Conversion, as defined by Webster’s New World College Dictionary, is the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another. Thomas Koster, a junior studying computer engineering, experienced this process of conversion through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. James 1:5 invites any person who lacks wisdom to plead with God, and that is exactly what he did.
Growing up in Southern California, Koster always felt something missing from his life. He didn’t know exactly what he was craving until he overheard some high school friends talking about their church and a weekly youth activity called “Mutual.” He asked them about their church, which immediately sparked a spiritual flame in Koster.
“I actually found the church instead of getting found by someone,” Koster said. “My friends were members of the church, and they didn’t really invite me to go to church or Mutual, so I kind of asked to go with them.”
Only after attending church and Mutual for several weeks did Koster finally have an opportunity to meet with missionaries.
“I think the biggest sign that he was prepared was how heartfelt he was when asked to bear his testimony,” said Jesse Miles, one of the missionaries who taught Koster. “He knew so much that it was a challenge to teach him things that he wasn’t already familiar with.”
On Oct. 25, 2015, after meeting with missionaries for just two weeks, Koster was baptized a member of the Church. The thirst for something to believe in and hold on to had at long last been quenched.
“I was a little nervous, but pretty excited at the same time,” Koster reflected. “When I was approaching my baptism, I noticed that Satan was trying to derail me more and more as it got closer. Each day that passed almost felt like a different reason not to get baptized, not to make the right choice. But I guess there are always a million reasons not to do something.”
A few months after being baptized, Koster realized that he wanted to serve a mission. Having just turned 18, he knew he had a lot to prepare for, but very little time to do it.
“I knew I wanted to go on a mission pretty much right after I got baptized,” Koster said. “Whenever the missionaries would visit me after, it was more of a question of when I was going rather than if I was going.”
In September 2017, nearly two years after his baptism, Koster received his mission call to serve for 24 months in Richmond, Virginia.
“The day I got my call was the day I told my parents, and it wasn’t really received well,” Koster explained. “I showed my call to my mom, and she was pretty upset with me. I showed my call to my dad, and we didn’t really talk until the day that I left.”
The hardships and setbacks Koster experienced before and during his mission encouraged him to stay true to his faith. He returned from his mission in September 2019 with open arms from his family, but the hardest part of his journey was still yet to come.
“I didn’t have any member fellowship to be with,” Koster said.” I didn’t have anybody to talk to, either, so the hard part of being a member of the church didn’t come until I was home from my mission because I was alone.”
Koster hasn’t always had a big group of people supporting him in his religious and spiritual pursuits, but he doesn’t let that slow him down.
“I’ve learned not to focus on doubts and other things that might trip you up,” Koster said. “If I had focused more on every little thing that was going on rather than just the blessing of what was to come, I probably would never have served a mission.”
James 1:5 helped Koster start to ponder aspects of his life on a spiritual level. He read the verse, realized he lacked wisdom and pleaded with God. Doing so helped him find his faith in Jesus Christ. He encourages anyone else in the same boat to do the same.