03229_000_012Because leaders care, members of a Vancouver elders quorum are experiencing the joy of returning to the Lord.
When Terry Fields entered the first grade at Father Lacombe Catholic School, he didn’t know he was a Mormon. In fact, Terry didn’t even know what a Mormon was. His mother, a descendant of Cardston pioneers who was not active in the Church herself, must have written “LDS” on the application form when she had enrolled him. The word soon got around, and the results were not pleasant. At the time, Terry had no idea what the teasing and hostility were about.
But within two years, the missionaries had come to their home and baptized both Terry and his stepfather. “My father accepted the gospel readily and became fully involved,” Terry recalls. “For some time after that, church meetings were held in our home, as I remember.”
During his teenage years, Terry found himself distant from the Church, and he went his own way—until one misty November day in 1979. He was twenty-eight. As a salesman, he traveled the Canadian coast. One return trip became a solitary odyssey down the rugged coastal forest terrain of British Columbia, where Terry had time to think about the course his life was taking. He decided that his greatest professional aspiration was to be known as a man of integrity. He wanted his customers to know they could trust him. It struck him then that the Church to which his parents had entrusted their faith stood for and taught such values.
Anyone who has stood amid the towering cedar, fir, and maple forests of British Columbia will recognize how poignant such a moment can be. The height of the trees, the pounding of the Pacific surf—all nature seems to unite with heaven to lift, to transport, to wrap you in the embrace of eternity. For Terry Fields, it was so. “It was one of those moments you never forget,” he smiles.
Since that day, Terry has not turned back.
For any who think they can wander from the Church’s teachings, rationalizing that they can always repent someday, Terry urges otherwise. “The struggle back to the Lord’s straight and narrow path is difficult and dangerous—like that coastline in a storm,” he says. “A boat can shatter to pieces against those sheer cliffs, or a hiker can become lost in the fog along the shoreline only to fall over a precipice, out of control. That’s what it’s like without the gospel to guide you. You become disoriented in the most dangerous circumstances. And once you are without the gospel for a while, you lose your bearings.”
It was Terry’s patriarchal blessing that gave him the bearings he needed to return to full Church activity. Forgiveness comes as we repent, but often, extracting ourselves from the entanglements of sin—such as the bad habits we may have acquired—can take years. Terry’s blessing promised him an endowment of priesthood power, if he stayed worthy, that would lead him to an eternal companion. He wanted that blessing. Six months after receiving his endowment in the Washington Temple, Terry married Sandra. She had been married before, but her husband had left her and their daughter Kimberly, who is now six. Kimberly now has a three-year-old brother, Nathan.
In the Coquitlam Ward of the Vancouver British Columbia Stake, Sandra serves in the Primary presidency and Terry is president of the elders quorum. He has been president for nearly three years and has a special place in his heart for less-active members in his quorum. His focus is on those men who can be shepherded lovingly into the fold of full fellowship.
Terry has been successful at reaching some of them. “Certain men we visit don’t want to see us; they are afraid we might push them. We go anyway and just let them know we love them. I believe that if we stay with them and keep loving them—no matter what—one day they will be glad we are there.” His approach has worked with several families, among them Rob and Gina Baxmann.
Robert and Gina Baxmann
Rob and Gina have now prepared themselves to be sealed in the temple, but they have one final task before they go. They are awaiting custody of Gina’s daughter, Heidie. “I want us to all go there together,” Rob states. “It means a lot to me that we go as a family.” They also have a son, Landon, and a baby girl, Caresa.
Five years ago when Rob and Gina married, Rob was not a member. “When I first saw Gina, she was walking home from the mall, carrying shopping bags,” he remembers. They began dating, then were married. “Rob frequently asked me questions about God and about Jesus,” Gina recalls. “And I didn’t know all the answers.”
Gina had grown up in several foster homes. During her high-school years, her foster family had been LDS, and largely because of their example, she joined the Church. But, ostracized by her peers, she fell away. She became pregnant, gave birth to Heidie, and lived alone with her. “I was terribly lonely,” she remembers vividly. “That all changed when I met Rob, and we had Landon.”
So, although she had been baptized, she knew too little about the gospel to answer Rob’s questions. Finally, she invited the missionaries over for a discussion. The missionaries answered Rob’s questions; shortly after, in 1982, he joined the Church and received the Aaronic Priesthood.
His seedling faith withered, however, when the missionaries stopped coming and no home teachers came. He was a home teacher himself but had no companion, and he was attempting to teach a Primary class of vigorous five-year-olds. Overwhelmed and spiritually undernourished, Rob slipped quietly away from Church activity in 1985.
During the next year, two dedicated home teachers began to visit Rob and Gina. They came two or three times a month. Friendship developed as they invited the Baxmanns to activities without mentioning anything doctrinal. After about seven months, they challenged Rob to come to Church, and he came. Greetings of welcome and open arms drew Rob and Gina back into fellowship. The home teachers continued to strengthen and bless their home, and Rob prepared himself to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Shortly after his ordination, Rob received a call to serve—this time one within his range of confidence. Terry Fields called him to be the work committee chairman for the elders quorum. “Our work committee chairman phones the quorum members whenever there is an activity or service project,” explains Terry. “It’s an ideal calling for a newly reactivated brother; it brings him into close association with the presidency and involves him without imposing a heavy burden on him.”
Rob has gained spiritual strength serving beside his quorum president—and from the opportunity to pass and bless the sacrament and attend baptisms. “I love baptisms,” he says, “and all the ordinances fathers perform for children.”
For Rob, as well as Gina, spiritual maturity came with two blessings given to loved ones. In February of 1987, Rob’s mother had a heart attack. She was pronounced brain dead and placed on a heart-lung machine. Though she was not a member, Rob asked for a priesthood blessing for her. She was promised that she would “recover slowly and surely.”
