April 1, 2014
When I was four years old, my grandmother showed me a picture of Jesus Christ, and she said, “This is Jesus Christ, if you’re ever scared or in danger pray to Him. He will hear you, He is your friend, He is always there for you, He will always help you.” As a child I would often catch my grandmother praying on her knees.
Learning about Jesus Christ, and watching my grandmother pray on her knees, is a lesson that I learned as a small child, and would ultimately save my life. I would find myself praying occasionally, usually when I was in deep hole or in serious trouble like overdosing on cocaine or alcohol, that’s when I prayed. Funny how in retrospect I can now see how the Lord not only sent help when I asked for it, but answered many of my prayers. For example, while I still lived in New York I prayed to God to help me out of my addictions. He sent me the LDS missionaries and when they told me about Joseph Smith I knew for sure they were crazy, and ultimately refused God’s help or his answer to my prayer.
Around November 1996, I ended up in the emergency room in New York and ultimately in a detox center for alcohol and drug addiction. When I got to my room I found a bible in the night stand and because I was so scared I held that bible against my chest, and in a fetal position in my bed repeated these words, “God, please help me get through this,” over and over and over falling asleep repeating those words.
It occurred to me years later how God would answer that prayer because during detox I was the only one out of sixty plus heroin and cocaine addicts that did not receive any medications during the 28 day detox process. All others had uncontrollable shakes, sweating profusely, nightmares and a host of other withdrawal symptoms that I never experienced. (Thank you Heavenly Father) How amazing is that miracle!
When I joined the church in March of 1996 I would learn to pray properly and with way more respect and meaning, and you know Heavenly Father would answer my prayer by giving me some assignment like stake missionary or visiting families in their homes. I really did not get it--I was asking for something specific, like I really needed more finances, but I did not receive any cash, nor did I ever win at any of those lotto tickets nobody ever knew about. And I was not very diligent at visiting those families and had no clue about what a stake missionary does and had a poor attitude about it.
It has taken me almost 15 years as a member of this church to learn this beautiful and glorious lesson. I have learned that prayers are answered in the form of callings and assignments and in being diligent and do the very best you can at what the Lord has asked you to do, whether it’s 11 year old scouts, pack meetings, home teaching, or attending a boring meeting when you and two others are the only ones there and 13 are missing. When my testimony finally outgrew my fear, I was catapulted towards Christ and have tried to continue on that path. I have learned that amazing things happen when we are obedient to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit and ultimately those whisperings are the ones that lead us back to Christ.
Clearly what I am saying is that many times in my life I have prayed for this or for that, and the Lord always answers my prayer, but not in the way I expect. The Lord seems to give me special assignments, like teaching a class at a last minute’s notice, or picking up a hitchhiker and supplying him with a hot meal, or telling someone I had a dream about you and the Lord wants you to know how much He loves you. These are the things that have grown my testimony tremendously, these are the things that he continuously asks of me and these are the things that have strengthened our relationship. It’s a sad day for me when I have no assignment because assignments are the things that bring the most joy to my life. When I’m on assignment I am a better father, a better husband, and a better person. I am so grateful for the love He has for me and for the powerful testimony that he has caused within me through special assignments.
Now let me tell what this all has to do with St. Johns. We moved here in July of 2007 and to tell you the truth I did not feel all the love that many profess they feel when they move here. In the beginning, moving here was painful for us, we sacrificed a lot, and for a long time I had no clue why the Lord wanted us to come here. We liked the idea of feeling safe in a smaller community, especially where our children are concerned. We were struggling financially, and I remember calling the elders quorum president and his counselors for a whole week and no one ever returned my call. I was desperate to find work, a job, or sell some of our belongings so that we could feed ourselves and the children. I was way too proud to ask the bishop for help, so I thought I would try calling my leaders again, but again no one would return my calls. I felt let down, unimportant and to tell you the truth very unwanted here. I was angry and swore that I would never attend elders quorum ever again. For several months I would go to sacrament meeting only and then go home.
One day a member of the stake presidency came to our home on a Sunday afternoon, and I knew immediately why he was here. I invited him to come in and sit down. I was very polite to him, after all, this guy never hurt me. Inside I knew my pride was not going to let me give in. I was still angry and I swore I was going to hold onto my anger as long as I could. No one was going to convince me to go back to elders quorum, besides, a part of me enjoyed coming home early to catch football games (NFL)! During the time we sat on the couch this member of the stake presidency asked me to tell him my testimony. What?? I thought. That’s a rather odd request, however I accommodated him, and during the bearing of my testimony my anger and all those bad feelings I was trying so hard to hold onto were burned away. They were purged out of me through tears and testimony. The spirit reentered into me and my home. What a glorious feeling! At first I tried to fight it, but it was no use--I was no match for Heavenly Father and the atonement (what Christ did on the cross), so that I could one day get rid of all the stuff that had been separating me from God for so many years.
Now this is why I believe the Lord brought me to St. Johns, and for a couple of other reasons. One named Leslie who taught me to lift where you stand, to say and do good things, not bad things, and that if you’re going to open your mouth, let it be something positive instead of gossip. Second reason named Chris, who taught me that it is my responsibility to lead my family in prayer, in family home evening, and that as the priesthood holder of the household I would be held accountable for leading my family home, back to the presence of our loving Father in Heaven who originally gave us charge over our families. As a fairly new member of this church I simply never knew that, no one ever told me in those words. When I left Chris that day I went home and looked in the mirror and was determined with a new-found force to apply the things he said to my life. Thank you Chris and thank you Leslie for delivering those special messages to me. This is why the Lord brought us to St. Johns and I am so grateful for all He does for me.