Friday, December 7, 2007
The Blessings of Missionary Work
After our 11 hour car ride home from Utah on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (yes, we shaved an hour off by only stopping for one meal) I had to re-group quickly and head over to Seattle(a 4 hour car ride) for a very special occasion.
Andres Bennin, who I taught when I was a missionary 11 years ago in the Washington DC South mission, was getting off his mission in Tacoma, WA. For the past two years I have written him letters telling him that SURELY, SOMETIME, I would be in Seattle and I would drive over to see him, and take him to lunch or dinner, and visit. Well, two years seemed to go by in a flash, and I never did get over to Seattle.. I guess with moving from Sandpoint, and having a baby, and dealing with Jaxon issues... I didn't have much free time on my hands.
Anyway, my loving and very supportive husband, sucked it up and took care of the kids for a couple of days so I could go over and see Elder Bennin and his mother who came from DC to get her boy. It was the last chance I was going to have!
It was an amazing and wonderful experience. One that I don't think I will be able to put words to. But I am going to try...
I entered into the transfer meeting and was able to hear his final testimony of the gospel. It was an amazing meeting, and I almost wanted to go out tracting after...but that is another story..During his testimony, he stood and pointed out that the missionary who taught him the gospel was in the back, sitting next to his mom. I almost turned and looked myself, because it seems like a dream that I had long ago. He reminded me that they were found while we were tracking in the blizzard of '96. Truly... it was called by all of the media outlets the BLIZZARD OF '96. I really don't remember how much snow was on the ground, it was a lot.. but mission rules are, if there is snow on the ground with un-plowed roads, you must leave your car parked.
I was companions with a sister I was training at the time, Sister Petty, and we were not in the area where the Doris Larbi and her boys lived, but my next companion was.. and Doris and her boys were found during that week because Sister Burgess and her companion were hoofing it, and tracting, because that is all we could do. I was too, but not in that area.. I was blessed enough to meet up with Sister Burgess the next transfer where we followed up with Doris and her boys to teach a first discussion. I know sister Burgess and I were blessed for tracting during that blizzard! Doris and her boys were baptized two weeks later.
The ward family was very upset that we wanted to rush their baptism along, stating that they had not come to church enough times, and that people fell away too often. This was a ward that had not had a baptism in their ward for a few years... and it was easy to see why at times. The bishop called me and insisted that the baptism be postponed, and to make matters worse, church was cancelled the Sunday they were to be baptized because sludge was coming up through the pipes in the Stake Center. It sure seemed like hell was combining against us. A quick call from my mission President to the bishop, and a relocation to another Stake Center and they were baptized that Sunday. The following week James (the older of the two sons) gave his first talk as a youth speaker at 16 years old. I remember laughing, almost out loud in the back row of the church because he bore the most powerful testimony of the gospel of any new member of the church that I had ever heard. I was laughing because it was a testimony to me, and my companion at that time that the work had not been thwarted, and the Lord's side had won! It was so amazing to hear that testimony.
I came to find out, on this trip to see Andres, that his brother had no notes for that talk, and he had quoted Book of Mormon Scriptures as well as scriptures from the Joseph Smith History... and that he had gone to each ward in the Stake as a speaker with the Stake Predsident....amazing. Now, 11 years later, James has graduated from BYU TWICE and is now an Attorney in North Carolina. He also served a mission in the Los Angeles, CA. mission. He was married in the DC temple about 3 years ago, and just had his first daughter. Andres graduated from BYU in Molecular Biology before he left on his mission and now is planning on getting his JD as well.
I had probably 100 missionaries come up to me after Andres' final testimony, and tell me how knowing him had changed their lives. His nickname in the mission was the rain-maker, because he would baptize in every area... even if there had not been baptisms for years. He baptised over 100 people and had 7 people scheduled for baptism as he was leaving the mission.
Many of those Elders who knew him thanked me... for finding him... But I thank Doris and the boys, for being humble, and prepared, and Heavenly Father, for showing me for years and years the amazing miracle of missionary work, and what a blessing it is in not only your life, but the lives of others, and not only for 18 months, or two years but for a lifetime, and an eternity. I love you guys, thank you for keeping me a part of your life.