Although it doesn’t always happen, we try to email every missionary before they enter the MTC. This is one of the responsibilities that has been delegated to me. I receive some information which is not always complete, and so I have to try and contact the missionary by phone to get an email address. If the missionary is not at home, I will leave a message, or, I will ask for a parent, in hopes of obtaining a current email address.
Actually, it is a very special experience--talking to “pre-missionaries” or their parents. A few weeks ago, I began working on a new group of missionaries. My very first call of the day was answered by a mom, who told me that her missionary was not at home, so I then requested the information that I needed. What happened next surprised me.
She told me that she knew me, but that I didn’t know her. She went on to explain that when she was a child about ten years old, her parents explained that some other people in the ward had daughters that were hurt very badly in an accident and they were going to have a special fast for them. She said that it was her first experience with fasting and that it was a memorable experience for her.
She continued by saying that when her missionary opened the call letter, she saw the name and current picture of one of those girls that she had fasted for so many years ago. That girl was the wife of the mission president.
My sister and I were traveling home from BYU for the Thanksgiving holiday, and we had a car accident that nearly claimed our lives. Neither one of us was able to return to school for nearly five months as we were recuperating. Everyday of my life since then has been a gift founded on the faith and prayers of a ten year old girl, her family and others like her. It is daunting to imagine the debt of gratitude I have to all of them. I wept even more as she shared a little bit about what the experience meant to her.
How blessed we are to have one another in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who are known to us and those who are unknown to us but felt in wonderful and positive ways.
As it turned out, on Sunday, when I arrived at church, the Bishop came up to me and asked me if it was true that I had not yet spoken in the ward. I smiled and said that it was true, expecting him to ask me to speak in a few weeks. What he actually asked me was to speak in Sacrament meeting because there had been a problem with the scheduled speaker. I explained to him that I normally only speak in Spanish for about 5 minutes, and my husband takes the rest of the time. His request that I speak for 20 minutes was way outside my capacity. He smiled and told me that I could speak in Spanish for 5 minutes and then he would translate the rest of my talk.
(Perhaps I should give a little explanation here that the mission home is not in our mission. I attend church in the Buenos Aires North Mission with our daughter and my husband attends various wards and branches in the mission. Brianna and I normally accompany him only when there is a special request. So, Presidente wasn’t even there.)
I went to a classroom and prayed for help. Then after the Sacrament, as requested, I stood and spoke in Spanish for 20 minutes. I know enough about Spanish to know that I was making plenty of grammatical errors, but I felt as if everyone in the chapel was helping me. I felt their love.
I shared the experience of the phone call that I have just related. In truth, there are many miracles that brought me to Argentina. I think perhaps every missionary could say the same. Sometimes, they share their joy in being a part of miracles as they see themselves as tools in the hands of the Lord. Many are like me as they personally see the miracles of change in themselves as they do things that they consider far afield from their capacity.
When I was having a chat with one of the missionaries last week, he told me that he arrived in the mission field just a few weeks before we did. Presidente and I spent the first couple of weeks talking with every single missionary. He said that he was embarrassed because my Spanish was better that his at that point. It was hard to imagine that it was really true, but we both certainly know that his Spanish is way better than mine today. He was helping me though, as the missionaries often do. I am so grateful that it is one of the ways that they show me their love. (Apparently, it is also one of the ways the Lord uses them as tools to prepare me for future assignments!)
Almost all of our Latin missionaries are learning English and are experiencing learning a new language, as well. I admire them because they are doing it without the benefit of people to practice with at church and in the street. I also admire their companions who seriously take on the responsibility of helping them.
As a mission, we are learning and growing in ways that can be measured and in ways that cannot be measured in time, but we know they will have infinite worth to us in the eternities. We are feeling the love and feeling the prayers of those who are known to us and those who are unknown to us, the sum total of which are miracles.