Ryan’s Home Teachers

By Susan B. Mitchell

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    Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:14).

    “Wash your hands for supper,” Mother called from the kitchen. “Our home teachers are coming tonight. They’ll be here at seven o’clock.”

    Ryan liked their home teachers to come. One—Brother Toft—was a real jet fighter pilot and told awesome stories. Ryan lived near the Air Force base. Every time an airplane zoomed overhead, he and his sister, Becky, rushed outside to wave, just in case Brother Toft was in it.

    Ryan had a lot on his mind these days. Soon he was to have open-heart surgery. He wasn’t really sure what that meant, but he had been in several hospitals and had seen many doctors. Looking at his soapy hands in the running water, he remembered a doctor’s hands in see-through gloves. “This won’t hurt you,” the doctor had promised. “The gloves just keep my hands clean so that I don’t give you any germs.” Ryan thought now, Maybe if I got see-through gloves, I wouldn’t have to wash up so much!

    Dessert was the best part of supper. Mother served scoops of ice cream; then Becky stuck a chocolate sandwich cookie into the top of Ryan’s treat and teased, “Here’s your favorite.”

    He did enjoy cookies! The last time he stayed in the hospital, a nurse had asked, “What would you like?” Ryan didn’t know that she was offering him a drink, and when he’d answered, “I like cookies,” she smiled. “We’ll see what we can do about that.” She came back with two cookies in a plastic bag. Ryan had been too ill to eat them, but he’d held onto them until his stomach felt better.

    “Bring your dishes over, Ryan,” Mother said, interrupting his thoughts. “Hurry—let’s get the kitchen cleaned up before the home teachers come.”

    Ryan carried his dishes to the sink, then skipped to the front window and looked down the hillside. “I’ll watch for their car!”

    “I hope they come in Brother Odahlan’s cute pumpkin beetle car,” Becky said.

    Ryan hoped so too. He wondered what it would be like to ride in the little orange car all the way to Primary Children’s Medical Center. It would take all the next day to make that trip in Daddy’s big car, he knew. “Here they come! I see the pumpkin car.”

    Becky and Ryan met the home teachers at the door. Entering in Sunday suits, Brother Toft and young Brother Odahlan looked like missionaries. Ryan’s brother, Rick, was on a mission to Greece. Ryan didn’t know where Greece was, but he had watched Rick climb onto a huge airplane to fly to the “other side of the world.” I hope I live to be a missionary, Ryan thought.

    Brother Toft carried a brown paper bag. It looked heavy. “We have a special message for Ryan tonight,” he began. “Would you sit here between us?”

    Ryan eagerly climbed up on the sofa between his home teachers.

    “Now, Ryan, tonight’s lesson is for you, but is it all right if the rest of your family listens too?” Ryan having grinned permission, Brother Toft opened his scriptures. “The Book of Mormon tells us about a time when Jesus Christ came to our continent.”

    Brother Odahlan said, “While he was here, he did many good things. For example, he taught the people to pray always and that anytime anyone needed help, he could ask Heavenly Father for it. Do you know how to pray?”

    Ryan nodded.

    “Jesus called the sick to him and blessed each of them,” Brother Toft added. “He also called all the children to him and blessed them. Ryan, did you know that the same priesthood power Jesus used is in this room tonight?” Brother Toft pointed to Ryan’s father. “Your dad holds this priesthood power.”

    Ryan smiled at Dad. He wanted to be just like Dad. He hoped that he would grow up and hold the priesthood, too, someday.

    Brother Toft assisted as Dad gave Ryan a blessing. In it, Heavenly Father promised that Ryan would have a good heart surgery and would get better. Ryan knew that it was true. He felt happy.

    After a family prayer, the home teachers had a surprise. Ryan watched Brother Odahlan open the large brown paper bag and take out gifts. “These are for you, Ryan. Do you want to open them in the car on your way to Utah, in the hospital, or right now?”

    That wasn’t a hard decision! Everyone watched as Ryan opened gift after gift. There were toys and games and books and crayons—even a bucket of animal cookies to eat on the way to the hospital in Salt Lake City.

    Finally there was one present left. Brother Toft held it up high. “This one is different,” he said. “This one is for you to give to Becky.”

    Willingly Ryan handed it over and watched Becky unwrap it. Thirty colorful candy sticks were tied with a pretty ribbon.

    “That is a candy calendar, Becky.” Brother Odahlan explained. “You can eat one candy stick each day that your mother and Ryan are gone.”

    “Our home teachers think of everything,” Mother said.

    “My young companion helps me,” Brother Toft admitted. “He came up with the idea for this lesson.”

    That night Ryan packed his treasures for the trip. “I’m glad that Jesus sends us home teachers,” he whispered when Mother tucked him into bed that night. “I think that, in a way, they’re going with me, and I’m glad.”

    Illustrated by Mark Robison