Miracle of Italy
A mission is a perfect time to learn about and actually live numerous miraculous events. Often times miracles are associated with baptisms. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this story, “One time on while I was living in (insert South American Country here) on my mission, my companion and I were out street contacting and a man came up to us and begged us to baptize him. One week later, we did.”
Okay, yeah sure this would definitely constitute a miracle, but serving a mission in Europe this was not something that EVER happened. Towards the end of my mission I had an experience that taught me a lot about seeking out and recognizing miracles in my life. I was on exchanges with a missionary, Elder Harward, who I knew from the MTC. He was a very outgoing missionary who had never been called to any leadership positions, but this had not mattered to him. He loved missionary work and it showed. At the time I was a Zone Leader and was supposed to be “instructing” this missionary how to be a better missionary, but this day he would be the one to teach me.
As missionaries we made daily goals about how many people we would find and how many lessons we would teach. Elder Harward informed me that he had started a new category of goal: how many miracles he would see. I was intrigued by the idea. I looked at his agenda and saw that we did not have many scheduled appointments. This was always my worst nightmare as a missionary. An entire day of aimlessly walking the cobblestone Italian streets trying to find people and constantly getting rejected was not my idea of fun or effective work. It was something I had done it too much in my two years of missionary service! But Elder Harward was so excited about his lack of appointments. He looked at me and showed me his “miracle goal” for the day, which was set at 2. He said, “Look at all this time in which we can find and have a miracle. And both of us are experienced missionaries. We know what to do, so I have no doubt that we’ll reach this goal!” I, on the other hand was a little more skeptical about our prospects of reaching this goal. Elder Harward suggested that before we go out we sit down and pray that our goals be met. We did so, and then were off about our daily work or finding some miracles.
That day I was continually surprised as at every turn we found opportunities to talk to people who were willing to listen to us. We stopped and talked to a man who was outside working in the hot summer heat. He listened for a bit, and then invited us into his home out of the sun for a glass of water. We taught him and his wife about the restoration of the gospel and why we had dedicated 2 years of our lives to come and share this wonderful message with the world. We knocked doors of an apartment complex (my all-time least favorite activities) but we were let in to 3 houses and able to talk about the church. This one day total equaled the number of houses I had been let into on my entire mission. It was an amazing experience to see the faith of this elder and the love of our Heavenly Father as he led us where we needed to go and provided us with miracles at every turn.
After this experience, I made the idea of setting “miracle goals” became standard in our zone. And I know that if we seek out and pray for miracles in our own lives the Lord with bless us with these experiences. We may have to sacrifice and we may have to look hard to see the miracles in our lives but I know that they will come!
Miracle in Switzerland
On the mission we were asked by our mission president to look for miracles every day. At the end of the day we would plan for the next day, and during this time we would also tell about the small miracles that we noticed. The miracles would vary from being able to give a lesson, to catching a bus, to just having one person listen to us for more than our introduction. However, the miracle I want to write about was actually one that didn’t happen every day.
I was in the city of Frauenfeld, and it was my second area. Our investigators were scarce, but we were teaching one guy named Ronny Koch, and I’m pretty sure he was our only solid investigator. He was a cool, but somewhat weird, guy who loved music and played some awesome blues on his guitar. He had had a rough past with drugs and what not, and was still struggling with smoking and drinking, with which we were helping him to quit. He was a lonely guy who had no family around, and his girlfriend lived in another town. His loneliness was probably one reason he didn’t mind meeting with us. We became really good friends, and he would actually call us by our first names, which we didn’t mind at all.
One day, we were on exchanges with the zone leaders and I was the lucky one who stayed in Frauenfeld and Elder Stout came to me. That night we had an appointment with Ronny, and I’m pretty sure we asked our Ward Mission Leader, Brother Mueller, to join us. When we got to his apartment, Ronny did not sound or look good at all. We talked him into letting us meet anyways, just to give him some company if nothing else; and it was cold outside so a night of doing doors did not sound like a fun idea. He let us stay, and he told us that earlier in the day he lit a cigarette and started smoking it. Three puffs later, he said, he started feeling extremely sick. He was nauseated, he had stomach pains, and he was weak; in a nutshell, he was not feeling good at all. We tried teaching him, but he would either fall asleep, or just was not able to focus at all and he would let us know. He would stop us and say, “Sorry Ryan, but I just don’t know what is going on right now.” At this point in time, Brother Mueller told him about a priesthood blessing and that we could give him one if he wanted us to. Ronny agreed, and asked that I give him the blessing. I felt honored, but it was my first blessing in German, and I got somewhat nervous about messing it up. I was only out about 8 months on the mission and my German was good, but not great.
