Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brother Martin's Mission Farewell Talk

Feb 23, 2014
Some people have asked why we decided to go on a couple mission now.

Many years ago I was the home teacher to Duane and Jane Meeks who served two amazing LDS missions in Africa, an example to us all. One day while speaking with Brother Meeks I commented that I had a strong desire to serve a couple mission some day, but knew the reality of my wife’s health problems would probably prevent it. I’ll never forget his response that the Lord has a way of helping us obtain our righteous desires. Little did I understand at the time, what would take place in order for me to go on a couple mission.

Not long after, my wonderful wife of 21 years passed away. This event seemed to shatter many of the goals and dreams that I had. But then, I felt God literally wrap his arms around me using the comfort of the Holy Ghost, helping me to pick up the pieces and move forward. Shortly after I married Terry Sparti, who had also lost her spouse to cancer some years before. As Terry mentioned, we both had a goal to serve a couple mission someday.

In October of 2012, our prophet, President Monson turned up the heat, emphasizing his urgent request for more couple missionaries. He said, “As your circumstances allow….” This statement “As your circumstances allow,” repeated over and over in my heart and mind. I thought about it a lot. Terry and I talked about it a lot. Sometimes at night I would download the latest “Senior Missionaries Opportunities Bulletin PDF” on lds.org and read about the myriad of types of mission service available. But then I asked myself, we’re still in our 50’s, isn’t that too young to go? I read that the “Senior Missionary Age” by the Church’s definition is 40 and older. So, if you’re nearing 40 you’re a candidate for a “senior” mission, as long as your children have moved out.

President Monson also said…“I encourage you to make yourselves available for full-time missionary service.” What does “Make Yourselves Available” really mean?   

It’s never convenient to serve a mission. There are many reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t go. But there are also many reasons to go. If we set righteous goals, the Lord will help move mountains for us, even if it is a mountain of debt. This last several years Terry and I have worked hard to eliminate debt, simplify, sell stuff, selling our camper motor home, eat out less, canceling our satellite/cable TV, canceling our land line phone service, selling my truck last month (that was tough) and many other things in order to get out of debt and save for a mission. For example, we don’t watch much TV or movies and wondered if we could reduce or eliminate another monthly payment. One day I got on Youtube and found out how to make a digital antenna out of coat hangers so I could get local channels like BYUtv and some local news that we still occasionally wanted to see. It worked great so we have no monthly cable, satellite or other online movie bill.

 We also cut way back on buying movies. One of the 2 or 3 movies we went to see in the last year was “Frozen”. There was a fun song called “Let it Go.” I think it applies to my feelings somewhat of letting go of stuff, simplifying and just moving on with your life.

Due to the changing building industry and economy, the company I work for began to change. I was determined to make it through the transformation process. A year ago I was assigned to a new position at Martin Doors and personally paid for new training and certification to improve myself for that position. During this time, the Prophet’s words rang louder, “as your circumstances allow…..make yourselves available”. Could I really leave my job and new career? Well, we enter the MTC a week from tomorrow. And we are really excited.

 The most difficult of all, is that I will miss our children and grandchildren. When Terry and I were married, I felt as though I had been adopted, accepted and loved into a new family. Perhaps I felt like Oliver, our newest grandson who was just adopted by my daughter Stephanie a couple of weeks ago. I love each of them and will miss them beyond what words can express.

I enjoyed serving as Scoutmaster recently and want to encourage each of the boys I worked with to go for the Eagle Scout rank and decide to serve a mission. Years ago, President Hinckley said, “If every boy in America knew and observed the Scout oath, we would do away with most of the jails and prisons in this country.” I’ve also enjoyed serving in the Primary with brother Brierley in the CTR 7 class this last couple of months. I’ll miss primary. 
As we go through life setting good goals to love, serve, build the kingdom of God on earth, and just make a difference for good in the lives of others, our faith will grow, our testimony will be strengthened and we will be blessed.
What a blessing to receive a letter from our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. It’s almost like getting a new Patriarchal Blessing.  It’s so good, I’d like to quote a couple of parts from our mission call letter. “You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You are assigned to Labor in the Micronesia Guam Mission.” President Monson then talked about how we are expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance.  He concluded, “The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve in this labor of love among His children. We place our confidence in you and pray that the Lord will help you become an effective missionary.” Close Quote

Petty Officer 1st Class Clifford Sabo, of Explosive Ordinance
Disposal Detachment Marianas. This bomb was eventually
diffused, clearing the site for development, which includes
Martin Garage Doors. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy  
When I think of Guam my first thought comes from our business dealings on a project which included Martin Garage Doors on some homes built on the navel base for officers and their families. The project was suddenly stopped when they discovered an undetonated 1000 lb. WW2 bomb. It was a year or two before the project got started back up and the garage doors were installed on the homes in Guam. (Google it – full story)

I like the story that President Hinckley told about a naval officer he met from a distant nation who had been brought to the US for advanced training. Some of his associates in the US Navy, whose behavior had attracted him, shared with him at his request their religious beliefs. They told him of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, who gave his life for all mankind. They told him of the appearance of God, the Eternal Father, and the resurrected Lord to the boy Joseph Smith. They spoke of modern prophets. The Spirit touched his heart, and he was baptized.

Quoting President Hinckley: “Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and, more particularly, a Mormon Christian?”

He replied, “My family will be disappointed. They may cast me out and regard me as dead. As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.”      I asked, “Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?” His dark eyes, moistened by tears, shone from his handsome brown face as he answered, “It’s true, isn’t it?” Ashamed at having asked the question, I responded, “Yes, it’s true.” To which he replied, “Then what else matters?” Close Quote.

Stephan F. Mecham, current President of the Micronesia Guam mission asked Terry and I to switch our call because he needed help in the office. He said the church needs more full time senior couples. Last year he had 13 couples and this year it looks like only seven. He said it was a combination of less full time couple missionaries serving, and an increase in the number of new missions being opened in the world. Our ultimate goal is to help so that someday the people will have a temple. The day after we enter the MTC, our daughter and son in law Ronda & Nate will be sealed in the Draper temple. We got permission to miss a meeting that night for the sealing… We would’ve come with or without permission. Yea, Ronda and Nate!

Terry and I also received another letter. This time from the Twelve Apostles that said, “You will learn to be led by the Spirit so that you can teach and testify with converting power. The savior said, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” D&C 18:10. They concluded, “May you find joy in your service to your Father in Heaven, His Beloved Son, and the people to whom you minister.  Faithfully Your Brethren, The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles”     

I am extremely humbled and honored to receive such letters as about 79,999 other full time missionaries have received recently.

 I believe that each of us can receive these many blessings if we serve with all our heart, might and strength in callings, home and visiting teaching, and local missionary work.

As we continue to struggle through life, making the right choices, often receiving more blessings than we deserve,  I believe our understanding of what God wants each of us to do in this life becomes clearer.   (follow us at micronesianmission.blogspot.com)
I know that President Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet of God. I have knelt down in prayer and asked God and have received an answer in the affirmative. Joseph Smith helped restore the True Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Earth and I am thankful for him. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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