Rob’s mother was healed and began receiving the missionary lessons. During one of the lessons, Rob bore his testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith to her. “The Spirit was so strong that as I spoke, I knew for the first time myself that he really was God’s prophet of the Restoration.”
Rob’s mother was baptized on 9 May 1987.
A second priesthood blessing added further conviction to his and Gina’s budding faith. Doctors told Gina that the child she was expecting would be born breech, small, and late. Gina asked the home teachers for a blessing. The blessing assured her that the birth would be normal. Between this blessing and baby Caresa’s late birth, Rob was ordained an elder. Though the birth was normal, the child needed treatment for an underdeveloped trachea. And there was another problem—an X ray revealed congenital heart disease.
Rob prepared to give Caresa a blessing, but found himself doubting the efficacy of the earlier blessing that had promised a normal birth. He mustered his courage and faith and gave his daughter a blessing. As it turned out, what had appeared to be an enlarged heart filling the chest cavity was the X ray’s inability to distinguish between the child’s heart and the thymus gland that lay over the heart, making it look too large.
“My relief at Caresa’s normal birth and Gina’s healthy delivery filled my soul with gratitude,” said Rob. “I love to use the priesthood, especially administering to the sick. I feel close to the Lord then. What a privilege it is to use his power to do good!”
Scott and April Wallach
Next door to the Baxmanns live Scott and April Wallach, who met the missionaries at Rob and Gina’s home. Both husbands, Rob and Scott, were baptized the same night, 24 July 1982.
Scott and April faced challenges quite different from those their friends faced. Their own daughter, Crystal, required open-heart surgery. Although the surgery itself went as planned, complications developed from postsurgical care, causing the child’s death.
At first grief-stricken, Scott became embittered that a young intern had been careless in a procedure and had let his daughter die. The bitterness pursued him into sleep—when he could sleep—and rose with him when he awoke.
He allowed his feelings to keep him from full participation in the Church, and as he became less active, he thought of other reasons not to attend his meetings. Then Terry Fields shared with him a talk given by one of the General Authorities that advised members to let go of resentments. Accompanying the tape recording was a note that said, “I remember your feeling that the Spirit of the Lord was conveyed through the handshake of a missionary. That was quite a feeling, wasn’t it? I hope you will recognize that same Spirit telling you to let go of the venom that is killing your hope. Listen to this tape as many times as you need to, until the same Spirit bears witness again. Your loving brother.”
Scott meekly accepted his friend’s invitation. His heart turned. His life changed. Regrets remain, of course, but gone is the obsession with revenge. The gospel of peace has taken its place through the miraculous spirit of forgiveness.
Gone, too, is the destructive self-pity that once kept him from functioning. He has come to see that faith in the atonement of Christ can help us understand—as nothing else can—our imperfections and those of our fellowman. We each need forgiveness; we each need to forgive.
Dan and Tami Bullerwell
Another couple who have benefited from Terry Fields’s efforts are the Bullerwells. Dan and Tami have just completed their last competitive season of fast-pitch softball. “We knew this was our last year,” says Dan, a toothsome, good-looking man with smiling eyes and a walrus mustache. He and Tami both relish the game. They have not quit because of age—both are in their late twenties and the picture of health. They have given it up because the games and tournaments are nearly always on Sunday. They love the outdoors and all the sports that can be enjoyed outdoors. But more than that, they want the gospel to work for them.
“I feel close to the Lord at testimony meetings,” Dan says as he turns the handle of the juicer attached to the edge of the kitchen table, at the same time smashing with a large pestle the pulp of a reddish mixture of vegetables about to become homemade juice.
“And I feel close to the Lord when I’m preparing Sharing Time for Primary, which takes me the whole week,” Tami adds.
Dan and Tami grow much of their own food and want the chance to be self-sufficient. “That’s one of the things we like about the Church,” Dan offers, “the emphasis on self-sufficiency.” They plan to move north into the woods, perhaps the Northwest Territories. Canada’s vast interior is virtually uninhabited; only one-third of the nation is even developed. Geographically, Canada is the second-largest country on earth—only the Soviet Union is larger. As for frontiers, which the Bullerwells want, no place offers more. Canada has nearly four million square miles, with less than one-tenth the population of the United States.
“Life in the woods will suit me, I think,” Dan muses. He grew up trapping and hunting in the forests and wants that simpler form of life. Having left home at fifteen and lived with a motorcycle group for five years, Dan values roots—namely home and family. And it was Tami’s family that first influenced their return to Church activity. Tami grew up in the Church, but left it when she was in high school. “They didn’t preach at us,” Dan explains. “In fact, they just lived their own lives so appealingly that we began to recognize in them what we wanted for ourselves.”
It was through that recognition that Dan and Tami attended Church again. “It was there that Terry took over,” Dan recalls. “He greeted us with sincere interest and helped us meet other young couples we had things in common with, and that was a great beginning.” Dan was recently ordained an elder, after he and Tami had attended the ward’s temple preparation seminar.
Like Rob and Scott and others, Dan recognizes Terry Fields and his two counselors as strong influences in his life. But there are many others in the Coquitlam Ward whose quiet, consistent love has brought less-active brothers and sisters into full activity. Some of the stories are of private victories, like the father who returned to full fellowship through the forgiveness and patience of a loving wife and a quorum that cared deeply. Others are still being worked with, or still being approached by the bishopric, the Relief Society presidency, the quorum leaders, the home teachers.
Among the tall timber and mountains of Vancouver, there are brothers and sisters lifting one another, standing taller, both because of and for each other.