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Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's About the One

Serving the One

On Sunday morning before regular services in the ward, we go to Camp Johnson to hold what is sometimes called "Battlefield Sacrament."  When Marines are unable to attend the local ward because of training or schooling, we hold a shortened service on base.  In our case, we meet at 8:15 in the base chapel in the kitchen while the Protestants hold their services in the main room.  Our attendance varies.  We have had as many as 8, but we average 2 or 3.  With the military budget cuts there are fewer and fewer Marines being recruited or accepted overall, and thus fewer Mormon Marines coming to Camp Lejeune (Camp Johnson is one of the smaller bases within  Camp Lejeune).  Today we had only one young man at services.  But to support that one young man there were two elders (young missionaries), an instructor who is Mormon and teaches at Camp Johnson who comes before going to his ward meetings, and Bob and me.  

This young man who was the one in attendance today has faithfully attended every Sunday while at MOS school and has expressed how much it has meant to him.  He will be graduating in November and currently is ranked second in his class, which is quite an honor.  When he completes his schooling he will return home and be assigned to a reserve unit.  He has asked for and received a waiver to serve an LDS mission.  The Marines will allow him to put his reserve service on hold until he returns from his  two year mission.

We are often asked if it is worth the effort for so few.  Our response is that each one is so important.  Trying to maintain a testimony and live the gospel while serving in the Marine Corps is quite a challenge and if we can be of help and offer encouragement to just one person at a critical time, we feel our time is well spent.

We provide Sunday Sacrament and Monday Family Home Evening on base.  Some of the Marines we have worked with have said that before coming to meetings they felt like they were the only Mormon, or perhaps the only Christian, on the entire base.  One of the reasons we invite the Elders and the Sister Missionaries to come with us is to give our Marines a chance to be with someone their own age who also loves the gospel.  One Monday night a month the whole YSA group from the ward (about 15-20 young people) come out to Johnson and conduct the Family Home Evening.  We have great treats and then games -- the favorite this sumer seemed to be Ultimate Frisbee on the field next to the chapel.

Madison -- Camp Pendleton 
Isaac -- Reservist, Southern Calif.
Plans to go on a mission.

 These are a few of the most recent 
Marines who hold a special place in our hearts.  They faced difficult challenges and sometimes struggled, but came out on top.
Colby -- Beaufort Air Station, SC

Chad - Okinawa, Japan

Kira -- Reservist, Southern Calif.

Pictured below are two of our Marines who are currently or will soon be serving LDS missions.  I think they must call Marines to the most challenging missions because they figure they can handle tough situations.

Nate waiting to start his mission
(Nate is the one in dress blues in the middle. :-)

Luis --serving in Bangledore, India

 One righteous and faithful person can influence many others.  This young Marine stood firm in the face of ridicule and temptation.  Luis (pictured above) was a personable young man with a strong testimony, but he also wanted to be friends with his fellow Marines and he wanted to be seen as a team player.  Although he was harassed for not drinking or using tobacco, he tried not to appear judgmental and explained this was his own personal choice, just as their choice to use was their personal choice.

Members of his platoon made plans to celebrate the birthday of one of their friends and invited Luis to come.  He asked what their plans were and was told they were going out to eat and then to a hookah bar.  He accepted the invitation to go to dinner but said he would just return to base afterwards.  To leave and return to base he had to have a battle buddy, who naturally would need to return to base after the dinner with him.  His buddy agreed and all looked fine.  However, after dinner, the group decided to go to a strip club instead and while his battle buddy wasn’t interested in the hookah bar she was curious about the strip club.  Dilemma.  He couldn’t return to base alone and he didn’t want to go to the strip club. 

He chose to stand outside and wait for his buddies in the cold.  After a few minutes his battle buddy came to stand with him and they called a cab to return to base.  His example inspired me, and I know it has touched others who either knew Luis or heard his story from us. His fellow Marines selected him as the most inspirational and motivational student in his school and he received this honor at his graduation ceremony.


We worked with another young Marine who, at first glance,  seemed an unlikely hero. He was of a slight build, shy and didn’t have much to say.  I wondered in the beginning how he had ever survived basic.  He was the only LDS Marine at a remote part of Camp Lejeune where he was in school for his military specialty—repairing generators.  It was a 45 minute ride for him to attend the ward, but each week he wanted to come.  We had a lot of opportunity to visit with him as we picked him up and took him back each week and we came to see that our first impression was deceiving.  Although not the typical muscular, rough and tough Marine, he had a fierce determination to succeed as a Marine and as a Latter Day Saint.  One of our first encounters with Kyle was when he requested a blessing of comfort to help him deal with the suicide of a Marine in his barracks.  The Chaplain on base offered his counseling service, but Kyle insisted that he would be fine, he only wanted a priesthood blessing by the senior missionaries.  He instructed the chaplain on how to contact us, and Bob and the other senior missionary elder met him at the base chapel to give him a blessing.  Kyle then proceeded to help other Marines deal with the tragedy.

One Sunday Kyle told us he wanted to bring a friend to church, a young man from his platoon who was interested in church.  We were, of course, delighted to provide a ride.  Kyle, the LDS Marine, took it upon himself to talk with the base chaplain to arrange for him and his friend to leave base and attend Institute (Scripture study class) on Tuesdays so Kade (the friend) could have lessons Sunday and Tuesday with the missionaries. It is not usual that Marines in training can leave base during the week so I’m not sure how he managed this, but he did.  He also arranged for the missionaries to have use of a room in the base chapel when needed.  He answered his friend’s questions and encouraged him to go forward with his baptism—which took place after Kyle had already left for Camp Pendleton. His quiet persistence and his steady faithfulness made a difference and his example will be something I will long remember.

Like a pebble dropped into a stream, the influence and example of one person echoes through the lives of many others.  It has been amazing to watch how the Lord uses one to reach the one.  So to those we spoke about at the beginning of this blog who wondered if we were ever discouraged, no, we are not discouraged.  If we help only one person, it will have been worth it.  

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