“The Chili Appointment,” Ensign, Sept. 1991, 56–57
One day many years ago, in Charleston, South Carolina, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked at my door. I let them in and listened to the discussions. Reading the Book of Mormon was like seeing a light come on—I knew it was true. I was ready to be baptized right away, but my wife wasn’t. So I turned the missionaries away.
The Book of Mormon stayed on our bookshelf, though. Years went by, and my marriage fell apart. My wife and children moved to Georgia. I was left with nothing except a few books. I had never been so unhappy and lonely in my life.
One day I came across a Scottish newspaper with a section in which people advertised for pen pals. Remembering my mother, who was from Scotland and who had died when I was ten, I wrote asking for a pen pal.
I had just about forgotten my letter when replies started arriving from locations all over the world. I wrote to all those who answered my letters, but one in particular became interesting—Thea, from Scotland. I felt I just had to meet her.
From the moment I saw her waving at the London airport, I knew my life would never be complete without her. She felt the same way. Four months later, she arrived in Charleston, and we were married by a Baptist preacher. However, Thea was Presbyterian, and soon we were both active in the local Presbyterian church.
One day I came home from work angry and frustrated.
“Where is the farthest place that we can go to get away from this rat race?” I demanded. “Let’s emigrate to Australia!”
Thea proposed a better idea: “Make it New Zealand, and I’ll be there with bells on!”
We checked out New Zealand. The more we read about it, the more idyllic it sounded. We prayed that if the Lord wanted us to go, he would open up the way for us. He did.
We loved New Zealand and started to put down roots. However, we found the local Presbyterian congregation unfriendly. We tried to adjust.
During the adjustment, my copy of the Book of Mormon sat unheeded on the bookshelf—until the night Bill, a workmate, stopped by to visit. He liked to read, and he picked up the book, thumbing through it.
“Hey, this looks interesting. Mind if I borrow it?”
A bit reluctantly, I agreed—and haven’t seen Bill or that Book of Mormon since!
“One day the Mormon elders will come around,” I told Thea. “When they do, tell them you don’t want to hear anything about their church, but you would like a copy of the Book of Mormon.”
One Saturday morning, they came by. Thea couldn’t turn them away. Neither could I.
They wanted to show a film. I invited them for a bowl of chili instead.
Elder Hennessy just wanted to show the film. Elder Toone, a brand-new greenie, said “Name the time. We’ll be there.”
Elder Toone was transferred to Invercargill before the day of the chili appointment, but a few weeks later, after we had recognized the truth, Elder Hennessy and Elder Anderson baptized Thea, our son Iain, and me.
Looking back, we realize that Heavenly Father wanted us here in New Zealand. We’ve been members of the Church for thirteen years now, and many miracles have strengthened our testimonies as we work to serve our Heavenly Father in the Christchurch stake, on the South Island.