*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
A Saturday in Newhall, CA. We were just finishing our comp study when we saw the phone buzzed. I locked eyes with my companion, waiting to see who would break and answer the phone. “Hermanas,” read the screen. Knowing that I would get to pass on a later call, I picked up the phone.
“Elder Reed!! Good morning!” Small talk was exchanged until we came to the point. “Do you already have dinner tonight?”
“No, not today. Why? What’s going on?” I carefully asked.
“Could you come to the Sanchez’s* with us tonight?”
“Don’t they live in your area? And really far away from us?”
“We’ll come get you.” Problem solved. Though I wondered why we needed to go with them to dinner. “Also, Isabel* needs a blessing.”
Ah, so that was why.
“Okay. Is she sick?” I questioned.
“Sort of. She’s suicidal.”
“Oh.” The weight of the incoming request crashed down onto me.
“The Hermana was telling us about it,” Hna. Williams explained. “I guess she has been cutting herself and giving away her things. Isabel asked her dad for a blessing, but he always put it off. Hermana also said she thinks the blessings from the missionaries are extra powerful. And we told her how you give really good blessings.”
The blessings that I had given to the Hermanas flashed in my mind. Hna. Hansen for comfort. Hna. Williams for healing. Both recovered immediately. More pressure for a repeat performance.
“Yeah okay. We’ll go.”
Those moments when I wanted to die suddenly felt a lot more relevant. When I held the steel on my wrist.
We hung up and I explained the situation to my compa, including the suicidal thoughts I had as a teen.
“You had to go through that then so that you could bless someone else’s life now. God was preparing you for this.” Why did he always have such good insight?
With that we said a prayer and left the apartment on our bikes to go to an appointment. My head stuck spinning on the spokes of suicide and the miracle I was expected to perform in just eight short hours. I needed to fast. A silent mini-prayer was quickly offered:
“Oh God, I really need help. I don’t know how I am supposed to do this. Please help me to know what to say and do tonight. I know it’s not a full twenty-four hour fast, but it is all I can give right now. Please accept my fast as the small offering that it is and guide my words tonight.”
I repeated it again and again as we approached our investigator’s house. Each prayer more desperate than the last.
Trial number one:
We passed a bus stop that was nearly empty. One woman with well-defined fat rolls looked to us.
“Can you help me? I live in Castaic and need $2.50 to get home. Please! Anything will help.”
Her petition stung my ears. I dodged and kept riding. I only had a five in my wallet and it was too much to give away. A scripture came to mind: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk (Acts 3:6)” Peter healed that man. He did what Christ would have done. I was a representative of Jesus Christ.
I stopped and turned back to her, shouting so that my compa wouldn’t leave me. Opening my wallet I took out my five and gave in to her scam.
“God bless you,” came the reply.
I got back on my bike and we went on to our appointment.
After locking our bikes to a post I told my compa, “I feel like I am being tested. God is testing me before I can give the blessing. I know she isn’t going to use that money for the bus, but I know I did what I was supposed to.”
We looked out over the hazy valley.
“I felt like it was something meant for you,” responded Elder Alva.
“Could we fast together? I know it won’t be a full fast, but I want to do everything I can.”
“I was thinking the same thing.” He was either psychic or there was actually something to this whole guided by the Spirit thing. We found a good spot and knelt to offer our prayer.
Trial number two:
After the appointment we left the sub-division and passed a family moving into an apartment. The heat of California in April showed on our faces.
“Would you guys like some water?”
“Yeah, thank you,” we replied. A 20-something woman went into the apartment and returned with some water for us.
We thanked them and left.
Biking away it hit me, “I am a missionary and need to represent Christ tonight. How dare I talk to them without even trying to share His message with them?” We returned and gave them a pass-along card. They weren’t incredibly receptive, but I did my part.
Passing the bus stop on our way back, I looked up and saw the woman I gave the money to coming out of Starbucks. So that was where my money went. Strangely enough, I wasn’t upset that she had lied to me. That was expected. I was grateful that I passed the test.
Trial number three:
We were in Tijuanita looking for a certain less-active member.
“Hola Elderes!” A woman shouted from across the street. “Son los missioneros de aquí?”
“Sí somos.” Who was this woman?
“Con quién necesito hablar para darles de comer?” I liked her already.
“Tengo que llamar la presidenta de la sociedad de socorro, verdad?” Wait what?
“No, podemos nosotros arreglarlo. Es miembro hermana?”
“Sí, sólo que hace tiempo que voy al barrio.”
“Cómo se llama hermana?”
“Pues gracias hermana.” Plans were made to have lunch with her in the following week. I felt proud that we had been in the right place at the right time to find this hermana, even if we never found the less-active that we were initially looking for. We had done what God wanted us to, and I felt His approval as we went back to the apartment to wait for the Hermanas to pick us up.
They texted, “We’re here.” Two terrifying words.
We went into dinner and ten of us squeezed around a table meant for maybe six people.
Then dinner was over. Only one thing left to do before we left. Isabel sat in a chair and my companion and I stood behind her.
“Would you like us to give the blessing in English or Spa…?”
“English,” she interrupted.
I hadn’t given a blessing in English in a while. I tried to remember all the things I was supposed to say. But where was the Hermano?
“Would you like your dad to participate?”
I sought him out down a short hallway.
“Hermano, le vamos a dar una bención a su hija. Le gustaría participar?”
“Sí, ya voy.”
The three of us stood around Isabel. Elder Alva performed the anointing. I took a deep breath and laid my hands on her head.
We love you and your Heavenly Father loves you. We were sent here to convey that love. Many others also love you and are thankful for you and appreciate you.
Jesus Christ suffered all things for you. You are not alone. There are angels round about you to give you comfort. Jesus the Christ is here to give you His mercy and love. You are surrounded by His arms of mercy.
You have much to do in this life. You are important to Heavenly Father. He has placed things in your life to help you learn and prepare. You will have a family and teach your children the Gospel. You will be an eternal family. You are being prepared now for future challenges you will face.
Jesus the Christ is here to raise us up. His hand is extended to us. He will surround you in his arms of love. You will be able to feel His love and see His hand in your life.
Know that you are not alone. Through Jesus Christ we have hope that tomorrow will be a little bit better than today. This hope gives us life. This life we have is so precious.
In Jesus Christ you will find the comfort you search for, but you must search. We are blessed according to our desires and you must first desire. See and ye shall find, ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you, even to know the mysteries of God.
You have much to do in this life, and much life yet to live. This is the promise to you. You will be blessed with the strength to continue on and know that tomorrow will be better. That strength comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Yours will grow to be a mountain of faith. You will be guided by this faith. You will not be tempted above that which you can bear. When you feel like giving up, remember that Jesus Christ is there watching over you and taking care of you. Christ suffered all, and because of that you need not suffer.
Through these efforts you will be made whole. Through your trials you will become great in faith.
I slowly took my hands off her head and opened my eyes. I looked at the Hermana and saw her in tears. Isabel too.
We quietly made our exit.
“What did I say?” I asked Hermana Williams as we entered the car. “I don’t remember what I said.”
“It was so good. I wrote it down to give to Isabel later.”
“Could you give me a copy too?”
“Yeah, of course.”
I turned and rested my head against the window of the car. It felt cool on my forehead.