A Personal Story of the Effects & Blessings of Missionary Service.

From 1998-2000 I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Ohio Cleveland Mission. The boundaries took in the entire northern third of Ohio, and a sliver of Pennsylvania.

I wrote this as an email to my mission president the other night and he asked that I share it on our mission’s Facebook wall. I decided to turn it into a blogpost (but have removed the names for privacy).

The church leaders have encouraged us to stay in touch with our converts. This is a wonderful experience that I had the other day and an example of the long-term blessings from serving a mission.

President Kohlert,

It took almost 11 years but tonight I finally feel like my mission was worth it, and that the Ohio Cleveland mission was where I was meant to serve.

In Ohio I was lucky to teach and witness the conversions of quite a few people. A quick count is something like 11 individuals. While I never actually performed a baptism – either a family member performed the baptism or I usually let my companion, either because he was senior or I wanted to let the junior companion have the experience – I was able to teach these people. Each one was a great experience.

Of those 11 I remember, just four were adults. I worked mostly with part-member or less-active families and seeking out inactive members.

In these last 10+ years I have frequently wondered how the children we taught were doing. Are they active still? Are their parents still active (which usually leads the kids to remaining active or not)? Where are they now?

The other day I was going through my Facebook photo albums and tagging some Elders that I have recently reconnected with via Facebook. Then I decided to try some of the kids — after all, which kid isn’t on Facebook!?

When I was training Elder Cameron Comerford of Show Low, AZ in Barberton we taught two unbaptized sisters, ages 9 and 8. Two unbaptized sisters with a semi-active (I think) father. I barely remember teaching these girls but I have a few impressions of being in their home.

From what I recall we were asked to drop by and teach his girls. Gladly!! We taught them, they listened intently. We answered a few 9-year-old questions, and they were on the fast track for baptism. I was transferred to Cleveland proper in June of 2000 and both girls were baptized by Elder Comerford shortly after my transfer. All I have from that experience is one impression in my memory and a photo of the girls with Elder Comerford at their baptism (above).

Children of semi-active families who get baptized do not tend to have a good track record for staying active in the church and the fact that I worked mostly with children who fit this mold has bothered me in the last decade.

On top of that my patriarchal blessing has a healthy section about my full-time mission. In particular, one line states: “you will teach them in their language and bear testimony to them in a way that they will accept your testimony as truth.” This line always made me a little depressed because I served an English-speaking mission. I sort of believe the Mormon maxim that you get called to the exact mission you are needed to serve in, but that line in my blessing kept haunting me, especially since I worked mostly with American, English-speaking children.

Tuesday I can honestly say that the fulfillment of that part of my blessing was made evident – without ever learning a foreign language.

Back to Facebook.

I searched for the two girls and found them! The oldest is a student at BYU-ID and her sister is a student at BYU-HI. I was so happy to see they are both still active in the church. I felt like Alma when he was reunited with the sons of Mosiah as missionaries: “and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth (Alma 17:2)”

Both wrote me wonderful messages tonight. I’d like to share them with you:

From the oldest (was 9):
“I REMEMBER YOUUUUU!!!!! that is so awesome you found me because i was wondering about the missionaries that got to baptize me and if they’re married and if they have children and what they’re up to now and i remember one night i googled my name and my baptism picture came up!!!! i am so glad you found me! it just made my night! i love you elders and i love the gospel so much…thank you for baptizing me :)

From the youngest (was 8):
“This is soooooooo cool!!! Yeah I’m active in the church and I go to BYU-Hawaii. You have really blessed my life! Thank you!!

The girls are now 19 and 20.

Those two sweet messages made the entire two years well worth it.

The gospel is great. We are so lucky.

Update (4/12/13): I just noticed via Facebook that the younger of the two sisters has received her mission call to the Guatemala Retalhuleu Mission! Pretty freaking cool!

Popularity: 8% [?]

7 Responses so far.

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LDSGuy, Jonathan. Jonathan said: A Personal Story of the Effects & Blessings of Missionary Service. http://bit.ly/ffyTMI #lds, #mormon [...]

  2. bkb says:

    Thank you for sharing. Children can be very mature spiritually at a young age. Having a semi-active parent may have also helped. I am glad to see that they are active today.
    bkb´s last [type] ..Still Single and It is February 14th Again

  3. April Talley says:

    Dear LDS GUY,
    Don’t know your name, but I wanted to let you know that I am a member of the Akron ward, in the Cleveland Mission. I know (and have known) the girls that you baptized and their father for many years. I am so glad that you were reunited with them. They are wonderful young women. The oldest has spent her time lately going about the world offering service in impoverished places, spreading the gospel in a different sense. Both the girls are very active (as is their father) and always a delight to see when they return home for visits.

    Thank you for serving in out area. We know that it is not easy to teach the gospel here, but all of us appreciate the service rendered by the missionaries who come. I suspect that when we are on the other side of the veil, you will realize even more the impact your mission had and the people that you touched.

    Thanks again!

  4. LDSguy says:

    April –

    It’s been over 10 years and I’m not sure if I remember many people from the Akron ward, but I was Elder Coffey. I remember the Derks well, and understand that Ralph died awhile back. Miss them. Thank you very much for your comment. It meant a lot. In fact, Nusly comments on Facebook photos of my kids from time and time.

  5. HHowell says:

    Dear LDSguy,

    Often, portions of our patriarchal blessings mean something different than what they appear. For example, using your experience, “In particular, one line states: ‘you will teach them in their language and bear testimony to them in a way that they will accept your testimony as truth,’” seems to mean that you would be able to communicate with the children in their language. Meaning, in language that they would understand, on their level. That seems crystal clear to me.

    When serving a mission, one plants many seeds. And then one only finds out the fruits of a few seeds. The others may not “take” for many years. Thanks for sharing!

  6. RG says:

    Dear Missionary

    Thank you for finding this family and helping them receive the gospel. I know the oldest daughter very well. We have dated here at BYU-I and I know Her life radiates the blessing it is to have the gospel of Jesus Christ. She is the happy person she is in thanks because of the missionary work you performed.

  7. LDSguy says:

    Thank you for your comment RG. That means a lot.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge