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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guest Post: Tales from Cuyahoga 3 - The Mistake by the Lake

Reed Soper was born and raised in southern California. He considered attending the Lord's University but opted for BYU instead where he met Kathryn Lynard doing his home teaching. They married in 1992 and have seven children. Friends and loved ones often describe Reed as "difficult" or "a slow learner." In his spare time, he likes (virgin) pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. Don't miss Reed's previous guest posts.

There are two types of mission stories – inspirational and funny. I like to save the inspirational ones for church talks.
- Reed Soper

It was early spring of 1985. I had graduated high school the year before and had recently quit my job to "prepare" (1) for my missionary service. My papers had been submitted and all that was left was to wait. My father had served a mission some 30 years before. He said that after he submitted his papers, he went to a travel agency to look at the various posters from far away places. While there, he saw a poster displaying a large field of dutch tulips and he felt impressed that he would be called to serve to the Netherlands. Lo and behold, that was where he was called. I can remember one night thinking of this story as I was in bed and drifting off to sleep. I had a strong impression that my call would come in the mail the next day and I imagined where I might be sent. My older brother would be coming home in a few weeks from Venezuela. (2)  Two young men from my stake had recently been called to London. I thought of all the interesting and far-away places that might be a part of my near future. As I thought, the word "Ireland" came to my mind clearly and repeatedly. My 19-year old self was satisfied with this answer and fell asleep.

The next day, as I had suspected, my call came in the mail. I had heard stories of many young men waiting for their families to return home in the evening and gather around before opening the envelope. I committed myself to wait to open the envelope for a good five minutes (3)  and then decided I needed to confirm my call to Ireland. I opened the envelope, filled with pictures of what my haircut should look like, lists of clothes I should bring, lists of things I should not bring, and the cover letter. My hands shook a bit from nervousness as I read the letter. The first time through I couldn't figure out where I was going or when I was to report. I sat down and steadied the letter against the dining room table. Ohio Cleveland Mission. What? Wait? I checked the envelope to make sure it was actually addressed to me since I was supposed to go to Ireland. This must be some mistake. I read further. I would learn the discussions in Spanish. Wait a minute here. I'm no geography expert, but Ohio is pretty far from the Mexican border or any other place where Spanish is spoken by a large segment of the population. I was confused and left the materials on the table to be digested at a later time.

One of my older brother's friends had been called to Cleveland and had recently returned. When he had received his call, I remember teasing him about going to the jewel of the rust belt. I was aware that the Cuyahoga River had caught fire during our lifetimes and Lake Erie was known to live up to its name. I called him up and, without disclosing my call, asked him how frequently he ran into Spanish speaking people during his stint. After some thought, he replied that he could not recall contacting one person who spoke Spanish. Apparently my mother could sense my lack of excitement over the call and suggested that this might be payment for me being a smart aleck through my teen years. (4)

So there it was, Cleveland and Spanish speaking. In time I came to accept the call and even look forward to going. I'm not sure this is doctrinal, but this was one time that karma played a big role in a mission call.

(1) My preparation included sleeping late, watching a lot of tv and going to a record store on a regular basis.
(2) I noticed at the time of my brother's mission call, everyone over the age of 50 pronounced Venezuela as "Venzueala."
(3) I've always had exceptional willpower.
(4) I could always tell when I was clearly and obviously in the wrong cause my mom would not be in my corner.

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