The Courage to Speak
    Footnotes

    “The Courage to Speak,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 19

    The Courage to Speak

    I opened my mouth and the words came: “Lori, I don’t know if you’re a religious person or not, but I feel Heavenly Father brought us together.”

    Lori’s front door was only 200 steps from mine. But I didn’t know her or her husband, Steve, or their four-year-old daughter, Jenae. So it was surprising to receive her phone call that summer day in July.

    I had just put my day-care children, along with my own three-year-old, down for their afternoon naps. Because my day begins early with the children and runs well into 6:00 P.M., I look forward to two hours of savored silence each day as they sleep. This is my personal time to read the scriptures, and I ensure it is uninterrupted by disconnecting the phone during nap time.

    But this Friday afternoon was different. I was balancing my budget and had the household bills spread around me on the kitchen table. Trying to finish the job, I had not yet taken the phone off the hook to begin my daily reading. When it rang, I remembered it was taking my precious time; nevertheless, I picked up the receiver.

    It was just a typical call with someone requesting day care—or so I thought. But the young mother’s voice on the other end was pinched with more than the usual anxiety of finding a new day-care provider. It was filled with genuine distress. Perhaps that’s why I continued to listen; a quiet signal of someone in need prompted compassion.

    The woman, Lori, wanted part-time care for her four-year-old daughter. Having provided day care for more than nine years, I had developed a policy to take only full-time children. Still, I listened. She spoke of a problem with another provider. Her voice was tearful. I felt sorry for her. How could I add to her problems by telling her I didn’t have room? No room at the inn, I thought. I wanted to help, but what about my policy?

    Lori’s story pulled at my heartstrings as she spoke of her need for help and her love for her daughter, Jenae. As Lori choked back sobs, she explained she would need someone by Monday, and this was Friday afternoon.

    Still, my mind filled with red flags of past experience. If another provider had a problem, there might be a good chance I would too. I would not have time to properly interview them and give myself any room to back out if I was not comfortable. It went against my rules for new clients.

    I opened my mouth to speak, and the Spirit of the Lord filled it with the words. I was surprised to hear myself say I would take Jenae on Monday and that I wanted Lori and her husband to bring her to meet me before then. Even more surprising, I felt a comfortable reassurance that what I had said was right. I realized this came from the Holy Ghost. We decided to meet the next night so they could fill out the paperwork. Then came another surprise when I gave her directions to my home. She lived just around the corner. It was then that I wondered what the Lord had in mind.

    Saturday night I watched as they walked up my front path, the three of them. Lori was a slight woman wearing her heart on her sleeve and holding her life in each hand: Jenae on the left and Steve on the right. Steve was quiet, tall, and strong. He wore a look of concern on his face. Jenae was small with beautiful black hair and timid brown eyes. She wore apprehension on her little face.

    Lori cried all through our conversation, clutching a knotted tissue in her fist. Steve was silent but supportive as he rested a reassuring hand on her knee. Jenae peered out at me from behind her mother. The papers all signed, Lori shook my hand. There was relief in her voice, but the anxiety and stress remained on her tear-stained face.

    Monday came and so did Jenae, a little worried and totally silent. She colored quietly with my little family of children until her mother came at 11:30 A.M. to pick her up. The next day brought the same. Jenae watched every move I made in silence, shyly nodding yes to everything I said to her. Over the next few days it became apparent little Jenae and I would be fine together. She began to laugh and play as she slipped easily into our hearts and became more comfortable in her new surroundings. It was as if she had always been there.

    All things considered, I knew it could not have been a coincidence. I recognized Heavenly Father’s hand. I began to wonder if Lori could see the Lord’s hand in all of this too.

    I began to struggle with wanting to ask her but not knowing what to say. Nothing would come that felt just right. The Spirit seemed to say, Just open your mouth. I remembered Doctrine and Covenants 33:8 [D&C 33:8]: “Open your mouths and they shall be filled.” But did that mean me too? I prayed for help and wrestled with my fears. Again a warm, comfortable feeling came as my answer. I knew I had to approach Lori, and whatever the outcome, it would be all right. I would ask her tomorrow.

    As Lori and Jenae strolled up the sidewalk, I stood just behind the door where I could see them approach. My heart was racing, my toes curled tightly in my shoes; still the words had not come. I thought of Joshua and the priests who carried the ark of the covenant. The Lord told them to go down to the river Jordan even until their feet were dipped in the water; only then did the Israelites cross over on dry ground. I guessed I would have to get my toes wet before the words would come.

    We stood chatting at the door briefly before I invited Lori in. I opened my mouth and the words came: “Lori, I don’t know if you’re a religious person or not, but I feel Heavenly Father brought us together.” She listened as I explained how I felt,how beautifully Jenae fit in, how happy she was, how much I was learning to love her.

    More tears welled up in Lori’s eyes, spilling freely down her cheeks. She dropped her head and spoke in a small voice. “I’ve been telling everyone at work that you’re an angel sent from the Lord into our lives. Jenae is so happy here. Things have worked out so well. It can’t be coincidence. I am so thankful. I know the Lord answered my prayers.”

