(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

More fresh Elder Forsythisms for you: “Al-a-gee” instead of “Algae”, “Alpha-alpha” instead of “Alfalfa”, & “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder where you are, you’re so high up, & you’re in the sky. You’re so bright… & pretty… you’re a star.” instead of … well, I’d hope you’d know.
Even with my Preparation Day Fricasée (PDF?) out of the way, a rather laborious 6-hour hike took up a vast majority of my dealings. But at the very least, I MUST share the attachments of the week, which include a very extremely special guest star! (Check out the last image at the bottom, if you’re dying to know who it is.)
I guess I should start off with the sudden departure in our area. Cheryl left for Tennessee with her daughter & her dog. She didn’t seem to bother packing much of anything at all, & none of us knew it was coming until less than 48 hours before it occurred. This was pretty devastating for all who came to love her in the few months she was here. She’s been around barely any longer than I’ve been writing these e-mail out. We’ve heard this is par for the course for her, due to an unbased worry about being able to keep her daughter. In our first lesson with Cheryl, I mentioned about how the Holy Ghost (a gift we receive after baptism) can help bring peace & light into our often frustrating, heavy daily lives. She almost leaped up out of her chair with excitement, to know now that such a thing that was possible. & then she began to cry, because of just how consistently she experienced such overwhelming heavy emotional baggage in her life, & how much she wanted to feel the peace she’d always feel with us… but all the time. In following lessons, she told us all excitedly how she was determined to be baptized– how she knew it was important, & crucial, & how she couldn’t get it out of her head– this strong need to build this personal relationship with her Heavenly Father.
This whole slope-up & slope-down (much like the hike I took today) was pretty difficult to witness firsthand. I had to see Cheryl get so excited about her progress in quitting smoking, & see her entire countenance change as she succeeded through her diligence… then see it all come crashing back down when she spent some time in an environment that caused her to relapse. We reassured her that all the work wasn’t for nothing, & that freedom was within reach, but… she felt this time, she had to do it all on her own. &… then she left. We asked if there was anything we could do for them– everyone was trying to be there for her, but she was already gone before she was. I told her we all loved her– she DID say it back, as she closed the doors. At any rate, I hope that statement makes it in more than skin-deep some day.
My last happy memory at a meeting with Cheryl was when, after our lesson, her daughter Abigail had been preparing a little show for us on a stage at the church building we were meeting at. She’d set up chairs for each of us. She’d written that it was “Abigail’s Show!” on the chalk board, & then proceeded to explain how this was her show, & how awesome the show would be. She closed the curtains, opened them back up again, then noodled around quietly on my ‘ukulele (playing it on her lap like a dulcimer). She closed the curtains & sang the lyrics to a song Elder Forsyth & I had just sang called Love One Another. Although she sang them to a completely different melody that made it sound slightly polka-ish. She then opened up the curtains, closed them again, opened them again, then asked if anyone could play the ‘ukulele in the audience. I volunteered & accompanied her impromptu dance number. Then she had Cheryl come up on-stage as special guest star (to a great deal of applause), left her standing on the stage by herself, turned off all the lights, then ran out of the room to sneak behind us. Then the show ended. I think!
Colby, that wonderful gentleman we tracked down on Memorial Day, texted us out of the blue during our dinner appointment & said he “needed some missionary time”. That made our day, all by itself. Colby has such a strong spirit about him, & has really walked the walk… even when he couldn’t actually walk for himself. A couple years ago, his foot was run over by a large machine where he worked, leaving practically nothing left. He was told there was nothing left to do but amputate. He prayed & fasted fervently every day for a week in the hospital that he would be able to keep his foot. The nurses & doctors eventually decided to try a new procedure to salvage what was barely there. Since then, Colby has been on Worker’s Comp & has been legally mandated not to work. This sounded like it was going to be the case for the rest of his life. Miraculously, his foot has completely healed, & in the past few months, he’s finally been able to go back to work.
This transition back has been loaded with opposition, though. In an earlier visit, we texted Colby to confirm his evening appointment right when we woke up in the morning. We didn’t get a confirmation about the appointment until about ten minutes before it was about to happen. This is because his house almost burned down. It was all because of an old short-circuited Glade plug-in, which is the one of the most banal reasons I can think for a house to burn down. Not only that, but he was invited to go fishing with his dad, at the same time our appointment was scheduled. He didn’t let either of those things keep him from missionary time. Now THAT is unheard of amounts of commitment. I think Elder Forsyth was especially touched about giving up fishing to meet with us. 😉
Colby hadn’t smoked in years, but in taking up a new & potentially unsubstantial job, the stress caused him to regress one night. His wife caught him on the porch, & asked him what he thought he was doing. He said he didn’t know– which was about as honest as I think anyone could be about smoking. She threw his cigarettes away, he got angry, & he went for a drive around the block. When he got back, his wife had left him a little note on his bedside table. It said, “Read your scriptures & pray.” These simple things, he said, have helped keep him afloat. He also mentioned that he knew that he was overjoyed to hear we’d stayed, even after all these months, & that he felt that it was specifically so he’d be able to progress & be the kind of strong father he wants to be for his kids. After hearing all of this, I couldn’t help but mention, “Colby, us missionaries… we’re replaceable. & you are not. We’re so humbled to be able to meet with you, & it means the World to us, & we can feel so strongly that your Heavenly Father loves you & is proud of you whenever we’re here with you. We know you will be able to make these changes you want to make, & we’re just blessed to be a part of it, for however long. But it really has nothing to do with us. You’re just very important.”
