So this week has been one of my favorites so far. There were a few days when everyone got a little grumpy all at once, but everyone has pushed through that and we are all in a good place now.
On Sunday, our devotional speaker was the cinematographer for 17 Miracles, Ephraim’s Rescue, The Testaments, etc. He was pretty awesome. One thing he talked about was writing in journals. If you’ve seen 17 Miracles, you’ll remember the handicapped man named Albert. The speaker said that apparently, in the Willie or Martin Handcart Company, they made a band of handicapped people, and had them all together. Then they had a 76-year-old man lead them. So every morning, he would get up, gather them, and help them along. The speaker said,
“Now THAT is a movie. But I will never make one. Because not a single person kept a journal about it, we have no idea what miracles happened or how many made the journey.”
That was good to hear, because I am already so bad about it.
Last night, our devotional was the 9 children of a Quorum of the Seventy member bearing their testimonies on their mission. It was really nice.
We got our travel itineraries, so everyone is getting really excited to get to Germany.
GOOD FOR THEM.
I’m still nervous. Some people say “Oh yeah, I’m nowhere near ready” with a grin.
I say “I AM NO WHERE NEAR READY” while running around and periodically squawking.
Instead of studying.
So I’ve witnessed or heard about some miracles here. First and definitely most impressive, trust me, is when Elder B. was snoring ridiculously loud and Elder L. and I couldn’t fall asleep. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, Elder L. whispered,
“I have witnessed a miracle this day.”
“I just prayed that Elder B. would sleep better and stop snoring, and when I said ‘Amen’, he just stopped.”
“What the -? Hallelujah! Praises and blessings! We have witnessed the impossible!”
Secondly, One of Elder L. and my investigators is named Josef, played by Bruder H. Very, very, very, strict. Not particularly friendly. Bruder H. was out of town, and then we had to go to the doctor, so we have only taught him like four times, and weren’t making a ton of progress.
But then we came in Monday, feeling nervous as usual, since we usually got yelled out and maybe beaten with a switch afterwards. We asked him if he had read any of the Book of Mormon.
“Oh, ein bission” he answered, which means “a little”.
So then we asked him what he had read.
All of 1st Nephi. That was a big surprise.
In a particularly risky, dashing move on our part, we went in ready to teach him anything. So we asked him what big questions he had, what he really really wanted to know, and hoped to heaven that he didn’t ask for a subject we didn’t have the vocab for yet. He asked about what happens after death. I actually knew a scripture for that one, so we shared with him Alma 40:11-13, which talks about the Spirit World being split into paradise and prison.
He then asked for a moment. Without much emotion, he stared at the verses for a solid 60 seconds of silence, then closed the book.
“The church is true. This book is true. What must I do now?”
Then it was Elder L.’s and my turn to stare at each other for a few seconds. We knew how to deal with catastrophe, with tough questions, with rudeness. When teaching Bruder H., we were completely unprepared to actually have something go right. I managed to choke out a very grammatically incorrect and probably offensive version of a baptismal invitation, to which he replied,
“Yes. Today? Tomorrow?”
We explained we had to teach him more. He said he knew that it was all true. Everything we would say was true. We kind of just said a closing prayer and left, completely in shock.
He then walked into our room and said,
“Why in the world would you not ask Josef WHY HE FELT THAT WAY?” STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! What the heck? That’s not hard!”
Anyway, we were told rather ominously that we had to ask him, and that it would change everything. So we thought it was something awful, like he completely misunderstood the scripture.
Real quick pause here, these investigators are people that our teachers baptized on their missions. Their stories are real, and their mannerisms are as close as our teachers can get.
So the next day, we walk in with no little trepidation. We basically skipped all the small talk, and straight out asked him,
“What did you feel when you read that scripture passage?”
“It wasn’t really a feeling.”
Um, what? “So why do you say the Book of Mormon is true?”
“Because what it said is correct.”
“How do you know that?”
Then we just sit back and listen to the greatest miracle I’ve ever heard of for 15 minutes of German. We knew that Josef was divorced, and rarely saw his daughter. He calmly told us that this was because he was a heroin addict for years. After his wife left him, he got so depressed, he determined to quit heroin cold turkey. This is extremely dangerous, as your supposed to take pills – methadone, I think – or else you are in danger of death from withdrawals. He quit without those.
Two days later, he died. My eyes were about as big as softballs at this point. The ambulance came, and took him to the hospital. He was pronounced dead. No brain activity, no pumping heart. He was placed in the morgue. He felt his spirit lift out of his body. He traveled to a place where no one had a body. Everyone around him was angry, or crying, or sad. He himself felt an awful weight of guilt. But just across the way, he could see other spirits with huge smiles on their faces, constantly happy. For the first time in forever, he prayed. He asked God to be able to be happy. He wanted a second chance. No sooner had he said that prayer, that he went back into his body, unzipped the body bag, and knocked on the door to the morgue. He had been dead, no brain activity, for 5 hours. Even doctors could call it nothing but a miracle. On top of that, for a true tender mercy, his addiction was completely gone, something that shouldn’t be possible with heroin either.
He spent the next few years traveling from church to church, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Muslim, Buddhist, trying to find one that matched what he knew to be true. And the Book of Mormon did just that. It is an incredible story, but thanks to the power of the Spirit, I never doubted it for a moment. Elder L. shared the story of Alma the Younger falling as if dead, and we left, but not before committing him to repenting through Christ’s Atonement. Bruder H. is going to tell us how he responded on Monday.
I know this Gospel is true. I also know that sometimes it can sound strange or even crazy. The world wants us to believe that miracles don’t happen.
But they do, every day.
And even though it does sound crazy, I know it’s true. I know because the Holy Ghost has whispered to me that it was. I know because I can see the Gospel make people happier every day. And I know because I can feel Christ’s love for me, and more importantly, for everyone around me. And that may be the biggest miracle of all.