John’s Farewell Talk 10-28-15
So… my name is John Gilbert and this is my Mission farewell talk. I honestly didn’t know if I would ever be giving one of these or not. I’m a hockey player. I’ve played for and with the El Paso Rhinos for 9 years. I thought I would be just starting my season at this time of year, but Heavenly Father had something else in mind. I know for a fact that Heavenly Father knows each of us individually. I absolutely think He funneled my life down to serving a mission. So the deal was, I had to get a job to pay for this next season of hockey. And I applied EVERYWHERE. I have a good resume. I was the captain of my high school hockey team. I’m an Eagle Scout. I had first, second, and third interviews. And I was offered… absolutely nothing. No one would hire me. I started feeling really lost and discouraged. Then Ben Kendrick talked me into getting my Patriarchal Blessing. This is why I say that Heavenly Father know us all. He knows how stubborn I am and he knew I needed a push. No one would hire me because it was time to do something else. I would like to share with you one sentence from my blessing. It says “You have been prepared in spirit, in faith, and in mind to serve a full time mission for the Lord in your youth.” Powerful sentence. So, how do you say no to that? There’s no longer any doubt, I’m going on a mission. The only problem is, I’ve been focusing on hockey for the last 9 years, not really preparing for a mission. But then the more I got to thinking about it, maybe I have been preparing all along, I just didn’t realize it. I have come up with 12 ways that hockey has prepared me to serve a mission.
1. Language Barrier
I’ve always had to deal with a language barrier playing hockey. Last year my team was basically from Europe. We had like 5 Chechs, 2 Sweeds, 2 Russians, some guys from Poland, Latvia, and Norway, and our 2 goalies were from Hungary and Slovakia. So it’s definitely safe to say that there was a little communication issue throughout the team. Fortunately we had Phillip. Phillip is our goalie from Slovakia, who speaks Slovakian, Chech, Polish, Ukranian, and English. He was able to translate the basics for us. The interesting thing we found however, is that hockey is the same in all these different languages. Yes, playing styles are a little different, but when it came down to it, we all knew the game of hockey. I think it’s going to be the same out in the mission field. I am going to meet a bunch of people from different places, but the church is still the same. Our accents and teaching styles may be different but universal truths remain the same. And fortunately, I was born in Arkansas so I bet my Southern will kick in real quick.
2. The Courage to Talk to Strangers
On a mission you gotta be able to talk to people, you can’t be timid and even scared, you just gotta go for it. And playing hockey kind of forced me into that. 2 years ago I was just hangin’ out one night in the middle of the season, and I got a text from my coach, and it said, “go pick up new Russian goalie at 11:30, take him to this address.” Like ok? I got no name or anything, so I went to the airport and I found him and everything ‘cuz he was dressed very European, but he didn’t speak any English! And let me tell you the car ride to his new house was the awkwardest thing ever! So I just had to jump into it and try and talk with him and figure out how much English he did and didn’t know. By the time I got him home we were cool and it wasn’t super awkward anymore. And for his first practice I pretty much was the only one he felt comfortable trying to talk to, so I was able to help him throughout the practice (which as a goalie his roll isn’t that hard STOP THE PUCK but I was still able to explain to him how the drills worked and everything.) But I learned right away that with talking to people you just gotta jump right in and do it. I know this experience will help me as a missionary because it forced me out of my comfort zone. And I feel that going on a mission in general is forcing you out of that comfort zone. But it’s not so bad if you just have confidence and go all in. Which brings me to number 3 Confidence.
Hockey is all about Confidence. Confidence is everything. If you don’t believe that you can score a goal then it’s not going to happen, simple as that. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself, in your team, and in your coach. On a mission, this works the same. If you don’t believe in a person or an investigator or don’t believe that you can help them, then it’s not going to happen. You need to believe in yourself. You need to trust your companions. And you need to rely on all your coaches – your zone leader, your Mission President, and especially your Heavenly Father, the ultimate coach.
4. Keep your Head Up
You gotta keep your head up, if not, you’re going to get clocked! You gotta pay attention and know what’s going on around you and how the play is developing so you can be in the right place at exactly the right time. I feel like this is important not only on a mission but in life also. You gotta keep your head up. On a mission if your head is not in it then you’re going to miss out. Most of the time, you can only hear the Holy Ghost if you are listening. So you gotta stay focused and recognize if he tells you to go down this street or knock on this door or talk to this person – it’s your job to listen and be prepared for anything.
