Monday, June 11, 2012

The Plan of Salvation

This week has been probably one of the most memorable weeks of my mission. I'll explain why at the end. The title of this week's email gives you an idea.

We ended the week with great things happening: some powerful lessons, members who are working on inviting friends to learn more, and finding new people to teach. Bonnie is doing awesome. She continues to read and pray and last week when we walked into her house she said, "I have something to tell you! I completely, absolutely, without a doubt in my mind know the Book of Mormon is true!" Our jaws were probably hanging and we were thrilled for her! We taught her about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and about the Plan of Salvation. We had some amazing members at each lesson and the Spirit was rich at each lesson.

We found a new investigator named Frank. A week or two ago we had stopped by a less-active family to meet them and see how they are doing. They were busy and the mom gave her son a paper to give to us at the door with a new address and phone number - they were moving. They declined our help to move and we said we'd call them. We tried and for a week or so were unable to get an answer. So on Saturday we were driving to a street we had decided to go and bang down the doors of, when the thought to go by their new apartment popped in my head. We drove there right away only to find the nonmember boyfriend of the less-active mom. Apparently she left him earlier that week and her boyfriend, Frank, was very depressed and confused. So we taught him about the Book of Mormon and the great peace it could bring into his life and invited him to be baptized like the Savior was baptized. He accepted and is grateful for the time we have been giving him.

The day before that, on Friday, we got back to the apartment around 9:15 and headed up the stairs to plan, as is the usual routine. The phone rang and it was Elder Prince (one of my last companions from Kirtland who know serves as one of the Assistants to the Mission President). He called to inform me that Alicé had passed away. I'm not sure if I've ever talked about Alicé much in my emails, but here's the story:

After my first six weeks in Shaker Heights, some of the Sisters called us and told us that there was a girl in our area who they had been teaching over the phone. Her name was Alicé and due to some medical problems she was not able to meet with missionaries in person. Alicé had hodgkin's lymphoma. She moved to Cleveland from Montreal, Canada when her mother died in a car accident, to live with her dad while she went to the Cleveland Clinic. Shortly after her time there, her grandfather passed away as well. Her father is a member of the church bus hasn't been active in years. We agreed with the Sisters that them teaching her over the phone would probably be best and that we would see where it would take us.

We talked to her on the few times and through her thick French-Canadian accent, you could tell that the 17-year-old was sweet as could be. Eventually we transitioned her over to the Training Sisters to be taught (Sister Bills and Sister Tokunaga) who coordinated skyping appointments at members houses. Alicé, whether she was in the Cleveland Clinic for the chemotherapy treatments or at her house where it was safe for her, would be able to see and be taught by the Sisters through the computer. Elder Prince and I were the first Elders as we joined the Sisters on skype once or twice. She was very sweet. You could see in her skinny complexion the toll the chemo was having on her body. She had to receive a bone marrow transplant to beat the cancer, and during the time the Sisters were teaching her she was able to be life-flighted out of Cleveland to Tennessee to get one. After the surgery, the results were good. She was on-board to be baptized on June 9th and was so excited. She had read the Book of Mormon 3 times and knew it was true.

The first time I met her in person was at our Luau. It was about 45 minutes before the Luau began and we were running through the show. Most of the missionaries were up on stage, helping handle the curtains, projector, or helping with food. I was managing everything that was going on. As I passed from the kitchen into the cultural hall, I looked down the hallway and saw a petite girl standing at the end looking around like she was lost. It felt like a movie - I look down the hallway in the midst of stress and racing mind and as my eyes set on the figure before me (a little girl in a summer dress, short blonde hair in a comb-over fashion, hands behind her back as if observing art in a museum, and a sense of wonder on her face) my mind stops. Time stops. I feel like I know the glowing, angelic girl but am not sure what to say. My mind finally registers and I call out "Alicé?!" She smiled as she recognized me too and made her way down the hallway. She just illuminated with the Spirit. The Edman's and I brought her into the Cultural Hall where the Sisters were on stage dancing to unite her with her missionaries for the first time. That was one of her first nights being back in the public and her first time meeting all of us in person.

She was also at the Kirtland Fireside where Elder Bills and I performed our Redeemer of Israel song. At the end when the crowd had left the theater and not many people were left at the Visitor's Center, a few of us were cleaning/packing up. I was talking to President Sorensen about how amazing the night was and how special it was for me to get to see Erica bear her testimony (and have a front row seat at that!). Suddenly we hear the violin start accompanying the piano playing Come Thou Fount and we turn to see Alicé and Elder Ingersoll playing together the most beautiful music. It was such a spiritual moment and I noticed again how Alicé, this young girl whose suffering I could never understand, just glowed.

I could go on and on about her and how special she was. When I got the phone call on Friday night, I was in shock. I knew her baptism was the next day and the missionaries in Kirtland had been doing so much to prepare. Alicé had asked a few days prior if I would be at her baptism - I wasn't going to be able to. I called a few missionaries and we talked, and cried, and laughed, and cried some more and by the end of the night, I knew that the only way I wouldn't feel so much sorrow was heartfelt prayer to my Father in Heaven. The whole experience was so strange to me. I have never really lost someone as close as we all were to Alicé since I have been older and more mature. But that night, as I prayed for understanding and confirmation of the Plan of Salvation, I received the most amazing confirmation of the simple, eternal, gospel truths. I knew that Alicé was okay where she was - in fact, she was "taken home to that God who gave [her] life...received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where [she] shall rest from all [her] troubles and from all care, and sorrow" (Alma 40:11-12).

I talked to President on the phone the next morning and we reviewed with reverence and awe the amazing impact Alicé had on so many people's lives in such little time. The inspiration she was to at least 50 missionaries, the Shaker Heights Ward, and many doctors and family members. No doubt, she is on the other side of the veil, teaching her mother and family of the things she had learned in the last 3 months from the missionaries. I know that her spirit lives on and that one day she will be resurrected. "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair on the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame" (Alma 40:23).

It's been a humbling week, and one of great learning and deeper understanding on my part. I am grateful for the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation. Such peace and wisdom comes from knowing more about our purpose here on earth, where we go after this, what our relationship has been with God since before we were born... I look forward to the day when I can see Alicé again and thank her for the impact she has made on my life. I know that when we die, it is not the end. I know that families can be together forever. His plan for us is perfect. His love for us is infinite. Alicé is, and forever will be, at peace. We will see her again. I again just want to express my gratitude for knowing of the Plan of Salvation. It brought peace to my soul this week, and will for the rest of my life.

My hope is that we can all remember the eternal plan our Heavenly Father has for us. We need to take advantage of the time we have now to learn, love, and grow. Our time here on earth is short, and "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32). May we live life to it's fullest and allow ourselves to be thankful for the little things. I love you, I pray for you, and I know the words I have written today are true.

Love, Elder Dransfield

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