Not Alone

In my downtime this week I’ve been glued to my friend’s Facebook page and blog, reading posts about her 5 month-old baby’s cranial surgery and looking at pictures of her precious little boy as he’s gone through the first few days of the healing process.  I’ve know her and her family for over 10 years; in fact her family has been my “Utah family” ever since I started BYU.  Her mother took me under her wing the first semester of my freshman year, I TA’d for her for 2.5 years, and I tutored two of her kids the semester before I left on my mission to France.  In return, the family has fed me, prayed with and for me, wrote me on my mission, included me on their email list so I could read mission letters from the missionaries serving in their family, invited me to several weddings, provided comfort, love, and advice and the list goes on and on.  I will always be in their debt.

I have followed this newest saga with great interest and I have been amazed at Diana and Ryan’s strength, faith, and ability to look at their current situation with hope and confidence.  But that’s their family.  The Nielsons know that God lives and is aware of His children. Their faith has never wavered, and they know in whom they have trusted.  They are all exemplary role models for me.  I know that numerous individuals have been praying for Baby P, including me, and as I have pondered the pictures she has posted, I’ve come away with a very strong feeling that for the duration of his hospitalization, his room was a very sacred place where miracles occurred and angels stood as vigils for him, his parents and extended family, and the hospital staff who tended to his every need.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, this week has been particularly frustrating and humbling.  I’m beginning to see how challenging the task is which lies before me and I’m remembering how uncomfortable it can be at times to be taken completely out of one’s comfort zone.  The more I learn from my teachers and discuss my research project (child trafficking) and internship responsibilities with them, the more I realize how hard my 10 months in Senegal will be.  Thanks to my research I did for this Fellowship application and subsequent academic papers that I wrote this past semester on the same subject, I knew all of that intellectually, but the experiences of this week and from what I’ve read about and seen from Baby P’s surgery, the emotional aspect of my project is unfolding.  And it’s heartbreaking to see children suffer physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

But last night I had the opportunity to drive down to Orlando with some new friends from Church to go to the Orlando Temple. 

I’m very grateful for temples and for the special spirit that I feel there.  It’s a place of prayer and worship, a place where we learn more about how much Heavenly Father loves and cares for all of us.  My mind kept going back to how precious Baby P is, and that let me to think about my nephews and how much I love them.  That it turn made me think about the little boys that I will meet and work with in Dakar who I will come to love and labor to serve.  I know that they will all be victims of abuse, disease, and sorrow.  Additionally I went to the temple with my concerns about being able to learn Wolof well, so throughout my time there, my thoughts were wrapped up in children, suffering, Senegal, God’s love for His children, and how I want to make a difference in the lives of the children I will serve in Dakar and, eventually, my own children.

At one point during my temple experience, I had to opportunity to hear one particular man’s public prayer.  It was very simple, but it was one of the most powerful and beautiful prayers that I have ever heard.  Toward the end, he asked Heavenly Father to bless individuals with heavy hearts or with physical ailments to have added strength, protection and help from heaven’s angels.  I felt very strongly once again that Baby P and his parents were already under the watch care of such angels and that they are accompanying me in my Wolof acquisition here in Florida, and they will continue to do so during my time in Dakar.  That brought me much needed comfort, and I was particularly grateful for that man’s sensitivity and desire to pray for the things that he did.

The crowning moment of this week long experience occurred this morning during my morning study of the April 2012 General Conference addresses.  I found it fortuitous and extremely appropriate that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy both spoke about gratitude for trials, particularly physical limitations.  They also highlighted blessings that come to those individuals who remain humble throughout those trials and to the people who love them most.

So what’s the lesson from this week?  Difficulties and unforeseen disappointments that crop up in our lives can be opportunities and blessings in disguise.  Rather than asking “Why?” we should ask, “What can I learn from this experience?” or “How can this make me a better person?”  and most importantly, “How is God helping me see His hand in my life?”

Because if we truly look for it, we will see that we are not alone.

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