The Big Fluffy Airport In The Sky
Please welcome Brenda Madore who is guest posting with us.
One of the great things about living in the wilds of rural West Texas, where members of the church are as prevalent as chickens in Antarctica, is that I get to spend a lot of time with the missionaries assigned to the area. Most of these young men come to us from Utah and Idaho and are like a breath of enthusiasm and fresh air. I see them on their preparation day each week because they do their laundry at our home and I’ve had multiple opportunities to go out and teach with them. Over time I find myself learning to love them just as if they were my own sons.
With the experience of seeing so many different elders pass through I have begun to recognize patterns in those missionaries who are productive and happy. Let’s be clear, this is the Southern Bible Belt and rejection is an all-day-every-day occurrence for these guys. They are met with shotguns at the doors they knock on with alarming frequency and all of them struggle with some of the harsh words that are thrown their way. Over the years I’ve seen those who toil for a while and then give up, and then those who keep pushing forward and eventually are transformed into productive, incredible men.
My younger brother Kent is a prime example of the change that can take place in the course of two years of service on an LDS mission. Kent was a good kid, didn’t get into trouble, had potential and talent, but was content to spend his time beating the video game Final Fantasy twelve times in a row. He spent one inglorious year at BYU Idaho and after a knee injury while playing softball, moved into my basement to recover and get ready to go on his mission. His preparation consisted of gaming eight hours a day and venturing up into the light once in a while to raid the kitchen for frozen pizza.
He was called to serve in Panama and was immediately assigned to a senior companion who had been an Olympic athlete. That elder ran Kent up and down the side of a jungle mountain for months. They had limited conveniences and showered by using a garden hose nailed to the wall of their dirt floored hut. Kent was out of shape, had to battle through his lazy streak, struggled to learn a new language, and eventually served and loved the people of that country with all of his heart.
At the end of two years he arrived home to find us at the airport, wearing sombreros (which was totally inappropriate for a multitude of reasons) and holding a huge misspelled “Bienvenido a casa élder Cherry!” banner.
As he came through security no one recognized him. He had grown two inches, lost a hundred pounds, and absolutely glowed with an inner light. No kidding, it almost hurt your eyes to look at him. His homecoming talk in church the following Sunday had the entire congregation awash in tears it was so beautiful and everyone we spoke to was amazed at his growth in such a short period of time. He now has an incredible wife, a beautiful son, and has just completed his first year of dental school.
(The dashing Elder Cherry is on the right)
The future is impossibly bright for Kent because he chose to have faith, work hard, and allow the hardships of his mission make him into a better version of himself.
At this point in these kinds of stories I always start to think “Ok, so good for him and those other people that take advantage of that experience. Big deal, but that isn’t me. I didn’t serve a mission and I’m just schlubbing along dealing with my everyday life, right?”
Here’s the thing: from an LDS perspective we know that we existed before we came to earth as spirit children of our Heavenly Father. In that place we accepted a mission call to this life. Truly we did, and like the young men and women who go out today we were excited and I’m sure a little nervous to take on the challenge. We came to earth with distinct personalities and knew that we would have difficult obstacles to overcome. But without exception, all of us signed up and came down with the knowledge that if we would persevere through our troubles and trust in God, He would transform us into much better versions of ourselves. That was the deal.
So the question now becomes, who do we want to be when we get back to our family at that big airport in the sky? Do we want to be a missionary who worked hard, overcame weakness, and loved and served God’s children? Will we go home glowing with the inner light of faith, people who have endured well the trials of life and allowed those tests to refine their characters? Will we be walking towards our glorious potential or will we be a missionary who gave up when the going got tough, forever to regret the missed opportunity for growth?
I don’t know about you but I want to be that first guy, and, although there’s not much chance they will, I really do hope that my loved ones will be wearing sombreros when they meet me at the gate.
- How does our view about the afterlife affect what we do here?
- What conscious choices do you make today because of their impact on how we may return home to our family in the Spirit World?
Brenda is the mother of four tremendous children ages 15, 14, 8 & 5 and wife to a very patient and witty man she lovingly calls “Buns.” Born and raised in Idaho, she now lives with her family in an ancient church in rural West Texas where the renovation is ongoing and never ending. Along with being head zookeeper and cheerleader in her family, she works as the business manager of a Special Education Co-Op, serves on the local school board, teaches Gospel Doctrine, and is within a year of finally finishing a degree in Business. A life-long student of the Gospel, she spends her free time searching for truth, beauty, and a really good BLT.