Just last week we had a Stake Conference and about halfway through the meeting we stood to sing “Called to Serve.” Up to that point in the meeting we heard some of the most simple, humble, and powerful testimonies I’ve heard from the pulpit in a long time. The spirit was strong.
When we stood to sing the hymn, I had no idea what the hymn number was and I had no idea that the hymn was going to be “Called to Serve.” But the minute I opened my mouth to sing…I found myself needing to shut it back down. I stood there for a few seconds in silence and tried again. Nope. It just wasn’t happening. Every time I’d start to sing, I was silenced by a power that I can only describe as the Holy Ghost.
People might have looked at me and wondered “Why the heck isn’t that guy singing? Why’s he getting all emotional over just one little hymn?”
I was asking myself that same question during this hymn when I looked up and saw a friend of mine on the stand that wasn’t singing either. I fixed my eyes on him and tried to read his face. He’d sing a few words and then stop, shake his head, and sort of look down. He’d pick his head back up and blink his eyes a few times as if to contain the tears.
I’m watching this man try to sing this easy little fast paced hymn but he can’t. He just cant. Every time he tries, he begins to lose it.
I felt a bond with this man because at that moment, I knew exactly what was going through his head. I knew what he knew. I felt what he felt. He was overcome with the goodness of the gospel. And so was I. But specifically…that darn hymn does something different to a missionary every time it’s sung.
I attempted to sing again. I just couldn’t. It continues for the entire hymn. I keep telling myself to pull it together but I can’t. How is it this little hymn can do this to me?
Trying to sing that hymn and simultaneously digest the blessings that flowed from serving the people in the Philippines was too much for my friend on the stand. I just know it. I could see it in his face. Even though he’s returned home from his mission over 30 years ago…the memories are as fresh in his mind today as they ever were.
For me personally, the minute that hymn begins, I can’t help but picture myself among lots of other missionaries singing our hearts out to God. I picture the day I left on my mission, the day I got home, and everything in between. I picture district meetings and zone conferences, baptisms and confirmations. I picture the faces of the people we’d bring food to on Christmas Eve who had nothing. I’d picture the faces of the old people we’d visit in convalescent homes who hadn’t had someone visit them in years. I picture the look of relief on people’s faces in the hospital as they’d realize that “the Elder’s are here” to give them a blessing.
And that is just the beginning of the memories I’d had as a missionary. In every way imaginable, “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.” (Job 29:15)
I was called to serve…chosen to witness for His name…to tell the Father’s story…and to proclaim His love far and wide.
There are a few hymns I just can’t get through. There is too much behind them. Too many memories. Too many emotions. “Called To Serve” is one of them.
Packed within that short little hymn is a reminder of how much God loves me. But not only that. It is a reminder of how much love I am capable of feeling toward all of God’s children.
So…to my friend in the front, I know exactly why you also had so much trouble singing “Called to Serve.”