This article is Part 2 of Sister Natalie Shawver’s series “Born and Raised”…Or Not.
“I remember how nice everyone was to me on my first visit to the Church, and I was surprised because they didn’t even know me. Everyone was greeting me. I was very shy, but it felt wonderful; it did not make me feel uncomfortable. I did not quite know what I was experiencing or what I was feeling.” – Sister Wendy Giannetti, Mesa, Arizona
It’s not easy to walk into a room full of people you don’t know. Perhaps you came on the arm of your boyfriend, as Sister Wendy did. Or maybe it was your girlfriend, like Brother Bob Batson. Either way, dozens of people greeting you and asking who you are and where you’re from? Not the typical way we like to spend our Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights.
But there’s something special about a greeting, isn’t there? A warm welcome can instantly put you at ease.
“I remember the Sunday school superintendent, Brother Joe Manes, publicly welcoming me to the service. I felt honored to be recognized and accepted by the group. The love they displayed toward me was amazing! I had never experienced anything like it from a group of people that had just met me.” – Brother Bob Batson, Cincinnati-Morrow, Ohio
How often do we realize the impact of a simple hello? Do we understand that years later — 36 for both Sister Wendy and Brother Bob — that handshake or introduction will be among the memories of those converts? I know I don’t. It’s just a simple gesture — what’s the big deal?
But that’s just it. It is a big deal. First impressions, as proven above, can be a notch on the belt to making Jesus their choice.
And those greetings don’t just happen inside the four walls of The Church of Jesus Christ. They happen around the lunch table, too.
“My first interaction with members of the Church was visiting Brother Russ and Sister Lena Martorana in their home as a young boy. As cousins, my family would visit them every Christmas, and although I thought their hospitality and love was family-related, I later realized it was the hospitality and love of the Saints that they shared with everyone — not just my family!” Brother Frank Natoli, Detroit, Michigan
Behind each handshake, each smile, each welcome is the love of God.
“Unquestionably, it was the love of the brothers and sisters in Niles that kept me coming back to church. While I experienced love from my family, I had never experienced the love of God like I did with those people.” – Brother Bob Batson
Strangers to the Church, these Saints and so many others went from feeling like all eyes were on them to a part of something wonderful. And, they would then have the opportunity to let their children experience that which they didn’t: being “born and raised” in The Church of Jesus Christ.
It’s as simple as that. No welcome gifts, no flashing lights around their names. Just love.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.