26 July 2005

Sister Robinson

The day before we moved from Trenton, New Jersey, my husband visited Bertha Robinson in the hospital. She was a recent covert, a widowed woman in her 60s. We had just finished giving her the new member discussions a few days earlier. She would come to our little apartment and rock our newborn baby while we discussed the gospel. She was a wonderful woman.

When my husband got to the hospital, she exclaimed, "I told my friend someone from my church would be here!" She was so pleased to see him and they had a nice chat, and then said good-bye.

Sister Robinson was the only new convert in the year we spent in that ward who stayed with the Church for more than a week or two. My husband and I spent a lot of time with the missionaries that year because I was the only ward missionary in our ward. We had 8 companionships working in the ward when we moved in. It made for a busy year.

But it was hard to not get cynical when it seemed that our efforts came to nothing. Like I said, Sister Robinson was sure someone would come visit her in the hospital. But my husband was the only one who did, and we moved across the country the next day. We have never known what happened to Sister Robinson since then.

Was there more we could have done to help the new converts in that ward? The Church as a whole is not retaining members well. A recent SL Tribune article discusses the problem, but this is something we've known for a long time. So, what can individual members do?

One of the most effective programs I've seen is one that my sister has participated in in California for many years. She helps new members start on their family history, usually in addition to another calling, but also, for a few years, as a ward missionary. She spends quite a bit of time working with new converts preparing them to go to the temple to do baptisms. She loves it.

But programs aren't always the most effective tool. Simple friendship from members who honestly love the new converts is invaluable.

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