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Inspired by tragedy to share

Chance and faith bring friends together on missionary trip to Church of Latter Day Saints in Newhal

Posted: November 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: November 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Twenty-year-old Mormon Missionaries Christopher Evanson, left, and Tyrell Nielson read passages from the Bible in their apartment in preparation for their work in their mission area in Newhall on Wednesday.

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Christopher Evanson, 20, and Tyrell Nielsen, 20, have been friends since they were 7 years old. They both grew up in Taber, a small town in Alberta, Canada, and attended the same high school in Canada.

Evanson and Nielsen were both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and called to serve as missionaries after high school, inspired by  a tragic event.

Each had decided to embark on a two-year missionary trip and somehow ended up in Newhall together.

Teaching others
After training in Utah, Nielsen was sent to North Edwards Air Force Base, and Evanson was sent to Ridgecrest. Nearly six months later, both men ended up serving as missionaries for the same Mormon church in Newhall.

Friends serving in the same Mormon ward is highly unlikely and almost never happens, they say. Yet, years later, the two friends serve together and share an apartment.

Nielsen and Evanson have dedicated their lives to sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ with others. As Mormon missionaries, they are called to teach and spread the word of Christ through personal testimony.

“I knew the gospel was true and wanted to help others to be in a position to know that also,” Nielsen said about his decision to be a missionary.

Each day, the two share meals together, study Scripture and embark into the community, armed with the gospel and their bikes.

A miracle
Evanson’s journey to become a missionary wasn’t the standard path. During his senior year in high school, he and two other friends were driving home during a snow storm when the driver lost control of the car and was T-boned by a big-rig truck.

The horrific collision killed one of the trio and left Evanson in critical condition. Evanson was in a coma for 25 days and remained in the hospital for four more months.

Evanson’s recovery was slow and steady. The accident had impaired his ability to speak and walk. He underwent intensive therapy to relearn those skills. He had no memory of his first three months in the hospital.

“The first feeling I did have was this sense of love,” Evanson said. “So many people were praying for me.”

He had to repeat his senior year of high school before he could graduate. As a member of the Mormon church, he also had planned on conducting a two-year missionary trip, but after the crash, he recalls having a much stronger desire to serve.

“I knew I was here for a reason,” he said. “God had given me this miracle in my life for a reason.”

Important message
Renewed with a vigor for life and Jesus Christ, Evanson embarked on his two-year journey as a missionary. It eventually brought him to Newhall and reunited him with his old friend.

Both men believe their journey as missionaries have helped to make them stronger.

Evanson still struggles with his speech, but his work as a missionary has helped him to overcome that. Nielsen recounts his struggles with public speaking.

Both agree that the biggest challenge is the disappointment they face.

“We have such an important message to share with people,” Nielsen said. “When people aren’t ready to listen, it gets disappointing.”

Evanson and Nielsen enjoy the feeling of connecting with someone after sharing the love of Jesus Christ and encouraging them to put their trust in him.

“I lost my sense of taste and smell, but I found my savior,” Evanson said. “I wouldn’t trade that. It was worth it. I know Jesus Christ can help us through anything.”

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