Thursday, February 27, 2014

Called to Serve and Learn

I'll never forget my oldest son’s high school graduation. He was one of just a handful of Latter-Day Saint students at the school, and the only Mormon that hung out in that group of scholars at his high school in central Florida. He, as the valedictorian, would be leading the group into the auditorium. While we were waiting for the processional to begin, I, and several of his schoolmates’ parents were talking about our sons’ plans for the future. All included higher education at prestigious universities, but mine was the only young man who was going to be leaving in the middle of that college experience for two years to perform missionary service in a place yet to be determined.

My son had decided to take a two year break from his college experience to go serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Since these people were not members of our church, they were shocked. They'd never heard of such a thing. Did I know that he would be putting his education in jeopardy? Did I mean that he was not going to be able to choose where he served that mission? Was I serious about not being able to speak to him except on Christmas and Mother’s Day? Was I sure that our family could afford such a venture?

As proud as I was of his high school accomplishments, I was even more proud that he had chosen to serve a mission and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was going to take the spiritual knowledge he had gained from a lifetime of diligent church attendance, from regular gospel lessons he had been taught in our home, and from four years of faithful attendance at Early Morning Seminary, and share it somewhere in the world. Through those things and through personal study, he had gained a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and he wanted to share with his fellowmen. He was going to take two years of his life and invite others to come unto Christ.

My son did head off to Brigham Young University for a year. Then he was called to serve in the Connecticut Hartford Mission. Again his friends’ families were surprised. Why was he not going to a third-world country? Why would our church send missionaries to the United States? Would we be able to visit him since he was in the states? How could we stand only being able to communicate through letters once a week? (These were the days before email.) I was peppered with questions.

Being the mother of a worthy, able, and prepared young man gave me great pride. We watched him and later, his two brothers and one of his sisters (currently serving) make a similar commitment and leave our home for two long years. But in turn, we have felt the joy and the blessings that such missionary service brings. My husband and I have been grateful to be able to support these children financially. We have been grateful for the blessings brought by sacrifice and obedience. Above all, we have been amazed as we have watched the growth of these children as they have taught the gospel and shared their testimonies. We are grateful that they love the Lord Jesus Christ and have a desire to spread his message throughout the world. We are grateful for the foundation that their service has provided for the rest of their lives. We are grateful for the people they have met who have enriched their lives. We are grateful for how their experiences have enriched our lives.

Our son did eventually graduate from college. Yes, he graduated a couple of years behind his schoolmates, but in the end it didn't matter. He served the Lord AND he got an education. He learned some of life’s lessons that I don't think he would have learned in any other way. He took the commission of our Savior to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” And that is something he'll never forget!

By: Susan Curtis