Stories: (#1) Elder Hansen
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|This is the first in a series of stories about the California Central/Oakland mission, which we have sent to each of our children during the first few weeks of their missions. This story had been passed down through several levels of retelling and so I cannot vouch for the exact authenticity of all the details, but this is as it was told to me.
"For my episitle this evening, son, I think it would be a good time to tell you about Elder Hansen...
In April of 1974, my former companion, Elder William Hendrickson, arrived in the California Central Mission. He had been preceeded by 5 older brothers all of whom had served honorable missions. In fact, I think 1 or 2 of his older brothers had served in other parts of California.
On his first day in the mission field, Elder Hendrickson was assigned to the small town of Madera in the Southern reaches of the San Joaquin Valley. He was met at the bus station by Elder Randy Hansen . Now, Elder Hansen had a reputation for not being a great Gospel Scholar; nor did many accuse him of having a snob level IQ. However, no body every doubted Elder Hansen when it came to work. He was as hard a working missionary as California had ever seen. For this reason, he was considered to be an excellent Trainer for new missionaries. In some future letter, I must tell you about Elder HendricksonÂs first day. But, in order to do so, I must first tell you about Elder Hansen.
Randy Hansen lost his Dad during the Viet Nam war. He was raised by his mother in a small town in Arizona. Randy was a big kid.; tough, had quite a reputation as the town scrapper. He was the Captain of the local Football team during his Senior year in High School. He had not always been very active in Church, although is Mother did the best she could to raise him after she lost her husband. Randy had a great love for his Mom, but considered her to be, you knowÂ
a Mom. Someone whose job is to tell you to go to Church and pray for you while you hang out with the guys and be tough. Randy had 2 major loves in life. Football and a 57 Chevy which he kept highly polished and tuned up like a fine Swiss watch.
On the night he graduated from High School, Randy Hansen went out with the guys, got rip roaring drunk, came home, gave his sleeping mom a slap on the bottom and said ÂsÂlong mom, I luv ya but gotta go find my own way now. SÂ okay if you wanna pray fer me, but I gotta go nowÂ
Â with that, he threw a few shirts and drawers in the trunk of his Chevy and headed South, leaving his mother crying on the doorstep.
He related later that he drove all night wearing off his Drunk. He did not follow any particular route, just kept going South where ever the highway went until around dawn, he pulled into some gas station (57 Chevies were great gas guzzlers) and waited for it to open. On the front window of the gas station was a local job listing advertising for workers in a meat packing plant which was one of the major industries of the town. Randy was only 18, but big for his age, and evidently he convinced the boss of the meat packing plant that he was well built for lugging around big slabs of beef . Before he knew it, he had a full time job and an apartment and a sweetheart with whom he was spending a lot of time and seriously considering marriage.
Now, when a young man considers marriage, he gets a major wake up call about life. It is very sobering to realize what kind of a commitment that involves, and so, Randy decided that if he was going to get married, he wanted his fiancÃ© to take the discussions and understand his religion.
Now, as it turned out, The only gas station in town, in fact the same one Randy had first stopped at on the first morning when he arrived, belonged to the local LDS Branch President. Every day, Randy would stop by on his way home from work for a few gallons of gas, and occasionally, to work on the Chevy with the Branch President. In this way, Randy and the Branch President got to be very good friends.
There is a locator program in the Church by which missing members are sometimes found through circulating pictures of these missing souls to every Bishop and Branch President in a region. Evidently, in developing his new life, Randy had not bothered to write or contact his mother. Fearing the worst for him she had gone to her Bishop who had reported him to the Church lost persons system. When the Branch President submitted a request for records on Randy Hansen, he of course found out that there was a flag on the records and contacted RandyÂs former Bishop as well as his Mother to let them know that Randy was well. The following Sunday, which just happened to be RandyÂs 19th birthday, the Branch President called Randy into his office and and after conducting a proper Priesthood worthiness interview, said something like this:
ÂRandy, you know, IÂd like to think you and I have become good friends over the last few weeks since you have been living here. It is for that reason that I am going to ask of you a big favorÂ
ÂSure, President, anythingÂ
ÂRandy, I have had a special feeling as your Branch President that the Lord wants you to serve a missionÂÂ
ÂI donÂt know, President, you know I wasnÂt very active in High School and IÂm engaged to be marriedÂ
ÂI realize all that and IÂm not asking you to accept a call at this time, or anything like that. I only ask that you go home tonight and sincerely, truthfully, ask the Lord about this. If you come by the station tomorrow and tell me that you still donÂt think itÂs a good thing, I wonÂt discuss it with you any further.Â
ÂWell, President, I guess I owe you that at least. YouÂve become the best friend I have in this town.Â
ÂI appreciate that Randy. I know that you are an honorable man, and trust that if you commit to take this to the Lord, you will do so.Â
That night, Randy dropped off his fiancÃ©e (who, by the way, was scheduled to be baptized by this time) and returned early to his apartment. He related later that it was the first time in his ÂadultÂ life that he had really knelt down by himself in the privacy of his apartment with the lights down low and really ÂtalkedÂ to the Lord. As with many prayers of such magnitude, much of what was communicated that evening could only be the property of memories between Randy and the Lord. But suffice to say, that after several hours, when Randy finally got up to go to bed, he knew that the Lord had intended for him to go on a Mission.
The next day, on his way home from work, as usual, Randy stopped by the Gas Station. The Branch President was waiting for him:
ÂWell Randy, did you have an chance to follow up on our conversation form yesterday?Â
ÂYes, President, I did and, though I am a little afraid to admit it, I know that the Lord does want me to serve a mission.Â
With that, the Branch President breathed a sigh of relief and said:
ÂRandy, IÂve never done anything like this before, and certainly wouldnÂt have done so in this case if I didnÂt feel so strongly about your callingÂ
With that, the Branch President reached around back into his coveralls back pocket and took out an envelope from the Missionary Committee in Salt Lake.
ÂRandy, I took the liberty of sending in paper work on you some time ago. I received your mission call back in the mail last week. I wasnÂt quite sure how to tell you because I was afraid you would think me presumptuous in sending in the paperwork, but, here it is, you are due to report to the Mission Home on Thursday. Now, I know your boss and heÂs already told me that although he would be sorry to lose you, if you really wanted to go do this thing, he would let you go and offer you a job when you returned if you still wanted one.Â
NOTE: (Keep in mind, things were done a bit differently in those days. Missionaries were sometimes called on missions solely at the discretion of a Church Leader, who might even send in paperwork separately for the missionary)
Randy was dumbfounded! He had thought perhaps in a few weeks or months, but 3 days! Accordingly, he spent the rest of the next day checking out of his job, apartment and saying good-bye to his fiancÃ©e. The next day, Wednesday, he drove back up North to spend a day with his Mother who, needless to say, was very emotional about her son who was lost and now found. The Branch President had coordinated things with her Bishop back home and between the two units, arrangements had been made for luggage, clothing and essentials. The following day, Thursday, Bishop, Branch President and Mother drove Elder Randy Hansen up to Salt Lake City, Utah, wherein he reported to the Salt Lake Mission home and later, to the California Central Mission in Oakland California. He was a powerful instrument in the hand of the Lord. Through his intervention, many new missionaries were carefully prepared to serve great missions. Elder Hansen also baptized the crown Prince of the African nation of Ghana, who later became one of the first Black Melchizedek Priesthood holders and brought the gospel like a flood back to his own countryÂ
but that is another story.
It is getting late, and I must close in order to get this to you tomorrow in the mail. We look forward to hearing from you, son, and wish you all the best."
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