Shelter in the Shade of Planted Trees

July 24, 2007 | 16 comments
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The movie The Best Two Years was better than I expected. It was also hard to watch. My own mission was a lot like the movie. It was the best and worst two years of my life.

The bleak border town of La Linea was the best and worst part of those two years. We did not teach a single discussion, meet a single interested person, or do any person any good. I and my companion literally fought with our fists. My district hated me. I hated them. They played loud music and cursed just to make me miserable and in return I poured the salt of contempt in every wound of their weaknesses.

La Linea was then Spain’s major entrepot for drugs. We skirted drug dealers parked in the middle of intersections. We daily struggled in the spirit–there is such a thing, I discovered– to make some impression on people whose souls and desires were almost completely drowned in drugs. We daily failed. Perhaps because drugs had broken many, black magic and satanism were popular and spreading. Most of the few local members came from that background and bore spiritual scars from it. Some had slipped back. A palpable presence of the devil seemed to infect everything. The sewers overflowed every day. I experienced darkness and misery. At times I would have been willing to do terrible things in return for oblivion.

But in La Linea I sensed another power in the world more palpably than I have before or since. Every day at mediodia I took shelter in my room and read the Ensign. This was the sesquicentennial spring and summer of 1997 so every issue had an article about the pioneers. I read those articles over and over again. As I did a presence would fill the room and I would sense eternal light and sweetness everywhere around me. A voice in my mind would say ‘the name of this is Christ,’ and it would be confirmed to me that I was at that moment in communion with Him and with his pioneers. These were probably the happiest times of my life.

Here is what I read the most. Its from William W. Slaughter, The Strength of Sacrifice, Ensign, Apr. 1997, 32. Its the story of a family called on a mission to man a ferry over the Colorado. I have mentioned it before:

A family residing in Tuba City, came here from Richfield, Utah where they spent the winter visiting friends. At Panguitch, they buried a child, and without disinfecting the wagon or themselves, not even stopping to wash the dead child’s clothes, they came to our house, and remained overnight, mingling with my little children, and the consequence was [diphtheria], in four days my oldest boy was taken violently ill with fever and sore throat.

We knew nothing of the nature of the disease, but had faith in God, as we are here on a very hard mission, and had tried as hard as we knew how to obey the [commandments]. ? But alas in 4 1/2 days he choked to death in my arms. Two more were taken down with the disease. We fasted sometimes 24 hours and once I fasted 40 hours, but both my little girls died also. About a week after their death my fifteen year old daughter Melinda was stricken down and we did all we could for her, but she followed the others and the end is not yet. My oldest girl 19 years old is now prostrate with the disease and we are fasting and praying in her behalf today.

There are unseen influences around us that are trying to cause me to lose faith in God and to make me feel that there is no use to continue to pray. You can imagine how I feel, as you know how I have tried to live, and the implicit faith I had in the gospel and the promises of God.

However there are other spirits or influences around us that say to me, that God is the Father of the spirits of my children, and that He loves them as well as I do, and that he knows definitely better than I do what is best for them and us. God has said that He would have a tried people in the last days, and those who desire to do right will have to pass through greater trials than those who are not trying to reach the highest glory. I feel well when I look at it in the above light and especially when I think of the influences we have felt when my children died. It did not seem like death, and even when they were breathing their last, we could not feel bad, there was such a heavenly influence in the room. And also the looks of the children after death, almost a smile on their lips. I know they are happy now, and I hope I shall not give way to the spirits of evil, but that I might live so that bye and bye I can go and dwell with [my children]. I can assure you, however, that it is the hardest trial of my life, but I set out for salvation and am determined that it is through the help of my Heavenly Father that I hold fast to the iron rod, no matter what troubles come upon me I have not yet slackened in the performance of any of my duties.

That man and his family suffered and died for me, as Christ did also, and I know it and they know it. They aren’t my literal ancestors but I claim them as my fathers and mothers. I will carry the cross. Happy Pioneer Day.

