Stephanie (left) and Jenn (right) at Stephanie’s baptism
Having served as a ward Primary president for almost three years now, I can attest to the fact that the Lord is involved in the small details of our callings. It has been humbling to look back and see how many times the Lord has answered my prayers — about names to request for new teachers, how to approach a particular Sharing Time lesson, or how to make a yearly theme penetrate the hearts of our children. Whether the matter is great or small, it seems that the Lord always cares enough to provide an answer. The impressions and answers that have come to me as part of my calling have testified to me that our Heavenly Father truly loves each child in my Primary.
The thing that has surprised me though, is that the answers I have received for my calling have actually been more far-reaching than just the circle of 50 children I influence. Let me tell you a story about how the “little” answers for “small” details in my Primary calling recently led to the baptism of a new friend.
In planning for our yearly Sacrament Meeting program, each year I have felt impressed to make the program a missionary opportunity for families. In my opinion, the Primary program is the perfect Sunday for people to invite friends and neighbors to church. The program is sure to be lively, pure, and beautiful, and visitors are almost guaranteed to feel the Spirit as children sing with all their hearts. I always like to create a simple invitation for families to pass out to friends and neighbors, letting them know about the program. And inviting friends to the Primary program is easy — you just let the kids hand over an invitation with an irresistible smile. (See here for a sample invitation and more ideas.)
But this past year, I felt impressed that I should do even more to make our program a missionary opportunity. I felt like their testimonies about choosing the right would be the perfect venue for teaching others about our beliefs, and especially to show visitors that our children have a strong support network and a specific dialogue for making good choices. I created invitations and felt the Spirit guide me as I chose the words to put on the invitation. In addition to this, I felt impressed to have another child I knew — a member of another faith — participate in our Primary program. I thought it would be nice to have two children narrating our program – one (my neighborhood friend) asking questions about our beliefs, and another (a girl in our Primary) answering the questions. This set a nice, open tone to our program, and it was also a great opportunity for my neighborhood friend to come and participate in the program and feel a part of our Primary group. Her family was very impressed with our beliefs, and this sweet girl said she would cherish what she had learned forever.
Going along with this, I was talking with a friend about my desire to make our program a missionary opportunity, and she mentioned a great idea that her ward had thought of. They realized that when people invite their friends to the Primary program, it can be a little awkward when the program is over. People have to rush to Sunday School, and often people who might want to linger and visit about the program are ushered into the noisy foyer. Their idea was to create an open house reception for those families who have brought visitors to the program. After Sacrament Meeting was over, they invited all visitors (and the families who had invited them) to go to the gymnasium for mingling and refreshments. They also had some children’s artwork on display. I thought this was a marvelous idea, and it felt like something that would fit right in with my other impressions about the program. We got approval from our Bishopric, and with the help of the ward missionaries, we went ahead with planning this open house.
At the same time I was having all of these little impressions about our Primary program, I met Stephanie. It was a simple meeting. I was at a local playground with my children, and she was there with her two daughters. We shared some small talk, and she and I realized we had something in common — we were both young mothers, something that you don’t see very frequently in our area! We both joked about feeling somewhat alone, living in our community where we don’t exactly fit into the age-group of other parents. I mentioned that actually, I belong to a church where most of the members are young parents – just like us. I told her she would fit right in at my church!
At the end of our playground visit, Stephanie and I exchanged phone numbers. We started getting together a little bit, and I introduced her to a few of my friends from church. I invited her to a few of our ward’s playgroup activities, and she happily joined in and seemed to enjoy meeting other young moms. When the time came to invite Stephanie to our Primary program, it was easy. The invitations were printed, and all I had to do was hand her the slip of paper. She seemed genuinely interested, and she agreed to come!
The program day was a flurry of excitement on so many levels. The kids did a fabulous job (of course), and my young neighborhood friend narrated beautifully and was a great addition to the speaking parts. Many other families in the ward had invited friends and neighbors. We had over 30 visitors, and the open house reception was an exciting and wonderful way to greet people who had just had their first experience at a Latter-Day Saint sacrament meeting. Stephanie and her family seemed to enjoy the program, and they mingled with other friends in the gymnasium. I spoke with them briefly, but I was also caught up with meeting other visitors, congratulating the children, and serving treats we had prepared for our Primary kids.
It wasn’t until that night that I found out that our program had actually made an impact on Stephanie. She sent me a text message saying that her daughter kept asking, “Mommy, why can’t I be in Primary?” and “Mommy, when can we go back to church?” Stephanie said her daughter’s comments really caught her off-guard, and then she thought, “Why not?” This news was exciting to me, since Stephanie and I had only spoken casually about the church, and I didn’t really think she had any interest in it.
Later that week, I talked with Stephanie more about the program, asking what she thought about it. She immediately started asking questions about the Church — LOTS of questions. The questions turned into a 3-hour discussion about the Church, basically covering the topics of the first four missionary lessons. It became apparent that Stephanie was really interested. She came to Church the next Sunday with her daughter, and they loved it. One thing led to another; she started meeting with the missionaries; and 4 months after I met her at the playground, Stephanie was baptized. She is an amazing woman — very full of faith and so grateful to now have the gospel in her life. She wishes she would have had the gospel in her own youth, so she could have avoided some of the confusion she felt and mistakes she made. She feels a strong desire to teach it to her girls – to provide them with the gospel and the precious gift of truth she never had. In essence, she wants her daughters to grow up with Primary – so they might have the same support network and dialogue for making good choices that our Primary children have.
I have been amazed to see how the Lord works. Yes, he cares about each one of His Primary children. And yes, he cares about each of His children who didn’t grow up with Primary and who are ready to find out what they’ve been missing all their lives. I am in awe at how He used the Primary as an opportunity to bring Primary into more people’s lives. I feel humbled and grateful that He was able to use me as an instrument, and in small and simple ways, with little impressions here and there, make a simple Primary program into a tool that changed someone’s life forever.