Angels Round About Them
In the last few weeks, I have frequently been asked the following question: “Aren’t you scared something could happen to your son or your daughter while they are on their mission?” I think one of the reasons for that question lies in the recent well publicized deaths of several missionaries. A missionary from a town only 10 minutes north of Fairfield died in a car accident in Idaho only a month ago. Also, for many of my friends it’s difficult to comprehend how we can willingly send our sons and daughters, little older than teenagers, into a foreign country equipped only with limited language skills, two suitcases and unlimited enthusiasm. Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for disaster?
I freely admit I have my motherly moments of anxiety. As a student of Eastern European culture and history, I am well aware of some of the challenges of living and preaching the gospel in that part of the world. I have heard of several attempts to rob and kidnap missionaries. This week a movie that chronicles the kidnapping of two missionaries in Saratov, Russia, premieres in theatres. My own son has been threatened with a brick. A “mob” threw live firecrackers directly at his head; one of them exploded immediately in front of his foot and caused him to momentarily lose his hearing. But in spite of all this, the answer to the question “Aren’t you scared?” remains a firm “no.” I am not afraid for my son and my daughter, I feel calm and at peace that they will be watched over and protected. I base this assurance on the experiences of the many missionaries we have known, spiritual blessings and communications my family has received, and my own personal experiences. I know that no matter where they are, they are always in the Lord’s hands.
One of the most memorable talks by a recently returned missionary I have heard was given by a sister that served in the country of Mongolia. While a world away from her family, her mission president sent her to find a nomad family that had requested to be taught the gospel. The missionaries took a bus deep into the vast grasslands; the family was to meet them at the bus stop. When they disembarked and watched the bus drive off, they realized that they were utterly alone with only miles and miles of prairie around them. No human, house, or sign in sight. At first the sister panicked, but then she related she “realized that even though I had no idea where I was, and nobody else knew where they were, the Lord knew perfectly well.” The two sister missionaries fell to their knees by the side of the road and began to pray. I don’t remember how they were rescued and if they ever taught that family, but I never forgot the lesson this sister taught our congregation. I may not know whether Sebastian is walking through a forest in Transylvania, or if Sarah is knocking on doors in a small mountain village in the Alps, but the Lord knows where they are, and what they are doing every second of every day.
When Sebastian and Sarah were set apart by our stake president, he mentioned that angels would be in front of them and behind them and round about them at all times. As I heard this blessing, it reminded me of an answer I received to another prayer, a little over a year ago. At that time Sarah had decided to work in the African country of Uganda, leaving behind electricity, sanitation, and access to the internet for several months. I was excited for her to experience this opportunity but couldn’t help worrying about tropical diseases and militia attacks. While pondering in the Celestial Room of the Oakland temple, the Lord through his Spirit spoke to me, giving me this distinct impression, “Let her go, she will be in the hollow of my hand, and will return unharmed.” Through numerous adventures, including falling off a raft into crocodile infested waters, being tear gassed on the way to a soccer game, becoming separated from her guide in the jungle, and curing a stomach parasite with black market medicine, she had the time of her life and came back safe and sound, just as I had been promised.
Lastly, I have personally experienced the Lord’s care when I was surrounded by strangers and far from anyone I knew. In 2009, my mother passed away after being diagnosed with cancer four months earlier. After spending some time with her a few weeks before, I found myself at home in California when she died in Germany, having deteriorated even more rapidly than predicted. What followed remains a blur as my husband and I frantically made arrangements for me to fly to Germany and for our children to be cared for while he had to work. The whirlwind of packing and planning left me little time for reflections of any kind. It wasn’t until I sat in an airport lounge in Dallas, Texas, during a long layover, that the enormity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only did I feel entirely overwhelmed with grief about the loss of my mother, but I felt completely paralyzed by anxiety at having to organize my mother’s funeral. As far as I knew, there had never been an LDS funeral in my village, and I anticipated great opposition from everyone including family members and funeral directors when attempting to fulfill my mother’s wishes. I felt like I was frozen in place, that I could not possibly move from that plastic chair. I prayed fervently for the Lord’s help. Almost as soon as I had finished my silent but desperate prayer, I heard a friendly voice complimenting the old T-shirt I was wearing. When I looked up, I saw the kind face of an older man in a dark suit. On the label of the suit I discovered the familiar missionary name tag. When he introduced himself, I quickly learned that he was the newly appointed mission president of one of the British missions. When he heard I was a member traveling to Germany, he said, “Come meet the rest of our group, the new president of the Berlin mission is here, too.” My eyes widened in surprise! Of all the thousands of planes in the sky that day, I ended up on the one carrying seven mission presidents and their wives. What are the odds of that? Talk about the Lord sending in the cavalry to save me! This little group took me in, lifted my spirits, and counseled me on how to handle the funeral arrangements. From that point on, everything went much smoother than I had any right to expect. When we picked a flight to Europe, we could not have known any of this, but the Lord knew. How could I doubt that He will do likewise for my children?
I cannot keep my children perfectly safe, whether they are living with us or on the other side of the world. But the Lord can, and I believe that He will and that once their missions end, we will see Sarah and Sebastian again. However, if not, I rest secure in the knowledge that my children were sealed to us. If we stay faithful, our family will endure for all eternity. My children are mine forever. Through the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are ultimately safe.