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Sometimes we do not realise the lasting effects of our actions.


In the late summer of 1970, Elders Alan Allred from Utah and Gerald Bell from East Anglia in England were both serving as missionaries in the historic town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. They had worked their way through the entire area without finding anyone interested in listening to their message. They felt that it was probably time to move onto somewhere else and the Mission President, Clyde Summerhays, tended to agree with them. However, the elders decided to fast and pray to confirm their decision and after doing so had the impression that they should stay in Carrickfergus just a little longer.

Shortly afterwards, they called at the home of John and Eileen Connolly, a young couple with a baby daughter, Gabrielle. John had said to Eileen only a few days previously that he felt they needed to develop a better understanding of the values of others and that if anyone called wishing to share their beliefs then they should be welcomed in. (This was at a time when there was serious civic unrest in Northern Ireland.)

Nonetheless, it took some time for the elders to convince the Connollys of the truthfulness of their message. (To begin with, John and Eileen were only interested in knowing what Latter-day Saints believed and were not particularly looking to change their religion.) Other missionaries including Elders Leon C Van Sickle, Maurice Jensen and Raymond Sego, worked patiently with them over the next few months.    

Finally, in the early winter, both John and Eileen were baptised by Elder Allred.

Fast forward to the autumn of 1994 and, by then, the family was living in Dublin. Gabrielle had recently returned from her mission in the London area and was preparing to get married to Ian McManus a few weeks before Christmas.

She had five siblings, and one of them, Patrick, had also just got back from his mission in the north-west of England. During the time that Patrick had been away, a young woman called Maresa O’Brien had joined the Church. She had been baptised by Elder Kelly Karren from Sandy,Utah.

Patrick had been told in a blessing before leaving for England a couple of years previously that he would meet the person he’d marry shortly after finishing his mission. As he walked out of a meeting in the office in the Terenure chapel after being officially “released”, the first person he met in the corridor was Maresa! They were married several months later.

Fast forward again to the late spring of 2018, and by now the extended family had grown further. All six children were married, and there were seventeen living grandchildren. Sarah, oldest daughter to Patrick and Maresa, was awaiting her mission call.

When it duly arrived, she was very excited to discover that she would be going to Toronto in Canada. This meant that instead of receiving her initial induction at the Missionary Training Centre (MTC) close to the Preston England Temple, she would be spending her first few weeks at the MTC in Provo, Utah.  

Her mother had promised that she would accompany her as far as the MTC but instead of the anticipated short flight to Manchester, tickets now needed to be booked for the somewhat longer journey to Salt Lake City.

When Alan Allred and Kelly Karren heard the news, they were delighted. For Alan, the grandchild of a couple he had helped bring into the Church was now preparing to serve a mission. Likewise, Kelly Karren’s work in the 1990s with Sarah’s mother was bearing additional fruit.

Sarah and Maresa decided to arrive in Utah a few days early and were thus able to meet up not only with Alan and Kelly but also with Dave Hall, Brian Jensen, James Prasek, Ryan Passey and Tyler Gerritsen, all of whom had been involved in Maresa’s conversion.

Furthermore, in the case of Kelly he flew in from Los Angeles to be part of a rather special reunion.

After her time at the MTC, Sarah, now “Sister Connolly”, arrived in Toronto in the autumn of 2018 and, all being well, will serve in Canada until the spring of 2020. 

The quotation from the Dalai Lama seems very apt – “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects”. 

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