I put my hands on his head, and I was just hoping that I would know what to say, and awesomely enough words and phrases were just flowing into my mind. I remember saying at one point that he would be healed quickly, or something. I don’t remember much about the blessing. However, after the blessing I remember that almost immediately Ronny was in a better mood and we were able to teach him a lesson about faith. By the end of the lesson Ronny was joking around, and he even showed us some of his music and was dancing to it. He was feeling almost 100% better. It was definitely a miracle that we were able to teach him a lesson that we feel he needed.
As we were walking home from that appointment Elder Stout and I were pretty stoked about the lesson and the appointment. Elder Stout turned to me and told me that my German was flawless during the blessing. At that point I knew that I was just the conduit for the Lord to say what needed to be said. Miracles do happen when we put our faith and trust in the Lord, that’s a fact!
Miracles in Guatemala
I experienced a miracle in Carchá that I’ll never forget. I had been working in an area that I really did not want to be in. Carchá was half-city half-jungle and extremely challenging. I had about 13 months in the mission and I never really had a trial with any of my areas. Everything seemed to come extremely easy, but then I was asked to serve in an area that was like a whole new mission. I had to learn a whole new language as a district leader. Also, I had to be a senior companion to a companion that spoke the language better than I did. I had so much responsibility that I really couldn’t fathom how I was supposed to get it all done. I was so tired. I was studying extra hard to learn Spanish, while learning to teach in Spanish, and communicate with the people in Spanish.
In Polochik, it is usually the senior companion that talks and the junior companion tries to understand and bear his testimony. Once you are capable of speaking and talking then you are called to serve as a senior companion and teach a new missionary the language. That’s just how the mission worked. I just started to do well because of the help my companion gave me, but then President David Torres of the Guatemala City North mission increased the load that he had previously put on me. He gave me a brand new missionary. A North American that spoke no Spanish and obviously no Q’eqchi’. I was really alone. I had to speak 3 languages, work harder than I ever had before, and lead a district to reach our goals while opening a brand new area that no missionary in Carchá had been to. As overwhelmed as I was, I simply said that God would not command me to do something and not provide the necessary path that I should take.
In a brand new area, there are no past investigators nor any new investigators. I thought that I would not have any success in this area until my second transfer. I was wrong. On a Thursday (just the 2nd day of work) I met a young woman, Delia. She was cleaning the outside of her house and talking to her son, Selvin. To my surprise, she spoke Spanish extremely well but preferred her native language Q’eqchi’. As I taught her I could feel that she was extremely interested. I invited her to read from the Book of Mormon and that we would continue on another appointment on Tuesday. I constantly thought about that lesson and wondered what was it that I should have done differently. I didn’t feel as if I did what was necessary. On that Tuesday she said the key phrase that would make any missionary happy. She said, “Where were you on Sunday? I wanted to go to your church but didn’t know where it was.” I was so astounded that I didn’t know what to do. I promised her I would pick her up on Sunday and walk with her to church. The next Sunday I was going to bring her again but we also had another family that we were going to take. When i noticed, we were already 10 min late to pick her up. Church started in 10 min and I didn’t think we’d have enough time. As I started walking with my companion to her house we noticed her walking and all dressed up ready for church. I asked her where she was going and she responded, “To church! You were late. So I decided I’d go on my own.” The lessons continued on greatly and then she had some trials of her own. A fight between her and her neighbor who was extremely rude. Delia had committed some sins that she was not proud of. Her neighbor felt the need to remind of her of that fact. She struggled to hold in her pride but after such antagonism she fell. I spoke to her and told her that joining the church is a new life. We leave the older sins, follies, and problems behind. The kingdom is not fit for someone who looks back. She came with new determination. She was then baptized and set an example for the whole ward. She did great things and I still remember feeling that I’d never have success. She was a miracle because in a time that I doubted, God delivered. All i had to do was be obedient, have faith, and work hard. She was proof that God loved me and that he hadn’t forgotten the task her laid before me.