Friday, February 17, 2006

Tender Mercies

It really wasn't remarkable, as miracles go.

I had been in Mexico five months and it was Thanksgiving. My friend, serving in Switzerland, had just sent me a letter: sometimes, in the morning, I have to close my blinds while I study or else I end up spending the whole morning staring at the scenery. When I received his letter, I pulled the shades to the side of my window and looked out at a cinderblock wall festooned with garish graffiti--a moment later, a donkey brayed as it wandered by. Switzerland this is not, I thought.

Later that day, Elder Haslam and I walked to the barrio of Bosques del Lago. We crested a hill and looked out on an endless valley where row upon row of monotonous cinderblock houses created a kind of dreary grid. Women with dark and calloused skin sweated in the afternoon sun as they washed and rinsed on stone washboards behind their small homes. Each in succession said gracias, pero soy Catolico, pues, creyente (thanks, but I'm Catholic, well, I was raised Catholic, anyway). We spent the day canvassing a whole quadrant of mini-blocks and found no success.

At the end of the day, we returned home with little enthusiasm. We were a bit excited, though, because Elder Haslam was going to call home that night--not because of the holiday, but because he needed new glasses and the President told him to call and ask his parents to deposit money.

Upon arriving at our apartment, he dialed home and his face lit up as he briefly talked with his mother for the first time since mother's day. They spoke only briefly. When I could tell Elder Haslam was wrapping up his conversation, I asked if I could speak with his mom. I did not know Elder Haslam before our time together and I had never communicated with his mother; somehow, though, mine seemed a natural request.

Hello, Sister Haslam.

Hello, Elder Johnson.

I really like serving with your son, he's a wonderful Elder.

Thank you, Elder.

Within me, warmth began to swell and I suddenly realized I was no longer thinking as I spoke--it was as if I was listening to someone else speak with my voice.

Sister Haslam, would you do me a favor?

Sure, Elder.

Will you call my mom
(I gave the number) and tell her I love her. Tell her I miss her but I am happy here in Mexico. Tell her we are having success and we even have a baptism planned for this Saturday. Tell her I love her, will you do that?

Certainly, Elder, I'll call her right now.

With that, the conversation ended and I quickly forgot the experience until I received a letter from my mother a couple of weeks later (written, mind you, the day after my conversation with Sister Haslam):

Dear Tyler,

Yesterday I was having a particularly hard day. I miss you so much and, when I started to think about it, I realized your brother will be leaving pretty soon on his mission. I know you are both doing what you are supposed to be doing, but it is just so hard sometimes. Then, I started to think of how you will soon leave for college and one day you will marry and probably move away. When I thought about all that, it made me very sad. It was just one of those days when everything seemed gray and drab. Sometime last night, I was crying when your dad answered the phone. He handed me the receiver and it was Sister Haslam, the mother of one of your companions. She said she had just spoken to you and you had asked her to tell me you loved me. I told her what a hard day it had been and we both cried over the phone, even thouh we have never met. I could feel your love from Mexico. I thought you would want to know.



Anonymous Wilfried said...

It brought tears to my eyes, Tyler. The essence of the Gospel is in these things.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous the swiss friend said...

While the first half of your story is quite familiar to me, I had never heard the second half. Although the scenery was spectacular, it is the people of Switzerland who really make the country. Your last posts demonstrate that you feel the same way about the people of Mexico. I'm glad that you are posting these memories for the benefit of others.

4:38 PM  
Blogger RoAnn said...

What a beautiful example illustrating how, although many times we are left to work though our times of depression on our own, there are times when the Lord does indeed intervene. I loved seeing how you and your mother became both instruments and recipients in the bestowal of these particular “tender mercies.”

4:43 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

Wilfried is right, the Lord's tender mercies and our subsequent mercy to our fellow man are the essence of the gospel.

2:19 PM  

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