As I sit in sacrament meeting my heart overflows with joy. Ryan and his brother Ricky sit behind the sacrament table preparing to bless the Sacrament. Roger and his brother Jemin sit in front of them as they wait reverently to pass the bread and water to the congregation. Junior sits in the back with my companion, reading the words of the hymnbook. Last year at this time you would’ve found these men, some of them young adults, others near their forties, doing what most members of their demographic in the West Indies are doing, partying and the like. And yet here they are, little more than half a year later, faithfully and worthily, fulfilling their priesthood duties. How they came to this point was nothing short of a miracle, a miracle that is continuing to unfold.
In July of 2013 my companion and I blanked into the St. Georges area of Grenada in the West Indies Mission. On our first day in a neighborhood known as “the valley”, we stood on the side of the road discussing what to do next as we searched in vain for an appointment we could not find. We turned when a young man walking up the street called out to us. “You looking for me?” he asked. We did not recognize him, but happy to talk to anyone and eager to find those who would receive our message we answered something to the effect of, “Yes, and who are you?” He gave us his name, Ryan, and told us to call him. We did and taught him once, but with his busy work schedule we soon fell out of touch, occasionally seeing him on the street, but never getting a chance to teach him. This period lasted for a little more than a month.
During that July we contacted into a very promising lady named Val. We met her brother, Roger, at the same time. Roger was very cordial, and very uninterested. However Val seemed like a golden investigator and we soon began teaching her. One day as we waited to meet with Val we met one of her other brothers, Jemin. He introduced himself to us and we explained our purpose and invited him to learn more. As we talked with him, he gestured behind him saying “I have someone who I think you know.” And out from under the house came Ryan, whom we had not had contact with for weeks. We were very happy to see him; both Sister Cragun and I felt strongly that Heavenly Father had placed him in our path, again, for a reason. Ryan chastised us for a moment for abandoning him, as he said, and we chastised him for never meeting with us. Carnival was the following week, but both Jemin and Ryan (assuming he wasn’t working) agreed to meet with us afterwards to hear what we had to share. Soon after that encounter Val missed an appointment and we taught Jemin instead. During that appointment we learned he had good desires and yearned to know what he needed to do to be saved. Our excitement to meet with the two of them after Carnival increased. Sadly Val eventually discontinued lessons with us, but not until after she played a vital role in introducing us to the boys.
The time for our first appointment came around, and we ended up meeting on the porch of Roger’s downstairs room. Jemin and Ryan were both there, and they both continued to meet with us over the coming weeks. Roger also began sitting in, seeing as we were literally on his doorstep, explaining that he didn’t mind listening to the word, although he wouldn’t read or pray. Between the three of them, someone always kept a commitment, and so we always came back. Heavenly Father had truly orchestrated events in such a way as to ensure we taught each of them long enough for their conversions to come about. Over this period of time the boys came to occupy a special place in our heart and we looked forward to each appointment with them.
Each of the boys had different turning points in their journey towards conversion, but two in particular struck all three of them. The first came in an act of service which Sister Cragun and I hardly even noticed. One day as the two of us drove through the valley we saw Ryan standing on the side of the road carrying two large bags of yard clippings. We were happy to see him and quickly parked, hopped out of the car, and helped him carry the bags to the trash. Afterwards we had a short lesson with him and then parted ways. Unbeknownst to us, it was at this point that Ryan really began to listen to us, because it was then that he knew we really cared. He shared what had happened with Roger and Jemin and they had similar reactions. That seemingly insignificant act of service was a crucial turning point in his conversion, and we didn’t even know it.
Among the many, many tender mercies given to us by the Lord in the course of teaching these wonderful men, one of the greatest was the fact that just after they began coming to church General Conference rolled around. You can always count on the prophet. All three of them attended. The Spirit they felt was something they had never experienced before, and their reaction was uniform. Whereas before they had struggled with their desire to repent and change, each came out of the church house that day with the hope of retaining that feeling always in their life. As they listened to the words of the prophets and apostles the spirit filled them with a desire to follow Christ, particularly by being baptized. It was at this point that they really wanted it. Their roads of repentance were not easy at any point, and still now months later it surely has it’s struggles and difficulties, but they came to understand that though it was hard, it was worth it, and that was enough for them.
As we came to love them and they came to trust us and act upon our message by reading, praying, and coming to church, the spirit truly touched their hearts and wrought a mighty change therein. A light came into their eyes, into their bearing, and their thirst for that which is good and true grew into a great desire to follow their Savior. They acted on faith that our message was something that would bring goodness into their lives. And they were right. As they acted on it, their faith was confirmed little by little and in time developed into powerful testimonies of the restored Gospel.
Ryan was baptized first, on October 27th, 2013. Roger followed soon thereafter on November 2nd, and Jemin did on November 24th of that year. They have become powerful examples and testimonies of their faith to the people around them. Soon after their baptisms they began taking us to their friends. Just as the sons of Mosiah, they could not be the thought of their brothers and sisters languishing without the truths that they now enjoyed, and the blessings which were so enriching their lives. On March 8th Ryan’s brother, Ricky was baptized after only three weeks of meeting with us. Surely the powerful testimony and spirit his brother possessed paved the way for Ricky’s conversion to proceed at such a pace. Roger took us to everyone he knew, and soon his close friend Junior will also join the faith. Their testimonies have continued to increase as they spread the gospel and kept their covenants, as has their knowledge of the gospel.
Had you passed these men on the street before, you never would have thought of them as likely members of the church, and yet here they are reverently, worthily, and loving blessing and passing the sacrament. It took a miracle, lots of them, to get them here. Heavenly Father pulled so many strings, set circumstances up so precisely and carefully, in order to make us start teaching them and to keep us teaching them long enough for each to experience that mighty change of heart despite setbacks and delays. But that is what God promises us missionaries according to our faithful obedience: miracles. And that’s what “The Boys” are. And that’s what has happened in their lives. Miracles.