The Visitor

by Ken Merrell

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When Mike visited my class, he was faced with a startling question.

When I was 18, as I was preparing to serve a mission, my bishop called me to teach the Sunbeams. I had never before learned to love others more than myself until I had served those children in such a simple assignment. With time and patience I learned how to keep those seven children in their seats and listening to a simple lesson.

One day I invited Mike* to come to church and sit in my class. Mike was my age but had stopped attending church completely by the time he was 12. We had remained friends over the years as I had served as the deacons quorum president, the teachers quorum president, and first assistant to the bishop in the priests quorum. He had been the topic of many fellowshipping discussions and was often part of my prayers as the years had passed. Once in a while Mike would accept my invitations to come to an activity. It always surprised me when he did, so I kept inviting him.

At that time, Mike had long, black hair and a beard. His complexion was dark and pleasant. I don’t remember when I invited him to my Primary class, but one day he showed up.

“Class, I would like to introduce you to my friend Mike,” is how I began my lesson. “He is visiting us today.”

Mike sat next to me in front. The children sat in a semicircle with their eyes fixed on him. They were much quieter than usual. I was about five or six minutes into the lesson when one little boy got up from his chair and walked across the room and stood directly in front of my friend. The boy paused for a moment and then climbed onto his lap. I continued with the lesson as I watched the two of them from the corner of my eye.

The boy sat looking into Mike’s face. Mike was quite uncomfortable but did not interrupt the lesson or turn the boy away. The other children watched the two of them for a few minutes.

Then one of the girls climbed off her seat and approached Mike. I was intently interested in seeing how Mike would react and did not want to instruct the two children to return to their seats. The girl stood with her hand on Mike’s knee looking into his face.

Then it happened. The boy on Mike’s lap reached up with both hands and turned Mike’s face directly to his. I stopped my lesson to see what was about to unfold.

With the innocence of a child, he said to Mike, “Are you Jesus?”

The look on Mike’s face was total surprise. It seemed, as I glanced at the children’s faces, they all had the same question on their minds.

Mike looked at me as if to say, Help, what do I say?

I stepped in. “No, this is not Jesus. This is His brother.”

Mike looked at me as if in shock.

Then without hesitation the boy in Mike’s lap reached up and wrapped his arms around Mike’s neck. “I can tell,” the boy said as he hugged Mike.

The rest of the children smiled and nodded in agreement as their simple question was answered. Mike blinked back the tears in response to the love he felt from this small Sunbeam. The lesson went on, but that day the teacher who taught the most was a three-year-old child.

Mike spent more than a year getting ready to serve a mission. It thrilled me to learn that he left for the mission field a few months before I returned. I still think of the scripture in Matthew 18:5: “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”

Illustrated by Patric Gerber

The child had seen something in Mike that he hadn’t seen in himself, something that took more than a year to reveal itself.

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  • Names have been changed