According to the map, we biked about 90 miles.
It has become apparent that our map key is incorrect. I have no idea how much we are actually biking.
Today we labored to the extent of our capacities. We visited dozens of homes belonging to less active members. The majority of the houses had gates in front of the doors blocking us from reaching them. My companion refers to them as salvation blockers. Out of the few homes that did not have gates, nobody answered the door. After spending three hours biking in temperatures over one hundred degrees, having emptied the water bottles that I brought with me (only to realized that I probably should have brought twice as much water and applied sunscreen), we notices a couple of benches residing in the shade provided by a few small trees. As I reflect back on this experience, it occurs to me that this may have been the only shade (sufficient to sit under) within miles of the area. Palm trees and Cacti don’t offer much protection from the penetrating sun) Almost immediately after resting on these benches(to plan our next course of action of course). A man pulled up a and stepped out of his car. He approached us and welcomed us into his house (which was directly behind where we were sitting). It turned out that him and his wife were members, and that they happened to be the only active members in the entire neighborhood. This type of event is what Nephi would call a “tender mercy of the Lord”. These members gave us a chance to regain our strength and energy and they helped to lift our spirits at a time when I was physically worn out. Afterwards, the day continued as it had started-Hot, dry & tiresome.
We were not any more successful that afternoon. After dinner, we returned to the same neighborhood. As we rode through the street a gang of 7 year old children surrounded. They closed in and begin asking me if I had anything for them. Trying not to panic (noticing that my companion had escaped) I asked “Like what?”
“Do you have any God cards” a particularly precocious child responded.
Relieved by their request, (initially I had thought that they wanted money) I began distributing mormon.org cards to them (which they collected from me as if they were Pokemon trading cards). At this point Elder Hearne had turned around and come back to where the children had cornered me. We bid them a good day and then dismissed ourselves.
Note: People never answer the door(unless children open it). They don’t talk/w their neighbors-or know anything about them and they never come outside because it is so hot.
At the first home we arrived at this evening the door was answered by a child (who was scolded by their parents). A man about 26 years old came out and began to talk with us. After looking at the state that we were in (sunburned, dripping w/sweat), he offered us some water and invited us into him house. We learned that this man was living with his parents, who were the less-active members in our ward. Note: His parents may be active members attending the Spanish ward-we just haven’t figured this our yet. After conversing with him a short while, his wife came downstairs and joined in our conversation. Initially we discussed our lives. We learned that this man worked at a golf course and that one of his co-workers had served a mission for the church in South America. We learned that he had two children. We learned of his respect for the members of our church and for the missionaries. However, he then began to express to us that he believed that he didn’t need religion and that he simply wasn’t meant for the type of lifestyle we lived(he felt that he had found how he could be happy that we had found what makes us happy-which were defined as two separate lifestyles). However, just when it seemed that we would not be able to make any progress with these people, the man turned to his wife and said, “You should talk to them about religion.” Before his wife had a chance to express her irritation at her husband and dismiss this teaching/learning opportunity, we jumped in and began digging deeper. She expressed that she had many questions about religion and that although she believed that there could be a God, she didn’t understand religion. Through our discussion we identified that she felt that there was too much confusion regarding religion, and that she felt that having a religion was somewhat pointless. She expressed her feeling that there wasn’t really a need for her to join a religion. She said that she lived a good life, and made good choices and that she was happy. As we answered her questions we were able to teach her the first lesson from Preach My Gospel. It became clear to me that her questions were the questions of the soul-the questions ingrained in everyone’s mind-resulting from the absence of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This need for the Atonement was made evident through the questions that she had, and it became my focus to help this woman recognize the emptiness in her life. Recognize the possibility of something missing. She expressed her sense of fulfillment in life, and then expressed her belief that she would be fine after this life. I agreed with her. I told her that her happiness in this life would carry over to the next life. I explained that when we die our mindset does not change. But then I said something that I believe had a profound impact on her. I said, “But is there a greater happiness than what we already have? Is the question that we must all ask ourselves.” We discussed many thing this evening, but in the end the biggest message that came from our discussion was: Life is constantly changing, however, God and His Church doesn’t change. They had reached a critical point in their life and had began to wonder if there was anything more to life (they saw something in the two teenage boys speaking to them-who seemed to know much more than they should-They couldn’t believe we were 18 and 19)
Perhaps there is something valuable in religion.
At the end of our discussion, they desired to schedule another time to meet with us (really without us even asking-the husband tends to volunteer his wife and put her on the spot). Although there may be alot of work for us to do before we make progress with this family(if they truly are ready at this point in their lives to accept Christ), I look forward to meeting with them again. They were fun people that I came to this desert to meet. In comparison to the happiness that finding them brought to me, the miserable days leading up to this moment were a small price to pay. I wish that I could adequately express the joy that came to me from this experience.