Last week I completed the Family History Library lessons I’ve been taking. Then, this week, Debbie Gurtler, who is the employee in the FHL responsible for missionary training, came by and presented me with my certificate.
Of course, the BIG happening of the week was that we got to attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert!! It was fabulous in every way! I would have been heartbroken to have gone home without experiencing that. This year's special guests were Hugh Bonneville and Tony Award winner, Sutton Foster. We loved it!!!
In previous letters, I’ve mentioned some of the missionaries who speak at our Monday Morning Mission-wide Devotionals. Each speaker is given three minutes to (as some say) “tell their life story.” (An impossible task, of course.)
A sister we heard from this week, Sister Judy Ryan, decided to tell us the funny story of how she happened to join the Church.
She grew up in California, and when she was 7 years old and in first grade, her family lived across the street from the school playground. One day, she heard a bunch of kids cheering on a fifth-grade bully named Norma. Norma would often clinch her hands into fists, raise them over her head, and charge at smaller children. That day her victim was Teddy Fisher. Judy LOVED Teddy Fisher. He was also a first grader and he lived next door to her. When Judy got to the group, Teddy was dirty, bleeding and crying. Judy said something to the bully and suddenly all eyes were on her – and Norma was charging at her instead of Teddy!
Sister Ryan explained, “I stuck out my boney little fist and she ran right into it, belly first. I must have caught her in the diaphragm, because she went down like Goliath!”
When Judy looked up, everyone was gone – even Teddy Fisher. Norma seemed kind of shaky when she got up, so Judy stayed and walked with her a bit. But, then, she realized Norma was ringing her family’s doorbell – and there, in no time, was her mom.
At this point, Sister Ryan explained that her father was a marine who had been captured in WWII, was a Japanese prisoner of war for 4 years, and also had spent two years fighting in Korea. But, despite that, the one everyone feared most was her mom! Her mom had been a marine drill sergeant and, she thought discipline should be “immediate, corporal, and memorable.” So, when Norma began wailing to Judy’s mother about her offense, Judy braced herself for the worst.
But, looking from this fifth-grader to her first-grader and back, her mother seemed confused. Her mother told her to go to her room until she could sort things out.
After four hours, she was summoned to the living room, and, to her surprise, sitting there were Teddy Fisher and his mother. Sister Ryan’s mother asked, “Do you want to go with Teddy Fisher to his church on Wednesday after school?”
Judy continued, “I had spent four hours imagining all the possible punishments I had in store for me, but being Teddy Fisher’s church body guard was not on the list. I couldn’t figure out the catch, so I said ‘yes.’”
She started walking to Primary every Wednesday with Teddy Fisher, and even though he moved away not long after this event, she loved Primary so much she went on her own after that. She said, “I loved my teacher! She was from the Philippines, and her accent was enchanting. I leaned in to every word.”
Sister Ryan was baptized just before she turned 10 – and eventually, other family members joined the Church as well. She and her husband are serving here in special collections in the Church History Library.
This was such an original story, I had to share. (I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone else who ended up joining the church because she had a fight with a fifth-grade bully!)
Our daughter, Susy, told us something fun about her 3-year old the other day. She said if you ask her if she’s on the naughty or the nice list for Christmas, she yells: “I on the HAPPY list!” :-) May we all be on the happy list this Christmas!