Vai's View: How prayers were answered and missionary opportunities granted for 'Filipino Night'

Published: Thursday, May 15 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT

Angie and Ron Stewart get their picture taken with Keala and Vai Sikahema.

Provided by Vai Sikahema

As Latter-day Saints, we've all experienced it.

Missionaries are over for dinner. The meal is finished. Dishes are being cleared. And one of them says, “Who do you know that we can meet or teach?”

Crickets.

On those occasions, I often wish they would just help clear the dishes or just give their short spiritual message and vanish. The better ones, however, don’t mind the uncomfortable silence. They’ll wait it out until you clear your throat and clumsily fumble through lame reasons, like how you don’t know anyone or how you’ve exhausted your list.

If you haven’t done that, you just haven’t had Mormon missionaries over enough. Believe me, no one is immune.

While we've lived in the same house for 20 years, there have been scores of missionaries in and out of our home during that time. With a few exceptions, we've had the same neighbors over those two decades.

I have a finite number of neighbors, yet an infinite number of missionaries who don't seem aware, nor do they seem to care, that the previous umpteen sets ask about our neighbors with every transfer. Frankly, we have been above-average member-missionaries throughout our married lives.

Sometimes I’m even annoyed that they keep asking when I keep telling them I don’t have anyone. We’ve gone through stretches of months without inviting missionaries for dinner just to avoid being asked. Interestingly, when I sense a new pair in my ward isn't that intent on asking, boom, I invite ‘em over. Sadly, I confess there have been times that I preferrred the ones with the sense of propriety not to put me on the spot.

But we’ve also had miraculous experiences with extraordinary missionaries who have the gift of balancing our trepidation and coaxing from us the referrals they seek. In future columns, I'll tell some of our missionary experiences of trying to share the gospel with our neighbors — some of them awkward, some downright uncomfortable, a few hilarious and one miraculous (and still a work in progress).

Still, we want to be better than we’ve been.

One reason it matters so much to me is because of all the many wonderful things I’ve experienced in my life — immigration to America, full-ride college scholarship, Brigham Young University degree, successful NFL and television careers — only my marriage and children have been more impactful than sharing the gospel or helping someone return from inactivity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With varying degrees of success, missionary work has been a constant for me, partly because I've been a public figure my entire adult life. Certainly it’s not easy, which is directly related to the euphoria and jubilation we feel when our efforts lead to true conversion.

Three weeks ago, we invited the missionaries serving in our LDS ward over for dinner, Sister Brittany Daniels of Idaho and Sister Jidileah Baluyot from the Philippines. We were all so taken with Sister Baluyot’s sense of humor, lovable naiveté and moxie, a word I rarely use to describe a missionary. We asked if they’d return for another dinner the following week. My wife grew up in Hawaii with lots of Filipinos, so she asked if Sister Baluyot knew how to make some of my wife's favorite Filipino dishes, like chicken and pork adobo. Turns out she did. So we designated the following Wednesday evening as “Filipino Night” in our home.

Our challenge was simple: Have someone at Filipino Night for the sisters to teach. One week.

My wife and I made it a matter of prayer, asking the Lord to bless that our paths would cross with someone he's prepared and we could invite to our home.

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