Dear President Albright,
I had been serving in my new area in Argentina for about a month when our mission president instructed us to work more often with less-active members. One less-active we were assigned to visit by our ward council was a former bishop who had not been to church in over 20 years. Many members in the area said that their conversion to the church was because of the good influence of this man. Ambitious to teach this former church leader, we visited his family often, but we were never able to make contact with him. His wife explained to us that we could only come visit when he wasn’t home or when he was sleeping because he didn’t want anything to do with the church.
One day we asked his wife if we could try talking to him just to see what would happen. She said alright, but she warned us not to even mention the church. I agreed, thinking in my mind I’m at least going to say hi to him and attempt to make some friendly conversation to gain some of his confidence. As we walked in, he was walking out, and as he was leaving I said, “Good afternoon Brother.” He paused in his tracks, turned to face me, and with a deep harsh voice said, “Don’t you ever call me brother!”
I was speechless as I watched him leave the house, not knowing what to do or say. I tried to laugh it off but I was crying inside thinking of how sad it is to know that a person who used to be so strong in the gospel was now so far removed from the light of Christ that he didn’t even want to be called brother. What causes people to feel like that? After that first encounter, when we would pass his house and see him outside we would continue to cheerfully greet him, but always as “mister” instead of “brother.”
Preparing to end my mission and return home, I really wanted to say goodbye to this family. We went to their house and this good brother was sleeping so we came in and shared one last message with his wife and daughter. While saying goodbye, I decided to write a note to this brother to wish him luck. Throughout my mission I’ve been known to leave a few “heart attacks” by using heart shaped sticky notes. (My mother sent me a constant supply!) I think a heart shaped sticky note has a warmer impact than a square one. So writing this personal note on this sticky note, I said very simply, “Mister __, I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to know you and your family and for the time I’ve had to serve you. I wish you all the best of luck and want you to never forget that it is never too late to come back to church. I love you all! Sister Clawson.”
I later learned from this experience that sometimes we cannot always know the impact that a small act of love or kindness can have on a person. That Sunday night as I was finishing packing, a ward member called us and asked us to come outside because he needed to share something with us. This member told us that he had just finished home teaching this former bishop. He wanted to share with us the impact of my little sticky note. He said that this former leader was in tears knowing that he had to come back to church. The home teacher shared his gratitude with me for not giving up and said that I had fulfilled my calling in that area. He testified to me that as a missionary I was called of God and every act that we as missionaries do is edified and amplified by the Spirit and touches the hearts of those in our sphere of influence.
How grateful I am for this experience and the fortifying testimony that the only thing many people lack is some love. We should all strive to love and lift one another. I know that as we do this we will see great miracles happen in our lives as well as in the lives of those around us.
Love truly is the most powerful tool on earth.