Seeing with New Eyes

By Tiffany Tolman

Elder Bryan and Sister Carolina Wahlquist never fully appreciated the significance of a particular question in the scriptures until they accepted a call to serve a Church-service mission. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni asked, “Why do ye . . . suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?” (Mormon 8:39).

Do members of the Church, they wondered, knowingly overlook the sick and afflicted?

They now see things with new eyes as Church-service missionaries working with several adapted-needs Institute of Religion classes in Ogden, Utah.

When their bishop called them into his office to discuss the urgent need for their service as Church-service missionaries, they were a little fearful. For starters, they hadn’t intended to serve a Church-service mission. In addition to Elder Wahlquist’s missionary service in Sweden when he was a young man, the couple had also served a full-time mission in Germany after he retired. But because of health issues, they knew they couldn’t serve another full-time mission or even serve in the temple. So the thought of a Church-service mission hadn’t occurred to them.

Secondly, they had little experience working with individuals who have special needs. But true to their giving natures, they agreed to learn more. After one visit to a classroom, where the instructor immediately welcomed them and put them to work, they knew this was where the Lord needed them to serve.

Now, as Church-service missionaries, the Wahlquists assist with several institute classes (around 10 hours a week), helping individuals with varying degrees of special needs learn the simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As part of their responsibilities, they sit with individuals, help them read, and reassure them of their value as children of God. When asked what their mission has taught them, Sister Wahlquist relates, “We have learned how marvelous the gospel is. No soul is left out. Just as we have addiction programs, there are programs for these children who are so challenged. You see the worth of souls, that they are so precious.”

Elder Wahlquist agrees: “I have learned that we are all children of God and that He loves us individually.”

Before their Church-service mission, the Wahlquists didn’t recognize the great potential all around them for lifting those with special needs. “Now we notice them,” Sister Wahlquist relates. “Now I wouldn’t think of passing them by. I feel much more at ease with them. I’m determined to notice them.”

For the Wahlquists, working with these individuals on this Church-service mission has been a great blessing. Though they aren’t out baptizing new converts or serving in prominent positions visible to other members, they are where they’re supposed to be—making a difference in the lives of special children of God. And through their selfless service, they are seeing others through the eyes of God.

You can lend your talents as a Church-service missionary. Explore opportunities today.