Hard times often end up being the most rewarding for LDS missionaries.
“It was the worst transfer ever. The absolute worst,” said Natalie Schereck, a BYU senior studying elementary education.
Schereck and her companion Emily Goddard, a BYU grad, were serving in the Guatemala Retalhuleu Mission and having an extremely difficult time finding anyone to teach. Schereck remembers praying desperately for someone to come to church and pleading with God for a miracle.
“It was a Sunday and I knew we really needed someone to come to church that day,” Schereck said. “I prayed and asked Heavenly Father for a miracle. During sacrament meeting a guy in jeans and a colored polo shirt walked in, and I knew that’s our miracle.”
At that time, Goddard and Schereck said they had no idea this man would eventually join the church and serve a mission. They did however put in as much effort as possible to help him embrace the gospel, Goddard said.
She said they introduced themselves after sacrament meeting and learned the man’s name was Oscar Rodriguez. He had come to church to see his friend’s missionary “farewell” talk.
Schereck said Rodriguez seemed interested and allowed her and Goddard to teach him the first lesson before leaving church. A return appointment was made for later that week at Rodriguez’s home.
Upon arrival at the predetermined address, Schereck and Goddard were unable to find Rodriguez’s house and consequently lost contact. It was not until a few weeks and a handful of miracles later they ran into Rodriguez on the street right in front of the Elders Quorum President’s house, Schereck said.
“That kept happening, we kept losing him and then he would miraculously show up. Some other sisters were having a baptism and Oscar heard and just showed up,” Goddard said. “He was so excited.”
Goddard said she and her new companion were able to teach Rodriguez more frequently from that time on and eventually he chose to be baptized.
“When Oscar decided to be baptized I had already been transferred, so he traveled three hours to my new area to tell me the news,” Schereck said.
Goddard and Schereck said that beginning in the second lesson Rodriguez would always use the phrase: “When I go on a mission…” After his baptism Goddard said Rodriguez worked with the bishop to become worthy for the temple and receive his priesthood ordination.
Now two years later, Rodriguez has been called to serve as a missionary in the Peru Huancayo Mission, the same mission Goddard’s father served in more than two decades ago. Rodriguez reports to the Peru Missionary Training Center in early October.
“We watched him open his call over Facebook video chat,” Schereck said. “He got all dressed up, invited the majority of the ward to his house and was so excited when he read where he was going.”
When asked about his experience with the missionaries, Rodriguez said he could not have asked for better teachers.
“(Schereck and Goddard) were amazing missionaries,” Rodriguez said. “They changed my life and I want to do that for the people who are waiting for me.”
Schereck’s parents Robert and Mary Merril are currently serving as humanitarian aid missionaries in Peru and plan to pick Rodriguez up from the airport to drive him to the MTC.
The Merrils said they are eager to meet someone who their daughter taught while on her mission and are excited for Rodriguez to be able to teach the people of Peru.
“Oscar will be a great missionary,” Schereck said. “My only advice for him is to follow the Spirit and love the people. That’s how we found him.”
Schereck and Goddard said their experience with Rodriguez helped them realize the effect that people have on each other, with or without a missionary tag.
“Every interaction you have with someone, either on or off the mission, can really change their life. With Oscar we saw the end results but with so many others we honestly have no idea how many other people we impacted,” Goddard said.
Schereck and Goddard said they often reflect on how meeting Rodriguez has positively impacted their lives.
“I think about (Rodriguez) and the other people I taught every time I take the sacrament. I also put them on the prayer roll in the temple. The people of Guatemala will always have a piece of my heart,” Schereck said.