There is hope for those who have strayed from the gospel. There is forgiveness for those who have broken God’s commandments.
Most Friday evenings, church members from Stockton, CA, meet at the chapel at 7 pm to play soccer.
Last Thursday night, my missionary companion and I received a call from a less-active member named Juan who wanted to know what time the soccer activity was. We told him it would be the next day at 7 pm and that we would send him the address of the chapel in a text.
I first met Juan on my first night in Stockton. When we went to his house it was dark outside, and there were a few dogs roaming around inside the fence. We climbed up the three dusty porch steps to go inside, and we taught his family a short lesson. We soon discovered that Juan had been a missionary in Mexico over 15 years ago. After his mission he had slowly stopped going to church, and for the last 8 years he had been inactive.
In that first lesson with Juan, we saw that he had an excellent knowledge of the gospel and that he knew many scriptures by memory. When we committed his family to read a page of our pamphlet at the end of the lesson he said, “Ask me anything about this page and I can tell you!”
Weeks passed and we tried to visit him again a few times, but since he was never home we decided that it wouldn’t be worth our time to keep going. Finally, out of the blue this Thursday night, he called us asking about soccer, and we felt that maybe the Spirit was starting to work in his heart.
On Saturday, I felt impressed that we should stop by his house to invite him to church. We drove to the downtown and parked on the corner of the street to walk to his house. Another man sat on the dusty steps smoking, surrounded by dogs, and told us that Juan wasn’t home and that he wouldn’t be getting back from work until late in the night.
We returned to the car on the street corner and sat down inside to make a few plans. Then, a black car pulled up next to us and the driver motioned for us to roll down the window. We saw it was Juan, and he asked what time church would be on Sunday! We told him, and he said he’d be there the next day.
On Sunday, I sat next to my companion on the left side of the chapel after playing the piano for the first hymn, and together we watched various brothers and sisters come up to the podium to bear their testimonies. Then I saw Juan walk up, whom I hadn’t even noticed arrive.
He began his testimony by sharing how long he’d been gone and what he’d been through in the past few years. He shifted from left to right and adjusted the microphone every few seconds. His sentences were choppy, and his hands were shaking. Finally, after giving a summary of his past few years of inactivity, he said, “More than anything, I just want to share my testimony with you.”
Then there was over a minute of silence. He tried to gather his emotions, but he began to weep. After a few more seconds, he breathed in and said simply,
“I know that this church is true.”
The Spirit rushed over our large congregation. We were all filled with emotion. This man, who had been lost for so long, was finally found. He had returned to the gospel path of righteous living and repentance. He was the lost sheep that had been rescued by the Savior.
“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:7).
My friends, there is hope for those who have strayed from the gospel. There is forgiveness for those who have broken God’s commandments.
“Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them” (3 Nephi 18:32).
I am blessed that I have been a means of bringing salvation unto some of God’s lost sheep, my brothers and sisters. May we all treasure the great gospel message that Jesus of Nazareth lives and that He does offer us new life.