Vai's View: Never a Dull moment — general conference weekend brings reunion of missionaries, convert
Provided by Vai Sikahema,
Besides receiving instruction from prophets and apostles, general conference weekend is universally recognized in the LDS Church as a time for mission reunions, typically held the Friday before conference.
I didn't attend a mission reunion — not even sure the South Dakota Rapid City Mission had one. Nevertheless, I was reunited with a former missionary companion last week whom I hadn't seen in nearly 30 years.
Daniel Pray and I were companions in March of 1983. Just one month. And it would be the most memorable and greatest month of our mission. I was the senior zone leader of the flagship zone, Rapid City, the mission headquarters, and Elder Pray was my junior companion.
Elder Pray came to Rapid City for a monthlong leadership training program that was taught each morning in the mission office by the assistants to the president, the mission president and, occasionally, by the zone leaders. Missionaries in our mission weren't called as trainers, district leaders, zone leaders or assistants until they qualified and attended the leadership training program. For the month they were in training, these hand-picked missionaries were paired with the Rapid City district and zone leaders. Leadership training was a prestigious assignment and Elder Daniel Pray was prayerfully selected in March of '83 and assigned to me as my junior companion.
Daniel Pray grew up in California and came into the mission field with his Missionary Training Center group a month after mine had arrived exactly a year earlier. We were both called to serve for 24 months, but our missions were shortened to 18 months a month into our service (the church experimented with shortening missions to 18 months for elders from 1982-85). Elder Pray was only a few months older than me, so we were basically the same age. Neither of us lacked confidence, and in fact we were probably a little self-assured and full of ourselves.
The similarities ended there. I was athletic and he was not. I insisted on running three miles every morning and he hated it. He was a computer and gadget geek and I'm not. He was California cool and laid-back and I can be very intense, especially in competition and with the gospel. He was off-the-charts brilliant and I'm not. His dazzling brilliance would lead him into an amazing career and niche market that literally placed him in the homes of movie stars, rock stars, Hall of Fame professional athletes and many of the world's most powerful and wealthy. More on that later.
Last Sunday following conference, I was invited to return and speak to the missionaries in the MTC in their weekly Sunday fireside. I spoke last year on the same Sunday and told the story of finding, teaching and baptizing Robert William Dull and what ensued in Bob's life. I invited Bob to join me on the stand that evening to help tell his story. Bob brought along his wife, Jackie, who had threatened to leave him if he joined the church but a decade later would be baptized by Bob. The Dulls' two daughters, Erin and Rachel, who were one and two-and-a-half when we taught and baptized Bob, also came, with their husbands whom they married in the temple and all of their children. Erin and Rachel are both BYU graduates and Rachel is currently the BYU athletic department nutritionist. The Dulls' family legacy in the church started on a preparation day when another companion and I went to a local sporting goods store, a mile from the mission office in Rapid City, to buy a can of tennis balls for a P-day activity.
When we approached the counter with the can of tennis balls, 26-year-old Bob Dull happened to be sitting behind the cash register on a stool. The store was their family business. I didn't know that, nor did we know how our lives would be transformed by our chance meeting. What Bob said to us as I handed him the can of Wilson tennis balls is now part of our families' history and lore: "Never met two guys named 'Elder' before."
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