Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mission story.

As missionaries we always set goals of how many people we were going to contact each week and how many discussions we would teach. All of that was supposed to lead up to baptisms.
One day when I was in Sisagate my companion and I were one person short of our goal for daily contacts. We were riding our bikes back from a member’s home hoping to find someone to talk to. We only had 20-30 minutes before we were supposed to be home and it was already getting dark. The streets were desolate and all the houses were closed up. We rode back and forth on a section of road that usually had people sitting outside, but there was no one around. It looked hopeless, so we decided to call it a day and go home a few minutes early. As we headed home we rode past a man sitting on a curb staring at the ground between his feet. He was dirty from head to toe and his hair was long and in dreadlocks knotted up with twigs and pieces of grass. There was obviously something wrong with him and he would not be eligible for baptism. The thought came to me, “If you talk to him you can mark off your goal.” I thought to myself, “I’m not going to talk to a crazy person just so I can mark off a goal, that’s cheating.” I rode by and the thought came to me again. “You need to talk to that person.” This time I could tell it wasn’t my own thought so I told my companion “We need to talk to that guy, I don’t know why but it won’t hurt anything, we can still be home before curfew.” I don’t know if he had felt a prompting too or if he just trusted me, but he agreed and we went back.
I rode up to him and got off my bike. He looked up at me when I said “Hi.” He had a wild and distant look in his eyes that really creeped me out. He said something, but I couldn’t understand it. It was obvious when he spoke that he had a mental handicap of some sort, but his eyes just screamed insanity. I told him we were missionaries and I asked him if he was interested in learning about Christ. He abruptly said “No,” and pointed into the forest behind him. He mumbled something but I couldn’t understand it. I stepped toward my bike and he pointed towards the forest and said, “Follow me,” as he walked into the forest. My companion and I looked at each other and we both shrugged, “Why not?” We grabbed our bikes and walked in after him. As we followed I tried to talk to him, but it was very difficult because he was in front of me so I couldn’t hear him very well, and he didn’t speak Thai very clearly. He just kept walking.
After a few dozen yards I started to get a little nervous. We were out of sight of the road and there was nothing around but trees and bushes. It started to feel more like a scene in a horror movie than real life. I could hear the news anchor in my head, “Two naive farangs followed a psycho into the jungle and get hacked to pieces…”
We came upon two traditional Thai houses on stilts next to each other. Our friend walked up into one of them without stopping. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to follow him or not so we stayed below. Even I was smart enough not to go into a crazy person’s house uninvited. He came back out right away and I was relieved he didn’t have a machete in his hands. He motioned for us to follow him up the stairs to the other house. When we went inside there was a person sitting in a chair with straight casts on both of his legs with a bar holding them wide apart. He was ghostly pale and looked sickly and in pain. I introduced us and asked if he would was interested in learning about Jesus Christ. He said he would like to learn. I was skeptical though I figured he really just wanted company. Since he was ailing I reasoned it would be good service to come visit him even if he didn’t want to learn about the gospel. We didn’t have time for a lesson then so we just visited for a few minutes and told him we would be back later in the week.
When we went outside the crazy dude was there. My companion and I grabbed our bikes and started to walk out the direction we came. He stopped us and pointed a different way that was perpendicular to the way we came in. I could vaguely see two tire ruts in the grass and he told us to go that way. We did and it popped us out on a road we were familiar with. We had ridden by that trail dozens of times and never even knew it was there.
We sped home as fast as we could because it was getting dark and now we were past our curfew by a few minutes. The next week we went back and taught a first discussion. The next appointment, no one was there, not even crazy dude. I was moved to another town a few days later. Several months later I ran into my old companion at a moves meeting. He was just leaving Sisagate. He had lots of news to tell me about members we had been working with. Some were coming to church and others were not. He told me that one of our investigators, Manun, got baptized. He showed me a picture of himself with the investigator dressed in white. I couldn’t remember who it was so he clued me in, “the guy in the leg casts.” He looked completely different, his face wasn’t pale and swollen anymore and had he looked happy. I’m sure it was because he was in such bad shape when I first met him and now he was recovered and healthy. I was a little surprised though because I though once he was better he would lose interest, but my old companion reassured me, “No, he’s good.”
Several months later my time was up and I was heading home. My parents and my Grandma went to Thailand to pick me up and we toured around to the places I had been. We were in Sisakate on Christmas and there was an activity at the church. We participated with them and had a good time. One of the new members asked me if I recognized him. I did, from the picture Elder Manwaring had shown me a few months earlier. He didn’t look anything like I remembered him. When we were leaving my parents were talking to some of the kids in the branch and Manun came to me and softly said “Thank you for finding me.” I was taken off guard and I didn’t know what to say. I hope I said something but I wasn’t able to explain to him how we found him. This picture was taken a few minutes later. Manun is standing next to me and the Branch President is on the far right. (I’m the farang on the left”)

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