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The other day Reg, my husband, and I were traveling across the Navajo Reservation near Many Farms, Arizona. We saw hundreds of motorcyclists in black suits and masks driving towards us. My heart leaped to my throat as we pulled to a stop at the man-made road block.
I am always a little nervous about crossing the reservation, because I have had some wild experiences as I have journeyed that route. On one trip, a drunken Native American staggered across the road in front of my car. In his drunken stupor, he was obviously trying to stop my car with his body. I would turn my wheels one way and he would stagger into my path.
I would turn another direction and he would reel back into my path. I was terrified, but I never panic – until after things settle down. Finally, I quit trying to avoid him and drove straight towards him. Just as I got close enough, I swerved and missed him by inches.
Another time, I made a mistake at a gas station and ended up turning back the same way I had come. My car died and I had my parents come and find me. I told them the wrong direction and they wandered through the night looking for me. I stopped on the side of the road and a police officer came and tapped on my window. I rolled down the window and looked up at him through groggy eyes. He said, “You cannot sleep here, there have been two murders in the area and it is dangerous.” About that time, my parents drove up and the police officer was reluctant to let them take me. He was afraid of foul play. My parents had to prove that I belonged to them.
Later, my mother was talking to a Native American who worked with my uncle. He said, “I would never let my daughter travel that road by herself. I used to live in that area and there are murders and kidnappings all the time.”
As you can imagine, when I saw the lines and lines of motorcycles, my heart beat a little faster. I said, “Reg, this is scary.”
A Native American biker strolled over to the window. He smiled kindly. “It will be about five minutes,” he said. “These bikers are veterans and they are going to honor a young man who was killed in Afghanistan. We started this group a couple of years ago, and it grows bigger every year.”
Tears came to my eyes as I realized that I had misjudged these men. They were showing respect to one who had made the ultimate sacrifice, and I was sitting in my car putting up walls of fear.
“Judge not that ye be not judged.”
Another experience opened my eyes to Christ’s teachings. In the 1970s I went to Italy on a Christian mission. Italy seems so far away now. It’s like a dream that peeks through the fog, trying to pose as reality. The tall brownish gray building lining the cobblestone streets. The flower and fruit vendors flooding the allies and byways. The children, scrubby and dirty, brushing up against you begging for money. The chatter of excited voices of some disgusted motorist or bus driver.
The unmistakable aroma of olive oil and pasta floating on the air, mingling with the smog and diesel smells of the city. The peaceful green countryside, the mountains, the fresh green vineyards drenched in the morning dew or steaming in the afternoon humidity.
So often since my mission, I have compared my mission to a miniature life. I was born when I stepped off the plane. The environment was strange and the language was gibberish. The Lord gave me a companion to teach me like He gave us parents. As companions, we learn and grow together. Then as soon as we know what we’re doing, we’re called home. We get on the plane and it’s over. We go back to reunite with loved ones on the other side or home in our own land. My mission was like that...short...oh too short, but packed with living experiences. Daily, I learned new lessons about life. It is not often that you are able to focus totally on serving the Lord.
As missionaries, we often invite people to come to church by giving them a little white card with the address of the church printed on it. I was excited to share my witness of Christ, so I passed out many cards. I was excited, but shy and a little reserved. I never wanted people to think ill of me. I wore my heart on my sleeve, but I was a good sport. One day after giving out hundreds of little white tickets to everyone I had seen within my moving distance, I sat down on the bus to wait for our stop. I leisurely watched out the window, feeling content with my work. I took out my scriptures and began to read.
While I was reading, a white ticket fluttered down onto my scriptures, which lay open on my lap. I blushed inwardly and without looking up, I tucked it into my scriptures. I knew it had to be some angry soul who wanted me to feel sorry for bothering him. I sat there pondering the awfulness of the situation when another white ticket fluttered down into my lap. Again I blushed, this time really distressed. Two in one night! Were all the people on the bus angry with me? I quickly tucked it away, trying not to be conspicuous. About that time, another ticket fluttered down. Horrified at the situation, I decided that I must face the angry mob that was giving me back all my tickets.
I looked up to face what awaited me. I expected the entire busload of people to be glaring down at me. Instead, there were two male missionaries beaming down on me with obvious delight. One held another ticket, poised to drop. I nearly died! Blushing and flustered, I tried to explain, but they only laughed. They must have really enjoyed my plight. We all laughed at my foolishness. I have never had a problem with laughing at myself.
At home, I pondered the situation. I knew the ticket dropping was all in fun, and everyone had a good laugh, but I realized that I had been ashamed of the very thing I was trying to promote. I determined from that moment on, I would “Never again be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”
Years have come and gone. I have had many situations to defend the gospel of Christ. I have talked to atheists and half-way believers. I have disagreed with points of doctrine, but I gently tried to see the other person’s point of view. That is the way a Christian would do it. Once on a bus, late at night, I had a conversation with an atheist. He ranted and raved about his beliefs. He was strong, adamant and even angry at times, but I listened. Not with the intent to prove him wrong, but to truly understand.
After he had exhausted all of his reasons for his feelings and I had listened with loving concern, he allowed me to talk and explain my witness of Christ to him. At the end of the conversation, he said, “Maybe there is something to this religion stuff.”
I don’t know what happened to him after the bus pulled into the station. I don’t know if he ever went to church, or ever thought about Christianity again, but I know for one moment in time, he felt the Savior’s love through me. We were both uplifted and changed for the better.
So often, we buzz through life flitting from flower to flower. We judge by appearances, and shape our experiences according to those judgments. We forget that God sees with different eyes. He sees with the heart. If we love as He loves, we will be able to see all humanity through His eyes. We will see a line of motorcycles with black coats and masks, and wait until we know their story before we allow fear to enter our hearts. We will listen with our hearts to those who do not see life the way we do. Life is a journey of learning to love. We learn that best by learning from each experience life has to teach. Often we find those lessons in strange places. PD