It was time to end my mission. The last week had begun and I had been released from the presidency of the Baden Branch in Switzerland; I would spend my last week in the mission home in Basel.
I was anxious to begin my trip home, for though I had labored hard and filled a good mission—a memorable mission—I was looking forward with great anticipation to the joy of returning to my family. The Lord had blessed them greatly with prosperity, health, and strength. I was proud of how Mom had continued to bear the heavy burden that she had assumed when Dad had suddenly gone blind in 1951. Dad had made a wonderful adjustment and, despite occasional periods of depression, had almost fully recovered his spirits. To the public, at least, he was the old Ralph Cracroft. But he soon became someone even greater, for in the face of an overwhelming handicap, he had shown a smiling face to the world, had rehabilitated himself, and had continued to serve the Church as well as before. I was proud of them both and anxious to see them again.
I was to be in the mission home that last week, doing odd jobs but also helping a newly arrived group of elders to learn the lessons and to become accustomed to their new assignments.
I remember only one of these young men now. That morning we had climbed the stairs to the top floor of the mission home, where I was to interview and teach him. In our hour together he confessed to me that he had not been enthusiastic at first about coming on a mission; in fact, he had initially turned down the call. He had seethed with inward turmoil, not knowing whether he had the strength to complete a mission, to leave his girl, to postpone his education for that long.
This had been for him a dark period, as it occasionally is with the young man who dreads to cut —yet wants to cut—the ties that bind him, knowing that nothing will ever be the same again, knowing that he will have to commit himself to a service for two or more years. And a mission is no sheltered workshop; it is a battlefront, and a few casualties must be expected. But the triumphs are glorious.
Knowing this, and having experienced it all myself, I sympathized. I asked him to tell me what had made him change his mind, for he was here with me in Basel, Switzerland, an ordained missionary.
“It was an odd experience,” he recalled. Torn by this inner turmoil, with doubts as to his future, he had attended a sacrament meeting in a friend’s ward a few months ago. It had been a routine meeting until a man rose to speak with a firm and vigorous voice, a man who had been afflicted as an adult with blindness. This man recalled how the Lord had blessed him with deeper vision into the truths of life; how his soul had really come to see; how, in the midst of his affliction, one that most people deem to be the greatest affliction, he could praise his God for the richest blessing that could come to man. The blind man recounted how he had served the Lord all his life, and how the Lord was now blessing him beyond measure with numerous opportunities.
The new elder paused, visibly moved. This man, he continued, had inspired him, and he had asked himself, “If such a man, from whom the Lord has taken the most precious gift of sight, can praise God for his blessings and bear a testimony of God’s goodness, who am I to hold back my feeble gifts from the work of the Lord?” At that instant he decided to accept the call he had once refused. He went home and called his bishop to tell him of his change of heart.
“What was the man’s name?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“I do,” I smiled, through misty eyes. “I do.”