Mission Experiences, Chapters 33 & 34

This entry is part 17 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Thirty-Three Keeping a Promise

It was a few days later that we saw the younger Sylvia again. This time the plot thickened for she told us of an encounter she had apparently with this same being that attacked her mother. She said this person appeared next to her bed. He had a gold amulet around his neck and he offered it to her saying that taking it was a sign that she belonged to him. She was afraid and refused to take it and he disappeared. She asked us what it meant. I considered this may be just another ploy to get my attention, but I knew for sure that her mom was scared by some unknown entity so it seemed logical that the daughter could have an experience with this same being – especially after burning the scriptures. Also, this seemed to be beyond her imagination to just make up. I told her that if she really saw this being that he would probably be the same one who tried to strangle her mom and if he appeared again to not take the amulet. Over the next couple days he appeared several more times, again offering the amulet and giving her enticing words that this would be some key to great power. After about the third time she acted like she was thinking of taking the thing. Finally he told her to meet him at a certain stream near a hawthorn tree at the stroke of midnight and he would give it to her. She said she didn’t go but claimed he gave her another offer similar to this. The next time we visited with her she was extremely troubled. I didn’t know if everything she was telling us was the truth but I did definitely sense she was troubled by a supernatural force. We attempted to counsel her and she got up and ran outside. I ran after her and caught up with her and she turned around and let out a blood curdling scream. Then she ran away again. Again, I ran after her and when I caught her this time she looked at my face and calmed down a bit. I asked her what terrified her so. She said that when she looked at my face it turned into the being’s face who appeared to her. It terrified her and she ran. She said that now my face had returned to normal. This time I didn’t think she was making things up as she did indeed appear terrified beyond one’s ability to act off the cuff. For a few days things seemed to return to normal. Then one night after we had retired and settled into a deep sleep I was suddenly awakened by a powerful negative feeling. I rose up in my bed wondering what it could be when I realized that my mouth had an overwhelming taste of aspirin. It was so strong it felt like my tongue and most of my mouth was made of the stuff. I looked at my watch and saw that it was three in the morning. What a time to get a message I thought. Surely whatever it is can wait a mere couple hours. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. The feeling just became stronger and the taste even more powerful. I had the feeling that someone was thinking of committing suicide by taking an overdose of aspirin. But at 3 AM? What kind of ungodly hour is that for someone to be planning such a thing? Surely I didn’t have to attend to this now I thought and again tried to go back to sleep. This time the feeling became even more intense and the impression came: “This is what you did last time. Remember your promise.” When this thought came into my head I could no longer think of sleep. The last time I ignored the Spirit I regretted it and vowed I would respond the next time no matter how awkward. Can you get any more awkward than 3 AM I thought? If this was some kind of test the timing was surely right for several reasons. First, I was tired and did not feel like getting up. Secondly, even though my companion was supportive, he would probably think I was crazy for wanting to respond in the middle of the night. Thirdly, anyone behind any door we knock on at this hour would think we are out of our minds. I turned and looked at my companion. He appeared to be sound asleep in his bed. I really didn’t want to wake him up, but a promise is a promise and I nudged him awake and explained the feeling I had. I was surprised how accepting he was. He was willing to check things out. We got dressed as quickly as we could and soon we were ready to go. Then my companion asked me where we were going. Who could be the source of the problem? I told him my impression was that it was the older Sylvia, but was not 100% sure. All I was sure of was that someone was having a major problem. We headed off and got to her place a little before 4 AM. We stopped the van and looked at her house. If there was a problem you would think someone would be up and a light would be on, but it looked dark with no sign of life. We looked at the dark house and then at each other and concluded that we ought to check out other possibilities until we find someone who is up and around. If someone is thinking of committing suicide then you would think they would be up. We started to drive away, but as we did I felt a strong pull drawing us back. I began to feel with certainty that we needed to knock on that door. As we approached the door we checked the windows for any life of life and couldn’t see any. On top of that Sylvia’s husband was not a member of the church and wasn’t that friendly toward us. What would he think? Maybe he would call the cops at this hour. After just standing there for a couple minutes I finally knocked on the door. