I recently had the honor to speak with Debbie over the phone for over an hour and we were able to make a real connection. We had never met or spoken before this time, and it was amazing to me that two women on opposite sides of the earth speaking about marriage, children, and faith can bridge the gaps in time and space so easily over the phone. I was impressed by Debbie for so many reasons, and I’m anxious for all of our readers to get to know a little about her.
Debbie started attending the Mormon church when she was four or five and her mother and sister were baptized when she was six. Her family was later sealed in the temple when she was seven years old.
Debbie is from Reno, Nevada. Her would-be husband, Mark, would come to Reno every summer to work for his uncle’s water ski business. After serving an LDS mission, he was eager to come back to Reno to work for his uncle — mostly because he loves to water ski. It was during this time he met Debbie.
Now, many years later, they are the parents of eight children: a 22 year-old-son who just returned from serving a full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Houston, Texas (USA), a 21-year-old daughter who is currently serving a full time mission in California (also in the USA), a 17-year-old who has an international driver’s license, a 13-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 9-year-old, and two babies at the end, ages two and one.
Debbie and her family currently live in Doha, Qatar! Her husband has worked for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) since before they were married, and “loves the international thing.” When he first got his job with the FBI, Mark immediately applied for an international assignment, but he didn’t get an assignment internationally right away. In fact, it was after 18 1/2 years of working for the FBI when he finally was selected for an assignment in Chile.
Debbie says, “I was so scared to go to Chile. We talked it over as a family and prayed a lot. As soon as we made the decision to accept this assignment we had the great excitement to go. When we got there, I was scared at first. It took me about a year before I felt like I could make it. I had this view of learning the language that it would just be easy. I had seen many missionaries learn the language so fast. I just thought if you live there and are immersed in the language it would be so easy to pick it up. I have learned the hard way that it takes a lot of time and effort to learn a foreign language.”
But after living in Chile for four years Debbie came away with a love for the people. “Going to Chile was a magnificent thing. A fantastic experience! The best part was getting to know how wonderful the Chilean people are. My husband was called as the Bishop of our ward and so we worked closely with the missionaries assigned to our ward. We had the wonderful experience of teaching the Gospel in our home.”
While in Chile, Mark and Debbie had six children but wanted to have more. Near the end of their time in Chile, Mark applied and was accepted to work in Senegal, Africa. In their preparation to go to Africa from Chile, Debbie found out she was pregnant with her seventh child. The nurse who was administering Debbie’s shots in preparation for life in Africa felt uncomfortable giving a pregnant woman the yellow fever shot. After much heartache, they decided that it would be best for their family if they just went back to the United States so Debbie could have her baby there.
While back in the United States, they also had their eighth child. But, they knew they still wanted to work internationally after having such a good experience in Chile. At first they applied for a position in Estonia, but the position was canceled and then an immediate opening was available in Doha, Qatar. Mark applied, and got the job. They have been there for about two months.
Debbie asked her husband for a priesthood blessing prior to moving to Qatar. In it she was told to “Open your heart and love the people and you will be happy.” And that is just what she is trying to do. She loves all the diverse cultures of the people she is meeting. People from all over the world congregate there for business. Almost unbelievably, Debbie’s next-door neighbors are a Latter-day Saint family there with the military. They have two teenage sons and two children under eight, which is great for Debbie’s children — they have friends to hang out with.
Church is held in a large local villa, about 25 minutes from where she lives. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has rented the villa for church services as well as midweek activities. Currently two wards [congregations] meet there. Debbie attends the international ward, but there is also a Filipino ward that meets in her same building. Her daughter’s youth leaders include women from the United States, South Africa and Nigeria, all currently living in Qatar with their families.
I asked Debbie if she had an experience she could share with our readers of a time when she knew God had answered her prayers. She thought for a while, and decided on this one. “When I was 23 years old, I had already been married for a while and had two children. I had been baptized and been a member of the Church since I was eight. I had attended seminary and read the Book of Mormon as asked. I kept hearing people say in church, ‘If you ask you will receive an answer.’ I just wanted to know for myself that the Book of Mormon was true.
“At that time my husband was working nights and so I decided that after I put the babies to bed I would read the Book of Mormon. The first night I knelt down and prayed, ‘I have heard my entire life that if I ask that I will know if the Book of Mormon is true. Please send the Holy Ghost to be with me and testify to my heart the truth of the words that I read.’
“I started reading nightly after I put my children to bed. At first it was drudgery but I thought, I am going to keep going because I need an answer. I felt I could not go on any longer without knowing the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon for myself. I continued to read. And the more I read, the more I couldn’t wait to read. It got to the point where I couldn’t wait to read after the children were asleep. After nights and nights of reading like this I got to Alma 32:28 which says:
Now we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good see, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves- It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea it beginneth to be delicious to me.
“When I read that scripture I felt my mind being filled with light. I felt that my understanding was being enlarged. I felt like my heart was filling up to overflowing with understanding. And every word began to be most delicious thing I had ever tasted. That was my absolute witness. Wave after wave of amazing joy lasted with me for a very long time. I knew that Heavenly Father really heard me and was giving me a testimony that the Book of Mormon was true and every word was His.”
At the end of our conversation, Debbie thanked me for interviewing her. She said, “About a year and a half ago I wanted to start a blog so I could put my testimony on the Internet so it could help other people. And now, here you are interviewing me and putting my testimony onto the Internet. Thank you for helping me do something that I have wanted so much.”
For more Portraits of Mormon Women, please click here.