Healing Deeper Wounds

By Paul B. Thurgood

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    I remember how the shrill scream of a siren gave me goose bumps whenever an ambulance went rushing by. Oh, how I wanted to be at the wheel of that machine, rushing to the aid of sick and injured people! As I grew older, my dream became a reality. I took first-aid classes, human science classes, and, finally, an emergency medical technician training course.

    I was just out of high school when I got my first job as an ambulance attendant for a private ambulance, and I progressed rapidly in my knowledge of emergency treatments. I learned many things about life that most people never learn until much older. I was also exposed to many trials and temptations that I’d never faced before.

    I worked in a non-Mormon atmosphere. It was the type of atmosphere that my Church leaders always had warned me about, but at the time, I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about it. My work began conflicting with my church attendance. I started asking myself questions and often wondered about my future. I could see myself progressing into higher fields of medicine, and it seemed that nothing stood in my way. Then, on my 19th birthday, I made my way to California and applied to a hospital paramedic program. I was accepted and could enter in the fall semester. I knew then that was exactly what I wanted to do.

    Suddenly it dawned on me—what about a mission? Oh, sure, I had always told my friends and family that I would go. I had even told my employer I was planning on a mission. But all of that seemed unimportant now. All I could see was personal satisfaction, and I didn’t care what kind of spiritual development I’d surely miss. The voice of the prophet still echoed in my mind, “Every young man is to fulfill a mission.” But the thought always came back, “In two years’ time, look how far you could be as a paramedic!”

    I didn’t know what to do. I knew deep down in my heart that a mission was the right thing, but I was swayed by selfishness. The decision to go or not to go was constantly on my mind. I thought about it from the time I got up in the morning until the time I went to bed at night. Because we worked 24-hour shifts, I had lots of time to think.

    One night right after I had gone to bed, I was awakened by the ring of the telephone. The highway patrol was calling for an ambulance to respond to an accident on the freeway, and soon I was at the scene. A small car had run into the back of a semitrailer loaded with wooden fence posts. The badly mangled car had two occupants—a young couple who had recently been married. The husband, who was driving, had been killed instantly. His wife was critically injured. We worked desperately to save the slowly fading life of that beautiful 19-year-old woman. I thought to myself, How could something so terrible happen to this fine couple and totally destroy their future plans and happiness?

    We rushed her to the hospital, where a team of highly trained doctors and nurses were waiting. Soon a helicopter arrived to transport her to a hospital in Salt Lake City, where she could receive special treatment for a severe head injury.

    After I calmed down from the shock of the accident, I talked to the highway patrolman who would be responsible for notifying the next of kin. I’ll never forget the solemn look on his face and the glaze of tears in his eyes as he drove away. I thought to myself, What a horrible assignment! What if it were my parents being notified? Then another thought came to my mind: What will be the look on my face when I give an accounting to the Savior of the time I spent here in mortality?

    The night air was chilled with a late frost. As I gazed up into the night, I noticed how clear and calm the sky looked. Tears ran freely down my cheeks, and I found myself pleading with the Lord for that young woman’s life. At that moment, when my heart actually seemed to swell painfully with love and compassion, I finally began to understand. Doctors and nurses and paramedics were wonderful, but they could treat only the body. They couldn’t heal the deeper wounds, the ones that would keep us from going home to our Father. Only one Physician could do that, and I was denying myself the chance to be his helper. I made a decision. I would do all I could to further the work of the Master Healer. I would serve a mission.

    The days came and went. Finally, one month after the accident, I learned my prayers had been answered. The young woman was released from the hospital, completely recovered. How I thanked our Eternal Father for that answer! Now it was time to keep my commitment to serve a mission.

    As I prayed and prepared myself, the Spirit confirmed that I was to serve my Heavenly Father as a missionary. I’ll never forget the calm, sweet feeling that came as our stake patriarch pronounced a patriarchal blessing upon me. And I’ll never forget that same feeling as I opened the letter from a prophet of God calling me to serve in the Pennsylvania Harrisburg Mission. Even as I served in Pennsylvania, as a representative of Jesus Christ, I had that special, calm feeling, knowing that I had made the right choice.

    Before I left for the mission field, I thought there was no feeling in the world like knowing someone was walking again because of your help. But I was wrong. There is no greater feeling in the world than knowing you helped someone in their search for true joy and happiness found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Illustrated by Roger Motzkus