16 Responses to Shelter in the Shade of Planted Trees

  1. Carson on July 24, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Excellent post Adam. It is almost incomprehensible to think of what they suffered, it makes our hard times seem easy.

  2. FoxyJ on July 24, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    I also served in Spain (Madrid) and had similar experiences. I also loved that movie, because so much of it rang true to me. Lately I’ve been in a difficult time in my life, so I really appreciate this post. Thank you.

  3. Margaret Young on July 24, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Beautifully done, Adam. Thank you.

  4. Jacob on July 24, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Amazing stuff, Adam! My mission treated me a lot better than yours, but I still understand what some of what you’re talking about. There is a power that tells us that what we are and what we’re doing is useless, but there is a greater power that tell us to push on.

  5. Kristine on July 24, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Adam, I have not made it through that story once since I had babies–I have to get up and walk away because reading even the couple of paragraphs turns me completely inside-out. I don’t know how you managed to type it. A beautiful post, thank you.

  6. Adam Greenwood on July 24, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    Cut and paste, KHH.

  7. Bob on July 24, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    I made a computer slide side of my Mission, I downloaded from the Church site the needed background music: “Have You Done Any Good In The World Today?” It works, but it is kinda sad.

  8. Ray on July 25, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Wow.

  9. Ray on July 25, 2007 at 12:50 am

    Adam, My oldest son has a friend who lived with us when he turned 18, because his father kicked him out. He joined the church shortly thereafter as a result of some amazing experiences. We call him a son, and he calls us Mama and Papa. He has been living with his father during the summer break, but the last few days have been terrible for him, and he is at our house tonight after being rejected once more by his father.

    I just asked him to read your post, and, when he had finished he said:

    “It’s hard when the people who need the Gospel the most won’t accept it. I live in a house like that. Without the Gospel . . .” – and he shuddered.

    I don’t know what prompted you to write this particular post, but it helped my son tonight. Thank you.

  10. Bookslinger on July 25, 2007 at 2:20 am

    Adam, I think of you and your family every time I see Dr. Smith at church. She teaches a primary class.

  11. Adam Greenwood on July 25, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Tell Dr. Smith we love her and think of her often.

  12. MormonTechie on July 25, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Thank you for your post. For me it was insightful because all too often I get caught up in my own life and worries and forget that there are so many worse things out there. Thank you for putting things in perspective today.

  13. J.A.T. on July 26, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Yes, thank you.
    I commend your openness and frankess in bringing forth comments such as these. I met with an old missionary companion recently, who seriously needs some of the balm of the spirit you testify of here, but cannot accept any of it. She cannot bring into her world view the fact that the bitter accompanies the sweet, and instead feels horrible guilt that she cannot say (like others do) say unequivically that ‘I loved everyday’, ‘I never wanted to leave’, ‘the best two years of my life’, and ‘I loved every moment of my mission’ said with total victory and triumph etc.

    After many years, She confronted me and asked how this could be done when we were in extremely difficult circumstances, similar to the ones you described. I gave a similar testimony, but she wasn’t looking for that, she was looking for a way to make the rosy-view snap into place. Her family, perfectionists one and all, also insists on hearing only a purely rosey-eyed view, which makes it very difficult for her to see the beauty life’s momenets of harmony resolved from dissonance. I think that testimonies such as the one you’ve given us are so very important for everyone to hear, on blogs, but in church as well. Thank you!

  14. Adam Greenwood on July 26, 2007 at 11:59 am

    The Rose and the Chrysanthemum says that WWII Japanese propaganda films used to emphasize the misery and the futility the soldiers were putting up with to serve the Emperor. This flabbergasted American propagandists but I understand where the Japanese were coming from.

  15. Kathryn Lynard Soper on July 26, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Adam, I’m filled. Thank you for setting the stage.

  16. Bob on July 26, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    #14: Threadjack: This book in 1969, almost got all us Anthropology majors sent to Vietnam by the CIA!

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