What would entice a young man to give up the comforts of home and the support of family and friends for two years to travel to an unfamiliar country, where everyone speaks a foreign language? For 20-year-old Brian Stevenson, of Naperville, the answer is to share his faith.
“My religion kind of defines me, and it brings me joy,” said the sophomore at Brigham Young University. “And, I want others to experience that.”
Stevenson, who belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in southwest Naperville, is a Mormon about to begin his mission.
The Lord’s Church, as it is sometimes referred, is built on the foundation of missionary work, according to Mormon.org/Worldwide.
More than 84,000 Latter-day Saints missionaries are spreading the word of Jesus Christ around the world today. Being part of that “call” is both an honor and a serious commitment, according to Brett Keenan, an elder at the Naperville church.
His oldest son, Nathaniel, now 23, did his mission in Fiji; Christopher, 21, was sent to Montreal, Quebec; and Nicholas, 20, is in Salt Lake City, Utah. Keenan says the time spent on mission can be life changing.
“You’re sort of out there in the middle of nowhere, and you have to decide who and what kind of person you are,” he said. “Your parents aren’t around; your teachers aren’t around; there’s no immediate feedback system. Most of all, you get to see who and what you are, how you behave, how you behave with others, how you handle diversity.”
While young Mormon men and women are on mission, they are allowed limited communication with their families. Stevenson acknowledges that will be different.
“They just want to keep you focused on mission work and not on what’s going on at home,” he said. “It’s a selfless thing.”
Stevenson will only be allowed to call home on Christmas and Mother’s Day. He and his family can write letters or email each other at any point. Those messages can only be read once a week, on Mondays. That’s a “free day” for missionaries, according to Brian’s mother, Julie Stevenson. She says she is “thrilled” that her son will be able to experience what she calls, “one of the most important things he will do in his life.”
That confidence and enthusiasm is shared by the entire Stevenson family and local Mormon community.
Brian received his mission call late last month while he was out of town. Both he and his family had been anticipating news of his assignment, according to his mother. But, she said, when the envelope finally arrived, her usual calm and collected demeanor temporarily disappeared.
“There was a big envelope sitting there for a day and a half,” she said. “I was threatening to steam it open or just rip it open. But, I didn’t. We waited for him.”
The Stevensons gathered their family plus a few of Brian’s friends when he opened his letter. She says he read it line by line, covering up each line with the envelope, so no one would see where he was headed before he did.
The call? Mexico Puebla South, southeast of Mexico City in the mountains.
“When I opened my call and I saw Mexico, I was very happy, very excited,” Stevenson said.
He leaves for Mexico in mid-December to begin his training.
And, Julie Stevenson’s wish for her youngest son?
“I want him to recognize in his daily work on the mission, the hand of God, that he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and that he’s being led by God.”Tags: faith
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1320 Ridgeland Ave., Naperville, on the north side of 95th Street between Plainfield Naperville and Book roads.