When I was 13, we moved to a new ward in North Logan, Utah. I was about to enter the 8th Grade and had suffered through some trying times in my previous school and ward. I looked forward to the change that, looking back, I desperately needed. It was in this ward that I regained confidence in myself, made some lifelong friends, and served officially for the first time in the church. It was also here that I met a man who forever set the example for me of how to be a true minister of the Lord.
Our family was assigned a home teacher by the name of Ariel Rodriguez. He was a humble man who was finishing up his advanced degree at the nearby university as he fulfilled his duties as a husband and father. I’m sure we had been assigned home teachers before, but he was the first one I ever remember coming to our home. I was the oldest of seven children, and our family was a big responsibility to take on, but he dove into the assignment head first.
I remember Ariel always coming alone with a lesson prepared, often with props and visuals for us kids. We always looked forward to his visits and hated to see him leave when the lesson was finished. It never seemed to be a burden for us to receive him or for him to stop by.
Shortly after I turned 14, Ariel randomly asked me while he was visiting our family, “Dustin, have you gone home teaching before? Would you like to be my companion for the other families I visit?” I was in awe of the confidence and trust that he had given me. I eagerly accepted his invitation. From what I know, he took the initiative to tell the Elders Quorum President that he had made his own companion assignment since he didn’t have one at the time.
The first time he picked me up to go on an appointment, I hopped in his car and he asked me to offer a prayer before he left our driveway. I’ll never forget how I felt when he made that invitation. Years later, I’m amazed at how a small gesture like that made such an impact on my life. “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” He helped me to see the great care and love he took to minister to each family. He allowed me to set up appointments and teach lessons. We had a great rapport with each one of our families. He took me under his wing and taught me how to be a minister, and for that, I’ll forever love him.
Our family struggled with finances all throughout my childhood, and while that era was better generally for us, we were still renting and faced the possibility of having to move because the city wanted to take the house we were living in and make it into a half-way home. I remember he offered to fast with our family so that our situation would be resolved. I participated in the fast and took it seriously, particularly because I knew our home teacher was also fasting and I knew he had our back.
On my 15th birthday, he stopped by our house and said he wanted to take me out. He took me to eat at Taco Bell, my favorite place to eat at the time. Once again, he taught me the lesson that simple gestures are the most important ones. I truly appreciated it.
Now that Home Teaching has become Ministering, my philosophy hasn’t changed. Minister like Ariel Rodriguez ministered to me. I have seen countless ministers like him in my lifetime, including the examples of my own parents and my spouse. But I needed him to be my ministering brother. We may not even realize the impact our small actions have on those we serve. The repercussions are real and lasting.
“Ministering With the Power and Authority of God” -President Russell M. Nelson, April 2018
“Be With and Strengthen Them” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2018
“Becoming a Shepherd” -Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, October 2018
You can follow Dustin on Twitter at @dmturner1232.