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.
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!
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