I feel impressed to take a moment to share a sacred experience that I had this last week. There are some days when you wake up and you just know that it is going to be a long day-days when “all the elements combine to hedge up the way”(D&C 122:7). It seems as though I have had a lot of days like that lately. However, there is one day last week which stands out more than the others. If I were to analyze my week and present it in the form of a line graph(it might look something like the stock market) then, I would label this particular day as the valley or in other words, the lowest point. This low point helped me to learn many valuable lessons. the lesson that I wish to share is that although the Lord does occasionally lead us into “the valley of the shadow of death,” He always leads us back out(Psalms 23). We must always remember that it is a valley, there is more than one direction. If the Lord leads us down a path of hardship, then it is only because that difficult path is the same one that will lead us to salvation and exaltation or in other words, a greater sense of happiness and joy (is that not the path we begged Him to lead us down in the first place?)
This week not only did my bike break and Elder Farr’s bike break, burt even the missionary that accompanied me on exchanges broke his bike (they popped/punctured their tires-but it always seems a lot more significant at the time seeing that flat tire can result in hours and hours of time being lost depending on the circumstances-such as preparation, location, availability of bike patches, etc). And it was during this exchange that my capacities to endure were truly tested. As we walked about a mile or so back to the apartment to drop off our now useless bikes, I was overwhelmed by a storm of unpleasant thoughts. I was sick of talking to the terrible people who we had seen that day (I’ve never had so many people cuss me out in one day-not one person would have anything to do with us-I’ve never felt so rejected). I wanted to just return to the apartment and give up-I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to be a missionary anymore. As we walked up that painful hill in silence (I’m not making this up, it really was a hill-which conveniently matches this poetic theme) I began to readjust my thoughts. I stopped Elder Christensen (the unfortunate missionary on exchanges with me) and attempted to pump up his bike tire (although I didn’t expect it to work, I decided to try it anyways). It became apparent that it did not matter how much air I gave the tire, it simply was not able to receive it. The leak was too fast to allow the tire to maintain it’s shape. My efforts were simply not enough, we needed to patch up the damaged tire before we would be able to make any more progress. So we continued up the hill towards our apartment. Along the walk, I felt a whole lot like that flat bike tire. It wasn’t making it very far, and I certainly wasn’t going anywhere at a reasonable pace. In fact, I had a few neglected spiritual punctures of my own that needed mending. As we walked I remember recognizing that I was frowning. “Why am I upset?” I asked myself. “Who am I upset with?” Was my next question. “I’m not upset with Elder Christensen- it is not his fault”. I reasoned. “I’m not even upset with the people who were rude to us-I wouldn’t want to talk with strangers in Las Vegas, who approached me with the topic of religion, either.” I continued. “If not them, who is it? Surely I’m not upset with God!” Came the startling realization. Then I began to correct myself by thinking of all of the blessings I had received. “How could I be mad at God, He woke me up this morning!” Came the voice of Augustine Johnson. I began to smile, for I wan’t upset anymore, I was at peace. Then I began to talk to Elder Christensen. I got to know him better, I believe that I helped him endure his own trials as I made an effort to address his own concerns. I found out later that he himself had been experiencing spiritual punctures. His health problems were dragging him down and so were the events of that day. My silence was not helping the situation. He very much needed a friend-a companion who would hare his burden. Together we returned to the apartment and patched up his tire (he was a new missionary and didn’t know exactly how to, so I patched it up for him). Afterwards I gave him a few extra patches for future flat tires. Then we went out and continued working(despite our weariness). The conditions did not change much, and I do not believe that we were anymore successful in our missionary efforts that evening. However, I was at peace because the Spirit of the Lord was with me. As we ended exchanges that evening, we met outside the mission office. Just as we were finishing, President Neider walked out and greeted us. He turned to his friend who was visiting him and said, “These are our best missionaries”, and introduced us (similar to the way that Dad tells everyone that they are his favorite child). Then he embraced each of us and said, “good night”. I truly felt the spirit testify to me that evening that the Lord was pleased with my efforts. Looking back on this experience, I now recognize that I never would have made it very far on my own spiritual flat tires. I needed the Grace of God to help me recognize my need for repentance and improvement. I needed the Grace of God to help me repair my flat tires before I could increase my capacities as a missionary. I never would have been able to receive anymore air in my tires if the holes had not been mended. It fills my heart with gratitude to think that the God of the Heavens and the Earth would reach out to me through such an experience-one that would allow me to recognize without a doubt that He loves me (The Mission President becomes somewhat of a father-figure to missionaries-one who represents the Lord in presiding over the mission field).
This experience filled up my tires for the remainder of the week. All I needed was to know that the Lord was pleased with my efforts. That evening, I wrote down the scripture reference Alma 26:27 in my planner. “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.” I don’t know of a better way to describe my experience that day than by this scripture. Just as Ammon and his brethren found success, we did as well. Within the week we gained 6 new investigators, and in the following week we committed one of them to baptism on March 15th (I also find it funny that all of those investigators were hispanic-meaning that they were probably descendants of the Lamanites-we may have taken the scripture a little to literally).
~Elder Kyle Jensen~