When my bishop told me, “The Lord is calling you on a mission,” his words seemed to have a different meaning than they had two years before, when he made the call for the first time.
I was 18 then, a newly ordained elder and busy preparing myself to enter medical school. Besides that, my parents had been inactive for a long time and had never properly trained me to accept such a call if it ever came. I felt these were sufficient reasons for me to say no but decided to ask for some time to think about it. I approached my father and, as I expected, he emphatically refused to let me accept the mission call.
I thought I had been smart enough to fool everybody, but in fact I was the only one being fooled. About a year later, just before I was to take the long-awaited entrance test to medical school, the Lord called me again. This time I resolved to pray about it. I told the Lord that the result of the test would be the answer to my doubts. If I passed, I would understand that my mission would be medical school; if I failed, a proselyting mission would be what he wanted from me.
I passed the entrance exam. Blessings were poured upon me in an avalanche. My father changed to a better-paying job, which he needed to pay for my expensive studies. The lessons in medical school entered my mind with incredible ease, and I became an outstanding student. I became engaged to a wonderful LDS girl, even though she lived 360 miles away and we met just a few times a year. Good health, so seldom enjoyed before, became steady in my family. I was called to be a counselor in the Campinas Stake Sunday School presidency. Through the efforts of the home teachers, my younger sister became active again in seminary. The Lord was blessing us abundantly.
But two years later, I was sitting right there before my bishop once again, being reminded of my obligation to the Lord’s work on the earth. I felt different about it this time, but I was still reluctant to accept. I wanted the Lord himself to tell me what to do. Scriptures that promised marvelous blessings, shown to me by returned missionaries and the bishopric, did not seem to help.
Praying was not enough either. I fasted also, asking the Lord to give me an unmistakable answer so that I would not be left in doubt. It seemed like a fierce battle inside me, my spirit contending against my mortal reasoning. I was nearly exhausted from it when I felt the “burning in my bosom” and knew the Lord had revealed that accepting a mission call was what he wanted from me.
The first round had been won. Now the scriptures would give me strength to support an unshakable faith in God. I knew that other trials would come but not so soon.
When I phoned my fiancée to wish her a happy birthday, she asked about my decision. I told her I had decided to go on a mission, but that I would like to talk with her when she came to see me in a few weeks. She insisted that we talk about it right then. Her sweet voice became choked as if something bitter were being swallowed against her will. We said good-bye.
I went to my room to pray to my Heavenly Father so she could understand and accept my decision. A little later the phone rang and that same sweet voice said with firmness, “Thank you for the birthday gift.” At first I thought she was being ironic, but then I realized she was sincere.
Little by little the Lord was showing that he had prepared the way for me. However, I felt that I would need his help a lot more when I talked to my father. My father is a good man, but his hard life had made him tough and materialistic. Such an outlook would prevent him from accepting my decision.
On a Sunday afternoon, when we were alone in our backyard, I decided to tell my father. He listened until I finished and then asked very dryly, “Is this your will?” I nodded. “Very well, now listen! When you took this course you destroyed the love that existed within me for you. I am not going to drive you out of the house but from my heart. Those medical school stickers that I proudly exhibit on the windshield of my car will be removed, and you will have to do much to put them back on. You tore down a great dream of my life, and as far as I am concerned you fell down with it.”
I tried to answer him and express my great love for him, but my words stopped in my throat. I wished that the whole world would fall upon me for bringing such great suffering to my father, whom I loved so much.
Time went by. My father went to stake leaders to try to stop me. In a last and desperate attempt he went to the stake president. When he returned home that night, he had only harsh words for me.
While I prayed to the Lord to give my father understanding, the Spirit dictated to me that I should listen to him without saying a word. The night before he was to talk to the stake president again, he was sitting alone in the backyard. He said the moonlight made the night clear. He took the opportunity to pray to the Lord in the way he knows and said, “Father, I know that you have given me everything, but do you need to collect all at once? You know I cannot bear it.” In that very moment the backyard became filled with shadows that started to move towards him. My father became stricken with fear and ran to his room like a frightened child. He spent the whole night talking to my strong and sweet mother. That long talk with my mother and his interview with the stake president, when both cried, were enough to change his thinking.
And then came the night that I will never forget. I was in the kitchen peeling a pineapple for our dessert when my father came home. He stopped behind me, placed his briefcase on the floor, and said, “May I talk to you?”
I was already getting used to his aggressive talking. I answered yes and continued to peel the pineapple. “Listen, young man, when I talk to someone I like him to look into my eyes.” I stopped, turned to him, and heard him say with a calm and tender voice, “My son, go and do what you have decided to do because the Lord has told me that it is right. You can count on me for help because I love you very much.” We embraced each other, and the Lord bound the heart of the father to the son and of the son to the father. Tears of joy rolled down our cheeks.
And now my longing for my fiancée and my parents, my desire to attend medical school, and even my disappointment at having to turn down a long-awaited job—all of this is overshadowed by the joy of having received a letter from President Kimball saying, “Dear Elder Areas. You are being called by the Lord to work in the Brazil, Rio de Janeiro Mission. …”