Back in 1999, Rob and I moved our family to the rural mid-west. We were from the west and had lived most of our lives smack in the middle of Mormondom. Moving to the middle of farm country, hundreds of miles from a large city was quite a cultural shock. It wouldn’t be such a big deal now, but back then the miracle of the internet was in its infancy and it was difficult to adjust to driving miles of empty fields to get to a mall.

One of the things that I had a hard time with because I couldn’t decide if it was a good thing or not, was how many churches there were. The first thing people asked was if you had a church. Everyone went to church. That was not the case in the west and I think would be considered borderline rude if you just met a neighbor and asked what church they went to.

Not only were the big, established churches, but every block seemed to have a home converted into a small church. Our street had two in less than three blocks. The Church of Immaculate Joy was a favorite of mine. The house it was in was a dump and the front yard was a mess of weeds and dirt, but you can’t go too far wrong with Immaculate Joy.

We moved in June, right as school got out for the summer. The timing seemed pretty great, a whole summer to get acclimated to the area before school in the fall.

The only problem was the kids had no friends all summer. We bought a 100 year old This Old House project, so I was up to my eyeballs in ripping up flooring, painting and doing all the frantic things women do when they are trying to feather a nest. The last thing I needed was 3 bored kids under my feet all day, every day.

The Bishop’s wife, who was close to my age and had 4 kids the same ages as mine, quickly became my best friend. Her husband was a surgeon and the Bishop, so between saving lives and serving Heavenly Father, he was never home. She was for all intents and purposes a single parent. That worked great for me, since Rob was working long hours at his new job and I had no ties to the town or church.

I talked to the Bishop’s wife every day, asking who the good plumbers were and which grocery stores had the best produce. She was my Go-To-Girl, how the world functioned before the internet could answer questions instantly.

She was the one who suggested it; I would have never considered doing it on my own. It felt risky, and a bit dangerous. Afterwards, I used, “But it was the Bishop’s wife’s idea!” as my excuse when Rob began yelling at how stupid it was. I was nervous but she gave me courage to do it.

I was telling her on the phone how my children were driving me crazy and how much I wished I had someone who would take them and give me a break. I didn’t dream of asking her, that poor woman was not only the wife of a doctor and Bishops wife, but she was the Primary President too. I hadn’t been in town a month and even I recognized the vacant look in her eye as the signal of a woman on the edge.

She suggested we take the kids, hers and mine, to a Vacation Bible School. The town was plastered with posters for them. There had to be at least 4 of them going every week during June and July. She knew of a church that had VBS starting the next week that had the theme of Noah’s Ark. The plan was it would go on Monday-Friday from 8am-1pm. It was free (love donations accepted) and lunch was served to the kids daily. Her reasoning was there was no way theologies could cross about Noah’s Ark, right? We believe in Noah, they believe in Noah, and who doesn’t love animals? What could possibly go wrong? I was doubting but feeling desperate, I took the bait.

We agreed and packed our kids up for a week of sharing carpool duties to and from the Lutheran Church of Christ. There had to be a zillion kids at this Vacation Bible School. Turns out the Bishop’s wife had excellent taste in VBS. We accidentally picked the church with the biggest budget and paid employees to run their summer programs, so we got into the top notch Vacation Bible School.

After a week of dropping kids off and picking them up right on time so we didn’t have to answer pesky questions about our intentions of joining their congregation, my new friend and I considered our Vacation Bible School experiment a roaring success. Every day the kids came home with neat little crafts and humming cute songs about Noah and water and rainbows and God’s love for His children. All was well until the Sunday following VBS.

I hadn’t paid attention to the location of the VBS church. I didn’t realize until we turned the corner to go to our church and we had to pass the VBS church, that I might have made a strategic error. All three kids (age 8, 6 and 4) broke out crying in the backseat, distraught as we drove past the Lutheran church and forged onto to the One True Church, so they could get properly educated on Heavenly Father and all things religious.

Rob, who I might have neglected to inform of my decision to let the children attend VBS, was confused about why they all burst into tears at the same time as we turned to corner to church. He thought their blubbering, “No! Not THAT church! I want the Noah Church!” was a sign that they had all spontaneously come down with a case of mental illness. As we pulled into our church’s parking lot I finished my 30 second explanation of why the kids were freaking out with, “But it was the Bishop’s wife’s idea!”

Rob was not happy. The children were not happy. I was tired and stressed and desperately needed a break. How was I supposed to know the Lutherans had electric guitars, drums, tambourines, microphones and a disco ball while all we had was the hand motions to “The Pioneer Children Sang as They Walked and Walked and Walked and Walked”? How could Heavenly Father compete with that kind of fun?

For the next two months, until the kids heads got distracted with school, Rob and I had to plan all trips around town to avoid the corner with the Noah Church. If any of the kids spotted its tall spire from the backseat, they all broke down, crying to go to the Noah church. I bet if I asked my grown children right now they could tell you in excruciating detail how minute by minute the Noah church was in every measurable way so much more fun than ours. It is imprinted in their souls.

My only excuse for it, when I get to the Heavenly Judgment Bar, is the same old tired one I had the first go round, “But it was the Bishop’s wife’s idea!”