Dear Family and Friends,
It has been a few weeks since you have received a letter from Elder Sork. It is important we share with you why that is. While his recent letters have sounded more positive, Elder Sork has been quietly dealing with a debilitating medical condition. Out of concern for his family, church members, and friends serving in the mission field he only wrote about the positive experiences while he tried to work through his illness with mission doctors and the mission president.
We received word this morning that our son would be returning home from his mission today or tomorrow. He is being honorably released as having served a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His return is sooner than originally planned. When he left he was worthy, willing, and able to serve a full 2-year mission. He is still worthy and so very wiling, but unfortunately, due to health issues, he is no longer able to serve out the remainder of his 2-year call to Brazil. Elder Sork has been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression that has not been able to be adequately treated in Brazil. For those of you unfamiliar with this disease, I liken it to someone who has diabetes and needs insulin. With continued anxiety and depression the body’s ability to produce the required serotonin levels for proper physical and mental functioning is depleted. Elder Sork is coming home to find the proper care and treatment for this disease so he can continue to serve the Lord in other capacities throughout his life.
Elder Sork returning home is an answer to the fasting and prayers of Eric and I. Yesterday we had a special fast for Elder Sork, knowing he was meeting with his mission president. Our desire was that President Dias and Elder Sork would be able to counsel together, and under the direction of the spirit, know how to handle the struggles Elder Sork has been facing since entering the mission field in August. After speaking with President Dias this morning, I know our prayers have been answered.
Now, as we write to you we are facing another fear – how will he be received home by those he loves and looks up to? It would be easier if this struggle were more medically noticeable. Instead, he is fighting chemically induced depression and anxiety. Something no one can see and few understand. He struggled with this throughout his high school years; we just did not understand how severe it was. The stresses of the mission field just exacerbated the condition to the point his safety had to be considered. Our fear is that because he comes home with no physical indicators of his struggle, his release from service will be questioned by those he is returning to.
I would like to refer you to Elder Holland’s talk “Like a Broken Vessel” in the October 2013 conference where he specifically addresses people who struggle with anxiety and depression and those that care for them. In this talk he speaks “of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively—though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking!”
We cannot imagine what must be going through Elder Sork’s mind while he is on the plane today. Maybe it is something like this: mourning the months of his mission he would not get to serve with the people of Brazil he has come to love so much, weeping at the thought of the people he feels he is letting down, and trying to understand how God’s plan for him included coming home early. We do not know why God did not heal him so that he could stay and serve. However, we DO KNOW that God is mindful, aware and loving! He loves our son and He has a plan for him.
We all have a different path to walk as we try to become the person the Lord knows we can be. Each experience is just for us, for our learning and growth. Many may judge Elder Sork and think that he should have fought harder. Many might tell him he should have had more faith, prayed more, worked harder, understood the atonement better, etc. Please refrain. God and his mission president know that our son has given his all. He did all that he could. He prayed fervently, he fasted often, he worked with everything he has, he studied endlessly. He NEVER quit. He NEVER gave up. The mixed emotions he must have felt when President Diaz told him that he felt it was time for him to return home and get the help he desperately needs, we cannot fathom.
It takes a lot of faith to follow the call of a prophet to leave family, friends, and your life behind to serve. It takes faith to get up every day to teach the gospel when your mind and body refuse to corporate, but you do it anyway because you are obedient. It takes great faith to do everything the mission president and doctors ask you to do to receive the gift of health, but to have those efforts fail. It takes faith to listen when the Lord says, “Well done thou good and faithful servant! It is enough!” It takes even more faith to leave earlier than you want to, knowing how hard it can be in our church to deal with everything and everyone that is waiting for you upon return.
Thankfully, our son does not need intensive physical treatments, but what he needs medically is just as important to him living and being healthy as chemo is for those who suffer from cancer. If you know him, if you see him, PLEASE, ask him what he loved about his mission. PLEASE, ask him to share his experiences and speak in the language that he was able to conquer! PLEASE, love him and give him a hug. PLEASE tell him how proud you are of him! He needs our support, unconditional love, and for everybody to rally around him and help him carry his burdens. Help him remember, he is a Son of God, who loves him and is proud of him. He served an honorable mission! We can’t wait to welcome him home and to help him find joy in his service and hope for his future.
Eric and Keri