“‘Out There’ and Back,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 65
When Peter and Gloria Watson moved from the south coast of England to Toronto, Ontario, in November of 1974, they thought of the change as the beginning of a new life.
In a way, it was. The move brought marvelous blessings, but not necessarily the ones they hoped for and expected. Instead of prosperity, they found a wealth of spiritual growth and an unexpected bonus—a cure for the vision problems that would soon have cost Peter his sight.
Peter had met Gloria, a nurse, in 1969 when he was hospitalized for treatment of the bronchial and asthma problems that have plagued him all his life. After Peter was discharged from the hospital, he and Gloria met again by chance and began to date. He investigated the Church at her invitation and was baptized in August of 1969. They were subsequently married in 1970, and they have two children—Catherine, born in 1971, and Daniel, born in 1973.
By 1974, Peter, then a computer programmer, felt he needed to change his job. “I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere,” he says. Their stake president, who had recently spent some time in the United States, suggested that Peter might apply for a job there—not as a permanent move, but something to help him advance his career. Peter found few advertisements for jobs in the U.S., but he did apply for one in Canada.
Weeks passed, and he had nearly forgotten about his applications, when one evening he received a call from Canada offering him the job. How soon could he start? Peter asked for a little time to think it over.
“We prayed about it and fasted and felt it was the right opportunity for us,” Peter says. In making the move, Gloria explains, “We felt we were starting a new life.” They hoped for advancement for Peter and a better standard of living. The move could mean they might never come back to England.
But there were unexpected rough spots after they arrived in Toronto. “The Lord really picked us up and held us in his hand those first few weeks,” Peter reflects. Solutions were provided for problems they did not yet know they had.
First, there was the house. After checking the rental ads, Peter found only one solid possibility, about twenty miles from his work. Because his family was sick, Peter went to see it alone. As he was leaving the home after an interview with the pleasant young couple who owned it, Peter spied a row of familiar-looking books on a shelf—priesthood manuals! In a city of some two million with about 5,000 Latter-day Saints at that time, Peter had happened on a residential area with a small cluster of Church members.
Peter and Gloria and their children had been in their new home for only a short time when he went to take his driver’s test—and failed. Without his realizing it, Peter’s long-standing vision problem had become so severe that he was fast losing his sight. Could it be treated? What about his job?
At this low point, the home teachers dropped by to get acquainted. The Watsons mentioned Peter’s problem, and the home teachers said oh, yes, there happened to be another young man in the ward who suffered from the same rare malady. But the man was being treated by a doctor who was a leader in remedying the problem surgically. The Watsons had been guided to the one ward in Toronto where they could find the key to a cure for Peter’s eye disease. Peter followed the other young man in having a cornea transplant, thus saving his sight.
In England, Peter had been taking a particular medication for his asthma and bronchial problems, but in Canada, the Watsons found, the drug was still classed as experimental and was not generally available. In a special testing program, the drug was being given to just twelve Canadians—and one of them happened to be another patient of the Watsons’ family doctor. The physician managed to get Peter into the testing program as well, so Peter could continue with his medication.
The Watsons were taught many other lessons through faith. “I think we learned very early that we had to rely on the Lord,” Peter says.
For example, monetary exchange laws tied up their English funds longer than expected after they moved, and they ran out of money with a week left until payday and almost no food in the house. They were reluctant, a bit embarrassed, to ask the bishop for help so soon after moving into the ward. But “about an hour after we petitioned the Lord for help, our home teachers were knocking on our door,” Peter says. Learning of the family’s plight, the home teachers contacted the bishop, and he provided enough food to tide the family over.
After two years in Toronto, the Watsons moved to Cambridge, Ontario, about fifty miles away. There, they developed a strong friendship with another young couple. One Friday evening the young couple gave the Watsons two hundred dollars; they had come into some money and simply wanted to share. Peter and Gloria spent Saturday wondering what to do with the money. Then on Sunday they learned Gloria’s mother and stepfather were ill and she needed to fly home to be with them. The money made it possible.
It was during a visit to the Washington, D.C., temple that the Watsons first felt the strong prompting that they were eventually to return to England to live. But the time was not yet.
Before that time came, Peter had an opportunity to work in Calgary, Alberta. The weekend before they were to move west, there was a regional meeting in Toronto that Peter was supposed to attend. He debated whether to go, knowing he would be released from his position as a counselor in the branch presidency within the week. But he went, and had another opportunity to see Brother Brian Margetson, their former home teacher in Toronto. A native of England himself, Brother Margetson was also their good friend, and Peter told him where they were moving.
Some time after their move, Brother Margetson was working in the genealogical library one day when he received a long-distance call about some genealogical information Peter Watson had filed. Brother Margetson was perhaps the only person in Toronto who knew how to find the Watsons. Through that contact, Peter learned that he had a distant cousin living in British Columbia, and he was able to meet her. The meeting led to a sharing of genealogical information.
Life in Calgary, with its large, active wards, was spiritually enriching. “We learned a tremendous amount—really learned to love the people,” Gloria says. “We’ve made so many friends wherever we’ve gone.” But after two years, the Watsons knew it was time to leave. The people whose house they were renting wanted to sell it, and both Gloria and Peter felt the need to be in England to care for their aging parents. So they moved back to Dedham, the village where Peter had lived as a boy.
“Financially, we went out there [to Canada] with very little, and we came back with even less,” Peter says. But the experiences they had were priceless. “I don’t regret going, and I don’t regret coming back.”
The Watsons count among their gains from going “out there” the saving of Peter’s eyesight and an improvement in his health. He has also advanced professionally through the years; he is now a computer consultant.
Among the blessings of coming home, the Watsons list the opportunity to care for the needs of his mother and to enjoy the companionship of her stepfather before both passed away.
But “it was hard coming home,” Gloria adds. Things were tough financially, and they kept looking back to friends and experiences in Canada. “There were a few weeks when we felt really low.” But Peter realized what was happening and prescribed a cure. “We can’t do this,” he told Gloria. “We’ve got to look forward.”
Look forward they have. Recommitting themselves to service changed their outlook and enabled them to share their considerable strengths with their ward and stake. Since the Watsons’ return from Canada in 1980, Peter has been a bishop’s counselor, ward clerk, high priests group leader, and high councilor. He is now bishop of the Colchester Ward, Ipswich England Stake. Gloria is currently an early-morning seminary teacher.
After their return from Canada, Gloria served again as stake Relief Society president. When she first served as stake Relief Society president before leaving England in 1974, she felt intimidated by the calling. But in Toronto she had the opportunity to serve as a ward Relief Society president and learned to appreciate the rich cultural mix among members.
“I felt I had so much more to offer the second time around,” Gloria says. “I think I’m more organized. I have more maturity. My testimony is much stronger because of the experiences we’ve been through.” She enjoyed the calling so much, in fact, that she sometimes wondered if there was some aspect of it she was overlooking.
Service has come to provide its own rewards for Peter and Gloria Watson. In service to others, they can try to give back some of what the Lord has given them. “The Lord has blessed us so much,” Gloria reflects, struggling to find adequate words. “The Lord has blessed us—abundantly.
“It’s such a blessing just to be alive, and to go on the next day and be able to do something better with your life.”