Mission Experiences, Chapters 13 & 14

This entry is part 7 of 18 in the series Mission

Chapter Thirteen
When Soon Means Soon

We rode our bikes to Margaret’s house to say goodbye. She was the daughter of a coal miner and lived in a miner’s housing area. The housing like many in Britain at the time was called stone rows. In other words, they were rows of connected stone dwellings, all of them basically the same design.

Margaret came to the door. She was about five two with long dark hair, fairly nice looking and had an interesting face. From the time I first met her she seemed familiar, but of course, there was no way we could have crossed paths in this life.

I asked her if she was planning to get baptized and she said that both her and her sister planned on doing so.

Outside of being happy that she was going to get baptized the visit was quite uneventful – on the surface that is, but much more transpired than was apparent to me at the time.

I saw her one other time before I left. I caught her a few months later just as she was boarding a bus after a church conference. Unfortunately, we had only a moment to talk.

Then over a year later, after I returned home, around Christmas of 1966 I sent her a Christmas card. This, of course, had my return address on it and she followed up with a letter to me. This started a communication between us and we wrote each other for four years.

After I got home, as with most return missionaries, I got the idea of marrying an English lass out of my head and started a search for my mate in the good ole USA. Most return missionaries go to Rexburg or BYU where there is a plethora of females wanting to date return missionaries but I went to the party school at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. Unfortunately, there were about three guys to one female there at the time so you had to work really hard for a date.

Even so I dated quite a bit and during those four years I dated several females I really fell for and considered marriage, but each time the inner voice gave me a strong no.

Finally, on a visit to Portland, I met one named Rhea that I really wanted to marry but again the inner voice did not approve. Still I liked her so much that I continued seeing her.

All during this time I was writing Margaret, treating her as a friend, and keeping her apprized of different females I was dating. I wrote to her about the dilemma I was in over Rhea – that I could not make up my mind about her.

Then she wrote me back and near the end of her fairly standard letter she said these words:

“I wish you would make up your mind about this person because it would really help solve one of my problems.”

I read this sentence over and over and tried to read between the lines. “Is it possible,” I thought to myself, “that she is somehow thinking that I am the one for her and she is waiting for me to get all the girls I am dating out of my system?”

I was curious about this so I wrote her back and asked her point blank if this as the case. A couple weeks later I received a reply that went something like this:

“There is an important piece of information I have never told you. Remember that day when you were transferred and came to say goodbye? You asked me if I was going to get baptized and I said yes.

“After you left I asked myself if I was getting baptized for the right reason. Did I really believe what you taught me or was there a subtle attraction to you that was influencing me? I decided shortly after you left that I needed to know for sure so I knelt in prayer and asked God for a witness.

“The Spirit came to me very powerfully witnessing about Joseph Smith and the church but then told me something else that I was not expecting. It said that you were to be my husband and that I was to wait for you and after a period of time you would return to England and marry me.

Then she ended with, “I have been waiting ever since. What has taken you so long?”

I put the letter down and said, “Wow!” I suspected that she may have had an attraction to me but never expected a reply like this. Even so, I thought I needed to take it seriously for time and time again as soon I became attracted to someone the inner voice told me no. Was Margaret the one who was finally going to get the go-ahead?

I thought back to meeting her. I had only seen her in the flesh maybe four or five times in a teaching setting where you do not learn much about the personality. I knew her more from her letters than anything else, but there was not enough knowledge to have romantic feelings for her.

Despite my doubts I decided to pray about her with as open of a mind as possible. I knelt in prayer and prayed with all the earnestness at my disposal. I received no reply so I prayed some more. I still received no reply so I prayed some more. Still nothing came. I finally gave up and realized I needed to go on a sales appointment I had set.

As I was driving to my appointment I figured I would need to take no answer as a no, but then as I drove on the presence of the Spirit began to manifest in my innermost self and these words formed within my mind:

“Joseph, my son, Margaret is indeed the one you are supposed to marry.”

I then answered within my mind, “But if this is so how am I supposed to get there let alone marry her and bring her back? I have no money.”

The voice replied, “Do not concern yourself. I will soon make a way for you to go to England.”

I immediately stopped the car and turned around and went back home. The heck with the appointment, I had more important things to do. I sat down and wrote one of the longest letters of my life, sixteen pages.

I told Margaret that I was going to soon be headed to England and that God had confirmed her witness that indeed I was supposed to marry her. The thing that puzzled me was the message said that I was “soon” going to England, but I could not see how that could be. I had no money to speak of and the only person who could loan me enough for the trip would be my mom.

But a while back she married a guy from the old school who did not believe in loaning or giving money to kids so it would do no good to ask her. I told Margaret that the soonest I could imagine getting there would be in about six months. It would take at least that long to save the money to get there, return and also pay the costs of Margaret immigrating.

I finished the letter and immediately put it in the mail.

Then two days later something very unexpected happened. My Mom’s husband suddenly died of a heart attack. Immediately, the thought came to my mind, “Is this God’s way of preparing the way for me to go to England? It is a strange way indeed, but maybe this is it.”

