This post is part of “my story” which begins with the post “Finding Purpose”
Hope is not the same as wishful thinking. Hope requires knowing where you want to go, some knowledge of how to get there, and confidence in your own ability. With these three together, hope can give you the persistence to keep going when the road gets rough. God gave me hope when I was a missionary, and the Spirit brought it back to me again.
I had been in the mission field for two months when my missionary trainer and I were scheduled to teach a lesson with the help of another sister in the ward. When we met up with this sister, she asked to quickly put some flowers on her mother’s grave on our way. There are many small cemeteries scattered around the country areas of Georgia and Tennessee. This should not have added any time to our trip.
When we first pulled into the graveyard, I was in the back seat and could only glimpse the van that was parked in front of us and the man that was collapsed next to it. The sister was at first upset that someone was parked beside her mother’s grave and then near panicked when she realized he was seriously injured. Due to poor cell reception, she needed to leave to call for an ambulance. I got out of the car with the full intention of helping, trying to remember first aid, and then froze.
My mind went completely blank, paralyzed by a sudden and intense fear. Not the fear of physical violence, that had already been done, but fear of palpable darkness. As I stood there, it seemed as though someone was laughing at me. I was ashamed that I could not move, embarrassed at my own weakness, and someone thought that was hilarious. Unseen fingers slick with a heavy oil sought to cover my skin and seep into my pores. My companion kept calling for me to come over to her until I finally moved.
The man, now lying on his back, was fatally injured. We wrapped the wound as best we could, but there wasn’t much to be done. We prayed, spoke with him for as long as he was able, sang hymns, and then kept silent. We were surrounded by a light that shielded us from the darkness. Sitting next to him, I felt completely calm. My lungs expanded without constriction, my mind took in not only our conversation and his condition but also the light filtering through the trees and the beauty of the place. The beauty of the whole world astounded me. I felt completely at peace.
We remained with the injured man in this state for about half an hour until he passed away. With that final breath, the light began to recede. A couple of minutes later when the emergency vehicle arrived and the EMT began her work, I became aware again of the darkness. This time, however, they were farther from me. Fingers that before were taunting and pushing were now clenched in rage, but they could not touch me.
Even so, the feeling of that much rage directed at me brought back doubt of my own strength. I cried to God asking why I was sent there when I was unable to do anything of any use. The man had died. I had not helped him. I thought a Priesthood holder would have been more effective: the Zone Leader, the District Leader, a man from the ward that lived in the area, so many choices other than me. I felt useless and powerless.
In answer there came to my mind a picture of myself wearing the mantle of a missionary and emanating light. There also came the knowledge that I had fulfilled that which was asked of me. I pushed back the darkness. That was my purpose as a missionary. Where ever I stood, darkness could not.
The light that shone from around me was brilliant and powerful. I understood at that moment that I had made covenants to my Heavenly Father and with those covenants came the ability to call upon the accompanying blessings at any time and the assurance that my call would be answered. I would be able to fulfill all that God asked me to do because He would enable me to do it with all the light and power of heaven.
This is what I wanted to be again. Full of light. A light for my family. Sure of my own power to conquer the darkness. I wasn’t there yet, just as I wasn’t yet a confident missionary when this first happened, but I felt the hope just the same. I knew that I could get there because the light of heaven is still promised to me, and heaven always answers.