Let us try to create a picture of our life this last week. As always, we rejoice in the beautiful island where we serve. Cherry trees are in full bloom, waving their fluffy pink fingers at all who pass by. Hyacinths scent the air in many of the gardens we visit and daffodils are shyly peeking out from their greenery. At the lavender farm, the hills of grey mounds are turning to green, hinting of their future glory. A lot of trees are still skeletal, but more and more of them are fleshing out with lime-colored leaf buds. Wind chimes compete with the songbirds to see who can create the loveliest symphony. The warm sun on our faces feels like a benediction. We are falling in love with this place all over again.
Our apartment is enjoying its recent cleanup and we are enjoying eating without our table overflowing with Easter goodies and card-making paraphernalia. Our list of those people we visit with treats has grown from 30 to more than 80. We're attempting to search out and call on everyone on our branch list before Easter but that is a nearly impossible task. We tease each other that after our mission is over, we would be fully qualified to hang out our Private Detective shingle.
One man in particular has challenged our investigative skills. We had previously visited the address we had for him and noticed the house was empty and boxes were piled on the deck waiting for garbage pickup. We phoned the telephone number we had for him and when we asked for the man by name, someone slammed the phone down without talking to me. We asked around and many people had heard of him, some even knew him, but no one knew where he lived or if he was even on the island. We found two possible addresses on Google. The first led nowhere. At the second, the new tenant knew the man and what area of town he'd moved to and could describe his red truck in detail. We drove the streets until we spotted the red truck and then knocked on the door. A lovely lady opened the door and gave a big smile when she saw our name tags (a most unusual reaction, I assure you). “Oh, the Mormons, how lovely.” She told us that half of her family was Mormons - she was from the Episcopalian half, but she adored her Mormon cousins and her grandmother who had been a known fixture on the island for many years before she was recruited for fluffing clouds and polishing harps. We invited them to our Easter Brunch and gave them our Easter goodies and cards. She tried to get the object of our search to come talk to us but he was happy sticking to his gardening and letting her take all the heat. So we never did meet him, but at least we know where he lives and in his leisure he can read our message and enjoy our treats. We hope he finds the words of inspiration we left as sweet as the goodies.
In so many respects, it was a great week. We met several nice families who we invited out and left with cards and treats. Some told us that their church attending days were in the past, but we know that can change at any time. One delightful lady told us that she was a bit of a church-hopper and that she currently had hopped over to the Presbyterians because she had friends she knew there, but there was certainly a possibility that one day she would hop right back to us. At one door, a gruff looking man answered and we steeled ourselves for a harsh rejection. His face visibly softened when we handed him the plate of little nest cookies with their jelly eggs, and the vibrant Easter cards we'd made. He was lovely and enthused at great length over the beauty of the card and cookies. The next day at church, the Primary president asked me if we had dropped by some goodies for them. When we confessed we had, she said her friend, who had been working when we visited, had posted a picture of the card and plate of goodies on Facebook, along with a great big thank you to whoever was responsible. That truly warmed our hearts and helped us to know that these offerings of love are worth the effort. In all our visits, we didn't meet anyone who jumped up and down crying, “You found me, you found me. I've just been waiting for someone to find me.” But we met several who we felt were glad for the reminder that they were remembered and someone cared about them. Many of those we met were very young when they joined the church, and haven't attended since their youth. That scenario is pretty easy to understand, but the ones we truly don't get are those who have tasted of the goodness of gospel truths and seen how they blessed their families, and still let that precious gift slip away. But we've found that we don't need to understand someone's choices to feel great love for them. We didn’t meet anyone with whom we didn't feel a connection and a desire to know them better. We hope they felt that love, and we hope that if enough people show that same kind of love, over time they might want to revisit some of their earlier life choices and see if they can't find a way to increase their happiness.
We will press on and do our best. Somehow, the Lord knows how to take our meager offerings and turn them into something that changes lives, especially our own. The message of the Atonement that we love the best is that the Lord can make of us something greater than we could ever do on our own. It isn’t just the forgiving of our sins, it’s the total transformation that can happen when we put our lives in His hands. By trying to become more like He is, serving more like He did and loving as He does, we let go of ourselves and embrace the divinity that is within us and recognize the divinity in others.
Our brothers and sisters are waiting for us to bring them the truths that will set them free and make sense of this life. As we join with the Lord in this great work of rescue, we are blessed, they are blessed and the world is blessed. What could be greater?