Sunday, August 2, 2009
In my church, the first Sunday of each month is set aside and designated as Fast Sunday. It is an opportunity for members to participate in fasting for 24 hours (two meals). This means going without food or water. Click here to read more.
The main meeting of the day is our Sacrament meeting, and on Fast Sunday's, it is also the opportunity for members of the congregation to bear their own personal testimonies of gospel principles. It's a time to share insight, express gratitude, but most importantly testify of principles or commandments that one has come to gain a personal knowledge of or has been strenghtened by obedience. Kinda like open mike night.
Usually while fasting each individual focuses their prayers and meditation on something or someone specific. Whether it is a need in their own life, or in behalf of someone else. It makes one's fast more meaningful and we believe it demonstrates faith and builds one's individual relationship with their Maker. It also humbles us physically and spiritually to be in the right frame of mind and Spirit to participate in testimony meeting.
Today, our family included some yet-to-be-born grandchildren of some dear friends in our fast. Ava and Aden are due later this year, but it has been discovered that Ava has a fatal heart condition that if she is lucky enough to be born alive, will require surgery and the projected outcome is not favorable. We are hoping for a miracle if that is what the Lord has in mind. So, as I went to church this morning, my mind was full of thoughts of them, our friends, and some other issues that have my heart a little heavy right now.
Our sacrament portion went by in it's usual reverent manner, which completely set the tone for the whole rest of the meeting. As members began to approach the podium to share their testimonies, I realized that as we were nearing out of time, every single person who had shared so far was a man. Very unusual. And yet, everyone of them had something very powerful to say. It was a unique and wonderful meeting.
I was particularly touched by a young man from a family that Splenda home teaches. He is the same age as my Elder L. Single Mom, great family, great kids. When this young man turned 18, he enlisted in the Marine corps. He did his basic training, and then received special permission to return to civilian life to serve a two year mission. However, as he got ready to turn his paperwork in, circumstances changed and he was no longer allowed this privilege.
He leaves today for deployment to Afghanistan. He took the opportunity this morning to share some thoughts with his ward family before leaving. He told us of a wonderful experience he just had. Elder L. Tom Perry, a leader in our church, visited with his ready-to-depart company, spoke to them and then left them with a blessing. This young man's feelings were tender to be sure, and as he expressed them to us, he also mentioned the fact that as he looked around the congregation, he saw the same level of priesthood that the apostle, Elder Perry had. He made the point that we have, right at our fingertips, the same healing, comforting power of the priesthood that Jesus Christ did in his day. I was touched, humbled and filled with gratitude for something I often take for granted. I knew in that instant that all the things weighing on my mind and heart right now, are going to work out. The way they are supposed to, maybe not the way I would like them to.
I thought of our young friend going home after the meeting, finishing up his packing, and heading out. I thought of his good-byes to his sweet Mother, and siblings. Of how he might feel boarding that plane to take him straight into harm's way. Is he afraid? Is he nervous? Does he feel lonely? Does he wonder if he'll come home? OR.....does his testimony of the things he shared overshadow those worries? Is that strong enough to dispel the fear of the unknown? I like to think so.
I wanted to send a quick note to him before he left and as I was writing a few thoughts to him, this specific impression occur ed to me. While he didn't get the opportunity to serve a proselyting mission in the traditional sense that our young men do in our church. He is nevertheless, serving a mission. His uniform won't be a white shirt, tie and namebadge. Instead it will be camo fatigues, a flak jacket and his ever present weapon. However, their purposes are the same.
One key principle our religion is based on is free agency. While my Elder L is out preaching the gospel and helping others find happiness in it's principles, thus preaching free agency if you will, this young man is doing likewise - serving and sacrificing for the principle of free agency. Same mission, different circumstances. Both of equal value to the Lord.
So I started thinking again of our young friend. I picture him squaring his shoulders as he grabs his duffel bag, jutting his lower jaw out just a tich. Head held high, eyes forward and chest lifted. He's on his mission and an admirable one at that. My thoughts and prayers will be with his family, with him and utmost for his safe return.