Not long after my call as a General Authority, I received a letter from an amazing, inspiring young woman. She told a powerful story of love, commitment, and missionary success. I’m fortunate to have contributed in small part to that success.
The letter is from Kendra Beesley Campbell, who was only 15 when the events described began. Let me share a portion of her letter with you:
“I don’t think you will remember me. I am from Columbus, Georgia, and when you were the mission president of the Georgia Atlanta Mission I had a brother leaving for a mission. Because I was at the peak age of peer pressure, my brother was concerned that while he was on his mission preaching the gospel to ’strangers,’ his sister (me) might choose to go the way of the world and lose sight of the purpose of our being here on this earth.
“Well, to assure my brother that I would be a ‘good girl’ while he was away, I made a deal with him that I would ‘go on a mission’ at the same time. Of course mine would only be part-time, but still it would be my ‘mission.’ So I told him that I would baptize one person for every five he baptized, since he would be full-time and I would be part-time. I felt good about this agreement.
“Then I spoke to you. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but you convinced me that I should turn the challenge around—I should baptize five to his one. And for some reason, I accepted your challenge, not knowing what the Lord had in store for me!”
Then Kendra noted that shortly after her brother arrived in the mission field, he and his companion baptized a family of four. That meant she now needed to baptize 20! Kendra said, “I began to work right away. I had the missionaries over every Thursday evening. But I fell short of my goal. Only 11 people were baptized. But at least two of them have served missions, and I can’t count the number of lives that have been touched by the Spirit.”
Eleven people! And two have served missions! And Kendra was only 15 at the time she began “her mission.”
I tracked her down. I found that she had moved to California.
She said my suggestion of turning the one-to-five baptism arrangement around caused her some fear at first, but she began taking the measures necessary to accomplish her revised goal.
Over the next two years, she used many of the traditional approaches to interest people in knowing more about the Church. She asked the Golden Questions (What do you know about the Mormon church? Would you like to know more?) to many of her friends at school; several responded positively, and one was baptized. She teamed up with the lady missionaries and frequently helped them teach investigators; several of them joined the Church as a result of those efforts. She and her mother often asked soldiers from nearby Fort Benning to bring their friends over for Sunday dinner and an after-meal discussion with the missionaries; again, much good resulted from these comfortable gatherings.
And Kendra and her mother were diligent in dedicating Thursday evenings to missionary work. The weekly commitment gave them incentive to find someone for the missionaries to teach on a regular basis; several more people were baptized through this effort.
Kendra was alert for any opportunity to begin a gospel discussion. Like a lot of young people, her wallet was stuffed with pictures of everyone who’s ever been important to her. In front of all the others, she included a photo of the president of the Church and a picture of the Savior. When her friends would flip through her photos they’d ask if the kindly looking man in the first photo was her grandfather.
“Oh no,” she would explain. “He’s the president of our Church.” The next picture was of Christ. “I’m sure you recognize him,” she would say. “He’s my best friend.” It was a great conversation starter.
Sometimes, Kendra took the initiative even further. One Thursday night, when investigators called to say they couldn’t make it to her home to meet with the missionaries, she decided not to let her missionary night go to waste. She and a girlfriend jumped into the car and headed for town, where they found some young people and convinced them to skip a movie and come meet the missionaries instead.
Kendra’s missionary vigor helped 11 people join Christ’s true church and acquainted many others with its teachings. And Kendra herself grew tremendously while on her “mission.” She says it was the happiest time of her life because she cared so much about other people.
At the close of one of her letters to me, Kendra expressed joy that her “mission” really hasn’t ever ended. I sustain her in that thought. Though our callings in life may seem to change occasionally, their purposes remain the same—to help each other return to our Father’s presence.