03437_000_004The Church offered Susan plenty of friends and activities, but without her father there the picture seemed incomplete.
It’s tough to be the only member or active member in your family. It seems as if the ward is full of ideal families who have family home evening, prayers, and scripture reading—all of which you want to have too. Meanwhile, you sit alone at church or tag along with another family to the ward party. It’s not that you want to change families, but you want your family to change, because you love them and want eternal blessings for them: you don’t want to sit alone in the congregation in the hereafter. Yet you get discouraged when their answer to your pleas is no. At times you might even feel sorry for yourself. But always you clutch on to the hope that someday they will join. Susan also had that hope.
Susan, 16, is a pretty and talented girl, pretty because she’s self-assured, and talented because she’s self-motivated. Rather than cautiously and worriedly dipping her toes into life, she plunges in head first, perhaps blue-lipped and sputtering at first, but having a good time anyway. After her baptism three years ago, Susan channeled her efforts toward home: she wanted her father baptized.
“I knew if my dad was baptized, Mom would come. So that was my number one goal,” Susan recalled. “I figured I could accomplish it by myself because I knew my parents kind of liked me, so I figured they’d want to do this,” she said with bold confidence. “I tried everything,” she added more humbly.
“I tried being forceful, but that didn’t work. Then I tried making them feel sorry for me. I told them that I had to sit in church by myself and sing by myself, and that everybody else was with their families. That didn’t work either.”
Although she sometimes felt discouraged, Susan would not give in. “After I learned more about missionary work,” she continued, “I tried a different approach: I invited them to come to my church meetings. I gave talks in sacrament meeting, and Mom would come. One time I sang in stake conference. I even got a new dress. Mom was going to come, but she got sick, so I went with no hope that either Mom or Dad would be there. We were singing our song when I looked at the back of the chapel and saw my dad coming through the door. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t because I had to sing.
“Another time that Dad came with me was at the ward father-daughter date. While we were sitting there eating our breakfast, I looked at Dad, and the thought came to me that someday he was going to be baptized. Right in the middle of bacon and eggs, I knew it, and I wanted it more than anything.”
But the baptism didn’t happen overnight, and Susan learned more about missionary work. “I knew I couldn’t do it by myself,” she admitted.
One day while walking home from school, Susan saw two parked bikes on her street and two missionaries knocking on someone’s door. The missionaries had been to Susan’s home five times before. Usually they had just come once. But Susan wouldn’t let that block her new excitement. Maybe this time her father was ready.
“I had hoped the missionaries wouldn’t get in to the house they were knocking at because I wanted to talk to them. They didn’t, so I told them about Dad. They told me that they had prayed that morning about where they should tract and were sent to my street. I think the Lord knew that my dad was ready to hear the gospel. Whether anyone else knew it or not, the Lord knew it, and that is all that matters.”
But all wasn’t perfect and easy. There were times when Susan got very discouraged, wondering why things weren’t happening faster. “Then I would have to remember that getting ready for baptism was a slow process for me also. I would look around and see other young people who sat by themselves in church or whose circumstances seemed worse than mine, but they didn’t seem discouraged. Their example helped me to quit feeling sorry for myself.”
Meanwhile, realizing that her example was crucial, Susan also reaped one of the blessings of missionary work—that of preparing and growing herself.
“I had to be as ready as Dad was. I had to do a lot of praying, some fasting, and even some repenting. I realized that missionary work is love and service, that it is telling your mom and dad you love them even if your little brother and sister are listening. I also tried to follow the missionaries’ example of showing love for Dad. I would try not to scream and holler at my family,” she admitted.
The missionaries came to Susan’s home seven times over a five-month period. Each time she could tell that her father was getting closer.
“One night in April I went for my birthday interview with the bishop. Dad came to pick me up after.” Susan continued mischievously, “I hid down the hall so Dad would have to come in and find me. When he came into the church, he asked if he could see the bishop alone. He was in there for about 30 minutes, and I was out in the foyer wondering what in the world they were talking about!
“On the way home I was dying to hear what went on. All of a sudden Dad said, ‘Well, Susie, I guess I’ll get baptized.’ I just sat there. I wanted to cry, but I knew I shouldn’t because Dad doesn’t like us to get emotional. All I said was, ‘Oh Dad, I think that’s so neat.’ That was kind of a dumb thing to say, but what do you say when your biggest goal has just been realized?”
Susan’s father was baptized on April 14th.
But Susan realizes that her missionary work isn’t over yet. “I still get impatient and discouraged at times, but I’ve come to realize that becoming a celestial family is a step-by-step process. And I must understand my parents. I try to do my part. When I’m spiritually down, it shows in the home. So I try to keep my testimony strong by doing what I’m supposed to do; I feel better when I do.”
Susan has learned a lot about missionary work, mostly through trial and error. She has learned that timing and responses are different for different people, that force and pity aren’t successful, that true service is far more important than lip service, that the Spirit must touch the person’s life, and that desire—well, as for desire, Susan isn’t lacking; she keeps on trying, regardless of mistakes, to boldly live the gospel, although it’s sometimes awkward, frightening, and even downright hard.
But positively, Susan summed it up: “My dad wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Church 20 years ago, but after going through a lot of visits from our home teachers, and after many different sets of missionaries, and after he had a daughter who wouldn’t leave him alone—my dad is a member of the Church.”
And when asked about her recent goals, Susan enthusiastically replied, “To have family home evening, family prayer, and to be sealed in the temple to my family—that’s my number one goal now!”