“I Was Afraid to Ask,” Ensign, Sept. 1996, 62
In the two years since I’d been baptized into the ward in Hammond, Louisiana, I very quickly came to accept the members as a warm, loving extended family. I was certain things would be the same in my new home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
My first Sunday at church I noticed the similarity in the two meetinghouses. Then another realization hit me abruptly: the building was familiar, the faces were not. While I was greeted warmly by a number of people, my heart still ached for my former friends. When the organist began playing the opening song, I couldn’t join in the singing. Rita is supposed to be playing, I thought miserably. And Sandi is supposed to be leading!
I held onto my homesickness, knowing most of the problem was mine, not theirs. My attendance became spotty. One evening I knelt to say my evening prayers. I wanted to ask Father in Heaven for help in getting out of that lonely rut. But I was afraid to ask because I knew I hadn’t done my full share. So there I knelt, unable to pray, salty tears running down my cheeks. How I missed my old friends!
Unknown to me, a language barrier threatened to divide the sisters in Relief Society. It had been the custom for English-speaking sisters to meet in one room and Spanish-speaking sisters to meet in another. However, the leaders felt impressed that it was time for all of the sisters to meet together.
Since I had missed church that week, I didn’t know about the changes. However, I learned of the change when I was invited to give the next lesson in Relief Society. Because I had always enjoyed teaching, I readily agreed. After hanging up, I began to worry about the lesson topic and if I could do it justice. Then the phone rang again.
“I forgot to ask before, but do you speak Spanish?” asked Lynne, who had just called a moment before.
I admitted I did, although it had been many years since I’d spoken the language and my skills had become very rusty. Lynne must have missed that last part because she began bubbling with excitement about having a teacher who could give the lesson in two languages at once!
Later I knelt in prayer and poured out my heart to Heavenly Father. I don’t know the gospel-related words, I cried silently. And I’ve forgotten so much!
Very gently two images came into my mind: a Spanish-English dictionary and the bilingual missionaries. Of course! I could look up new words and get the gospel-related ones from the missionaries!
From that point on, preparing the lesson was a marvelous experience. I carefully listed the new Spanish vocabulary words I might need on a sheet of paper to keep by me during the lesson. When the time arrived, I decided to shift back and forth, teaching one concept in English, then in Spanish, keeping the two groups more or less parallel.
It worked! The carefully prepared lesson was a joy to present, and I saw in the faces of the sisters a warm response. We managed to have discussions in both languages, and somehow everybody seemed to follow along. I looked at these sisters and thought, We are sisters in Zion. We are one in purpose.
After that meeting I was surrounded by new friends eagerly greeting me in both languages. Heavenly Father had answered a prayer that I couldn’t bring myself to utter. I know now that he hears not only our words but also our heartfelt desires. And because he heard and answered my unspoken prayer, I’m not a stranger anymore.