My son has been on a mission for 18 weeks now.
He has not baptized a single soul, nor is he close to doing so. He spends hours every day searching for people to teach. That means going door-to-door selling a product that nobody really wants to buy. He is literally rejected every single day. Doors are slammed in his face and he is called names. He is chased by wild dogs and rides a bike for ten plus hours in the blistering Chilean sun. He sleeps in a house with no air conditioning or heat. He wears a white shirt and tie six days a week.
All this would be enough to send a sane person packing.
Instead, he is learning.
He’s learning how to love. He’s grown to care deeply for a Peruvian companion who speaks no English. He’s stammered, struggled, and gulped his way through their lessons and daily life in Spanish. He’s embraced the culture and is now a fanatical fùtbol fan. He hands out stickers and pencils with a big, genuine smile to the children he meets on the street. He shakes their hands and teases them sweetly. He eats food he’d never have touched at home, and loves it. He has grown to love the people of this small, rural town in Chile. He’s learned to love in the purest way possible; he’s learned to love mankind.
Additionally, he’s learning how to study. In high school, he was the obnoxiously lucky kid who, much to his brother’s chagrin, managed to pull out decent grades without putting much effort in. Everything seemed to come so easy to him.
Not so on the mission. He’s had to work to near exhaustion and study for hours every day. He’s gone from knowing zero Spanish to conversing and teaching in it. He studies on his own, and together with his companion, every single day. He has immersed himself in the study of his scriptures and is pouring over gospel topics with the vigor he once reserved for football statistics.
He’s also learning the immeasurable gift of unselfishness. No longer is my boy a typical teenager focused on his own needs. He has given himself away entirely. He celebrates his birthday this week, and told us he will pass the day without much fanfare. And he’s okay with that. He’ll work, just as he does everyday, to serve and teach the people in his world now. Happily.
He won’t watch the Super Bowl this weekend, or text friends to meet up and hang out. He’ll ride a bike through the Chilean countryside and think only of others, and how he can help them. And all of this he will do with a deeply profound sense of joy. He loves it. Every miserable rejection furthers his resolve and compels him to work that much harder.
Whether or not he has any success in the field means nothing to me. I don’t care if he ever has a single baptism. I am seeing the fruits of his labors right now. I am seeing a change right before my very eyes. He has brought a convert to the Savior.
He has converted himself.
And if that is the only soul he reaches, it will have been worth every minute apart, every tear shed and every melancholy moment that I’ve had here at home.
He has learned to love, to work and to give. And in losing himself in the process, is becoming who he was always meant to be.