We recently took a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Yellowstone. Our first night in Jackson Hole, my husband and I took our kids and sat around the fire pit in front of our hotel. We laughed as we told stories and jokes (that really weren't that funny!).
Then, our almost 14-year-old son said he wanted to have more of a fireside and talk about something spiritual. I told him to take the lead. He said the topic was families. He explained why he thought families were important and asked us to each take a turn doing the same.
When we made our rounds, a strange man (in his late 20s) came out of no where, walked over to the fire pit, sat down, and asked if he could join our party. He was obviously drunk and was swearing. My first instinct was to tell the man to watch his language in front of my kids, but I had a strong feeling I needed to stay quiet. So I did.
My son, who was standing, leaned in towards his dad and quietly asked if he should keep going. My husband said "Yes." As we watched his nervousness turn quickly into confidence, my son updated this stranger on our fireside and invited him to take his turn in telling us why family is important to him.
I fully expected this man to get up and walk away, saying this wasn't the type of party he was looking for. But, he surprised us all by participating. He looked uncomfortable at first and his speech was a little slurred. However, only moments into speaking, he seemed completely lucid, was fully into our fireside, and his language was MUCH better. Without sharing details, he informed us that his family didn't understand him and he often left home for weeks at a time without checking in. But he knew his family loved him.
When the man finished, my son wrapped things up by baring his testimony. Without hesitation, he said that we are all part of Heavenly Father's family and He will always love us, no matter what. He reminded us that we need to pray so we can know of His love for us. He also told us how important it is to tell our family members how much we love and appreciate them. He closed with, "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
This man had moist eyes as he thanked us for letting him stay and participate with our fireside. He said it was something he needed to hear. Then he told us he liked our family values. We asked him his name and took turns shaking his hand as we said good-night and left.
Back in our hotel room, my son broke down with uncontrollable tears. It took him a minute before he was able to speak. He told us he had prayed for weeks for a missionary experience. We believe it was no coincidence that this man staggered into our "fireside" that night. Although we will probably never see this man again, we all witnessed, if just for a moment, how the Spirit can change people.
I am so proud of my son for having the courage to continue his spiritual message in front of this stranger and bare his sweet testimony with so much power. I am also proud that this mama listened to a prompting and kept her mouth shut (for once!). Had I let the protective mother-bear lose and told this man to watch his language, a great missionary moment for my son would have been lost.
We prayed for this man that night in our family prayer. We prayed that, if he was able to feel of the Spirit that night, he would hang on to that feeling and know of Heavenly Father's love for him.
What a great example our children can be to us. As parents, we need to know when to teach and when to sit back, be quiet, and let our children teach us. When we do, who knows who else they will teach along the way.
Has your family experienced a missionary moment like ours? If so, please share in the comments. We would love to hear about it.