anytime you want me to, I guess.”

    “Tomorrow night?”

    “Yeah, that’s all right.”

    I turned to the elders. “Is tomorrow night all right?”

    They nodded enthusiastically. “You bet!”

    “Hey thanks, Cheryl,” I said as I started to hang up.

    “Just a minute, Patti.” she said. “I want you to know that I’m not going to agree with what they say.”

    “Oh, that’s okay. Just come!”

    “But I might argue with them, and I don’t want to.”

    “If you want to disagree with them, it’s all right. They don’t mind.”

    The second step was taken. By the end of the fourth visit she hadn’t argued once. In fact, she had agreed wholeheartedly with everything the elders had told her. That night the younger elder was speaking, and as he closed he looked at her and said, “We would like to set up a baptism for you on Saturday. How about it?”

    The older elder gasped. He hadn’t expected it to come so soon. My heart beat faster, and all I could do was hold my breath. There was silence for a moment.

    Cheryl nodded and said, “Yes.”

    I did not move, but I started to tremble when they asked her to pray.

    She prayed, a very simple and beautiful prayer.

    I kept my head bowed. I could not look up. The missionaries left in silence.

    Then I felt her arms around me, and we both wept together.

    “Patti,” she said, smiling through her tears, “thank you.”

    She was thanking me for something she could only give herself, thanking me, when she had given me the greatest gift I could ever hope to receive—her acceptance of my most precious possession, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Illustrated by Sherry Thompson