Sunday, June 14, 2009

Or, you could wear a CTR ring

During sharing time a few weeks ago we made cards to give to all our friends and teachers that would shortly be moving away, and also for Sister Tueller, our chorister, who is back in the States for surgery/chemo. Our branch is rather transitory and dissolves at the start of summer; typically we gain several new members at the end of summer, or so I'm told.

The card-making involved lots of paper and scissors and Mr. Sketch felt pens. With 20 some-odd kids in primary, havoc reigned. Paper, scissors, and felt pens were being passed around pell-mell. I, myself, received a nasty paper cut, but there were no other serious casualties, for which I was grateful. I was having visions of someone's eye being poked out or a felt getting stuck up someone's nose or something equally grotesque.

Everyone was having fun creating their cards while chatting, and saying goodbye. I was wandering around the room, looking at the children's work, and occasionally helping someone spell a particularly tricky last name like "Tueller" or "Meservy."

We were running out of time and trying to wrap of the pandemonium, when I saw that Keji was harboring a blueberry scented felt pen (not the sky blue, blueberry slushie scented one (that indecently ended up getting Mr. Sketch banned from our house after my mom found Patrick, then about 2 years old, with a sky blue mouth (we weren't supposed to leave the felt pens where he could reach them)). No, not the sky blue felt, but the dark blue one). She looked from the pen to her arm and back at the pen. I knew what was coming.

She uncapped the felt pen and hastily drew a whoppingly ginormous cross on her arm.

"أنا مسيحى" she crooned, looking rather self-satisfied. "I'm a Christian!"

Obviously emulating the Copts (since many tattoo a Coptic Cross on their right arm) Keji felt like she was really professing her faith--only she did it on her left arm, since she is right handed, with a very water-soluble medium. Someone's got to get this girl a CTR ring!

Keji is one of two Sudanese children in our primary (her brother is Farayella) and they can be a challenge to teach since we all struggle communicating with them. Even those of us with a little knowledge of Arabic (or those of us with a firm grasp of Arabic, like Andrew, or the Egyptian members) struggle understanding this poor little family.

(For the cupcake story, go here)

But they come faithfully, which I admire, because it is hard to not understand, to look different, to feel different.

Lucky for me, I'm not the odd-ball out in our branch here, but I've been the odd-ball out before. In Russia I sat through meetings grabbing words here and there, trying to piece them together, or, if I was lucky enough to sit by someone who could translate, straining to hear a whispered, halting translation until I understood enough to get by on my own.

In Jordan (in the al-Husn branch, the only soley Arabic-speaking branch of the church) I was shooed off to Relief Society, separated from all the other English-speaking girls, who should have been in Relief Society with me, but were invited to attend Young Women because they weren't yet married. I was given a manual and asked to follow along in Arabic. I was young, I was white, and I didn't speak any Arabic. I was very different from everyone else in the room. And that was scary.

So I really admire the courage of Keji and Farayella, how they come to church weekly and try their best to keep up with what's happening, how they try to learn the words to the songs, how they (usually) willingly go to their classes to sit with children they can hardly communicate with to listen to a lesson they don't fully understand.

I hope that Keji and Farayella understand that they are children of God. I hope that is the reason they come to church. That is the reason I go to church--because I am a child of God and He has a plan of happiness for me and I want to learn all I can about that plan. It doesn't matter if I don't fit in, if I struggle with a commandment here and there, or if I smell funny. I belong with Heavenly Father's children.

I'm not about to go and stamp that on my forehead, but I do wear a CTR ring. I've worn various CTR rings since I was first given one when graduated from Star B to CTR A,* but I've always wear one. It reminds me of who I am, what I believe, and what I stand for. It helps me remember that I am a child of God and that I can pray to him anytime, anywhere, even if I feel a little out of place. It helps me remember that we are all children of God and that I have that in common with everybody.

I guess, in a way, it's kind of like a cross or a tefillin or Dhikr beads. Still, someone ought to get that girl a CTR ring!

*Back when I went to primary we had Sunbeams, Star, CTR, Valiant, and even Blazers/Merrie Miss (though that was abolished by the time I entered and we were down to Sunbeams, CTR, and Valiant classes; Valiant 12 was such a letdown compared to Merrie Miss!).


  1. You had Meservy's in your branch? Are they related to Julia?

  2. Yea, Meservy was a pain to spell... I learned to do it to a beat ME-SE-RV-Y... made it easy for others to write. Why do you think I married Brian, I mean with the last name Sharp it can't get much easier than that right? Now my kids won't have to go through the same trauma that I had to as a child. (Though the last name of Sharp brings it's own trials I know).

  3. Ah yes, I remember when it was called Valiant's. Wow, times have certainly changed.

  4. We never did figure out if they were related to Julia or not. I think we figured out that they probably were because there aren't that many Meservys in the States.

    I think that unless your last name is "Jones" or something like that you'll have problems explaining it to people.

    With Heiss, I always have to tell people it rhymes with "ice" or they forget and it ends up being Hess or Hiss or Weiss or White. And I always, always have to spell it. I don't even wait to see if people want me to spell it for them. I just launch right into it.

    "Yeah, it's Heiss. H-E-I-S-S."

    Funny thing is, it's not really that tricky of a last name in my opinion...

    I didn't really have any problems with Layton in Utah (for obvious reasons), but in Canada a lot of people thought it was spelled "Leighton" or some other variation.

  5. My problem in Utah is that, while people can spell it, they can't seem to say it without a glottal stop. And when I say "Layton" they say, "Oh, you mean Lay[glottal stop]n." And I always want to say, "No, actually, I mean LayTon."