Guatemala’s rainy season is settling in, and it’s a wet night in the city. Nevertheless, about a third of the small Santa Fe Branch shows up on a weeknight for this special meeting. They come despite having to walk in the rain.
Brother X., who is 80, walked all the way across the barrio to be here.
Sister A. and her husband are here, even though she is about two months away from delivering twins, and at this point climbing uphill on slick streets may be tricky for her.
This small brick building with the plastic stacking chairs could fit within the cultural hall of many Latter-day Saint meetinghouses in the United States. With its louvered windows for ventilation, it can be chilly on a night like this. But tonight it is warmed by fellowship.
The occasion? It is the setting apart of a missionary.
This is not something that happens every month in this area—not even every year. This is an occasion for a special meeting.
The stake president, leader of several LDS congregations in the southeastern part of the city, gives the young man his final interview. Then we gather in the chapel to open the meeting and sing, “Pon Tu Hombro a la Lid”—“Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel.” There are testimonies from the family, then the missionary. The stake president speaks to the members gathered here about the teaching of a prophet, Thomas S. Monson, that they should be creating missionary training centers in the home.
Elder P., from Argentina, and Elder F., with family roots in Samoa, are in the congregation, here to welcome this young man into the ranks of missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The stake president lays his hands on the young man’s head and by virtue of priesthood authority sets the young man apart—officially gives him the role of missionary. The young man is now Elder C. Tomorrow morning he reports to the Missionary Training Center to walk among dozens of other young men and women bound for Spanish-speaking missions from Guatemala to Peru. In a few short weeks, Elder C. will be walking the streets of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who want to know more of our Savior.
All of this brings back memories of 49 years ago, when I experienced similar farewells. There is the temptation to reminisce. But, no—it is his time now.
Dios te bendiga, Elder C. God bless you.
I suspect you have no idea at this point what is waiting for you. I can tell you this much: If you become the disciple of Christ you have been called to be, you will experience something the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis described. God will make more of you than you ever dreamed you could be.