When I was 16 years old, I met and befriended a lady with three children. We became trusted friends, although she was ten years older than me. She was having discussions with the missionaries, but at that time I was not interested. I was very frightened and stayed in the kitchen when they arrived.
One evening when I was making food for the children, I overheard the missionaries speaking about life before birth and after death, and how we choose to have an earthly experience, just as Jesus chose to come to die for us. I felt overwhelmed on hearing this, because in my heart I always felt that we had been around forever.
Later that night I queried my friend for more information, and she told me about Joseph Smith. His story really captured my attention and I felt that it was true. I didn't rush into anything, but weeks later when I was invited to a sports event at the Church, I decided to go to see the children having fun in the sun. And I really wanted to meet people and find out more about the teachings of the Church.
It was a beautiful day, and many people were there with their children. I was introduced to a few families and was asked if I wanted to meet the bishop. I entered the chapel and I remember the aroma to this day: it was the fresh smell of lovely, polished wood, old wood, and the smell of cakes baking in the oven. I’m not even sure if they were baking cakes that day, but that is what I smelt. It was lovely and clean and smelt homely.
When I walked through the building towards the bishop's office, I had this overwhelming feeling of pure love and protection. I was very nervous, yet I felt such a strong sense of belonging. I will always remember the beautiful, big smile on the bishop's face, as if he was waiting for me to return home. I felt emotional and frightened at the same time because I didn't know what to expect. These feelings were all new to me, but I felt this was a major part in my journey, my destiny, while not knowing at that time how my life would turn out. I was only 16 but I remember exactly how I felt that day. My dad had told me about these dangerous religious organisations, but there was no danger here. I only felt love, a love that I yearned to feel forever.
Feeling such love, I felt safe. I felt I was home. I knew this was so right.
This kind-hearted man, the bishop, told me his name and spoke with authority, and he made me feel safe and very welcome.
He drew me in with his Godly spirit. He drew me in with his smile. He drew me in with his love. He drew me in with his fatherly influence in the way he spoke to me. He drew me in.
He was a good decent man, and a fatherly influence on my shattered, insecure soul. It has taken me years to be who I am today. I was a canny, quiet kid, yet fiery when anyone hurt me. I carried so much pain. So, I love with my heart and soul, and am so overjoyed at the fact that I allowed Bishop Barratt to draw me into the gospel with his beautiful strong spiritual soul. He indeed saved me that day.
I dread to think how my life would have turned out if I had not been introduced to the Church at that time. Although I have had periods of inactivity, I have always stayed loyal to the teachings of the Gospel. I have never stopped believing that the gospel is true, and during those times of inactivity, I knew with all my heart and soul that I would return.
Years on I met my husband, and we were sealed for ‘time and eternity’. Bishop Barratt was a very important part of our Gospel journey, yet sadly he was too unwell to make trips to the Temple; but he did give many beautiful and sacred blessings to my husband. Over the years I would choose him to bless my children. As my children got older and had children of their own, they would also choose Bishop Barratt to bless their babies too.
Brother Ronald Barratt died in early 2021. His beautiful wife Mary gave my husband a few of Bishop Barratt's tie pins, which will be treasured; it's an honour to have something of his. It has been many years since Brother Ronald Barratt was bishop, but he brought honour to the title.
The Barratts carried out many acts of service in spreading the Gospel and teaching people. They were firm examples. They stood strong in the Church through difficult times. They worked hard. Bishop Barratt also had an amazing operatic voice which could drown us all out when singing.
We all have amazing experiences with people in our lives who have been such wonderful examples. I am so grateful to many people in my life. Heavenly Father certainly knows what he is doing. He brings people into our lives for specific reasons. We are never alone, even if we sometimes feel we are.
Cherishing our surroundings and those who have helped us on our way is so important. Each person met on life's journey can be vital to one’s spiritual growth and emotional wellbeing. Even in challenging times, people are helping to move us forward, to learn from one another through the good and the bad. Everything has its purpose. We see the beauty in others and in ourselves. We are all God's beautiful precious creations.