Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Opportunity of a Lifetime

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Opportunity of a Lifetime, by W. Christopher Waddell
Of the Seventy

Your mission is a training ground for life.

This is something that is taught time and again in the Church, and it's something I agree with! What I liked about Elder Waddell's address is that he covered a spectrum of Church life—he didn't just talk to youth preparing for a mission, he also talked to me.

It's hard to not wonder how past missionary service affects me now as I consider the story he told of a missionary from Spain. This young elder, now serving far from home in Arizona, was approached by a man. It turns out that this now-inactive man had taught and baptized the missionary's father in Spain years ago, and had considered his mission a failure in that he only had this one experience with another's conversion.

I need to say now that I don't consider my mission a failure—quite the opposite in fact. I view my mission's success in my personal outcome, but I do sometimes wonder about those I met, talked to, taught, and participated with on their path to baptism and (hopefully) conversion.

I do have a story, though.

While perhaps not as dramatic as the one shared by Elder Waddell, my story does contain a surprise or two.

Near Union, OR, I helped teach a family one winter. They lived up on a twisty mountain road (I would say windy, but windy [blowing air] and windy [curves and turns] are spelled the same and it might be confusing). I remember driving to their house in deep-deep snow with a great cowboy-poet, rancher, farmer, and all around good fellow.

The family was great, and the lessons were moving. Around the time they expressed a desire for baptism, some procedural difficulties arose which delayed everything for a while, and I was ultimately transferred to a new area, not knowing what had finally happened with this family.

Fast-forward a few years. I was happily married, going to BYU, the new father of my first child. I received a perplexing phone message from someone saying I might not remember them, but asking me to call nevertheless. When I called, I spoke with the erstwhile teenage boy of this family I had taught. He called to thank me, these many years later, for teaching him and his family, as well as for my example of missionary service. He continued to say that when he served a full-time mission, he would say, "I want to be like Elder Siler!"

The best part is that I didn't know who he was when I heard his name. I did know who he was moments after calling, but I didn't remember him by his last name (the parents had a different last name than the children).

Fast-forward even further to the time of facebook. Now facebook friends, I occasionally saw when this friend welcomed a child into his family, a son. He even has a great first name: Siler.

Apparently I'm a legend now.

Not only does that child have a great first name, he has a reminder of missionary work whenever he thinks of his name.

And now, so do I!

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