The Real Elder Price
The Real Elder Price, Part 7: To Boldly Go
Elder Seth Lee reports on the subsequent events:
For our baptism service on Saturday, a man whose kids I taught in English class, David, committed to being baptized, which made us all excited because it really was a group effort to bring him and his family to church. After seeing the baptismal service, he felt the spirit so strongly, he committed to baptism.
But that baptism was not to be.
Elder Chirwa continues:
David, a very gentle, loving man, died the day he openly accepted baptism. The funeral service will be tomorrow evening. I want to be there to support, but dread having to look into Fridah's eyes as they are filled with pain. I wish I could stretch out my arms and embrace her, but that is against the rules. Sometimes the only way we have found to express our love and support is to hold her hands in ours and reassure her with words. We will be there tomorrow and do what we can to support her.
David, in his early 40s, had died of a diabetes-related problem, something which would have been easily resolved with better medical care.
Elder Wigginton describes his next meeting with the family:
As I spoke to Fridah on the phone, I offered my condolences and told her I would be able to see her and the kids in just two days, as I would be in town for zone conference.
In that very zone conference, we bore testimony as we regularly do, going in a circle. As my turn came, my eyes preemptively watered and I felt the choking feeling of literally swallowing tears. I spoke of Shakespeare being right, that when sorrows come they come in battalions. Yet, regardless of the battering rams and armed assaults that have been flooding in over the past weeks, I bore and bear testimony that Christ has made me a fortress capable of enduring so much. And though I acknowledge the forces working on me, and though I feel them, I have become something that will not be crippled. I will bow my head in reverence and ache, but I will always move forward knowing that there is so much more yet to be realized.
That night, when I saw Fridah sitting in the corner of her living room on a mattress, she began wailing and lamenting, telling the story of what happened to David. When she had spoken to him at the hospital, he did not respond. His eyes just stared straight up into space. I clasped her hand in mine and looked her in the eyes, praying for her. She was comforted enough to breathe and listen. I bore witness to her that David was not far from her and her family and that she would see him again. I promised this, something beyond understanding in a world of hopelessness and skepticism, and I know that it was and is true.
Rodi and Dodi came in, eyes and bodies tired from tears, and gave me hugs. Elder Acorda and I sang hymns, and then Elder Acorda sang a beautiful solo ("Where Can I Turn for Peace?") with his angelic voice. I was pricked with power, as I heard Dodi singing before we started together: "Oui, je crois au Christ:" "I believe in Christ."
Weeks later, Elder Price had an important conversation with the oldest son, Derrick:
Monday night, we decided to pass by Fridah's house. Fridah and the twins weren't there, but Derrick was. He is my age, two months older than me. We've never taught him, but just exchanged little convos here and there, so this was a good opportunity. We didn't know at all where to go with the lesson at the beginning, and it was kinda awkward, but it ended really well. He opened up, and I opened up, and there was just a really good feeling there at the end. His great question of the night was about why God didn't answer his prayers when his father was dying. I didn't know really what to say at the beginning, but the spirit does prompt and give you 'in the very hour what you should say'.
Fridah and her sons were not baptized, though they will surely remember the missionaries who loved and grieved with them.
|Elder Wigginton with African missionaries|
This is missionary work—sometimes triumphant and miraculous, and sometimes heart-wrenching. No missionary who loves the people will serve his mission without having his muscles stretched, his heart broken, his soul enlarged, and his vision adjusted to include a world he had never imagined.
In a way, he does get a planet as his reward for being a good missionary. It just happens to be the planet he was born on, seen with new eyes. Elder Lisowski put it this way at the end of his mission: "I feel like I'm fully awake, and now that I see what's around me, I'm ready to make a difference."
Margaret Blair Young is the president of the Association for Mormon Letters and has published eight books—six novels and two short story collections. Three of the novels were co-authored with Darius Gray and give the history (documented) of Black Latter-day Saints. She and Gray made the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, which is currently under contract with the Documentary Channel and showing nationally. She has written six encyclopedia articles and other scholarly papers on Blacks in the western United States, and particularly Black Mormons. She teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University.