This summer, I was able to be an Especially for Youth (EFY) Counselor, where my main purpose was to help the youth of the church come closer to Christ. One particular week of EFY, in Santa Barbara, California, seemed as if it was going to be my most challenging week yet. As the youth were coming to check in, I had a mother of one of my youth approach me. She had told me that her daughter, Anna (name changed), did not want to be here and to be prepared for her to give me a hard time. The mother went on to tell me of some mental instability that Anna was challenged with and she wanted me to be aware. I assured Anna’s mom, that I would do everything in my power to be a good counselor and mentor to her daughter and that I would be praying to be able to say/do all the Lord needed me to do that week for Anna. After this conversation, I became very nervous in my abilities to help this particular youth. All I knew was that I had a strong testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I needed to share that testimony with the youth as often as I could, this particular week.
The time came to meet all 12 of my youth for the week. I had a lump in my throat as I thought about what Anna would say upon meeting me. Anna made sure we were all aware that she did not believe in God, and did not believe in the Mormon religion. I politely acknowledged what she said, but tried to maneuver away from anything else negative that she might say. As the first day went on, I quickly tried to find any connection the two of us might have. We finally connected on our love for music, and I could tell she was warming up to me. During every devotional or spiritual conversation we would have as a group, Anna would sit in the back and either be on her phone, or drawing in a notebook. I was praying that something was sinking in, but I felt as though it was hopeless. I prayed, every opportunity I could, that she would feel the spirit at least once that week, but I was beginning to have my doubts. As the week went on, I could tell that Anna began listening to my devotionals, but seemed less than impressed. I finally received the impression to share my testimony of Jesus Christ one night, before all of my youth went to bed. I told them of the love the Savior has for each and every one of them. I explained to them the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and I shared that Jesus Christ is our brother and best friend and that he will always be there for us, when no one else is.
As I scanned my youths’ faces as I bore testimony I saw some smiles and some tears. I expected to see Anna on her phone, but instead I saw her sobbing with her hands over her face. I did not want to draw too much attention to her, so we closed with a prayer and all of the youth except for Anna, left the room. She came up and with tears in her eyes said to me, “Kiersten, I don’t know who Jesus Christ is, but I want to.” I was speechless for a moment or two, and then felt prompted by the spirit to invite her to say the most sincere prayer she had ever said. I challenged her to ask Heavenly Father how she could come closer to Jesus Christ and to ask Heavenly Father if the Savior knew her and loved her. She promised me she would, and she said she would let me know how it went the next day.
The next morning as we gathered for a devotional, Anna seemed happier than I had ever seen her. She almost looked like a completely different person. She came up to me and said, “I know now.” And I said “You know what?” Anna replied,” I know I have a Brother and Savior who loves me. I don’t know if I believe anything else yet, but I do know that my Savior and Heavenly father love me and that is a start!”
That week of EFY came to an end, and I had never been so grateful to meet Anna. She helped me to become a better leader and a better disciple of Jesus Christ, through her acceptance of the Savior. Elder Neil L. Andersen said, “Wherever you now find yourself on the road of discipleship, you are on the right road, the road toward eternal life.”
I learned that sharing my testimony of the Savior, would not only help others, but in turn help me become the person that, the Savior and My Father in Heaven want me to be.