With the increase of teaching experiences, that I’ve had these last few weeks, there have been many moments that I thought might offer a new perspective on missionary work. I hope to capture a few of them in this entry:
NINA & The Pharisee Children:
Note: This particular entry is somewhat fictional-the events are true and the people are real, however I have portrayed several experiences in one visit to capture the spirit of these visits rather than to accurately record the facts.
I have a tendency to envision Christ’s legendary ministry recored in 3 Nephi as I go about my missionary service. I often find myself attempting to live up to some degree of Christ’s example of teaching. However, sometimes it is a little shocking to witness the contrast between the teaching environments I find myself in here and the one described in 3 Nephi 17(feel free to take a moment to study this chapter-it should add a good background to what I’m about to share):
As we approached the door of our newest investigator, Nina, with Brother Day, I briefed him “Nina is a 21 year old African American women that we street contacted about a week ago. Her mother was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and we gave her a Priesthood blessing. Nina was interested in hearing more, so we taught her the restoration and she said she wanted to be baptized. She came to the Trunk or Treat with us last night and she had a good experience. She said, “Do all of these people go to your church? The people here are so nice”.
Then Nina came to the door...
There was a pause-a moment of shock as we tried to get past her appearance. She looked awful! She was exhausted and she looked it. She was wearing the same outfit as the previous night, except I would have guessed that she had endured a week-long pioneer trek since last night. Initially she was a little cranky with us, but after a few minutes of us reassuring her that our message was important, her appearance didn’t matter, and that we would be brief and to the point, she permitted us to enter. We stepped over Cool-Aid spills, dirty clothes, rejected toys and random morsels of food as we made our way through the entry way and to the living room couches. We sat down reluctantly and I thought, “what happened?”-suddenly Nina’s 2 year old son, Jordan power-slid across the tile floor. Then he proceeded to break-dance across the rug, gradually making his way to the fireplace which would become his stage as he performed a new form of interpretive dance. Note: Nina explained that Jordan had woken up at 8 am and had eaten his entire bag of candy from the previous night. Nina had awoken to his rampage to find a pile of wrappers awaiting her. She sighed and shook her head. I glanced at my watch, noted it was 4 pm, then joined her. Then, as if on cue, a merry band of toddlers paraded into the room-all of which were naked (stripped down to the diapers)-with an 11 month old baby crawling behind them. As we taught the lesson- or at least attempted to teach it- we found ourselves yelling over the crowd of “Pharisee” children. We didn’t stand much of a chance. One of them was trying to pry my copy of the Book of Mormon from my hands, while another dragged off my backpack to the other room. I looked over to my companion and saw that he wasn’t having much luck either. He had given his scriptures to one of the kids and sat there completely oblivious as the little boy took his pen and began to decorate them with his version of “modern art”. (Either that or he had decided to make a few changed to the scriptures that were conveniently in his favor) Jordan then wedged his way between my companion and I on the couch and dug his hand into the space between the cushions. After a minute of digging he emerged from the pillowy abyss and waved a small, green plastic rectangle triumphantly in the air for all to see.
“I found it”, he exclaimed.
Although nobody seemed to have a clue what this mysterious treasure actually was (perhaps not even Jordan knew what he was holding), he certainly did find it.
Brother Day-who had become a little distracted at this point-took this opportunity to ask, “So, what do you have in that fish tank over there?”
Nina responded “There were some fish in it. But now there is just an algae feeder-she then paused and began tapping the glass. “He’s been there a few days without moving...looks like he’s a goner as well”. Nina glanced at Jordan, and strangely there was no need for her to say anymore. Without warning a clothes hanger cam flying from an unseen hand somewhere on the other side of the house. The hanger smote Brother Day’s knee and then dramatically fell to the floor. All eyes turned to a two year old boy standing in the corner at least 30 feet away. “He has a good aim”, I said astonished. “He does have good aim”, Brother Day admitted. At that point, the front door flew open and the house was flooded with people of all ages. Apparently Nina had a lot of family. Pretty soon the house was filled with noise-Yes, even more noise than before. A group of teenagers were having some kind of tea party in the kitchen while others gathered around the television. Somewhere from upstairs, music blasted throughout the house while Nina’s cousin started working on a a tattoo. I looked over to my companion and was unsure whether he was more enticed by the television or by the cookie dough that a 6 year old boy (who had just arrived) was trying to sell him. At this point Jordan was celebrating his archeological discovery with plan-of-salvation-pamphlet-confetti. Which had been produced by the kids in the other room (who were now enjoying my backpack). They were more efficient than any paper-shredder I have ever seen! The only problem was that they were developing their unnatural and unusual talents by practicing on something purchased by the widow’s mite. (Not just that, but there is something very wrong with a gang of kids tearing up pictures of Jesus) Although I rarely understand what goes on in Elder Siilata’s head, what he did next still amazes me. He opened up his backpack and pulled out a bag of candy. The children ran to him and he carefully distributed one piece to each of them. A few moments later a fight broke out as four of the kids fought over a pack of skittles. I looked over to the corner of the room and noticed that Jordan had managed to sneak away and was not sitting in the corner of the room with a pile of candy it appeared that somehow he had obtained everyone else’s rations without their knowledge. He now sat there comfortably in the corner enjoying his spoils as the other children engaged in some kind of Toddler death match. Two of them seemed to be preparing the littlest one to be used as a burnt offering in their heathen ritual. Another boy turned to us and began barking swear words at us as though he were possessed by a legion of unclean spirits. For a brief moment my mind drifted to the nearby pig farm (it wasn’t hard-the odor was quite powerful that particular day). I supposed that if the pigs were to run away then the city of North Las Vegas would be forever grateful. Just to be sure that these children really were possessed, we ought to have a bound them with chains and fetters for the remainder of the lesson. If they broke free then we would know that there really was issuing. I might have suggested it too if missionaries had such resources. At about this time, Nina’s mother, an afflicted old woman whom we had given a blessing of healing to in a previous visit-began issuing commands from her bedroom. It appeared that not only was she feeling better, but that she was now well enough to order Nina around. She requested a special rendition of “cup of noodles”-and her word was final. Our lesson came to an abrupt end-probably as we reached the scripture Matthew 19:14. After that lesson, all I can say is if the kingdom of heaven is anything like what I witnessed in Nina’s home, then I might consider reserving a room in the other kingdom. With my blasphemy I might earn myself a booth there anyway.
Prior to this lesson, I never could have anticipated such terrible opposition nor comprehended how anyone could teach or learn in such an environment. Now, I am beginning to understand that children-as sweet and innocent as they may appear-can be powerful tools of the devil in bringing about the destruction of mankind. I would like to have a word with the prophet Moroni concerning chapter 8, verse 22. Personally, I feel that Matthew 7:15-16 might more accurately describe what I witnessed in this home. They may have been in sheep’s clothing-but their behavior certainly did not bear any resemblance to that of a sheep. That is unless we are comparing them to some kind of terribly mutated werewolf sheep-but that is another subject entirely.