At the end of this last lesson, he mentioned that he’d found out that day that he didn’t have enough money to pay the rent. His first response was to go & find some cigarettes, but instead, he reached out to us, instead. He said he knew he could make it, if he just had the faith to call us.
Hey, even Nanay (our Filipino grandma!) has been sharing with us about her struggles after her husband passed. She said she couldn’t stop crying, & she felt like no connection in this life could ever compare– that something irreplaceable was gone. She resorted to drinking heavily, & felt a sense of hopelessness & a loss of purpose in anything. As she told us this, she held her granddaughter (who she calls her princess) tightly. She smiled her usual whole-face smile (she made fun of me for drawing her in the lesson with her eyes closed– “They’re not always closed!”), even after expressing such difficult things to us, & said firmly, “Now, when I cry, I only cry for joy. I know now, for my husband, it is not a goodbye but a… ’til we meet again’.”
We’ve been going through the 12-Step Addiction Recovery program with Brother Christensen (he can’t find time to attend any meetings due to his trucking career), & outside of our reading time, he has made no time at all for any of the personal reflection he needs to write down. When we met with him the time before last, he wore a Camel cigarettes t-shirt with a pack of Camels in the front pocket. As we ended the lesson, I felt strongly that, instead of shaking his hand, I needed to give him a hug. When I asked with a silly smile on my face if I could, he was more willing that I’d expected. As kind & friendly as he’s been to us, & as sincerely as I’ve been trying to express my testimony, I didn’t really feel like there’d been very much in the way of real contact. Yet, he held me close. I felt I’d finally reached him– pushed just a touch past that pack of cigarettes placed over his heart. We told him we believe in him & we know how close he is to finally feeling free & being as he knows he can be. Some day, he’ll no longer have to think about toting around & refilling his oxygen canister– first, he just has to have faith, & act on that faith.
We’ve spent a great deal of time with this one member who had us over for dinner early on in our time here. We invited him out to fish with us. I was watching some Addiction Recovery videos off on the side. He asked me exactly what it is we do for those we teach struggling with addictions. I pointed out the strongest thing we can do is have all our family & loved ones pray on our behalf– & then to pray ourselves, fervently. There is such power in this– & I feel like everything else is just extra help. He nodded & seemed rather deep in thought. As I continued to watch videos, I got to a video that reminded him about earlier, simpler times for him. We had fun talking about this for a while, & then he asked us both to set down our things so we could talk. He asked us, “Is there any particular reason you’ve been spending so much time with me?” I told him honestly that we just thought he was awesome. He said, “Every time I’m around you, I get the strong feeling that you can help me.” We had no clue, but for the past few years, he’s been hooked on chewing tobacco. He said that when we walked into his workshop to invite him to fish, he had a huge wad in his mouth, & felt deeply embarrassed. He said, “I don’t talk about this with anyone, but the hairs standing up on the back of my neck right now… they don’t lie. I just know you can help me.”
We’ll give it our all.
Attached is a picture of our entire district after having laid out over 4,000 dollars worth of sod. (It wasn’t just what you see– we also did all the front, too!) Next is an excerpt from a very special baptism that one of the senior missionaries had for a man named Charles Phelts. His entire family was musical (We even learned this rather complicated round called The Greatest Commands on the spot for the opening song… Charles said, “It’s all about TIMING, but you’ll see that it’s very beautiful.”)… & his wife was part of a string quartet that played throughout the whole program. Then, we found a treasure trove of chess sets I’d like to share with Nova in particular– adding to the Muppet chess set from earlier. Then, during a lesson, a little boy named Mitchell sang his stinkin’ heart out with us as we played his personal favorite hymn, Search Ponder & Pray. Then he went Biblical & fell flat on his face during prayer, to unforeseen depths of reverence. He was, like, searching, pondering… praying. So I joined him.
Then, after other assorted silliness, there’s two pictures from our unexpected excursion to Temple Square! (Sorry I didn’t make it out in-time for you, Sara! If only… Also, gonna respond to your e-mail ASAP.) Elder Forsyth got to meet a sister from his home ward serving around the temple grounds– she’s the one with the Grecian-style headpiece. She also read a poem about the quality of the food at the MTC. I snapped passionately in response. We proceeded to take an intentionally terrible group shot.
Then, with considerable difficulty, we tracked down the TRUE Special Guest™ of the night. She’s the only one training at the Family History Center currently. She’s bounces up & down this building so fast that no one can keep track of her. But it’s because she’s determined to get everything done that she needs to, & she won’t let a moment waste. Everybody loves & respects her. One missionary said she taught him everything he knows. She even pronounced Elder Forsyth’s name right, which was a total shocker for him! May I present… my gramma. :  )
You are great, you are awesome,
sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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