I felt a little cheesy approaching her so soon after her husband’s death but felt impressed to do so. I figured that with her husband out of the way there was a 50/50 chance she would help me.

I explained the witnesses we both received and was surprised by her supportive answer, “Well, you are 25 now and it’s about time you found someone. I will help you but when you get there – if it turns out that you are not well matched I don’t want you to feel obligated to marry her. If that happens I want you to just return home.”

The next thing I did was apply for a passport and buy a plane ticket. Then I sent Margaret a telegram. I do not recall which she received first – the telegram or my letter. I do recall they arrived very close together.

The telegram just contained a few short words telling her the date I was going to arrive.

So, from the moment I received the message that I was “soon” going to England to the time I was on my way was only a little over a week. In this case soon really did mean soon, unlike many prophecies I had heard throughout my life.

When I arrived in Peterlee the first person I went to see was Sister Douglas. It was great to talk to her again after five years. Her daughter Jo was out of town so I wasn’t able to see her. It was just as well as she may have been a distraction.

Margaret and I were to meet that night at the church after her Relief Society meeting. I remember walking toward the church in the dark of night watching it get closer and closer as I took each step. I thought about what I really knew about this girl I was supposed to marry and it wasn’t that much. I was pretty nervous about what would happen next. Then I heard a member shout out, “There he is! I can tell him by his walk!”

What happened the next couple weeks is a story for another time as I have digressed far enough from my mission story. Suffice it to say that I did marry her and brought her back to the USA and we had seven children together multiplying and replenishing like good Mormons do.

This marriage led me to higher knowledge in a very unexpected way for it turned out the marriage was extremely difficult and a question I had for God was why is it that I was supposed to marry this woman whose approach to life was so different than my own?

The surprising answer that came after two years of pestering God was that we had been together in past lives and I had karma in connection with her that brought us together again.

When I learned of this truth everything changed. My belief system was turned upside down and I had to make great adjustments in my approach to life. Unfortunately, Margaret thought the devil had got a hold of me, but that also is another story.
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Chapter Fourteen
The Lost Luggage

I really hated leaving Peterlee. It was becoming like home to me as I grew close to a lot of people there. In addition, we had a large number of people we were teaching and it looked like we should continue to have many baptisms. Elder Ware was a nice enthusiastic elder, but I wasn’t sure he was able to do what was necessary to complete the teaching process.

I was replaced by an Elder named Cosmo, who I happened to know. He was also a nice guy, but somewhat of a geek, as we say today. His eyesight wasn’t very good and he needed strong glasses to correct it. He had these weird glasses with the thickest lenses I had ever seen. Today they can make strong lenses without such thickness but at that time they lacked the technology. His glasses almost made him look like a spaceman and some Elders kidded that Cosmo was an appropriate name for the guy. We often just called him Cosmo, leaving off the title of Elder.

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It turned out that Elders Cosmo and Ware baptized Margaret and her sister but the conversion rate settled back down to a crawl again after I left.

I was transferred to the city of Lancaster, which was in the Northwest of England. When I arrived the mission was called the Northeast British Mission, but about this time they combined the Northeast and Northwest British missions to one mission and just called it The North British Mission. This gave President Payne many more missionaries under his authority and twice the territory.

I placed my luggage safely in the luggage area of an adjoining car and settled down for a relaxing trip on the train. When on an LDS mission you spend almost 365 days a year 24/7 with another human being. This really made me miss having a little solitude and time to myself. About the only time I ever had entirely to myself was during a transfer where missionaries had to travel alone for maybe 4-8 hours.

I figured I would relax for a few hours and maybe do a little reading and thinking.

When I bought my ticket I was told that I had to make a transfer at a certain city and then after the transfer I would go straight on to Lancaster.

As I was relaxing by the window I watched for the names of the towns as the train made its stops and then I realized that I didn’t remember clearly the name of the town where I was supposed to make the transfer. All I could remember for sure was it started with the letter N.

When I realized that I wasn’t sure the name of the town where I was to make the change my ride changed from one of relaxation to one of tension. I watched anxiously at each stop. Finally we came to a town that began with the letter N. I believe it was Northallerton. I tried to recall but wasn’t sure if this was it or not. The problem was I only had a couple minutes to decide. If I didn’t get off at the right station who knows where I would wind up.

I figured the best thing to do was to quickly get off the train, ask a clerk if this was the right exchange and then get to the luggage car and retrieve my things.

I went to the door and was perplexed as I couldn’t open it. As I was hurriedly trying to solve this mystical problem a passenger saw that I was having a problem and opened it for me. I got out and after a couple minutes found a clerk who verified that I was at the right town for the exchange to Lancaster.

Now all I had to do was retrieve my luggage. I went back to the door from whence I came and was alarmed to fid that it had no handle and no way for the passengers to open it. I went to the next car and had the same problem. “What’s with the doors on this train?” I thought to myself. Was I in the Twilight Zone?

