Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tender Mercies and Miracles

20 Feb 2016

I believe that God talks to us every day in some way.   It is just up to us to see it, recognize it, and have an awareness of the possibility.    It could be a random thought, a small act of kindness, a smile, an act of generosity, or a prompting.

Recently, Sister Chirstensen was asked and she in turn asked me,  "what is the biggest miracle that you have seen since you have been in Cambodia?"

I had to think about that. Was it just that I got off of the plane last June and have stayed?   Was it that we didn't get washed down the street and into the ocean during the rainy season?   Was it that we have survived driving and walking in the unruly traffic of Phnom Penh?  As miraculous as this may sound they were mostly just problematic!

Then it became very clear to me, its not the miracles that have been the most impressive but instead the daily flow of the Lord's tender mercies.
              " ....But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the 
              Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make 
              them mighty even unto the power of deliverance."   1 Nephi 1:20 

It seems that certainly wherever there are missionaries this scripture rings trueSuch as daily communications..... as broken as their English is and as non-existent as my Khmer is we always seem to be able to understand one another when needed.

In our Vietnamese Branches, they love us and voice that readily and often.  Their open and loving arms welcome us each Sunday which seems to soften the ridiculous things that they do in answering their phones during Sacrament Prayers, or popping the top of a can of pop and slurping it back during a talk in Sacrament Service,  getting up in the middle of a Sunday meeting to go buy from a drink cart and then bringing the drink into the meeting.  The "tender mercy" of nothing more than my head shake and a softened heart has gone a long way helping to teach the Lord's way.  (Instead of my usual method of "Are you NUTS?" "You can't do that in Church!" or my most frequently used, "What is the matter with you?" ) Tender mercies......

Two of my most favorite "tender mercies" have recently taken place with local missionaries on their way to the MTC.   Elder Ey (ee) was on his way to the Provo MTC.   This is a young missionary that is from the Provinces.  Battambang is his home.  This is about 5 hours NW of Phnom Penh.   His two months serving in the Phnom Penh Mission prior to receiving his USA visa was the first time that he had ever left Battambang.  It was as if we had taking him right off the rice paddies  just to put him on an airplane for 24 hours with 2 connecting flights in foreign countries thousands of miles away with little to no English skills.   The AP's and I gave Elder Ey a crash course on the how-to's of flying.   I had pictures printed of what to look for, airline logos, key airport phrases written in English and translated in Khmer for this missionary.   We took him to the airport armed as best as we could but deep down inside I knew it would not be enough without divine help.   And sure enough that divine help came at the SLC airport.

Elder Ey was tired, confused and lost.  He was looking for the Shuttle to take him to the MTC.   Just then a woman walked past him and noticed his name tag that was in Khmer.   She was a very good friend of President and Sister Christensen and had recently been in Cambodia.   She asked Elder Ey if he was from Cambodia and he acknowledged that he was and was looking for the MTC shuttle bus.   She told him that she was on her way to that very same shuttle bus and would help him get there.

Another tender mercy hinged around a missionary heading to the Manila MTC was equally as sweet.  Elder Danh is a Cambodian-Vietnamese, meaning that he is a Viet that has lived in Cambodia all his life.  He was carrying a brand new Vietnamese passport.   When he went to Viet Nam before his mission to visit family he failed to stop at the border to get his proper stamps on his Vietnamese passport from the Cambodia side.   So when he got to the airport they would not let him fly until the passport was properly stamped.   Through a few phone calls we realized that his only recourse was to go back to the border and get the proper stamps and re-schedule his flight for later that night so that he could still make his MTC date. The next problem was that it is a 3 hour bus ride one way or a 2 hour car ride one way.   His new flight (and the last flight of the night to Manila) was at 7:30pm.  It was noon when Elder Leavitt and I drove out of town with  Elder Danh heading to the Viet Nam border.   It was a spectacular drive.   If the traffic hadn't been so heavy and the road hadn't been pocked with multiple potholes it wouldn't have taken any longer than an hour to drive it.  We had to pass through ten or more single lane, rickety, old bridges.   The bridges loudly clattered as we drove across them and I prayed that we would not be it's "last straw"!  (I am pretty sure that was a miracle!)
We got him to the border where he had made an arrangement to meet his cousin who could take him across the line.  Elder Leavitt and I could only stand on the outside looking in because neither of us had a visa to cross into Viet Nam.   We allowed Elder Danh to break 4 or more hard and fast missionary rules within 15-20 minutes!!!   He walked through this field alone (no shoulder to shoulder companion), then walked out of sight, and came barreling  through the field with his cousin on the back of his moto!  He took off is name tag and his tie (said it made his look like a casino worker!) and it seemed like he was riding "off into the sunset" the rest of the way across the border.  It was an aweful 20 minutes.   I prayed every minute, "PLEASE come back!"  "PLEASE don't stay over there!"  "PLEASE don't make me phone President Christensen and tell him I have lost you!"
Well, he did come back!   By 2:40 pm we were on our way back to Phnom Penh.  We were on the very south of Phnom Penh by 4:45pm.   This is the very highest traffic times for the city.  It has taken us an hour or more to get to the airport from the mission office (the center of Phnom Penh) where in normal traffic it is a 30 minute trip.  Interestingly, the traffic seemed to part like the Red Sea as Elder Danh directed Elder Leavitt to the airport through some little community roads only known by local natives to Phnom Penh.   We were at the airport by 6pm.   The tender mercies did not stop there.   We got Elder Danh checked in but we still did not have a flight itinerary for him.   He needed to make a connections in Bangkok.  I was on the phone with the office to see if I could get the itinerary so I could tell him the name and number of the flight in Bangkok.   As I was on the phone in the middle of the airport a woman walked by and over heard our dilemma.  A stranger out of the blue said, "Do you need help?   I can help him get to his next flight.  I fly all the time."   I could do nothing more than to say "yes" and turn this sweet faithful missionary over to her care.  He made it on time to the MTC the next morning. 

The Lord's hand was all over this day and all over this young priesthood-bearing missionary that He had chosen.  His tender mercies have been abundant and clearly in sight.  I am grateful to have, as Sister Christensen put it, "a front-row seat" to watch it all happen.