Yesterday was our third Sunday in the Harlem 1st ward. If you ever come to church with us, you will hear the Bishop explain what the sacrament is, why we take it and then at the end he will ask for new members and visitors to introduce themselves. After each introduction, the entire congregation replies “Welcome!” in about as friendly and enthusiastic voice as you can imagine. At first it felt quite alarming, but “The Harlem Welcome” is already become endearing and welcoming. It is so great to be in a ward where the gospel is taught each week, and where there are real walk-ins and investigators coming every week. In that regard, this ward reminds me a lot of Costa Rica… very friendly people, unassuming, coming to church to learn the principles of the gospel and practice them. I can tell I’m going to like it here. There is a convert baptism this week—Michael is so excited to have the gospel, you can feel his soft heart and joy at having answers, comfort and guidance in his life.
There is one sister who I met my first Sunday who has been an exceptionally good friend to me. That first week, she sat in the hall with me during Sunday School, passing snacks between our two baby girls and visiting about life in NYC- mom style. She answered lots of questions and gave me confidence about this endeavor. While she has 3 kids and has lived in the city over 10 years, she was really eager to find our commonalities and get me involved. She and others have said that the mom group in the ward is a no drama, happy group of friends. She said “none of us have family out here and we all need each other.” That week she called me three times, inviting me to various events and keeping me in the loop. On our Brooklyn pool day, she met me at a closer stop so I wouldn’t have to go all the way alone. Through a series of unfortunate events, I was about twenty minutes late. Once we met up, she was nothing but happy to see me and curious about my story- not a bit miffed that she and her three young children were sweating and bored down at the platform for almost half an hour. Is that a good friend or what!?!?
Our ward does have a bit of Harlem flair, which adds to the thrill of testimony meeting and Sunday school commentary. But, for the most part, the ward is made up of working professionals and a few students. We are a very diverse ward family in race, income level and life stage. That only goes to show that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone… fashion models, people without teeth, students, elderly, single people, families, everyone! We are glad to be part of a ward family and we are excited to be settled and getting involved!