The first time that I truly felt the Holy Ghost testify to me was in the Dubai [United Arab Emerites] airport. I had just hugged three people goodbye. They had made such lasting impressions on my heart that turning around and watching them leave took my breath away.
The weeks leading up to that day in the airport had torn my world apart. I had been teaching English in Sana'a, Yemen, with American roommates, one of whom was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over the months, we had become close friends and his words and faith had awakened something in me that I had never felt before.
During the violence and political turmoil in mid-September, we were forced from our home in Sana'a to find sanctuary in Dubai. We were welcomed into the home of a couple from Calgary, Alberta, Bishop Johnson and his wife, Nancy. It was from here that I began to realize that coming to Yemen and working as an English teacher was only part of a larger calling--one that would take me around the world and back to my home town.
Those moments in the airport on the evening of September 21, 2014 were the definition of walking in faith. I had no idea where my life would go from there. As I turned around, trying to catch my breath, I could feel that my heart was moments away from breaking. Suddenly, from an source unknown, came a voice, “You're not alone, you're not alone.” It wasn't familiar, but it wasn't foreign either--like a part of me, or the hand of a parent that I reached for as a child, instinctively, always sure that it would be there. You're not alone. And in that second, I knew that I wasn't. I stepped forward, turned away from the people I loved and my journey began.
I had made the decision to investigate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I knew that there was something more that I needed and every sign pointed me towards the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wasn't doing it for love, I wasn't doing it for family. It was for me. The hardest thing to realize in those moments was that no one was going to do it for me.
In the weeks following my return home, many times I picked up the phone to call someone with the Church, and then I hung up. I opened the Book of Mormon and started reading. The scriptures gave me something that I hadn't felt in a long time--contentment, peace. For me, it was like encountering a foreign language for the first time, but somehow everything made sense. I learned in those moments that denying myself--denying Him--is harder than resisting every temptation that the adversary puts in our way.
So I picked up the phone one last time. It rang once, twice, three times. Nothing. Then I heard a recording, a man saying, “Leave a message and we'll call you back.” I had already left a message a week ago. I hung up the phone, denying myself a little more.
Then something captured my attention. The same voice that spoke to me that night in Dubai said: “Call back, call right back”. Insistent, but not intimidating; encouraging, but firm. Then I didn't think, I just dialed. My expectations were low, then there was a voice on the other end, an accent I didn't recognize.
My story poured out like a dam of water after a heavy storm, anxious and restless. I didn't breathe or stop. When I was finished, the voice on the phone said, “I was hoping something would happen today, I needed something to happen today. 'Do you ever just have one of those days?'”, she asked me. She had no idea.
“I wasn't even going to answer the phone!”, she laughed. Sister Mangelson, from Utah, had no idea how much I had needed her to answer that phone. But in those few seconds of “will I or won't I” when both of us found it easier to deny ourselves, God was watching and he knew how much we needed each other.
Sister Mangelson's Story:
It was the afternoon of October 3, 2014. I had been having a difficult time focusing my thoughts and being positive. I had just experienced a transfer from an earlier companionship and I was training a new missionary. Needless to say, I was feeling a bit uneasy about a lot of things, especially about my abilities as a missionary.
As I sat alone in the foyer of the church while my companion was in an exit interview, I was again caught up in negative thoughts. Suddenly the phone at the church rang. The thought came for me to answer it, but immediately I said to myself, “No one calls the church! It is probably just a telemarketer.”
Then I thought, “What if it is someone who is interested in learning about the Church?” My lack of faith quickly dismissed that hope and I said, “No, something like that would never happen to me!” Then the ringing stopped.
Only seconds later, the Church phone rang again. This time I didn't allow any other thoughts dissuade me and I jumped up and answered the call. On the other end of the line was the voice of a young woman. She asked if our Church service was on Sunday at 10 a.m. I said, “Yes.” She asked if visitors were welcome and told me that she wasn't a Church member, but that she wanted to come. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! I told her, “Yes!”
Then we started talking. The woman said her name was Maria Mulcahy and that she was from St. John's, Newfoundland, but she had been living and working in Yemen for the past six months. She said that one of her roommates there was a member and had told her about the Church. When she and her roommate were evacuated from Yemen due to political instability, she found herself staying with a Latter-day Saint bishop and his wife in Dubai.
I could scarcely believe that I was having this conversation. She told me that she didn't grow up with a religious background, but about a year ago she began to crave something that was missing in her life. Maria explained that she wasn't supposed to go to Yemen, but everything just seemed to fall right into place. After returning from Dubai, she thought that the feelings and excitement that she had would fade, but they persisted, so she called the Church.
I told her that it was no coincidence that she called and that I had answered. Now she wanted to learn more. That was the weekend of General Conference, so I briefly explained about the meetings. She said that she could come to the first session on Sunday. Before I even had the chance, she asked if we could meet after the session.
When our conversation had ended, I bowed in humble prayer and apologized to the Lord for not following the promptings that He gave me the first time the phone rang. I asked for forgiveness and then thanked Him for the second opportunity I had had to answer the phone. I also made a promise that I would always answer the Church's phone when I was there.
The experience didn't just make my day better, it changed my life. By answering the phone that day, I gained a stronger testimony of the love that my Father in Heaven has, not only for me, but for all of His children. Again I realized that He is aware and mindful of each of us. He knows what we need and when we need it. He puts people in our lives at a specific time and for a reason.
Maria Mulcahy was baptized on November 1, 2014. During the month that we taught her, I learned so much from her example, faith and love of God. I gained a friendship that will last forever.
It has been a journey for both of us: a journey of spirit, discovery, a test of our patience and the building of a new personal foundation. We know that Heavenly Father knows, loves and listens to each of us as individuals and that He is preparing us for righteous and joyous purposes. Together, we would like to invite everyone who reads this story to always answer a ringing phone because you never know who is on the other end and just how much they might need your help.