    Warm tears misted in my own eyes. I dropped my head and looked at my shoes too, not feeling I deserved such praise. I had not done this: the Lord had.

    “I see you believe in Jesus Christ.” More words came, easily. The hope within me flickered stronger as I grew braver to speak. “What church do you and Steve belong to?” I asked.

    “Well, to tell you the truth, we’ve been looking around, trying to find something where we fit. We’ve gone to several churches, but there’s just something missing in each one. There’s got to be more …” She paused. “We just need more in our lives.” The Spirit had touched her heart.

    My river Jordan began to part. “We belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” I said. “It has really filled our needs and brought us together as a family. In fact, the Church has come out with a video for people like you who are looking for something more in their lives. We have a copy. Would you like to borrow it?” With the question out, my mouth and my heart stopped. Would rejection come now? How seriously were they looking? How open-minded was she?

    All my fears faded away in the next moment when she simply said, “Sure.”

    Quivering with excitement and hope, I got the video for her. Lori and Jenae disappeared down the front walk as they had come. When the door closed behind them, I sank to my knees: “Thank you, Father in Heaven. Please touch their hearts.”

    I couldn’t wait to share the news with my husband, Randy. He was at that time the ward mission leader, and we both had been praying for someone we could share the gospel with. This looked like the answer to our prayers.

    The next day dawned with new hopes and new excitement. When Lori came to the door, she had the video in hand. Has she even had time to watch it? I wondered. Did she take it just to be polite?

    I opened the door, knowing these questions would be answered right now.

    “This is an excellent tape! I haven’t got time to visit with you now, but we, Steve and I, were wondering if you happened to have any more literature on your church.”

    My heart soared with excitement. Do we have any literature on the Church? I smiled. “You bet. I’ll have something for you when you come back at noon.” The words came out easily—plain and simple.

    Randy had several pamphlets on hand; we just needed to decide which ones to give them. What specific questions did they have? We felt impressed to sit down and talk with them to ascertain their needs. We decided to invite them over the following Sunday evening and prayed they would accept the invitation. They did.

    Sunday finally came. We prayed again for the Spirit to be in our home and to touch their hearts. It did. We talked for nearly four hours and ended the evening with a promise to set up the missionary discussions. We would hold them in our home, beginning in two weeks when their out-of-town guests had gone home. Randy asked if we could end the evening with a prayer. I held my breath. That was a bold thing to ask, I thought. But they agreed quickly and I was humbled. “O thou of little faith,” I thought of myself.

    Just as they were leaving, Lori said, “If we join your church, I hope they’ll let us do something to serve. Anything would be all right; even just typing the little bulletin or something would make me happy.”

    Randy and I smiled. Boy, was this the right church for them! Being a member of the Lord’s Church is not just a Sunday job. It’s more than that; it’s a way of life. We knew this was the “more” they were hungry for: a place of worship, a place to serve and grow, a place to learn, and a place that would feel like coming home. They would never be the same. They would always be happier. And so would we.

    Although I saw Lori and Jenae almost every day, the next two weeks dragged by. Their guests went home and Monday rolled around. When Lori came to the door I waited for her to say the words, “We’re ready to start the lessons.” She said the normal pleasantries but not what I was waiting for.

    Randy and I continued to pray for the Spirit to touch their hearts and create a desire to begin the lessons.

    Tuesday came and went. Nothing. Wednesday morning, nothing. OK, I thought, let’s find out if they’ve changed their minds. It was hard to ask. I didn’t want to be pushy, but I didn’t want them to forget the Spirit they had felt and lose interest. “Lori, did you want me to set up those lessons to begin next week?” The words stuck in my throat somewhat, but I was determined to face the answer.

    Lori looked down at her shoes. “Well, we were hoping …” I held my breath. What could this be? “We were hoping to start them sooner, like Friday night.”

    “What? Sooner? Friday? That’d be great!” I stammered. I wanted to dance around the room.

    The Spirit was in our living room for the next three weeks. We prayed at each visit, inviting the Spirit to be there. And each time it was there and bore witness of the truth of the gospel. The tears flowed freely from us all. Lori and Steve recognized additional gospel truths immediately and wanted to be baptized. Lori said she wanted to shout it from the rooftops. They hadn’t needed any special words of wisdom; they had just needed someone who would speak and let the Spirit teach. Lori and Steve had already been prepared and were ready, just waiting to hear the truth. The Spirit only needed an opportunity to teach them.

    My heart was full of gratitude to our Father in Heaven for allowing Randy and me to participate in our friends’ conversion. Our testimonies grew and were strengthened as never before. We watched with interest as they began attending church and met the bishop. Then we rejoiced as they completed their baptismal interviews.

    As we put together a baptismal program under the bishop’s direction, my heart overflowed with thanksgiving, and I was filled with a desire to experience this kind of joy again. We chose a hymn with words that sang my thoughts: “Because I have been given much, I too must give” (Hymns, no. 219).

    • Kaila Coombs is a Sunday School teacher in the Longs Peak Ward, Longmont Colorado Stake.

    Illustrated by Keith Larson