As a former missionary, I read his column and said to myself: “how right he is.” There is more need today for missionaries than ever before — missionaries of all ages and professional backgrounds.
While reading Graham’s column, Amos 8:11-12 came to mind. It reads: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”
These words of Amos fit America and most of the world well in our near God-free culture today.
Perhaps it was ironic, but just after I finished reading Graham’s column, I looked up and saw the picture of 23-year-old Connor Ensign on the same page. It was a picture of Connor with his parents.
The Ensigns have been family friends for years and Connor had just completed a two-year mission for his church. Connor’s story, “On His Own” complemented Graham’s column perfectly, showing how Connor’s limitations were matched with an opportunity to provide a needed service he could provide.
Billy Graham was right; the “opportunities for ‘evangelism and service’ have exploded” in countries all around the world.
For example: Earl and Lynn Mecham of Woodstock are nearing the end of their second two-year mission in a foreign land. Their first mission, following retirement, was in Russia. Their second mission is in Oxford, England, where they work with students from all nations of the world, helping them better understand the role of God in their lives, and in the lives of their families, communities and nations. There are never enough volunteer couples to fill the need — be it teaching English in China or about God in atheistic Siberia Russia.
Connor’s mission met two needs. One need, as his story told, was to help Connor, who is autistic, learn to navigate life’s challenges on his own. The second need Conner filled was in service to the thousands who visit the LDS Family History Center in Salt Lake City in search of their family history.
The library Connor served in is the largest family history library in the world, and accepts and archives the family history of all families, regardless of their religious preference or national origin, including many from here in Cherokee County. Connor’s mission allowed him to fulfill both needs.
As I continued to ponder Graham’s message, I couldn’t help think how missions serve another powerful need in today’s world. They provide thousands of youth an opportunity to learn who they are and what their relationship with God is before being caught up in the world.
A few may remember Ben Bracken, my foster grandson, who lived in Woodstock with his family several years ago. Ben recently left for Mexico City, Mexico, where he entered the LDS Missionary Training Center there to learn Spanish before going to his assigned mission to teach the gospel in a Spanish-speaking area in New Mexico. Ben interrupted his college studies to serve his God and church and to build a gospel foundation under Ben and to learn more about his relationship with his Father-in-Heaven.
Ben is the 22nd member of our family to serve a full-time mission. Most interrupted their college studies to serve their mission, but not one has ever regretted their service. It was their way of tithing their young lives in the service of the Lord as the Lord blessed them with new skills they never knew they had — often in leadership roles that do not come easy for the youth of the world today.
I hope those who follow Billy Graham will pay close attention to his call for more missionaries and begin sending out more missionaries from their churches. In addition to the need for evangelical leaders to break the “famine for the words of the Lord,” there is continuing needs to work with the millions who know not where to look to find the Lord, nor how to provide the basic necessities of life for their families.
For those who volunteer to serve, it will change their lives — all for the better. It changed our lives for the better, as it did Connor’s.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.