Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has written: “To embark on a mission, as so many know, involves many of the same emotions as embarking on some high adventure: excitement, some anxiety, perhaps a touch of fear. In missionary work, we take a step into the unknown” (see this issue, page 15).
Like any great adventure, a mission requires preparation, practice, and performance. It requires one’s best effort. But few other adventures, as the following experiences illustrate, can produce joy so tangible and life changing as that which comes from missionary service.
A Treasure of Love
I still remember one particular afternoon as if it were yesterday. I sat down next to a smiling lady during our Sunday meetings, which at that time were held both in the morning and the afternoon. I took her hand to make sure she would stay with me. But I was only six years old, and I was quite tired. My eyelids began to close, and though I struggled hard to keep hold of that warm hand, I fell asleep. When I woke up, the hand was no longer there. Tears ran down my small face, and my heart was sad.
Her name was Sister Avon Compton. She and her husband, Merlin, were always smiling, and their faces reflected love. When I close my eyes today, I can still see them clearly. I often tell my Primary class about them. Their story is the best way I know to teach my CTR class about love.
They had come to Perú from their own country to be with us for a while. She did not speak our language very well, but her husband spoke it better than some of us. We admired him and knew he loved our language and culture.
I do not remember exactly when I began to love Sister Compton, but I think it must have been that first Sunday in Primary. She taught us the song “When I Go to Church” (Children’s Songbook, 157). She had brought pictures, and as she taught us the words of the song, she taught us about singing. She told us that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ liked to hear our voices raised in praise.
On another occasion, we again sat together during sacrament meeting. We could not say much to each other because of the language difference, but we could communicate. During the meeting, she got out a piece of paper and some crayons. I thought she was going to write something, but she whispered, “Let’s draw Mama.” She drew a small circle. Then she pointed to her eyes and gave me the piece of paper and a crayon. I understood that she wanted me to draw the eyes, and I did. I gave the crayon back to her, and she drew hair. Then I drew the dress, and she drew the arms. Eventually, the two of us had drawn a picture of my mother. I felt so happy! I showed it to Mama, and I gave Sister Compton a big hug.
She always had something to share with us. Often it was a children’s story she had written herself. One day she talked to me about Jesus Christ. Then we colored some pictures she had drawn of Jesus.
The day came when Brother and Sister Compton had to leave. I asked why. Mama told me they had a family who missed and needed them. I thought of Mama and how I could not be away from her for very long. That’s when I knew I had to let Sister Compton go.
Many years have passed since then. The letters between us have never stopped, and our friendship has become stronger. When I think of Sister Compton, I think of the words our Lord Jesus Christ left with His disciples: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
I fondly remember summer days when we Primary children made a game of hunting for treasure—a piece of candy, a flower, or a little toy hidden by an older child. How happy we were when we found the treasure! Since then I have found many beautiful and valuable treasures in my life. But one of my greatest treasures will always be the love of two special missionaries—my friends Avon and Merlin Compton.
Caught by Surprise
I joined the Church in Tainan, Taiwan, in October 1991. Two years later I moved to Taipei to work. Feeling a need to gain more knowledge of the gospel, I enrolled in institute. This decision led to an event that caught me by surprise.
During my second year in institute, we studied the Doctrine and Covenants, and I learned a lot about the temple. I gained a great desire to go to the temple. When I talked to my bishop about going, he suggested ways for me to prepare. In June 1995, I went for an interview with the stake president.
My stake president initially said I was too young to take on the sacred covenants of the temple. His words devastated me, for I had worked hard to prepare and I knew in my heart I was ready. So I pleaded with him to reconsider, explaining that my bishop had sent me to him. I asked if we could at least talk about the possibility. He said, “If you insist, we will talk.”
Near the end of the interview, he asked, “If the Lord asks you to go on a mission today, will you go?”
I replied, “I think so.”
I received my temple recommend and my endowment that same day. I also decided that I would accept the call to serve a mission.
My decision stunned my family. My older brother declared that if I went on a mission, I should not plan on having anything to do with my family in the future.
But as Nephi promised, the Lord prepared a way for me to do what He asked (see 1 Ne. 3:7). I left for the Taiwan Taichung Mission in May 1996. Right before I left, my brother held me in his arms and tearfully told me that he opposed my going because he hated to lose me. Throughout my mission, my family gave me their full support.
Serving a mission changed my life. I came to understand more clearly my relationship with Heavenly Father. My testimony grew, and the significance of the work, of bringing souls to Jesus Christ, became eternally impressed on my mind and heart.
What is most dear to me now that I have completed my mission is the promise I made to God that I would endure to the end. I remember my mission president’s words as a group of us were soon to be released. He said he wanted us to stay worthy so we could all be together again in heaven someday. I have thought of this challenge often, especially during times of trial.
My heart is filled with gratitude. I am grateful that God has protected me and provided me with learning experiences. Many of these experiences were surprising and unexpected, but they all have stretched me into becoming more like the servant of the Lord I so much want to be.
“Give Us a Blessing!”
Otavalo, a beautiful city in northeastern Ecuador, is even more beautiful in my memory because of an experience I had there while serving in the Ecuador Quito Mission. One afternoon in September 1996 my companion and I were walking to a teaching appointment. Suddenly, some children ran out of a small, humble house, crying, “A blessing! A blessing! Give us a blessing!”
We were astonished and didn’t know what to think. We considered ignoring them and continuing on, but something prompted us to find out what was happening. We feared something terrible had taken place.
The children quickly ran back inside the house. We followed them and found a lady who was as surprised to see us as we were surprised to see her. We explained what had happened, and smiling, she told us, “The children were just playing.” We talked for a few minutes, took her name as a referral, then left.
Two days later we returned and discovered she was a member of the Church. She hadn’t gone to church for a long time, she said, mostly because she hadn’t felt anyone had encouraged her. Her children were not members of the Church. We sensed that she wanted the gospel of Jesus Christ to be part of her and her children’s lives.
We shared the message of the gospel with her children, and they were baptized two weeks later. At the baptismal service, one of the children began to cry with joy. He said his mother had changed, and he was very happy the Lord had sent the missionaries to their house.
Little did those children know that when they so playfully asked for a blessing, the Lord would answer them—in abundance. Today, the family continues to be strong and faithful in the Church.
Many people in the world are like those children. Without knowing it, they desire a blessing from our Father in Heaven. They simply need to ask, and He will answer. For as He said, “Ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you” (D&C 78:17).