By Lillian Arp
When the sister missionaries first knocked at her door, Amy Karsten wasn’t home. Her mother-in-law answered instead and was so impressed by the kindness of these sisters that she invited them back for dinner. That’s when Amy first heard the gospel message of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As the sisters visited that evening, Amy remembers, “I started to feel a mix of emotions – spiritual feelings of joy and happiness.” These were new sentiments for her. They brought a sense of peace at a time of transition in her life.
It was 2015 and Amy had been married for two years. She and her husband had moved into their first home, in Flat Bush, Auckland, only four months earlier and had invited his parents and brother to live with them.
The missionaries became regular visitors to their home, even after the first sister missionaries transferred out of their area they were replaced by another set. “I noticed that they were all equally kind and genuinely caring,” Amy said of the missionaries. “You could really feel their upbeat nature and willingness to serve.”
Within a year, several of Amy’s in-laws joined the Church.
“I wouldn’t say I was a serious investigator yet, but I went to all their baptisms and I always cried there. I kept thinking, ‘What’s going on with me?’” Amy laughs. But she didn’t explore those spiritual feelings further, and eventually began avoiding the missionaries by staying upstairs when they visited.
Amy and her husband, however, were going through a particularly difficult time in their marriage. Soon after they had taken out their mortgage, Amy was made redundant from her job and they experienced financial uncertainty while she actively searched for work. Then in early 2016, they discovered their house needed structural inspection and potentially extensive repairs in the future. On top of that, the couple were on the waiting list for publicly funded IVF. “It was all starting to pile up,” Amy remembers. “I started thinking maybe I didn’t have a strong enough spiritual foundation to keep me going.”
One day, she and her husband were invited to a Family Home Evening in her in-law’s ward. There Amy felt those familiar spiritual whisperings again, but this time they came with a new urgency to act upon those feelings. “I thought, okay. I’ve heard the gospel message and here are my options. Do I want to continue feeling lost, sad and lacking in faith? Or do I want to take the other road, embrace the gospel and move forward?”
Her decision was overwhelmingly clear. She knew she needed to be baptised . . . but she had one more obstacle to overcome.
“My only reservation was that I didn’t feel worthy of having the gospel in my life.” It was a devastating emotion and when Amy explained it to the missionaries, they asked her to pray about it, which she did, with real sincerity.
The next day, on her way home from work, Amy had a gut feeling about her brother. “I felt something was not right and that I should text him.” In her message she was prompted to ask if everything was okay with him and his girlfriend. Within minutes, Amy and her brother were on the phone having a long, heartfelt conversation about his relationship. It turns out, Amy was exactly who he needed to speak with in that moment. It’s through her loving counsel that her brother was able to find comfort and the confidence he needed to resolve his personal concerns.
“After our talk, I suddenly knew – without a doubt – why I needed to be baptised,” Amy says. “I realised that Jesus Christ had been my example all along, in the way He blessed and served others during His mortal ministry.”
Amy finally understood that joining the Church wasn’t just about her. She knew that – just like the missionaries who taught her – she is also called to love and serve those around her, “and to serve effectively, I need the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit,” Amy reasons, “which gift is promised at baptism.”
It’s been a couple years now since Amy joined the Church, and while she still faces life’s challenges, her ability to hear the Spirit has strengthened since her baptism, blessing her life in countless ways. The Holy Spirit brings peace to her heart as she goes through her struggles, it allows her to serve others with wisdom and empathy and has expanded her knowledge of the gospel, especially in her calling as a Sunday School teacher.
Reflecting on a recent lesson that she prepared for her class, Amy says, “Baptism is just the beginning, you know. Our true conversion comes with enduring to the end. How wonderful would it be to live like the Anti-Nephi-Lehi people in the Book of Mormon? After they fully committed themselves to God, even with all their trials and struggles, it is said that, ‘they never did fall away’.”