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Fond greetings from the “ends of the earth” Perth Western Australia – as far away as you can get from Liberty Jail without starting to go back again! I really enjoy your Missionary Moments in the Meridian. Some time ago, I was living in Darwin, 2,000 miles north of Adelaide. I had been appointed IBM General Business Group manager for a 3-year assignment, which sometimes entailed travelling “south” to Melbourne & Sydney for new product releases and training.
On one occasion I flew to Adelaide for a meeting and stayed at the Hilton Hotel. The night before I was due to return to Darwin I phoned the Mission President, Richard Wells, to ask if he had any instructions for me to take back to the Darwin saints. (I was serving as the Darwin District President at the time). President Wells told me he had to fly to Alice Springs the next day so we could meet at the Airport for breakfast and visit before our respective flights. .
I checked out from the hotel early and when I arrived at the airport it was deserted, except for a nun sitting in the departure lounge. She was dressed in full habit and was reading a book. Now, I have always liked and respected nuns, I think they do wonderful Christian service. So I walked over and sat opposite her and said “good morning sister”. She smiled and as we chatted I learned that she had spent most of the night at the airport on her way to Perth. She belonged to an ecclesiastical order called Sisters of Charity, and told me that she had been called to serve in an elderly folks home run by the Order.
I detected an American accent and asked where she was from. She told me “Los Angeles”. I replied, “I served my church mission in LA !” She asked if I was a Mormon, and then she told me her family were all Mormons and that her brother had recently served a mission in Brazil. I was quite surprised, and asked more about her family. This was her story.
She had been baptized and raised as a Latter Day Saint, her family was from Mexico and her folks worked in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles. Her father was a gardener and her mother worked as domestic help, They lived in a unit at the rear of a large home. Her family attended a local LDS ward when she was 13. Unfortunately, her Sunday school classmates teased her for being a poor Mexican so she vowed never to return to Church, much to her parents dismay.
While her family attended their LDS Sunday meetings, she would take long walks and often pass an eIderly folks’ home, run by some Catholic nuns. She would chat to the residents sitting in wheelchairs on the lawns out front. One morning the Mother Superior asked her in and offered her Saturday work. After a couple of years the nuns eventually invited her to join their order and she became a trainee, then eventually took out her vows of poverty ? this was about 6 years before accepting her assignment to Perth.
As we chatted the airport was filling up. President Wells, who was running late, arrived and I motioned him over and introduced him to Sister Imelda. We chatted for some time and then I got my boarding call for Darwin. I expressed my enjoyment in meeting her, gave her my IBM business card and invited President Wells to phone me if he needed to. I waved them both goodbye and left for Darwin.
The following day President Wells rang me and told me that he had chatted to her for about 20 minutes. Before he boarded his flight, he had written down her name and address. He then wrote to the Perth Mission President about her. President Reynolds in Perth then assigned a senior missionary couple to visit her at the convent. That was the last we heard of her until about 15 months later when President Wells received a letter from her addressed to us both. In the letter she told us that she had been visited by an elderly missionary couple who had rung the door bell at the convent and that Mother Superior had invited them in, and then left Sister lmelda to chat with them. The missionaries offered to take her for a drive each week on her days off, and did so for many months. She started to look forward to their visits. At the same time this dear senior missionary couple gently taught Sister Imelda the gospel of her youth. She started to realize that she still had a testimony of the restored gospel. Sister Imelda eventually returned home, left the nun’s Order and was re?baptized into the LDS Church. She was at that time actively attending her ward in California.
I treasure that letter, and I am so thankful that I played a small role in her eternal happiness.
Brother Phil Baker