Lights Along the Shore
A number of years ago I was an active private pilot. I was working for an engineering company in St. George, Utah. The firm was a small regional firm and every week I would generally be off to do business using a single engine Cessna airplane. I was one of the senior engineers with the responsibility of managing assigned clients and projects.
On one occasion, I had to fly from St. George to Callio, Nevada, pick up the Mayor of Callio and then fly to Carson City, Nevada near Reno. We were presenting an application to a State funding agency for financing a project we were planning in the city of Callio. To be on time for the early meeting, I left St. George at 4:00 am. The night was dark but the weather was clear so I was flying visual flight rules. I held an outbound course to Callio using the ADF navigation instrument tuned to a local St. George AM radio station. With no wind, I figured the course would get me close enough to Callio to see its airport beacon before I lost contact with the radio station. I was looking out the wind screen at pitch black except for the brilliant Milky Way in the perfectly smooth air as I slid across that classic southern Utah sky. That is peaceful, to say the least.
The flight plan worked perfectly. Seeing the familiar blinking white and green beacon at the Callio airport, I knew the exact direction to my destination. Soon, I saw the lights of the city which completely oriented me to land safely. The waiting mayor, climbed on board and after a short taxi we were off again from that uncontrolled airport, climbing to my planned altitude.
My navigation plan to Carson City was even more primitive. I planned to navigate dead reckoning using the directional gyro on a course direct to Carson City. Dead reckoning is subject to cumulative errors but I knew when it became light, I could stay on course using land marks until I could pick up navigation aids using the ADF or Reno VOR. I set my course and began visiting with the Mayor. After 20 or 30 minutes I saw a flashing airport beacon ahead of us. I could not believe it. There is nothing along that route through central Nevada, but I continued flying toward the beacon. Finally, the lights on the ground told me the truth. I recognized the city of Callio. Woops, I had become distracted while visiting and drifted a complete 180 degrees off course and had returned to where I had earlier taken off.
A beacon is a conspicuous device designed to attract attention from far away to a specific location. Beacons help guide navigators toward their destinations. However, the lights on the ground in the city are equally important. They orient the navigator and show him the details of the correct way. This experience was a real life allegory to me comparable to the words of hymn 335, Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy:
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
From his light-house ever more.
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest tossed.
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman,
You may rescue, you may save.
Jesus Christ is your beacon, but it is your example through actions and attitude that are the lights along the shore. Therefore, while you work with stake and ward leaders and members, “…seek to be a blessing, not a burden” to them. You will develop relationships that will last the rest of your life (PMG p. 217). The Lord said: “… let your light so shine…” (3 Nephi 12:14) The following are a few specific items that may help you let your light shine:
An Elder in our mission recently sent this email to a member who forwarded it to me.
“Dear [Member]…I want to thank you for the privilege it has been to get to know you and your wife. Thank you for your good example. I am being transferred to ______. We will see each other in the future. Greetings, Elder ______”
I am here to tell you, this missionary gets it. That member told me all the good he sees in this Elder who learned the names of the children of the members in the ward and talked to them every week at church. He learned the members’ names and served them and he cared enough to offer this personal thank you when he was transferred. This Elder is a giant in the eyes of those ward members. His light shines.
Line up and complement members for a job well done after they give talks and teach lessons. You will become a hero in their eyes.
After you go home, keep your Facebook posts appropriate and remain an example. You are on a pedestal to the members here, they see your posts and they know what is degrading. Be careful making promises and keep your promises after your mission. The example you set is your light on the shore and has an enormous effect on the members.
Make a lesson plan for member dinner appointments. Remember, connecting with people is the key to success on missions and in life. Develop your people skills and teaching skills. Be sensitive and do not push in where you are not welcome, but remember every member has a wayward kid, not enough money, troubled marriage, poor health, not enough time, etc., etc. Understand them, help them with their problems by teaching an appropriate message. Encourage their youth. That will endear you to them and you will be a light on the shore.
Be a master finder every day. Plan your day with a variety of finding methods complete with time duration and locations such as: door knocking, area book look-ups, 2-2-5, part or inactive member visits, street contacting, travel contacting, referral calls, etc. Then work your plan. You will be on a schedule, in a hurry, on the move and busy with a variety of activities instead of the alternative, a day of door knocking. Members know and respect master finders and your willingness to do this will be an important light to them.
Stay in the mainstream with your work. Avoid odd behavior and attitudes thinking it shows faithfulness. Skipping meals, skipping general conference, skipping all companionship study to get out and work is not smart. Be steady and balanced in your work and life. Remember, being a successful missionary has nothing to do with leadership calls.
Your priesthood has the authority and power for the ministering of angels. (D&C 84:26) A friend of ours said after winning a bout with cancer, “I could not have made it without the help of my guardian angels who helped me through it. They were living angles.” You may very well be a living angel to those members who see your light on the shore.