My husband, Bob, and I recently took one of those fabulous trips through Europe, cruising down the Rhine and Danube rivers. It was glorious, enlightening, delicious, and thrilling. I had prayed in advance that we’d meet someone to share the gospel with, as missionary work is my favorite part of traveling.
But we got home and we hadn’t been able to introduce anyone to the gospel. I found this odd, as we’re usually able to interest folks in airports and in cities we visit.
And then I remembered a moment in Prague, in the Czech Republic. This is a country where 80 per cent of the population professes no religion. We were on a guided walking tour with about 20 of our fellow boat passengers, when we saw some elders approaching. Bob and I slipped away from the group to greet them. We paused and chatted, and I felt inspired to encourage one of them to keep at it, keep working, and not give up.
I’ve often repeated our daughter’s advice that she would give to those learning Norwegian in the MTC: “No one ever joined the church because you pronounced a word correctly.” And I always remind missionaries that it’s about showing genuine love and a real curiosity about those you meet. When you truly love someone, you want the best for them. You want them to find lasting truth, the truth of Christ’s restored church. Love is key.
Soon we were back with our group, and one of the women I’d gotten to know dashed over. “Okay, how did you engineer that?” she laughed. “How could you possibly know how to get those guys to show up here at exactly this moment?”
I joked with her about my mad skills, but then realized it’s God who has mad skills. God can arrange anything, so maybe this wasn’t a coincidence. Maybe He wanted the group to see the missionaries. Or maybe He wanted those elders to hear some encouragement, some gratitude, and some excitement about their work. I wasn’t about to waste that “coincidence.”
Suddenly I realized the same thing had happened in Vienna and in Budapest. Of the millions of people we could cross paths with, God seemed to be leading us to cross paths with missionaries. So, this was the answer to my prayers. It isn’t always a nonmember who needs strengthening; it can be one another!
Not only did we see these fluke meetings as deliberate, but we had met some Latter-day Saint friends on the boat, whom we clicked with instantly, and who magically felt like lifelong friends.
Never before have I had a classmate with my name, but here was a woman with my same name, born 10 days before me, resembled me, had a father with my dad’s same first name and even same career, and whose dad brought her the same seafoam candy and Fernwood’s mints that mine had. We’d had similar callings, kids, and interests. The list goes on and on. This time, instead of helping someone else, I think God’s hand in this was to help me!
President Henry B. Eyring once said he keeps a daily journal of all the ways he sees God’s hand in his life. I love this! Not only does it help you look for and recognize such moments, but it signals God that you care about them, are anticipating them, and will act on promptings.
This demonstration of a willingness to act on promptings is important—it tells God that He can place someone in our path and we will befriend and love this person. We will also be willing to share the truth of the restored gospel. If we aren’t willing to act, why should God create perfect opportunities?
Keeping a journal will also tell Him that you’ll have real appreciation for His attention to the details of your life. He knows who and what we need, and when. And if He can do this for us, He can do it for our children, our ancestors, anybody in this world.
President Russell M. Nelson says the gathering of Israel is the most important thing taking place on earth today. “There is nothing… more important than that. There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing. This gathering should mean everything to you. This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.”
I’m so grateful that my Heavenly Father taught me to look beyond my check-list, to expand my view of what this trip was to accomplish. If we’re always looking for ways to follow promptings, then wherever we are, we’ve made God’s goals ours as well.
Hilton is an award-winning playwright and the author of many best-selling Latter-day Saint books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.