Saturday, October 26, 2013


I walked through a city park this morning.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.  Even longer since I did it in the fall.  My heart is full tonight, as I reflect on the thoughts that have woven themselves through my mind all day long.

As we walked, the sun worked its way through the leaves of the oak and elm trees in the park.  Spots of shade and sunshine alternated like sugar and salt on my senses, cooling, then warming me, as the leaves of the trees filtered green, yellow, gold and brown light on the ground next to my pathway.  The sounds were muted – most of the birds were pigeons, being fed by children on the plaza nearby.  But there were a few others flitting about, and though I couldn’t spy a squirrel, I heard one chattering at us from the trees.

The change of seasons here is more subtle than in many parts of the world.  The carefully tended rosebushes have been trimmed back just in the last few days, and soil piled around the roots, to preserve them.  Where there are patches of grass, it has been allowed to grow long, to protect itself.  The leaves on the trees here change color individually, not in groups.  I smiled as I walked past three elms – one completely bare of leaves, another dressed in yellow, and the third still clinging to green.  But what stopped me in my tracks was the smell.  Not since experiencing fall in Virginia have I smelled fall, but I did today.  That damp-earth, soft and sweet smell of decaying leaves in cool air.  I had to stop and just breathe it in, in three different spots.  My mind whirled with memories of the woods where I played as a child, and the shores of the Shenandoah river, where I have spent many an autumn day.  I understand that smell is the physical sense most strongly tied to memory; today was evidence of that claim, for me.

There is something sacred about autumn.  I think it is in the gracious acceptance of the natural world – acceptance that the bloom of summer has ended, and the respite of winter is coming.  Animals either migrate, hibernate, or prepare to meet the harsh conditions of winter.  And non-evergreen plants drop their blossoms and leaves, and conserve themselves for spring.  May I learn to accept the changing conditions of my life like these great trees, and conserve my efforts for the opportunities that will cross my path in their own due time. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Prayers are answered in three ways:
1.     Yes
2.     Not yet
3.     I have something better in mind.

Jim and I have prayed to understand what we can do to shine the light of the gospel in our circles of influence while we are three hours away from the nearest LDS congregation.  Our mission president has given us permission to hold Sunday church in our living room, so we have an opening song, Jim administers the sacrament, and we listen to talks by church leaders that are available on the internet.  We take the time to discuss the talks, we have our Sunday School lesson, and Jim reads out loud to me every morning from the scriptures before our morning prayer together.  We also try to reflect on the day and the lessons of the day during our evening walk home. 

But we do miss the association with other Saints.  And our prayers have reflected a desire to have spiritual moments with others.  While we were in Tonga we learned from a much-respected church leader that he and his wife pray that the Lord will place one person in their path during the day, one person over whom this leader and his wife can have the opportunity to positively influence.  Since then, Jim has regularly included in our prayers together the same request.  And here in Taldykorgan, we have more or less expected that we would be the givers of the light of understanding, and others would be the recipients.  But the Lord sometimes has something better in mind.

Monday morning, I had a very sweet, calm, tender conversation with another teacher here.  I will call him Adam, though that is not his real name.  Adam is a British citizen, though he was born and spent his childhood on an independent Caribbean island.  He spoke about being drawn to a group of friends when he first arrived in England, a group of friends who were very committed students and hard workers, and who had very happy, loving homes. He described to me the peace he felt in their homes, and how he admired their parents and the way the family members all treated each other.  When they invited him to come to church with them, he immediately accepted, not because they quoted scripture, not because they taught him something, but because he had spent time in their homes and loved the feeling there.  He ended up joining the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and is a wonderful example of the careful teachings of that sect.

As I listened to Adam, I reflected on my own habits.  What does my home feel like when others come to visit?  We had 17 teachers over to have a light supper and snacks on Jim’s birthday last Saturday, and we had a very enjoyable time visiting and learning more about each other.  But how did they feel about being in my home?  Other than being physically comfortable, and being pleased with the food, I must say I do not know how they felt.  I need to pay more attention to my home’s spiritual atmosphere, so that people will notice an increased peace, calm, love and reverence when they visit. 

I listened to Adam as he spoke about working with one especially challenging student.  This boy was scrawny and small for his age, so when the boy physically attacked Adam, he did no damage.    Adam caught him by his arms and said, “If you continue this attack, you will lose your opportunity to complete your secondary education anywhere in this country.  If I report this attack, you will be expelled, and no other school will admit you.  But I am not going to report this attack.   I am going to give you another chance.  I am going to write a report that will result in a two-day at-home suspension for you, and at the end of those two days, I want to meet with you and your parents.  Then you will be invited back to my class.”

Adam followed through on his plan, even though the boy was angry at being sent home for two days.  On the third day, Adam met with the boy and his parents, and explained that his goal was to help this boy complete his secondary schooling, so that he could find a decent job, earn a decent wage, and contribute to society.  The parents and Adam both agreed to the plan, and over a period of months, the boy gradually changed his behavior and his attitude, and even wept when Adam left the school.

Having an impact on one person’s life?  Here was a shining example right in front of me.  Here was Adam, a model for me to imitate.  I thanked Adam for his experiences, and for being willing to share them with me.  Then he turned to me and said, “I think God has brought us together for a purpose.”  I think so, too, Adam.  I don’t pretend to know what that purpose includes, but I’m grateful it’s happening.