By Elder Caiden Brown
(A letter to me in 20 years)
Dear Caiden Brown,
Your time as a full-time missionary is about to come to a close. And for that reason, I wanted to write you a letter that you can read in the future that will remind you of your experience as a full-time servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Never forget, Caiden, the ways your life has been touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ, service, and the pure love of Christ from the people that surround you, especially the wonderful souls that you were able to teach in The Bronx, Newburgh and New Rochelle. Never forget where you found YOUR Jesus Christ.
You came out to the mission field not knowing much. You had no idea how to speak Spanish and you weren't too familiar with the gospel as taught in the scriptures, but you had the desire to work, learn and serve. That desire carried you through your 2-year long journey. It definitely wasn't easy at the beginning. You struggled a lot with learning Spanish and that was really frustrating for you, but you had a great trainer (Elder Hinckley) who expected a lot out of you and brought the best out of all you did. Although it was tough, you fell in love with the people the moment you met them. Remember Rigoberto? He will always have a special place in your heart. He changed your life forever. Even though you couldn't communicate with him, there was just something there that brought you so close together. After a long 6 months of working with him you walked into the waters of baptism with him. One year after that you saw him walk into the celestial room in the temple. Never forget how much you loved the people.
You weren't really prepared for your first transfer when it arrived. It was heart breaking to leave the place that became so close to you. And you definitely weren't ready for the surprise that was waiting for you in the city of Newburgh. You didn't know what hard was until you served there. Amongst all the mean words, snotty rejections, long hot days and the true desire you and your companion had to be obedient and work hard, you found YOUR Jesus Christ. Remember May 22, 2016? As you were studying the words of both ancient and modern-day prophets everything clicked in your brain and in your heart - the gospel was real, Jesus Christ truly was your Savior, the plan of salvation was a divine plan made by a loving and real Father in Heaven, repentance was real. The Spirit had never touched you so strong before in your life, and you will never to be the same after that day. After leaving that personal study, you knew Jesus Christ. And you knew what he had done for you. Never forget, Caiden, May 22. The work was still hard after that. You learned what earnest and heartfelt pleading with the Lord was and the comforting power of the Holy Ghost through sacred fasts. You learned how to work hard and be obedient. Never forget the lessons learned in that place called Newburgh.
Remember all of your companions? You definitely got lucky with them! The influence they had on you was life changing and they all became so close to you. I hope they are still your friends. If not… contact them! They helped you reach your potential and show love towards the people you taught. Remember the Gutierrez family? They were a family with not much at all. They had just arrived from Honduras and were living in an attic with 7 people. It was hard for you and Elder Frei to watch that. You guys did all you could to help them out, by gathering the ward together and uniting in finding them a place to stay until we found them a new apartment, helping them with clothes and food, finding work for those that were capable and providing an amazing, humble Christmas. That Christmas was one that I hope you never forget. You began to understand really what life was all about, and how to find yourself and your purpose while amongst a world so caught up in things that don't matter. Elder Frei, along with so many other influences, taught you how to serve and taught you what life really is all about. Never forget Matthew 25:40.
It was a tender mercy for you to be able to return back to the place you love (The Bronx) to finish your time as a full-time servant of the Lord. You and Elder Munoz went into your last three transfers with a fire that could not be extinguished. You both came into the area not knowing anyone, and so you started from ground zero. You both worked as hard and as smart as you could and you learned so many lessons from each other. Remember Francisco? After about 3 weeks of doing all you guys could to meet everybody and to help the work of the Lord grow in the area you were in, a miracle happened. At an Easter party, the ward was putting together a man walked in the door and his name was Francisco. He had a friend in the Dominican Republic who was a strong member of the church and he wanted to come and figure out a little bit more about who we were. You began teaching him and a month later Francisco walked into the waters of baptism. Never forget that the Lord provides when you do our part!
It's hard to put into words the experience you had serving the Lord’s mission. The Caiden Brown that came home from New York was most certainly different from the one that left Orem Utah to the big city. I just want you to remember, Caiden, how close you came to the Savior throughout this journey. He became your best friend, someone you knew was watching out for you and someone you knew you could count on. When times got hard you received strength through direct communication with your Heavenly Father. You learned to develop your life on the teachings of the scriptures and to study them with “real intent”. You learned the importance of the sacrament, a time where you were able to receive revelation from a loving Heavenly Father. Those short 10 minutes when the sacrament was being administered became the most sacred part of your week. Remember when you had a lot of questions and doubts about what you were doing? Your purpose, was it even worth it? You took those questions and doubts to the sacrament truly believing that God would provide an answer. And he did. Right as the sacrament hymn began to be sung the Spirit touched your heart and answered all the questions and threw away all the doubts. Never forget the basics of the gospel.
Well, as you can tell, the time you spent in New York was sacred to you. And I pray that you never forget it. Caiden, never forget the Lord’s mission.