The senior missionary laughed at the disbelief on our faces.
It’s true! I really was a hippie, a 70’s hippie. My hair hung over my collar and my big mustache hung down to my chin. I really looked the part.
Did you act the part?
Oh yes! I was addicted to everything that it was possible to be addicted to.
What did your wife think about it?
Ummm…she left me. She said she wanted a divorce, that she was never coming back again. That was the worst day of my life! I fell into the deepest, darkest, most excruciating pit imaginable. I didn’t want to breathe, I didn’t want to live.
He swallowed his emotions, then laughed again.
I thought spiders were the worst thing in life. But this was much, much worse.
We all laughed as we thought of the spiders we had seen. Then the man continued his story.
The Lord saved my life and my marriage—even though I was an atheist.
Wow! What did He do?
He transferred me to night shift.
Yup. I was working at a facility for troubled adolescents.
He laughed again.
It was good training for working with young missionaries!
And He transferred the weirdest woman on the staff to work the night shift with me.
The weirdest woman?
I had noticed her before. She would bring a loaf of bread to work, and say, “Well, Brother M is feeling kind of down. I just thought I would take him this bread after work today.” Or she would bring a casserole and say, “Sister J isn’t well, so I thought I’d bring her this for their dinner tonight.” I thought to myself, why would she want to that? She talked funny, too, always saying “sister” and “brother. I couldn’t figure out why she would want to do that either.
There were just the two of us, and 24 mostly-sleeping adolescents there all night long. Some nights were really long, so we talked a lot. When we ran short of things to talk about, I asked her to tell me about her church—but I put my hand up real quick and told her I didn’t want to know about any of that religious stuff, just about casseroles and bread and things like that.
So she told me about ward activities. There she was talking funny again, because I didn’t know what a ward was, but the stories she told about the games were funny and the food sounded great.
She told me about service projects and teens who wanted to go to something called seminary at 6 am before school every day. She told me about people who preached for free. She told me about cooking food for funerals and about families who gathered together to talk and to laugh through their tears and hug as they remembered a mother or uncle.
I remembered sitting up until 2 am, talking with my atheist hippie friends about how silly religion was. But the things this weird woman told me didn’t sound silly. I thought it was the most practical church I had ever heard of.
One night I was sitting alone in my house. It wasn’t a home anymore since my wife left. I missed her so much! For some reason I picked up a Bible. I held it and looked at it and then opened it and began to read.
I can’t explain what happened to me that night. It was a deeply intense and spiritual experience. But that night, I knew—I knew—there was a God.
When I went back to work, I told my co-worker I wanted to hear about that religious stuff. So she sent two young men in white shirts and ties to talk to me. They weren’t much past being adolescents themselves, but what they said made sense. It was what I felt when they talked to me, though, that made me keep listening.
I had to tell everyone that now I knew there was a God, and that the things I was learning were true. I talked to my hippie friends. They didn’t like what I was saying, and one by one, they left. I guess God knew I needed a whole new start, because pretty soon, I didn’t have a friend left in the whole world.
We looked at his beautiful wife sitting next to him, and asked him about his marriage. He laughed again as he started the story.
It was unbelievable. I had been an avowed atheist for so many years, and now I knelt in prayer! I missed my wife. I ached for her. I asked God what I should do. The answer was “Court her!”
I asked my wife to go to a basketball game with me. She knew I did not like basketball, so she told me I was crazy and refused to go.
I called her again and asked her to go to a concert with me. She was even more surprised. But she still said no.
I asked her to go to a play. She thought, what’s up with this guy? But she finally agreed to go with me.
I kept courting her. She began to believe that I really had changed. Eventually she agreed to come back home, but only if I wouldn’t talk about “that religion stuff.”
I didn’t talk about “that religion stuff” but I did keep going to church and I read the scriptures and I introduced her to my new friends. I asked her one day if she would feed the missionaries. Well, my wife has never refused to feed anyone.
So the missionaries came. And they asked if they could share a message. And she listened.
One night when the missionaries were coming to dinner, my wife told me that she was really tired and that she just did not feel that she could listen to a message that night. I told her that the missionaries would receive inspiration not to give her a message that night.
She followed me around all evening to make sure I didn’t say anything to the missionaries.
After the meal, one of the missionaries looked at my wife and said,
“Sister, I just don’t feel like tonight would be a good time to give a message. Could we do that another time?”
Well, that did it. She was convinced.
That was a lot of years ago. But I am here to tell you that the Lord did not just save my life, he gave me a new, wonderful life. He did not just save my marriage, he gave me a new, wonderful marriage.
We never dreamed that the Lord would send us to the Philippines, but here we are so we can be instruments in the Lord’s hands to help save other lives and other marriages.
But I kill spiders.