Missionary upon the Waters

Missionary upon the Waters

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

Missionary upon the Waters

Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

Jonah 3:2

I had served in the U.S. Navy for ten years, during which time women were placed on combatant naval vessels. It was my time to go to sea, and my heart was filled with anxiety and uncertainty; my sweet, supportive husband bid me farewell on the pier as I waved good-bye with my sea bag in tow. I knew we were going to deploy and support the other ships at sea, but did not know what might lie ahead.

The Sunday before I left, I had been called to be a stake missionary. I couldn’t imagine at the time why my stake president would extend me a calling knowing that I could be gone for at least six months, but the reason became very apparent a few months into the cruise.

I worked in a department where I was the only woman, and it was a testing ground. I could tell right away that the men in the department were not at all pleased with the decision to bring women onboard. I had a tough road ahead of me. I came into the work center hearing foul language and horrible music demeaning women. How could I possibly make it through this?

Along with articles of clothing and pictures of my sweet husband, I also brought with me my scriptures, my Gospel Essentials manuals and uplifting Church tapes, my favorite of which was by Michael McLean. On the tape was a song titled “You’re Not Alone.” I felt so very alone in a world considered to be a man’s world! I couldn’t have felt more alone. I listened to that tape every day and wept silently in my rack (what some might call a bed). It was a place of solitude where I could go to pray for strength.

I had been receiving numerous care packages and mail from members of my ward and my husband. A sailor in my department wondered why I got so much mail. He rarely got a letter from anyone, and he was as amazed as I was at the quantity of packages. I knew I had a huge support group back home and an extended family in my ward that cared about my well-being. I was truly blessed. This man asked me where it was all coming from, and I explained to him that it was from my friends at church. After that, he noticed that when it was slow on our watch, I would read from my Gospel Essentials manual.

One day he asked me what I was reading, and it happened to be a lesson on prayer. He said he had never prayed for anything in his life. I shared with himparts of the lesson, and he became very interested in its message. I talked to him about the power of prayer, especially in a situation like we were in. We were the first fleet in support of Desert Storm— a situation that called for many prayers! I explained to him the things we should pray for in our lives and the things that we should not. I could tell from his face that he felt something. We both were relieved of our watch, and we headed down to our racks to get some sleep before the next watch.

When we met back at our watch eight hours later, he handed me a letter and a small package. He said he would prefer that I keep it to myself, so I did. I began to read the letter in a spare office—and, to my amazement, it was a testimony of the power of prayer. He had prayed for the first time in his life and had received a testimony from the Holy Spirit about the power of prayer in our lives. My heart was so full! How could I have made such a big difference in someone’s life, especially out here in the middle of the ocean? I finally realized that I was a missionary sent by God to do His work, and that I was willing to share the joy and happiness I had been blessed with if it would guide another back to Him. Along with the letter was a small plain box. I opened it and saw a small Hummel figurine of a shepherd boy standing next to a lost sheep, praying. My tears flowed faster than I could wipe them away. I felt the Savior’s love for my sailor friend and for me.

We continued to learn lessons from the manual, and we talked increasingly more about the Church. He decided that when we returned to Norfolk, Virginia, we would contact the missionaries and he would start the discussions.

We got home seven months later; he asked me to contact the missionaries, and he started the discussions. Within two months, my friend was ready for baptism. One of the elders baptized him in the font where I had been baptized in Chesapeake, Virginia. He was the happiest person I had ever seen—and I knew his joy, because I had known the same joy the day I was baptized some six years earlier.

I introduced my newly baptized friend to a returned missionary I knew, and before you knew it they were engaged to be married. My friend received his orders to Germany, and the two of them were sealed in the Frankfurt Temple for time and all eternity. To this day I still think about my friend, although he now lives in another country. I think about his joy in finding the Lord and the blessings that have come his way. I know that I was chosen to be a missionary for this one person, and that no matter where we are or under what circumstances we find ourselves, we can all testify of the love our Savior has for us and bring another one of his sheep back to the fold.

I now find myself supporting my husband as he fulfills his duty to our country and to his brothers and sisters onboard an aircraft carrier at sea. I know that he will have the opportunity to bless the life of a fellow sailor and bring joy to that person’s life just as I did, because he is willing to share the joy and blessings he has enjoyed in his life. Knowing and loving the Savior gives us the strength to share it with another. It takes a lot of faith to take on the world, but we can do it one person at a time.

I will always remember, as the song says, “You’re not alone—even though right now you’re on your own.” He is always there to guide us and hold us near. I will always remember, too, that nothing is impossible with the Savior’s love—nothing.

Esmeralda Carter

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