All my life I have had good friends around me who are members of my church. Not anymore. I am absolutely the only Mormon of the 36 (soon to be 3) coworkers/good friends who currently make up my social circle.
In many ways this has been really cool. I have had some in-depth and spontaneous discussions about faith, religion, temples, family history, The Book of Mormon with several of my new friends. On the whole they are pretty unbiased about the church, and religion in general, and also full of questions. Yet, there is a sense of spiritual isolation.
(Note the number of empty glasses)
It’s not that I am forgetting to say my prayers, or read my scriptures more than usual. It’s not that I feel my testimony weakening in any area, in fact the opposite on that count. But I miss having someone around me who has a deep understanding of the fundamental structure of my world view, paradigms, and thought processes. I’ve missed the automatic acceptance and understanding that exists in the church.
That’s why I have felt so blessed to be part, however briefly, of the Sanremo branch. They are adorable. I was welcomed with kisses on the cheek and hugs from everyone. They are just the branch you hope to find when you travel to a far out limb on the kingdom’s tree.
There was someone there to translate for me in every hour I attended, but I found that the spirit carried me far beyond the spoken word as I listened to these good members. The language of the gospel is so unique, in any case, that I was frequently able to help my translators along.
The branch is smallish, but strong as branches go. The missionaries told me that it has nearly been made a ward numerous times, but each time it gets close to having enough priesthood, a large family, or two, have moved out of the area for work reasons. So they plug along. The same 60 people rotating talks, lessons, hymns, and presidencies with a smile year after year in their little converted chapel above the local super market.
The lessons were lively, the sacrament talks were personal and moving, and the prayers—well, I didn’t understand them very well, but they went on long enough to ask a blessing for each member and their dog.
I am going to miss them. They all invited me to come back again whenever I can, and to be sure to visit their cousins, and former hair dressers. who live in Milan and Rome.
Sadly, I don’t think I will have the opportunity to attended meetings in any other congregation more than two Sundays in a row the rest of the time I am here, and even going each week will be pushing it if I am traveling and working as many Sundays as I think I will be. I think the fellowship of my fellow saints will be the thing I’ll be the most homesick for. But being among these beautiful brothers and sisters who live so far from ‘Zion’ reminds me of the truth of this little church. The fire of faith burns as just as brightly, and in many ways casts a stronger light here, where it is surrounded by darkness, as it does anywhere in Provo or Holladay.
It is a comfort to remember that I am home, wherever I go, when I go to church.