Now if you don't know this story from the Book of Mormon or need to be reminded, I highly recommend you read (even if you aren't LDS) Alma Chapter 17, Chapter 18 and most specifically, Chapter 19. I'm not here to give you a play-by-play of this account, but if you know what I'm talking about, you'll know what kind of message I'm here to give.
Ammon's job as a missionary would have been so much harder, had it not been for Abish, a member of the church, gathering her friends and neighbors together to see what miracles were happening with the king and queen. Had it not been for her faith and the effort she put forth into helping those around her, Ammon wouldn't have baptized nearly as many people.
When I was a missionary in South America, I remember feeling so much anxiety for the people I taught. Would the members befriend these people? Would they help them, love them and let them know they would always be welcome in the ward? It's a scary thing to change your life and walk into something previously unknown. It's up to the members to take that person by the hand and show them the love they need.
Last night I had a going away party for a sweet friend of mine. She was a recent convert who hadn't been coming to church lately for most of the reasons recent converts don't come to church. Her missionaries had been transferred and she wasn't quite comfortable with the members yet. She felt out of place and not really part of the "ward family."
My friend is moving to Hawaii and I thought I'd give her a send off. I emailed everyone in the ward hoping that a few would come and wish her well, even if it was only for 5 minutes. I'm sure you can already guess what happened. One person came. That one person didn't even know my friend, but she came just the same. Not one person from the Bishopric or Relief Society showed up.
I was crushed. Not for me, but for my friend. She had the courage to change her life and be baptized, but then wasn't truly welcomed into the church by her peers. I don't want to get down on my fellow ward members, because I've been there. I know how busy life gets, believe me but I did learn a valuable lesson. New converts need acceptance and guidance from us, but most of all they need love. They need to know that even though their missionaries aren't there, there is a whole group of people who are there to help them.
So, here's my challenge to you and to myself...let's not allow one person come into our wards without knowing they are loved and accepted. This is not limited only to new members, but everyone. We all need to know we have a place. I can't tell you how grateful I am that a ward embraced and loved my sister who needed them so much at the time. Let's all make our wards that kind of ward and live by the words of the primary song:
What does the Father ask of us? What do the scriptures say? Have faith, have hope, live like His son, help others on their way.