Thursday, April 16, 2015

It's the Good Life

This has been a week full of really strange experiences. Strange, but super good. 

We have one o’clock church on Sunday's. It stinks right? Well, not really, considering I feel like I've been going to church now every day for over a year. It's whatever. 

Anyway we were going to do a referral that we got. Everything that day was going perfect. It was a beautiful sunny day. The weather was warm. My companion had made me breakfast (which he does frequently btw. He is kind of the cats pajamas.) I was even wearing one of my very favorite penguin brand skinny ties. We got to the building of the referral and the door was locked. We couldn't get in. I said a little prayer in my head that we could get in and sure enough right after I close the prayer, two decrepit guys popped around the corner and opened the door for us. They looked and smelled like the cigarettes they were smoking, but we thanked them anyway.

As we ascended the first set of stairs up to the fifth floor, I began to hear a familiar tune. I stopped, Elder Thompson and we carefully listened together. The song "I am a child of God" performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was ebbing and flowing throughout the stair well. Elder Thompson glanced back at me as if to say, "ooooh baby daddy." We had to find the person that was playing this Celestial music. We knew that it wasn't coming from our referrals house. We were trying to listen intently to where this music was coming from. I had a glimmer of hope in my heart. If we could find the apartment this music was coming we wouldn't be surprised if there was a family sitting around in their white baptism jumpsuits waiting for someone with the priesthood authority to knock on their door and do the job. I was more excited in this moment than I was when I was 10 years old and my mother was finna cook me up some Dino nuggets.

We were spazzing out, knocking on random doors that we thought might possibly be the right one. Nothing. Door after door nobody answered. It was as if the sound was running away from us. We would go up a floor and it would sound the same loudness as it was if we went down a floor. After ten minutes or so of spazzing out I made the bold but faith lacking comment, "I think it's just coming from your iPad Elder Thompson." Our hearts dropped it hotter than snoop dogg. Despite Elder Thomspon’s iPads screen being turned off and him not being connected to wifi, his iPad was playing the hymns off of God must think he's real funny sometimes haha. We felt like idiots.

Our Ward is having a Meet the Mormons open house at our chapel in a few weeks. We are opening the doors to anyone that wants to come and we will have members talking to people and then show the video. We have been trying to get the word out to the whole neighborhood. We made a plethora of flyers and have been tossing those out like Cheerios in the nursery. It's gonna be sick. 
So much paper, I should start a bank!

So much paper, they should call Mr. Printer!
Unfortunately there's not a lot of priesthood in our Ward... In the young men's presidency everybody but the Young Men’s President is inactive so they have us act as the counselors. We get to teach the youth class and sit in on young men’s every week. It's a shame they don't have the members do it, but at the same time I'm not complaining because it means that I get to be in my dream calling on my mission. I think the youth are sooo awesome and I have mad respect for the youth here that have to put up with so much yet they are still solid kids. 

We went and looked up a media referral that we had received in Parkchester which is a part of the Bronx that is basically it's own city entirely full of project buildings. We entered the project, rode the urine stricken elevator up to the top floor, and knocked on this guy’s door. He answered and told us that he had a ton of health problems and was feeling too sick to meet and told us to come back, but just as he was closing the door he said, "You know what, why don't you fellas come on in." Within the first few minutes he told us that he has a health issue that makes it so he gets the hiccups for months on end. This guy had the hiccups this time for the WHOLE entire month without it going away.

We asked him a few questions about his background and through his hiccups he began to unfold to us his whole life story. Usually when someone proceeds to tell you their whole life story it's a little annoying. You would think that through constant hiccups it would be even more annoying, but it wasn't. There was patience and consideration. This guy was born in Louisville, Kentucky in the late 60's. At the age of 7 he was outside playing in the yard. His mom was standing on the sidewalk talking to his father who was working on the car at the curbside. Two guys walked on the sidewalk and pushed his mom out of the way to get by and said some less that stellar words. His father told them to not talk to a woman that way, especially his wife. One of the guys pulled out a gun and shot this guy’s dad right in front of his eyes when he was 7 years old. Less than a year later his mom was suffering from high blood pressure. He knew she was in the hospital but didn't know what condition she was in. After a while his extended family all came to the house. He saw them taking stuff from his house and dividing it up but he didn't know why. He was only 8 at the time, so why question right? One afternoon him and his older cousin were sitting on the porch when his older cousin said, "You haven't heard that your mom’s been dead for a couple weeks now have you?" No one told this poor guy that his mom had passed away.

After both his parents passed away, he and his 6 brothers and sisters were sent here to the Bronx to be raised by his aunt and uncle. While in the Bronx, he was physically bullied growing up because he was black living in a Dominican neighborhood. His aunt and uncle didn't show him much love growing up either. For years his uncle was always a jerk to him and would tease him about his mother’s death. One night during dinner, his uncle made a joke about his dead mom. His little sister spoke up. His uncle didn't like that so he got an extension cord and whipped his little sister with it. He had no choice but to stand up to his uncle. He had taken it for too long. He got up from the table and stopped his uncle from whipping his sister. His uncle and him got into a huge quarrel. He decided that he needed to run away, so run away he did.

For over twenty years this guy lived on the streets of the Bronx until the last couple years where he was able to get a project apartment. Here this man sat. The same man that had told me one of the saddest stories ever told. Here he was after a lifetime of being broken and never really put back together. Here he was intensely humbled, ready to hear something to change his life and give him hope.

Elder Thompson and I sat there feeling that we were the ones appointed to do that. We explained to him the Book of Mormon using the pictures in the front. We talked of hope. We talked of redemption. We talked of Jesus Christ. By the end this man was weeping. He told us how grateful he was that we stopped by. He said, "I usually don't step foot outside of my apartment unless I have to because I don't trust anybody. I don't tell anybody my life story. Something about you makes me trust you guys. You're always welcome in my apartment."

Within one hour Elder Thompson and I felt we had made strides with this man if that really was the case. He is going to the hospital for the next couple weeks for an operation but he said that when he gets back, he will have us over. 

I am meeting the craziest people and hearing the craziest stories. We sometimes forget how truly special the knowledge of this gospel is until we see the lives of those that don't have it. The Gospel life is the good life my friends. If something gives you this much happiness it has to be true. 

-Elder Tyler J Johanson

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