I later found out that I was supposed to exit from the door on the other side of the train, that they didn’t want passengers to leave from the side of the train I exited. That’s why I had such a problem with opening the door. The helpful passenger evidently knew a trick to opening it.

Anyway, I started to panic. I had to get back on the train and get my luggage in the next couple minutes or I faced disaster. I went from car to car pounding on the doors but no one came to my aid. Then after a short time the train started to take off. This time I really panicked and ran down an employee and asked if he could stop the train. In a typical English calm he said there was nothing he could do now it was in motion.

I then watched the train take off with everything I owned. I had all my clothes, my scriptures, my typewriter, everything but the clothes on my back and my raincoat. I later concluded that the raincoat was probably the best thing to take with me if I could only have one thing as it rained almost every day for the next couple weeks.

I’ll never forget that sinking feeling had as I watched that train take off with all my worldly goods. The only way to understand the feeling is to experience it and I certainly do not want to have it again.

I checked with the clerk to ask what could be done and he said that I should check with the lost and found after I arrived in Lancaster.

I made the exchange and instead of having a relaxing ride enjoying my solitude I was as close to a nervous wreck as I had ever been.

As I approached Lancaster I knew my new companion was supposed to be there to meet me. I wasn’t looking forward to explaining my embarrassing situation.

I’m surprised that after all these years I have been able to recall all my companions’ names up to this point. I’m not positive on this one. I believe he was called Elder Hollingshead – so we’ll go with that.

Sure enough one of the first things he asked was, “Where’s your luggage?”

I told him I had none and explained the situation. Fortunately, he was pretty understanding. We went to the lost and found and the clerk gave me a ray of hope. He said that the train with my luggage would have stopped in Leeds and if no one claimed it, then it would wind up at the lost and found there.

He then said, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

“That’s great,” I said. Both of us were somewhat relieved for no luggage would not only be a hardship on me, but my companion as well, as my having no possessions would require that he do a lot of sharing with me.

We went back to the lost and found the next day and the clerk said my luggage ha not arrived. He seemed perplexed by this and again said, “I’ll cable Leeds again and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

We went back the second day and it still had not arrived and again he said, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

We went back the third day and still no luggage. Again the clerk said, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

I began to wonder if he was really cabling Leeds as we returned the fourth and fifth day and still no luggage, but each time he said, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.”

After a week I started really getting concerned. Was it possible that everything I owned was gone forever?

I thought over some of the valuables I had there. Not only would I miss my scriptures which were heavily notated and marked for reference, but I had and additional seven translations of the Bible that would be difficult to replace along with valuable books. My Olympia typewriter was worth more at that time than is an expensive computer today.

Finally, after two weeks and still hearing, “I’ll cable Leeds and your luggage should be here tomorrow.” I began to adjust my mind to the fact that I may never see my belongings again.

With the little extra money I had I brought a used bike so not much was left for necessities. Fortunately, Elder Hollingshead let me borrow some of his underwear, socks, razor and all kinds of things. Underwear was the most difficult thing to replace as we had to wear the special Mormon garments so I couldn’t just go to any market and buy some. I wrote asking for extra money and my companion also loaned me a little extra to tide me by.

One thing cheered me up though. Remember about that giant hamburger I said I made? Well that happened shortly after I got to Lancaster as this was the first town I worked in where we did our own cooking. Unfortunately, even this made me sick as I overstuffed myself.

Time moved onward. Three, four, five weeks passed and still no sign of my luggage. All the evidence indicated it was lost forever. Finally on the sixth week I received the most battered and wrinkled postcard that I have ever seen make it through the mail. The postcard had so much wear on it that when I held it in my hand it didn’t feel like it was made of cardstock. It felt a little like a piece of old cloth.

I could barely read it but discovered that it was first sent to my address in Peterlee and then forwarded to Lancaster. I looked at the original postmark and it was sent, not from Leeds, but from London and the date was only a day or two after my transfer. To my joy the postcard said that they had two pieces of my luggage and if I sent them several pounds they would forward it to me. Unfortunately, I originally had three pieces of luggage so it looked like one may have been lost.

I then put two and two together and figured out the mystery of the worn postcard. The luggage had went clear to London before it was discovered and they opened it in an attempt to find the owner. The only address they could find was in Peterlee so they sent the notice there. Elder Ware grabbed the postcard intending to forward it but stuck it in his back pocket and carried it around with him for five weeks before he remembered to forward it to me.

After controlling my urge to send elder Ware a piece of my mind I became concerned that they may not have my luggage after six weeks. I took the chance and sent the money requested to the return address on the card.

In just a couple days my luggage arrived, but instead of just two pieces all three were there. The third piece was a large duffle bag. It had a couple tares in it but nothing was missing.

I was thrilled to have all my books again and even as I type this I can look up at my bookcase and see my scriptures and the seven extra translations of the Bible now sitting in my office bookcase. They have indeed served me well for I have used them a lot in the many things I have written over the years.
Copyright 2010 by J J Dewey

Series NavigationMission Experiences, Chapters 11 & 12Mission Experiences, Chapters 15 & 16

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