I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Australia from August 1966 to August of 1968. It was an experience that changed my life. I was a scared kid fresh off the farm with a scant knowledge and a weak testimony, dropped into the middle of Melbourne, a city of over a million. I learned to adapt. I worked hard. I studied. I followed the program and had what I considered very limited success. I baptized four people, at least one that I know of had left the church before I left the country.
Counting baptisms probably isn't a fair way to measure a mission. I have always considered myself one of my most important converts. I came to know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is His son and the Savior of the world. I came to know for myself that His church was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that Priesthood Authority is found in His church today. I learned that the Holy Spirit will guide us and if we are in tune, and that if we listen and obey we will be blessed beyond measure.
In addition to gaining a testimony, I grew up. I learned to have confidence in my own abilities. I learned to take care of myself, to cook, to clean, to study, to communicate with people, to teach and testify. I learned to handle money, to take care of a car and I learned to lead others.
I was in the final quarter of my mission, on a split, knocking on doors with a new young missionary in his area when we met the White family. Mrs. White invited us in and said she wanted to hear our message. As we prepared she mentioned that her twins, Ross and Robin, would be home shortly and that they might like to hear our message. We waited, thinking that they were probably young, maybe in their early teens. When they came we were surprised to find out they were about our age.
We taught the White family over the next few weeks, it was a joyful experience. Though they weren't in my area I was the district leader and arranged to be in on as many of the discussions as possible. Then I got transferred. Though I was only on the other side of town, I kind of lost track of the White's. I heard the Ross and Robin had been baptized, and that their mom was ready but waiting for her husband. I left the mission field a few months later and totally lost track of the Whites.
It was General Conference time in 2003 I think, and I can't remember if it was April or October when I got the call. It was from the wife of a former missionary companion from Logan. She related that she had been waiting outside the Conference Center to pick up her husband after Priesthood Meeting. She had been talking with a lady with a strong accent and asked if she was from Australia, and the lady confirmed that she was. She mentioned that her husband had been a missionary there, and the lady then asked if she happened to know an Elder Prince! Yes, the lady was Robin White Hancock. She too was waiting for her husband, and mentioned that she wanted to make contact with some of the missionaries that taught her back in 1968. Of course the connection was made.
The Hancocks and he Princes, 2005
It was such a thrill for me to learn that Robin was strong in the gospel, that she had married in the church and that she and her husband had four daughters, three of them had served missions, one was married and had a new baby, so they now had three generations in the church. We weren't able to get together on that visit, but on a subsequent visit in 2005 Robin and her husband Graham came to our home in Kamas and we had a barbecue and caught up on old times. We have stayed in touch off and on since then through occasional emails, and since being called on our mission to Guam I have been sending them our monthly epistles.
Today I got a reply from Robin that brought tears to my eyes. I share a portion of that email here:
"Yesterday while attending a baptism, l couldn't but help think of the on going, ripple effect, of your mission in Australia so long ago. Let me explain. Our third daughter Lorelei, unintentionally and casually introduced the gospel to her school friend about 6 months ago. The baptism yesterday was the result. This came on top of another baptism of her neighbour in June last year. Lorelei and her husband Hans became good friends with their neighbours who lived a few houses away from them. Unexpectedly they began asking about the church, consequently, the wife was baptised followed by her husband a few weeks later. Because they are military people they were transferred to Darwin but remain very active. All of this has been wonderful for Lorelei and Hans as Lorelei served her mission on Temple Square and didn't see the outcome of her mission. Thank you once again for coming to my door 43 years ago.
The ripple effect! Sometimes good, and perhaps great things happen as a result of some small thing, which leads to another small thing and then another. Quite often these little things happen and the links go quite unknown or unnoticed. I feel very blessed to be aware of these particular ripples, they have blessed my life. To know that because the Spirit whispered, and two missionaries listened, a life was changed, then another and another. To know that even though you may not baptize, the good you have done, the seeds you have planted, may someday grow, and if properly nourished the fruit will be ever so sweet. As the ripples continue to spread, everyone whose life is touched will feel the Savior's blessing wherein he promised, "how great shall be your joy".