Jon Ryan Jensen: From pioneer trek in Wyoming to the mission field in France, God knows His children

‘Do you really eat the whole orange?’ wasn’t the question I expected a missionary to ask while working on assignment in Lyon, France

While in Lyon, France, covering a ministry visit of Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I was caught by surprise when a sister missionary came up to me and asked, “Do you really eat the whole orange?”

Was I on some odd hidden-camera show? No. The answer to this sister missionary’s question was, “Yes. I do eat the whole orange.” That’s not the story, though. The real story starts with a different question: Why was this seemingly random missionary on the other side of the world from where I live asking me about how I eat oranges?

I didn’t know Sister Anni Hall from Chandler, Arizona, when she approached me in Lyon that day. But her companion, Sister Rynn Waddoups, was a member of my family’s stake a few years prior. I was surprised to see her and still confused by her companion’s question.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to missionaries of the France Lyon Mission in Lyon, France on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

While Rynn was in high school, my wife and I served as part of our stake’s pioneer trek youth activity. Sister Waddoups was in our “family” for a week with other young men and young women from different wards in our stake.

Eating oranges on the hot, dusty, windy handcart trails of Wyoming isn’t easy or clean. But it’s a lot easier when you don’t peel the orange — which I don’t. I got a lot of laughs that day, but I stand by my quirky habit.

Rynn Waddoups, right, and her pioneer trek brother take a break from pulling a handcart by having a stick pull in Wyoming in June 2018. | Ryan Jensen

Fast forward four years, and Sister Waddoups mentions this oddity to her companion one day as they walk the streets of France. Of course, Sister Hall thinks this is absurd and can’t possibly be true. Who does that?

The next day, standing at attention before taking a mission photo with Elder Soares, Sister Waddoups leans over to her companion and tells her that the guy who eats the whole orange is standing with the photographers.

Again, incredulous, Sister Hall can’t believe this could be happening. But it was.

A funny memory is shared with a companion one day, the person involved in the story shows up in France the following day. The dots are connected.

Most missionaries, most people, will have a moment or many moments in their lives when they ask God if He is really there and if He can just show them in some simple way that He knows them. For Sister Waddoups, this was one of those moments. And in a way only He could have orchestrated, he reminded her of her stake’s pioneer trek, her orange-eating trek “pa” and the fact that He can bring all things together for our good.

In the April 2024 general conference, Elder Soares spoke of the temple and the confidence that comes as we honor our covenants.

“I know that when the Lord sees even a spark of desire or a flicker of righteous effort in our willingness to center our lives on Him and on the ordinances and covenants we make in His house, He will bless us, in His perfect way, with the miracles and tender mercies we need,” he said.

And as Sister Waddoups can attest, those blessings and tender mercies may come in most unexpected ways.

— Jon Ryan Jensen is the Church News editor.

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