Missionary moments: `We were teetering'

Forty-one years ago, I served a mission in the Central Atlantic States and at one point was assigned to a small branch in Fredricksburg, Va. While there, we started building their first chapel, and I was able to do some work on it. We had one family from Warrenton, Va., about 20 miles away, the Claters, who had been recently baptized, and they traveled back and forth to Fredricksburg for Church meetings. To my knowledge, Charlie and June Clater and their small children were the only members in Warrenton.

Now, my wife and I are called to serve a senior mission in the West Virginia Charleston Mission, which includes the area around Roanoke and Lynchburg, which was all part of my old mission.

In early June, we went to the Washington Temple, and our route of travel took us through Warrenton. As we got close, my wife suggested that we stop and eat in Warrenton and see if I could recognize anything.

We stopped at a fast-food restaurant and walked next door to an auto repair place to use the phone book. I explained that I wanted to see if I could find a friend from 41 years ago. The auto repairman said, "Who are you looking for?" I said, Clater. A man standing at the counter asked, "Charlie Clater?" I said yes.

"Well, I know him." The man said Charlie and his wife were fine and had lunch with friends at another fast-food restaurant every Friday, which was today.

We drove over there and walked to where the gentleman said the group usually sits. I said, "Excuse me, is anyone here a Clater?" One man said, "Yes," then after three or four seconds shot his fist into the air and exclaimed, "Elder Bell!"

Then he got up and gave us a big bear hug. His wife did the same. We all shed some tears and sat down to talk. He told us about the growth of the Church in the area.

Brother Clater then pointed at me and told a friend sitting next to him, "This is the guy who started this whole thing." I said, "No, you folks were members already when I got here."

Brother Clater added: "Yes, Elder Bell, but we were teetering at that time. We could have gone either way, and you helped keep us in the Church."

What a special experience and blessing from the Lord to make us happy on that special day.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed