Calling Time Out


“This is it! This is the perfect place,” I said to myself as I set my scriptures down, then sat myself down on a warm, flat rock that overlooked a churning stream.

I always came to places like this when I needed to pray especially intently. I loved to be near running water—maybe because its flow reminded me of open, unrestrained communication, or maybe because I feel that a flowing stream is one of God’s greatest masterpieces. Whatever, I was there that day to pray about one of the most important decisions of my life.

I was a convert to the Church and had finally reached that much anticipated moment when I was eligible to serve a mission. Ever since I first laid eyes on the missionaries, I knew I wanted to be one, and when I joined the Church, I took it for granted that I would one day serve.

However, I’d just completed an accelerated college education, and suddenly, tempting job offers were being waved in front of me. I’d majored in journalism and had managed to make a name for myself in sports writing while I was in school. The free-lance writing I’d done had helped pay for my education and would help pay for my mission.

The only problem was that my free-lancing had also landed me some job offers that were almost too good to refuse. One was with a wire service. Another was with a company that offered to fly me all over the country to interview some of the nation’s most prominent athletes, at a salary I’d never dreamed of.

I began to think that maybe that was my destiny. After all, as a sportswriter I would be coming in contact with hundreds of people who might not otherwise meet many Church members, and there would be plenty of missionary opportunities. Besides, my nonmember parents were a lot more excited about the prospect of my establishing myself in a career than leaving it behind for a couple of years. I wouldn’t be disappointing anyone on the homefront if I didn’t choose to serve.

Still, I couldn’t forget my missionary dreams, so after a fast I came to the stream with my scriptures to see how the Lord felt about my decision.

I don’t know how long I spent out there on that rock, conversing with Heavenly Father, reading the scriptures, but I do remember how I felt when I came upon John 21:15–17. It was as though the Lord were speaking directly to me:

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

“He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

There was my answer, loud and clear. It was as if Christ had repeated his message to me three times for emphasis. If I really wanted to prove that I loved him, I would have to go out and feed his sheep, full-time in the mission field.

A few months later I was called to the Spain Seville Mission, and a day doesn’t pass that I don’t thank the Lord for the incredible experiences I had there. And my career didn’t suffer for it. I ended up landing a wonderful job when I returned—one that I would not have been qualified for if I hadn’t served.

Heavenly Father answers prayers in many ways, and one of my favorite methods of seeking answers is through the scriptures.

[photos] Photography by Mark Philbrick, Lynn Howlett, and Brian K. Kelly