And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I Corinthians 2:1-4
More than forty years ago, I was serving as a missionary in southern Brazil, and was attending a zone conference with about 50 other elders and sister missionaries. After giving us some much-needed counsel, the mission president opened the meeting for the bearing of individual testimonies. Because of time constraints, he suggested that we elders limit ourselves to no more than three minutes. "However," he reminded us, "since the sister missionaries have at least twice as much success with proselytizing as you do, they may have at least twice as much speaking time as well. . . ."
I had been blessed with a somewhat easier time in learning the Portuguese language than some of my companions. My personal challenge was to seek humbly the influence of the Spirit in my teaching. We had enjoyed some measure of success with baptisms and reaching out to the Brazilian people, due in part, I proudly reasoned, to my facility with the language. But, as the president had noted, our efforts hadn't born "fruit" like that of the sister missionaries. What could be the difference?
The answer came forcefully to me when Sister Carolyn Whittier, one of the newest and "greenest" of the sisters stood humbly to bear her testimony. We knew she had struggled with the language and had been through some discouraging months. Yet, she and her companion were some of the best in the mission, and were loved by all. She brought me to my spiritual knees, and I felt tears of gratitude spring to my eyes, as she quoted from the Apostle Paulin faltering Portuguese: "And I brethren, when I came to you. . . ." She concluded, took her seat, and silence fell over the entire group. President Turner closed the meeting, and I returned, not to my work, but to the Lord's work, with a new focus and resolve. Dean A. Packham, Draper, Utah