Delayed gratification

21 Jul

Two years ago, my younger brother Ryan left home to live in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area to serve as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During those two years, he learned to speak Spanish. He pushed strangers’ cars through torrential rain. He knocked on doors and talked to just about everyone he met to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. He ate fish eyes, menudo, and all manner of Hispanic fare. He used Mario and Star Wars as allegories for gospel principles. He hung out at pizza parties with teenagers and played card games with seniors. He went caving with fellow missionaries and encountered a ridiculous array of critters  (think ticks, chiggers, bats, snakes, and more). He learned to love the people he served and to love the gospel of Jesus Christ. He witnessed the joy of people coming closer to Christ.

Also during those two years: my sweet baby boy–Ryan’s nephew–was born.

DSC_2306-web

When you’re a full-time missionary, contact with your family and friends back home is limited (to allow you to focus on your work as a missionary). The only times you can call your family are on Christmas and Mother’s Day, and usually you can only email once a week. So when Little Lars was born, Ryan just got a smattering of emailed pictures and four Skype meetings.

Then on Friday, this happened:

DSC_7852DSC_7922DSC_7916DSC_7932DSC_7972DSC_7969DSC_8033{Photography by Janelle Edwards}

Two years was worth the wait.

A mission is an excellent exercise in delayed gratification. For the parents: You try your best to teach your child to be caring and responsible, and when they finally go out into the great, big world on a mission, you see them gradually grow to be that person. For the missionary: You set aside your family and life, and as you forget yourself and go to work, you begin to see a change in yourself and in the lives of those you serve.

Although a mission doesn’t work out for everyone (and that’s OK), the inspiring coming-of-age stereotype of a Mormon mission has held true for my brother, and I have loved seeing how he has changed (while still being himself, of course). I am so proud of his hard work and faith and love for God and for others. And I’m grateful for his example to his nephew Little Lars.

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