5. Living with Someone Else
In hockey, we have what’s called billet families. This is when a family houses a player that is coming from out of town. My mom and I decided to try this, so a player from my team moved in, and ended up living with us for 2 years. Because of hockey, even as an only child, I still had to learn how to live with someone. I had to learn how to share a car, share my house, I had to learn how to share a bathroom, which I had never needed to do before. So it was weird at first, but I got over it. My mission companions will be grateful I’ve already learned this lesson.
6. Having Someone’s Back, No Matter What
My coach always told us that the team is like a chain, if one link breaks the entire chain breaks and doesn’t work anymore. Being on a team is one of the best feelings ever, because I know that these 25 guys have my back no matter what and they know I’ve got theirs. It’s a brotherhood that can never be broken. I know that I can still call some guys from my team like 3 years ago and I know they would be there for me. On a mission it’s kinda just you and your companion against the world, and you gotta be a strong little two link chain. But I am betting that the two link chain will be even stronger and more reliable than the one with 25 links, because it will have the gospel as its foundation. I don’t know anyone in Alabama yet but I know I’ll have my companions’ back, no matter what.
7. Never Quit
Playing hockey at a competitive level you literally fight for your spot on the team every day. There are 25 guys on the team and only 20 suit out for every game. So you gotta prove every day that you shouldn’t be one of those five who don’t play. On a mission you don’t wanna be one of those five guys either because if you quit you won’t be able to teach those who need to be taught.
8. Stay focused
Playing hockey you have to stay focused for your entire 30 second shift. Your brain has to be in it because every second matters. There have been times where I was in a good position and I took a good shot and it was blocked. But in the two seconds that I was discouraged that I missed my shot, I missed out on the opportunity of scoring again on the rebound. Your mindset has to be so focused on scoring the goal that even if you miss it shouldn’t be a factor, it shouldn’t stop you in your efforts. The scoreboard doesn’t ask how, it asks how many. It doesn’t matter if it’s the prettiest goal in the world or if it just trickled in. If it’s in, it’s in. On my mission I need to stay focused on the things I need to and not freak out when things don’t go according to plan. At the end of the day and at the end of every shift I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and say you gave it your all.
9. Always Get Back Up
Injuries definitely exist in hockey. A couple years ago, I hit this kid as hard as I could and broke my collar bone into three pieces. Four months, 7 screws, 1 plate, and hours of physical therapy later, I returned to the ice and was able to finish out the season like it had never happened. I learned two important lessons. The first was I am not invincible and it changed the style of hockey that I play. I’m no longer an enforcer and I realize there is much more to hockey then just trying to put people through the glass. This injury led me to the playmaker and goal scorer kind of player I am today. The second is there are times in life when you want to give up but you have to man up and get through it. I had to sit there in physical therapy and watch my team win and lose without me. But I knew that the only way I would be able to get back there and really help them was to man up, do the physical therapy and wait until I was 100% before rejoining my team. I know there will be tough times on my mission. I know I’m gonna get rained on, I know hard things are gonna happen, but I’ve got to get back up and learn from the experiences. Either timing your hits better or remembering to pack an umbrella, the important thing is to keep fighting.
10. Practice vs. Preparation
Every athlete knows that practice is everything. Hockey is all about muscle memory. Skating and shooting a puck should become automatic, not something you even have to think about. Like, I honestly skate better than I run. But I’ve clocked in a lot more hours skating than I have running. I have learned that practice is important but preparation makes all the difference. Tomorrow’s game doesn’t start at 7:30. It starts now. It started when you stayed up late the night before and didn’t sleep. It started when you chose the nachos over the spaghetti. It started when you skipped leg day. It all adds up. I definitely feel like this will be true for my mission also. My mission doesn’t start October 28th. For me, it really started five months ago when I received my Patriarchal Blessing. I know I definitely could have prepared a lot more for my mission. I could have gone to a lot more mission prep classes. And I know that because I didn’t I will have to work that much harder down the line. But I also know that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. So I am going to work as hard as I can and focus on looking forward, not backward. I know that the choices I make today will help the people in Alabama I haven’t even met yet.
The winning hockey team is the team that has capitalized the most on their opportunities. It’s one thing to jump on an opportunity. The higher level of hockey is to create the opportunity. As a missionary, you gotta do both. Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” This has been my motto in hockey, in life, and will be on my mission.
12. Striving to always be the best you can be
My coach told me something that always stuck with me. He said “Right now, somewhere, someone is practicing, and you’re not. So when the time comes that you play each other, who do you think is gonna win?” I think if you want to be a good hockey player your head always has to be in hockey. If you wanna be a good missionary your head always has to be in your mission. My game plan is to give it my all because that’s all I can do.
I’d like to bear my testimony…
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.