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. After pounding on it a couple times, finally a light came on and Sylvia answered the door and looked at us with nervous bewilderment. From upstairs we heard her husband shout, “Sylvia. What’s going on down there?” She shouted back, “Nothing, honey. Go back to sleep.” I then told her that it was important that we talk to her and asked if we could come in. She invited us in and we sat around a coffee table. I didn’t know quite how to word my question so I just blurted it out, “Sylvia, I received a message this morning that you were thinking of committing suicide by taking an overdose of aspirin and we have come here to stop you. She looked at me with a blank stare. Then I said: “Have you been thinking of committing suicide?” Then she laughed at me and said, “Of course not. Everything is fine. What in the world made you think that?” I felt kind of foolish as I blurted out, “I just had a feeling about you.” “Well, tell that feeling to go away. I know from some things you have taught me that you think you can get messages about things, but let me tell you, this time you are 100 per cent wrong. I’m fine, my husband is fine, everything is fine. Now you’d better go before he wakes back up.” As we left her place I considered that it seemed that I had made a fool of myself, but at least I kept my promise and we started to head back home. Then the inner voice came again, “You are not done, the there is still danger and you must find the person with the problem.” I thought that perhaps I was wrong about Sylvia. Maybe it was someone else. I reflected over a list of friends who may have been the problem and went to their houses. Between about 4 AM to 6 AM we woke up about a half dozen friends and asked them if they were thinking about suicide. After they got over the shock of waking up so early most of them thought it was quite funny that we were rambling around town waking people up asking them if they were going to kill themselves. They kidded me about this “funny feeling” I had for some time afterwards. I didn’t think the problem was with the younger Sylvia but decided to check with her. I didn’t want to go too early since it may really alarm her mother. We went there around 9 AM and she maintained that everything was fine. We went back to the digs and rested for a short while but the Spirit within me told me the job was not yet done. So we took off again and spent most of the day visiting every friend I could think of asking them questions trying to discover if there may be a problem, but could find none. Finally in the late afternoon we had exhausted all of the possibilities, but the powerful feeling persisted telling me that I had not discovered the problem. Finally I withdrew into myself and reflected trying to discern who the real suicidal person was. As I reflected I had the feeling that I was right the first time. The person was the older Sylvia. About 4 PM (around 12 hours from the first visit) we returned and knocked on her door again. She answered and was there alone while her husband was at work. She invited us in and we sat down again. After some small talk I told her again that I suspected that she was not telling us the truth and was thinking about suicide and pleaded with her to come clean with us. She said: “You may get some inspiration from time to time, but this time you are wrong. Everything is fine. How many times do I have to tell you that your feeling is wrong?” I looked into her eyes and they seemed to be so honest, so sincere, so truthful. How could I be so silly as to think she is telling me such a bold face lie? Maybe, just maybe I was wrong this time. Maybe I was just lucky in times past that the inner voice was right.” We started to get up to head for the door when the Spirit rested upon me and somehow I finally knew for sure that Sylvia was lying to me. We sat back down and I looked Sylvia in the eyes and said these words: “Sylvia, the Spirit of God is resting upon me and telling me that you are not telling the truth. There is a major problem and you must tell me about it now. Why were you thinking of killing yourself?” I couldn’t believe I was saying those words. What if she laughed at me again? But she didn’t laugh. This time her countenance changed in an instant and she put her face in her hands and wept with great emotion. She cried out, “You are right. Last night I did something terrible. I committed adultery and when I came home late at night I was thinking of committing suicide and the only way I could think of doing it was to take a bottle of aspirin I had. Then I went to bed still thinking about it when I heard a knock on the door and it was you. I immediately thought to myself that somehow you knew my intentions, but did my best to deceive you, but you wouldn’t leave me alone would you?”

