When Jared Bender submitted his mission papers in early 2020, he figured he’d overcome his biggest obstacles to serving. Even though he’d felt the adversary working hard against him, he’d pushed through and gotten his papers in. Then he received his call to the New York Syracuse Mission, and it looked like a smooth road ahead as a full-time missionary.
But more obstacles were in store—and they were big. Before he left for the MTC, the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard. And maybe even crazier: Jared’s childhood hero offered him a dream job traveling the country as a videographer—but he’d have to abandon his mission plans.
In a new YouTube video, Jared—now a recently returned missionary—shares all the ups and down of his mission experience. Some of those experiences include being quarantined in his apartment, dialing random phone numbers as a way to contact potential investigators, and finding ways to use his videography skills to share the gospel.
Jared tells LDS Living that he hopes his video, titled “My Mission Experience—Why I Stayed,” will inspire those who are serving or considering missions to push through obstacles.
“It’s not unusual for missionaries to have a time on their mission when they second-guess why they came out and if they should stay,” he says. “My hope is that this video can help someone feel God’s love and support.”
Watch the video below to see more of Elder Bender’s experiences and what motivated him to stay on his mission through all the challenges.
Even though Jared’s full-time mission is complete, he’s still committed to doing what he can to help other missionaries in their service. “Shortly after returning home from my mission, I started a business with my older brother Bryce,” he tells LDS Living. “It’s called Missionary Box—it’s a monthly subscription missionary hype box to help missionaries find joy in the work they are doing.”
In addition, Jared recently took a trip back to his mission to create a YouTube series with fellow Latter-day Saint Nephi Garcia (aka “Designer Daddy”) as Garcia renovates a 200-year-old church into a Disney-style castle. Garcia gained social media fame through the transforming Disney princess dresses he created for his daughter.
“In every stage of life there are bumps in the road, but one thing stays certain,” Jared says. “God is aware and will support you on your journey. I’ve seen how He has helped me in mine, and I hope the video can help someone recognize God's hand in their life as well.”