Many months ago on a Wednesday night, the stake president called me and a few great brothers into his office to set us apart for our new callings.
It was dark outside when we arrived at the chapel. But when we entered the Stake President’s office, warm lamps gave a golden, homey feel to the room. It was a spacious office and the desk was a beautiful wood. Nice photos framed the walls and the credenza behind his desk. His chair was made of leather.
For a minute it seemed that we had entered a different world. Outside, the air was cold and dark and the only light came from the streetlamps and the headlights of the cars racing northward on University avenue. But inside, it was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful, and we could feel the gentle spirit in his holy office.
We were then all set apart and a marvelous spirit of revelation entered the room as each one of us obtained our respective blessings. Words of appreciation, compassion, and love were spoken. And then the holy hour was finished and we filed out from the room.
As I stood out in the dark parking lot, I thought about how much of a privilege it had been to spend time with our President and leader. I also thought about the long months ahead. He had called us to a work. And that work was to minister to dozens of fainting, struggling seamen, some in dire situations. Our call was to enter many homes, some where the spirit would not abide, and try to bring light to the weary and downtrodden. Perhaps occasionally the Stake President would call us back in for a report, but the majority of our ministry would take place out in the field, in homes and workplaces, at restaurants and ice-cream shops, in lonely, dejected corners of the world where hardly any light shines.
It was after I had these thoughts that an image came to mind. I saw a castle on the top peak of a cold, jagged mountain. The castle had many windows and yellow light shone out with the same warmth as a Thomas Kincade puzzle. But the mountain below it was icy, cold, and blue. In fact, a winter storm blew about and snow fluttered through the air.
In my mind, this image represented our calling as ministers. All of us receive our call while in the warm castle at the top of the mountain. Enveloped in the Father’s light, we willingly accept our call, and our duty is explained. But no call is easy. We know that discomfort and hard work are ahead as we fulfill our Master’s orders. In that castle, we prepare our supplies, a backpack of hiking equipment, gloves, and heavy jackets that will prepare us for our sojourn through the ice. And then we leave.
But our Leader always provides us with companions in our journey. We rarely minister alone. With a trusted parter we make our way through streets and apartment complexes. We drive miles, cut across grassy plains, and enter humble homes. We encounter people who do not want to see us. We are spit upon and reviled. But we often enter homes to which we have been prayed. People clasp our hands tightly and kiss our cheeks as we provide sweet relief.
And so this ministry through this icy mountain, this vast expanse of lonely and dreary land, is not something only to be suffered through and endured. Rather, our very best memories will come from the times that we find those in need, who feel totally cut off from that castle up high. We will lift them and bring them promises of a future return to our Father.
But in the back of our minds, all throughout our ministry, is a desire to eventually return to that castle on the mountain. Perhaps every so often the Father will call us in for a report, and we will rest from our labors for a season. But then, invariably, it will be time to return to the vineyard, where we must labor until the final day comes.
My friends, we are currently all in this field of labor. We have left the castle where our Heavenly Father resides. He has assigned us to a portion in this vineyard, whether we believe we have arrived here by chance or by providence. He has a work for us to do, and that work may seem long, draining, and downright hard. But we must never forget that one day, the work will be done and the Father will call us home.
In the meantime, may we enjoy this sojourn through this lone and dreary world. There are many experiences to be had in the trenches. Our greatest eternal friends will arise from these lowly struggles. And in a future day, in the great assembly hall of our Father’s castle, we will meet again in peace and talk about the days when we served and loved and cried together in the valley down below.
And I suspect that we will be content to relax for a season before, once again, as Alma and the sons of Mosiah, we become ready to descend from the warmth and safety of our Celestial home to find and help others who are still out there, waiting, watching, and longing for a light along the shore, for the light they can faintly see glimmering from the windows of the castle so high above.
That we may enjoy and cherish our time in the trenches, while keeping a longing for our eventual reward, is my prayer.