. “It’s God who won’t leave you alone,” I said. Well you certainly distracted me so I didn’t take the aspirin, but I’ve still been very depressed. Immediately, I felt the burden lifted. I sensed that this was a sign to her that God cared and that she wasn’t going to make a suicide attempt. We gave her our best counseling on handing the problem and left. From this time to the time I left Scarborough things kind of settled down with the two Sylvias. When I returned about five years later to Scarborough to visit Bob and Betty I was able to visit with the younger Sylvia. To my surprise she was still in the church and was leading a fairly stable life. I asked about the other Sylvia and she told me she had many problems and was currently in a mental hospital. Then I thought back to my strong impression that the older Sylvia was not ready to get baptized and change her life and that I wondered why I didn’t get a similar impression on the younger Sylvia who seemed even more unstable. Now the answer seemed clear. As I was ready to leave her I thought back to all her strange efforts to get close to me or to kiss me and decided that since I was no longer under mission rules that I should fulfill her fantasy. I grabbed her and gave her a big kiss and then left. Hopefully, it gave her the thrill she had dreamed of for so long. . .

Chapter-Thirty-Four The Fiery Finisher

I was nearing the end of my mission and was thinking about tackling one final challenge. I thought back to the days in Peterlee when I was able to do missionary work the way I thought best and had achieved satisfying success. There were two things in the way in Scarborough. The first was that I was a district leader and had to tend to other duties besides regular proselyting. The second was that even though Peterlee had a reputation as being a difficult town, Scarborough was more difficult still. The main reason was because it was a resort town that drew people of retirement age and older people are rarely looking for change. I had a couple months left and had been in Scarborough almost eight months whereas the average stay in an area may be around three months. I knew I was due for a transfer soon. If I were promoted I would become a zone leader. A missionary in this position works with other elders full time and doesn’t have a territory of his own. Many missionaries aspired to this position, as it was prestigious, and allowed them a lot of freedom to travel, work with many Elders and escape some of the pressures of regular missionary work I was one of the few who did not aspire to higher leadership. It wasn’t because I wouldn’t enjoy it but I thought the highest good I could accomplish would be to bring the largest number of people possible into the church. The best way to do this was just to be a regular missionary with no responsibilities except to teach. The problem was that I was a district leader and any assignment to be a regular missionary was considered a demotion. Consequently, such a change only happened to a royal screw up. However, I saw a ray a hope that I could become a regular missionary again without having to convince President Payne that I was a terrible leader. The mission had recently created a new position that they called “The Fiery Finisher.” They were selecting missionaries in leadership positions, releasing them from that position and making them regular missionaries for the last couple months of their missions. The stated purpose for this was so leaders could use all their skills to get back to the basics and work at bringing souls to the Lord. The mission home didn’t fool us Elders though. There wasn’t a missionary that didn’t clearly understand what the fiery finisher program was about. For years the Mission Home realized it had problems with certain leaders but once a leader was in position it was devastating to let him go for it meant he was a screw up and President Payne didn’t want to send that message. Instead the staff figured they would create a position that sounded like a move up, but was really a move down. When we got the first list of fiery finishers in the mission newsletter our suspicions were confirmed. Those selected for the position were indeed the slackers, sent to areas where they could do little damage. Then when I read the work statistics of the fiery finishers they were low indeed. Most of them were just relaxing, biding their time until they went hone. No leader wanted to be a fiery finisher… Except me. This was just exactly what I wanted and my time was running out. If I was to accomplish anything as a fiery finisher then I had to act. I wrote President Payne a letter telling him that I liked the fiery finisher program and wanted to be one. I could just visualize him reading my letter and almost falling off his chair. I was positive that no one besides me had ever actually requested the position, as every day mission leaders who were demoted to it were looked upon almost with pity. It was as if they were branded with a scarlet letter. Anyway a couple weeks passed and I began to wonder if they were just going to leave me in Scarborough for the rest of my mission. Then I received a letter in the mail. I hastily opened it and it stated that I had been selected to be a fiery finisher and was to be transferred to the city of Scunthorpe. I was thrilled. At last I was given one final opportunity to dedicate myself to do the work and since I was to be a senior I could do it my way. The only problem was I had a mere six weeks left on my mission and it took 6-8 weeks to get a person ready for baptism. Even so, I was happy to see what I could accomplish one last time. As I left I learned that my companion had been promoted to a senior and was going to stay on at Scarborough. He deserved it and I was glad for him. When I arrived at Scunthorpe I discovered that before my arrival, there had only been one set of two missionaries working the town. Now the mission home decided to have two sets. The previous missionaries had been transferred and a couple days before I arrived the first new set of Elders had already settled in. These two were led by the new district leader named Elder Paxton. On arriving I met elder Paxton who instantly struck me as the type of guy the mission would pick for leadership. He was enthusiastic, emotional and energetic. As he was showing me to my new digs he gave me word of advice. “As you know your new companion will be Elder Hobbs. You know about Elder Hobbs, don’t you?” “I’ve met him a couple times. Seems like a likeable fellow,” I said. “Don’t be fooled,” he said. “I worked with him as his senior for a couple months and the guy has to be the most difficult elder in the mission.” “What’s the problem?” I asked. “What isn’t the problem?” he replied. “First the guy sleeps in every morning. I had to wake him a half dozen times and then finally had to forcibly pull him out of bed every morning. Then when it was time to go he wouldn’t be ready and had to threaten him to get him out doing the work.” He looked exasperated and continued, “Then when we were in the field he was useless as he never did learn his lessons and I had to do all the talking and teaching. He was like having a dead weight to haul around. He was always holding me back. I’m warning you that you are going to have a major problem on your hands.” “Does Hobbs believe in God?” I asked. “Yes, I suppose so,” said Elder Paxton a little puzzled. “I’ve met Elder Hobbs and he seems like a nice guy and if he believes in God I think I can work with him.” “Okay,” he said suspiciously. “By the way,” I said, “where are our share of the leads left by the previous missionaries?” “We got here first so we took them,” said Paxton. “We’ve already gone through them all, sorted them and decided how we are going to work them.” “So you’re telling me with only six weeks to go that Hobbs and I will have to start with nothing?” “Sorry, we were here first, I am your district leader, and that’s the way it has to be,” he said. No wonder Hobbs didn’t feel like doing the work with this guy, I thought as I settled down in my new digs and waited for my new companion to arrive. Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

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