Sunday, January 17, 2016

From Missionary to Minister

January 4, 2016

Good morning,

There comes a point in every missionary's mission when they have to decide who they really are. There comes a point where you have to decide what kind of sacrifice you're going to make for people and what side of yourself is going to dominate your missionary work. This week was a time for us to literally transform from young men wearing black name tags to ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not because we necessarily got any better than we were, but rather, because that's what was called for this week.

I was sitting on my bed reading some books New Year's day (we had to be in by 8 pm) and I got a call from one of our potential investigators. His name is L and this man was just having the hardest time. He called and said he needs a lot of help and that he didn't know else to call, so he dug out our number and gave it a ring. He told me "Man I am in bad shape. I've lost everything! I have nothing left! I'm about to put a bullet in my head and I have no idea what to do. I don't know how to handle this stuff." I was extremely shocked at what I was hearing! I had never before received a call like that nor had I dealt with anything remotely similar. So I calmed him down a little bit and asked what was going on. He told me that his wife walked out and that there was nobody there for him and that he was sick and tired of going through the same stuff over and over again. So I continued to get more details and found out that he's had an incredibly difficult life and that he almost feels abandoned and forsaken. So I explained to him a little bit about what was going on. I said "You've been living this way for a long time and it's time to make a change. You say you keep going through the same stuff over and over again, so what you're doing clearly isn't working. You need to go about things like you never have before. You need to make a change in your life." He then exclaimed "It's too late for me buddy! I'm 51 years old! It's too late to make a change!" I assured him that it was never too late. Then he continued to rant about his mistakes and how he wasn't worth anything, so I took it as an opportunity to bring in the Gospel. It really is the only solution for a man who has NOTHING.

So I began to talk and read about the Atonement, explaining first the love of God and that Jesus Christ suffered everything and knows exactly how he feels. Then I told him that he can start a new life, that he didn't have to be the person he was before. I told him the reason for the Atonement and explained what we could do to help him. I told him that he could make a change and begin to live a meaningful life full of hope and happiness. He said "I don't know how to do that! I don't know how to deal with this kind of stuff." I told him "What you've done in the past has obviously not worked because you've been in this situation before. So what I want you to do is get on your knees and ask God to lead you in the right direction so you can find happiness. Do that and then call me back, okay?" He agreed. So he hung up and then I just sat there in shock, praying with all my heart that Heavenly Father would fill him with His love. I sat and waited for about twenty minutes for this man to call back. Meanwhile my companion was in the other room watching some church videos. I sat there anxiously praying and listening to the Spirit to know what I would say when he called back. He didn't call, so I did. I gave him a call and he answered. I said "You still with me?" "Yessir. I'm doing okay." He then started ranting again about how much it hurt and how he didn't know where to turn. So I said "Well you can't lose hope L. There's a Heavenly Father who is looking down on you and hoping that you turn to Him. He's not giving up on you and we're not giving up on you. And you can't give up on yourself either!" He then started to be positive "No I'm not gonna give up. I can't give up! God loves me!" I was getting so happy. So I asked him "Do you remember when the missionaries knocked on your door a few weeks ago? How did you feel?" He told me "Happy! I felt happy for the first time in a long time!" I then went on "Well that happiness was real and was a sign from God that you need to follow." I then got his address and we planned to visit him tomorrow. I asked him "Do you have a TV or a radio or something? I want you to listen to that and get your mind off things so you can sleep tonight. We'll call you in the morning."

So we did. We called him and set up a time to visit him later that day. When we got to his apartment (shack) he was drunk and just depressed out of his mind. We sat down and read Alma 36 with him and assured him of our love and of God's love for him. We gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to read and start making small changes in his life. He agreed. And then we invited him to church and set up a ride for someone to pick him up. He thanked us for coming and told me that I saved his life. I was touched! The Lord really used me as an instrument in His hands! We left him with a prayer, he left us with some YooHoo, and then we were off.

The next morning, he gave us a call telling us that he was ready to come to church. So we picked him up just before church and got him there a little late. This man was having the hardest time of his life. We sat toward the back of the chapel and he kept saying to me "I can't keep my head up. I can't keep my head up I'm so ashamed of myself." I continued to reassure him and help be an emotional rock for him. He hadn't been to church in many years and he felt unworthy to even be in the parking lot. As the testimonies were borne, he began to tear up. He was losing it fast. He turned to me "Hey buddy I'm gonna step out for a second." We went out in the hallway with him and he started toward the door. Then he began to weep, rather hysterically. I couldn't help but pity the man. So he went outside on the sidewalk and basically fell on his face because of all the anguish. He began to cry some more. He knelt on the ground and started to cry out to God for mercy, wondering how he even went down this road in the first place. The anguish continued. As we waited by the door we saw Brother Knight approaching us. He's our ward mission leader and the man who took L to church. He observed the situation and it seemed like he knew exactly what to do. So after his breakdown, L finally came back in, wiping the tears from his face. HE said "I'm so sorry. I just had a breakdown. It's not right for a grown man to be crying like a baby. Can I talk to one of y'all? We all just listened. He began to explain that he didn't feel right to be here and that he's afraid God doesn't love him anymore. Brother Knight did the smart thing and pulled him over to a room where we could all talk privately. Brother Knight pulled up a chair and sat in front of L and began to speak some of the most Godly words I've ever heard. He told L that everything was going to be okay and that God loves him know matter what he does. And then he talked about moving on from the past and looking with hope toward to future, trusting that God would lead the way. We all promised that with diligence and with the right support, he could change his life and become a new man. L said "That's what I want. I don't want to be stuck to the past anymore. I just want to be at peace with myself and with God." We told him that he had already taken the first steps by making the call and by coming to church and that he need only to continue walking the painful road of healing and forgiveness. So we gave him a blessing so that he could get through the day and the rest was just awesome. He participated a lot in Sunday school(which just so happened to be lesson one of Gospel Principles), slept through Priesthood, and then we took him home, promising again that if he did what he was supposed to do, he could become a new man. And that was it.

Not only was this experience emotionally and spiritually taxing, but it taught everyone who participated a valuable lesson. It reminded us exactly what it means in the scriptures when it says "mourn with those that mourn, comfort those who stand in need of comfort." That's the covenant we make at baptism and that's the charge we took upon us when we submitted our mission papers. This is not a number game. We're not here just to see people enter the waters of baptism. We're not here for the converts, the Spanish, or the food. We're here because there are people in this world who are lost and have nothing else to turn to. L is an example of one of those people. I don't know if I could have handled a situation like this a few months ago, but the Lord does a good job of preparing us for what's to come. I know that I'm here for a reason. I know that it's much greater than I can even imagine. We are to minister. That is, do the things that Christ did. And that doesn't only extend throughout my mission, but throughout my life. We represent him and He expects us to be ready when our number is called. Thankfully, I was.

Keep on believing. Don't stop progressing. And remember who you represent.


Elder Landon Carroll

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