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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

Vai's View: A young friend with a bright future joins family for latest missionary discussion

By Vai Sikahema, For the Deseret News

Published: Thu, June 19 4:25 p.m. MDT

 Kristen Mayhand and her boyfriend, Ronell Stewart.

Kristen Mayhand and her boyfriend, Ronell Stewart.

(Provided by Vai Sikahema)

Editor's note: This is the third installment in a series of columns on member-missionary work in the LDS Church. Click to read part one and part two.

With each succeeding Mormon missionary discussion with Ron Stewart's family over a three-week period, the family came with someone new. Our initial meeting, dubbed "Filipino Night," was with Ron and his wife, Angie. That was followed with a second meeting with Ron and his two sons, Ronaldo and Ronell. For our third meeting, they came with Ronell's girlfriend, Kristen Mayhand, but without Angie, who was under the weather, and Ronaldo, who is a freelance photographer and had a photo shoot.

The first two meetings went swimmingly. Dinner conversation was lively and fun. The missionary discussions that followed were even better.

Hence, I was somewhat worried that a girlfriend who wasn't a member of the family may have a different agenda or not have the same level of curiosity or religiosity. I've seen lessons torpedoed by cynicism and Bible-bashing, where the Spirit vanishes in a flash.

Turns out, I had no reason to fear.

Kristen Mayhand is bright, beautiful, religious and ambitious.

Recently graduated from Montclair State in northern New Jersey with a finance degree, she paid her own way through college as a bank teller.

That's how she met Ronell Stewart. He was a walk-in customer who let people go ahead of him in line just so he could be summoned to her window. He did it often enough that she noticed — nevermind that he's model handsome and is in great shape because he's a fitness fanatic. He slipped her a note asking for a date, careful to make sure she wouldn't think it was a holdup.

They've been an item ever since — almost five years now. Her African-American parents love him, and his Filipino parents adore her.

Kristen works as an auditor for the state of Delaware, and Ronell started a marketing company called Youth Noise that generates online traffic for his clients. Two months after he was hired by a commercial cleaning company to boost leads and promote traffic to its site, the client company landed a multimillion-dollar contract — all because Ronell got it to the first page of Google search results for its targeted keywords.

These are young people with bright futures, but would faith have a place in them?

Over dinner, Kristen acknowledged she had attended her Baptist church more frequently as a child with her family but less frequently in her teens. Ron and Ronell confessed that they were "Easter/Christmas Catholics" and sometimes not even that.

Our missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Jidileah Baluyot and Sister Brittany Daniels, had asked my sons, Trey and LJ, to teach the lesson. Since our last lesson, we took in a recent Brigham Young University graduate, Mont Toronto, who will live with us through the summer while he interns at NFL Films, which is located in our township. Mont served a Mormon mission in New York City.

The three RMs taught an amazing lesson, with all of us — sister missionaries included — helping out. As they reviewed the previous week's lesson and asked if they had read their assignments, it was Kristen who prompted Ronell to share what he learned.

"Ronell, tell them what you know about priesthood authority, the Apostasy and the Restoration," she said. Ronell dutifully recounted each principle with amazing detail and clarity.

Kristen asked honest and sincere questions about prophets, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

At the conclusion of our discussion, I asked Kristen to pray, prompting her to be specific in her questions and to listen with her heart and mind.

It was clear from her words that prayer was not new to her. She addressed Heavenly Father with humility and reverence. Her voice was soft, yet it penetrated our souls as she asked to know if what we taught was true and for courage to follow her conviction.

Before they left my home, we hugged and I made it clear that if at any time they chose to end our lessons, such a choice wouldn't have any bearing on our friendship. I've learned from experience to give friends an "out" so they aren't taking the missionary discussions simply to please me or so it doesn't jeopardize our friendship.

No, I want them to hear the message of the restored gospel because they see it has value for their lives and that it might soothe their troubled souls; strengthen their marriages or relationships; help them be better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters; and help them be a better friend, a better person or better at their jobs.

A day or two after our meeting, Ronell and Kristen each sent me a text (shared here with their permission):

"Hey Vai, thanks again for having us. Kristen and I had a great time. We appreciate the discussions and the sharing of wisdom. It's really wonderful to see the type of relationship you have with your family. Truly shows the positive impact of having faith and sharing that with your children."

"Hey Mr Sikahema! It's Kristen Mayhand. Thank you so much for having Ronell and I. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to see you and your family soon."

Vai Sikahema is the sports director and anchor for NBC10 Philadelphia and host of the "Vai & Gonzo Show" on ESPN Philadelphia Radio. He is a two-time All-Pro, two-time Emmy Award winner and was a member of BYU's 1984 national championship team.

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1. BYUalum
South Jordan, UT,
June 19, 2014

Vai, you are simply amazing! What a great example to all of us. Thanks for sharing.

2. Casey See
FLOWER MOUND, TX,
June 20, 2014

I am so glad that he is finally continuing the story. I was thinking that their friends saw the column and asked that he not continue relating personal events. Glad to see that appears not to be the case. I look forward to the next chapter in this story.

I hope that my family and I might have a similar experience. So far, we have had a few friends over and even fewer first discussions, but nothing more has happened yet. Not giving up though.

3. Kjirstin Youngberg
Mapleton, UT,
June 20, 2014

Even if all these meetings do is create lasting friendships, and cause them to become active in the religions of their youth, this has been a win-win. Congratulations on making new friends! Being open and loving, like opening your home up for someone to "spend the summer" is great. Members who live the gospel can do this anytime.

4. Red
San Antonia, TX,
June 20, 2014

Vai,

You are a great example to all of us lazy Utah Mormons. Way to go!

There is no doubt that we all can do more.

The truth is going to roll forward no matter how many conspiring men try to stop it.

Our society is so focused on our selfish comforts and desires that it's scary. One reason same gender attraction is running wild is that everyone is sitting around wondering about themselves.

Let's focus on others and make this world a better place.

Good work Vai.

5. Ironhide
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 21, 2014

Perfect. Sharing something that means so much to you doesn't have to end in conversion or Awkwardville. If there are people in your life that are close enough to you to share these deep convictions, their response should have no baring on your relationship going forward. In fact, the only impact should be positive. Often rejection, aka agency, somehow equals irrational thoughts like; you don't love me, care about me, know me, value what I think, feel, believe or practice. It is none of those things. The difference maker can be with those sharing beliefs to manage expectations of the outcome. Are you sharing due to pressure? Are you sharing so you have a story to tell in church? Or are you truly reaching out to someone you felt prompted to? The real motivation will be exposed in the end.