I was recently asked what surprised me the most about becoming a missionary. My answer was NOT how much I loved street contacting, or being rejected. It was something that completely blindsided me. It was love.
I knew it was important to love the people you served, love your companion, love the members of the ward. But I never knew how my capacity to love could be magnified 100 fold.
To illustrate this, I would like you to meet a man named Marvin Krook. I love him dearly. I wrote this a few days after Marvin passed away last June. Stories like his are what surprised me the most about my service as a missionary.
The following is an excerpt from my personal blog:
“Marvin Everett Krook is one of the dearest men in the world to me.
I met Marvin two years ago. We sat in his living room and talked about Chester, Montana, his career as a science teacher and bird watching. These topics would be visited often over the next few months as this stranger turned into family.
We began to teach Marvin the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With his deep love of learning, and strong faith in the Savior, Marvin believed the things we taught him.
I remember a day in February when I spent a long time on my knees praying earnestly for this dear man to accept the gospel.
I remember a day in March when Sister Randall and I sang to Marvin. He looked at me with such love that I couldn’t help but love him back.
On another day in March, Sister Randall and I sat around the wooden table in the Krook’s kitchen and sang “Happy Birthday” to this sweet man. He was 80 years old.
I remember a day in April. Marvin was asked to pray. “Our Heavenly Father, we want to thank you for sending these two sisters here to us today. And also that they are very attractive.”
I remember another day in April when we taught Marvin that he and his beloved first wife could be together forever. However, we taught that baptism was the gate to which all of these eternal blessings could be obtained.
I remember a day in May when Marvin’s wife prayed for him, and during the prayer he winked at me.
I remember a day in June when Marvin was interviewed for baptism and convinced Elder Heaton to play a trick on us. He came out from the room where he was asked questions to determine if he was prepared for baptism. His brow was furrowed, his expression grave.
“He said I’m not ready!” Marvin exclaimed. He was very upset.
Sister Davidson and I were flabbergasted. This man was completely prepared for baptism. My heart sank as I went through all of the questions in my head, puzzled as to which one Marvin could have possibly had a problem with.
I looked at Elder Heaton. The corners of his mouth were twitching, and through a sudden moment of clarity, I realized Marvin had gotten the better of us again.
“Marvin!!” I yelled as the comprehension of this situation dawned on me.
His eyes twinkled in that characteristic way of his, and his face split into a crinkly grin.
I remember a day in June when Marvin entered the water’s of baptism. I sang during the program, and once again Marvin looked at me as he had that day in March. I loved him, and knew he loved me back.
After his baptism, he came up to me, gave me a hug, and held me tight. How I loved that sweet, kind man.
I remember a day in July when I came to say goodbye to Marvin. No tears were shed; not until later. “You’re like my grandpa,” I told him. He smiled, and gave me a hug goodbye. I promised to write and see him again.
I remember a day in October when I found out Marvin had Leukemia. I missed him, worried for him and loved him even more.
I remember a day in February the following year when I walked into a hospital in Billings, Montana, a small frail man laying in the bed in front of me.
“I never thought I’d see you again,” he said. Tears came to my eyes as I sat with him, held his hand and still, loved him all the more.
Our last conversation was similar to our first. We talked about Chester, Montana, his experiences while teaching science and his passion for bird watching. He thumbed through a magazine, teaching me about the birds on each page.
Occasionally, he would lay his head back against the bed, too tired to speak. I sat on his bed with him, watching, grateful beyond words that God had brought this good man into my life. He had taught me so much, and had been an answer to a missionary’s heart-felt prayer.
I remember four days ago when I found out Marvin passed away. I got in my car, and reached the Red Lodge turn off just as the sun was coming up.
His funeral was beautiful and reminded me of the goodness of his life.
I love this dear, dear man. I miss him. I will see him again, and when I do we will talk of science classes in Chester, Montana and we will watch the birds fly.”