Quindi, yet another six weeks it is for Mastino and I in Varese!!! You know what that means?? We get to keep working together with this sick investigator we found last week!! You know Bryan, that African I mentioned in the last email that would change the city? So, because nothing else is really new, I wish to dedicate this opportunity to tell you about this man’s story. So, this man is from Cameroon and decided that he needed to come here to Italy to make enough money for his family, also because it was far too dangerous in Africa. First event, at that point, was that he got captured by some people in Gabon and put in prison for 9 years there…. the first 8 months of which were in maximum security. However, the African maximum security in Gabon is different. They dig a hole and fill it up with water, waist high, and then put people in it. He began down there with seven other men who all died within two days. He was then down there for eight more months…..He said that by the time they took him out, he couldn’t walk, his flesh had rotted, and even his own friends in the prison ran away from him because of his monstrous appearance. He healed up within a few months but then stayed the rest of the 9 years in that prison.
Next, he traveled through Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Libya, all the while getting shot, stabbed, robbed, and drafted into fights and wars. Once he got to Libya, he had to wade through the war and he made four attempts to cross that sea to Italy. First attempt, they didn’t even make it 30 minutes out before the boat sank and many people died, including his pregnant girlfriend. He somehow survived and floated all the way back to Libya. He was then put in a Libyan jail for about a year, and made a second attempt to cross, failing again, and then a third a year later. Finally, 2 months ago, he made his last attempt. He said to us that they gave him an inner tube to travel on, and that it would cost him 1,500 euro, but that it was the only way across, so he signed the paper and with a large group of people all holding hands to keep their tubes together they traveled out. In his words, “when you sign that paper and get into that boat or that tube you are signing your own death certificate. If you die, you die, but if you make it, then it is by the grace of God alone. So many people die in that sea.” After a long float on turbulent waters, holding hands the entire way with his people, he made it to Italy.
What’s your excuse on why life is hard?
Cultural Bit: In the 80s the missionaries here in Italy had mopeds. Gee, I wonder why we don’t have them anymore.
Spiritual Bit: I wish to correlate this with the update of the week. How many times do we lose faith or hope that the Lord will carry us? I guarantee that if I were Bryan, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to keep my head in all of that mess. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to. He, however, has somehow kept his faith so strong that he was able to go through 20 years of the most excrutiating experiences, seemingly with no end in sight. How can we learn from this man’s example? For those of you that do read these, here is a quote from Elder Henry B Eyring of the Council of the Twelve in which he said,
“One of my daughters-in-law spent many years feeling that God had placed a pavilion over her. She was a young mother of three who longed for more children. After two miscarriages, her prayers of pleading grew anguished. As more barren years passed, she felt tempted to anger. When her youngest went off to school, the emptiness of her house seemed to mock her focus on motherhood–so did the unplanned and even unwanted pregnancies of acquaintances. She felt as committed and consecrated as Mary, who declared, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” But although she spoke these words in her heart, she could hear nothing in reply.
Hoping to lift her spirits, her husband invited her to join him on a business trip to California. While he attended meetings, she walked along the beautiful, empty beach. Her heart ready to burst, she prayed aloud. For the first time, she asked not for another child but for a divine errand. “Heavenly Father,” she cried, “I will give you all of my time; please show me how to fill it.” She expressed her willingness to take her family wherever they might be required to go. That prayer produced an unexpected feeling of peace. It did not satisfy her mind’s craving for certainty, but for the first time in years, it calmed her heart.
The prayer removed the pavilion and opened the windows of heaven. Within two weeks she learned that she was expecting a child. The new baby was just one year old when a mission call came to my son and my daughter-in-law. Having promised to go and do anything, anywhere, she put fear aside and took her children overseas. In the mission field she had another child–on a missionary transfer day.
Submitting fully to heaven’s will, as this young mother did, is essential to removing the spiritual pavilions we sometimes put over our heads. But it does not guarantee immediate answers to our prayers.
Abraham’s heart seems to have been right long before Sarah conceived Isaac and before they received their promised land. Heaven had other purposes to fulfill first. Those purposes included not only building Abraham and Sarah’s faith but also teaching them eternal truths that they shared with others on their long, circuitous route to the land prepared for them. The Lord’s delays often seem long; some last a lifetime. But they are always calculated to bless. They need never be times of loneliness or sorrow or impatience.
Although His time is not always our time, we can be sure that the Lord keeps His promises. For any of you who now feel that He is hard to reach, I testify that the day will come that we all will see Him face to face. Just as there is nothing now to obscure His view of us, there will be nothing to obscure our view of Him. We will all stand before Him, in person. Like my granddaughter, we want to see Jesus Christ now, but our certain reunion with Him at the judgment bar will be more pleasing if we first do the things that make Him as familiar to us as we are to Him. As we serve Him, we become like Him, and we feel closer to Him as we approach that day when nothing will hide our view.”
We will be tried. We will be broken. The question, however, remains: will we let God change us and will we let this situation bring us closer to Him? Every trial will either bring you closer to Him, or farther. It just depends on what we decide in the middle, for these are opportunities to grow closer to God if we allow Him to work with us and mold us.
I pray that we will all be humble enough to let God love us and help us, for I know that He always has a reward in the end for those who love Him.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Tante belle cose,