Pen Pals and New Era Snowballs


At the age of 16, Judy Potter’s hobby, letters to pen pals throughout the world, brought something quite unique to her home in Coventry, England.

“I had pen friends in many faraway places, like Trinidad, Australia, and Hong Kong,” says Judy, “but the country which fascinated me most was America. When the International Friendship Association sent me the name of Tammi Fawcett (now Gilson) from Utah, I was thrilled.”

Judy soon found out Tammi was a Latter-day Saint. “My curiosity was roused,” Judy admits, “and I asked plenty of questions. She always had plenty of answers.”

But the most exciting event for Judy was a gift Tammi sent—a one year’s subscription to the New Era.

“I was absorbed from the first copy,” Judy says. “In fact, I’ve never stopped renewing that subscription. I was having all sorts of problems in my life, and every story, or article, seemed just for me.”

She smiled, adding, “Like adjustment into the adult world after leaving school that year. I felt so small and helpless. The New Era helped me realise each person is unique, with a definite purpose in life.”

One day she was reading about an activity called Mutual. “I immediately wrote asking Tammi what it meant,” Judy continues. “As soon as her reply came, I telephoned the Coventry Chapel to ask more. The custodian invited me down that night. Much to my own surprise (for I was terribly shy then), I agreed to go.”

Judy describes her introduction to the Church with peaceful satisfaction. “It was such a special feeling,” she says, “like fitting exactly. I’d been brought up to believe that the Church of England was a good place to go, but was never encouraged to attend, so my desire for religion always hovered below the surface.”

Judy was so touched by the welcome and love received from Coventry Ward members, young and old alike, that her confidence rose and progress flourished.

After three months of lessons from sister missionaries, she was baptised. One month later, her parents too entered the waters of baptism.

When Judy wrote to Utah, telling Tammi of her new happiness, rejoicing spread from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

So thrilled was Judy with new blessings flowing from Tammi’s gift of the New Era, that it seemed a good idea to share in like manner with another pen pal.

A new 12-month subscription winged across the world. This time to teenage correspondent Albert Wong in Hong Kong.

“I’d been writing to Albert for some time before sending the New Era,” Judy adds. “But after meeting my husband-to-be, who was baptised shortly after me, and getting married at age 19, I lost contact.”

Awhile later Judy was in a hospital recovering from an operation. Visiting time arrived together with her excited husband, Ian. He’d come from a branch presidency meeting where they’d been reviewing Church Magazine subscriptions. “And there was this brother’s name, Albert Wong from Hong Kong,” he exclaimed. “His original donation came from Coventry, England, and somehow he’d reappeared on our lists.”

After further correspondence, Judy found out that Albert had indeed joined the Church. When Judy’s letters stopped earlier, he made friends with a Latter-day Saint boy in his own town. Baptism quickly followed.

Albert attributes his conversion process to reading how the Saviour works in and through the lives of other worldwide youth facing similar problems to his own.

“I love to read his testimony when he writes now,” says Judy. “He’s busy in Church callings and has married a beautiful Latter-day Saint girl. Every letter expresses gratitude for the gospel, his church work, and personal growth.”

Judy’s appreciation for the New Era came full circle when she was called as ward magazine representative in Coventry. She’s had many opportunities to bear strong testimony of the powerful words lying within her favourite magazine. She’s worked hard encouraging youth to partake and share similar gifts with others.

Her efforts were further supported recently. “We were really blessed when a generous missionary couple stayed in our ward,” Judy continues. “Knowing our enthusiasm for Church writings, they donated enough money to ensure all our members receive copies for the next year.”

So Judy’s original present from Tammi has snowballed across the world, touching many lives in many ways.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Bradley Teare