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Some Time Away- Not So Relaxing…

We snuck away just the two of us. It had been 7 months since we last got a moment to ourselves. Not only were we surrounded everyday by our darling crew of 7 but we also had house girls, gardeners and workers that shared our space each day bustling about doing their work. There is something almost sacred about a home and it had been way too long since we were actually alone in ours together..,
It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Fiji, and now that we were so close, the adventure couldn’t wait. Did I have hesitations, leaving my 7 kids alone while we were away? Oh yes! Especially with the all the tropical bugs, and the cyclone season which was now upon us. Also the fact that my oldest, and very responsible 17 year old was away, made making the decision even harder. I was worried of course, about the great number of boys who liked to visit my sweet daughters. And I was hopeful that none of them would use this opportunities to lure them out of the house on some private island adventure of their own.
Tom, our 22 year old adopted island son had been living with us ever since my oldest left to Canada. He had a great relationship with the kids, could drive, and knew all the cute boys who might want to sneak in for a visit. I had given everyone a list of rules and a stern talk with the kids friends making it clear that nobody would be alive if any of them came to visit while we were gone. Of course there were the house girls who would also help out and I hired an extra one just to take care of the babies while I was gone. My kids were going to be just fine I told myself again.
We booked a little cottage in the rain forest online called Colo-I-Suva Rainforest Eco Resort. It sounded so romantic and what married couple isn’t eager to escape the world and trade it for a little romance?…sigh. It was very affordable and still available for our last minute dates, that should have been my first clue. Also it included breakfast, was located in the heart of rainforest and situated on a lake with a pool. It sounded perfect.
When we arrived they checked us in and directed us to our cottage. The rainforest was lovely, birds and frogs, and parrots of all varieties were singing their hearts out, but the rainforest was located on a highway, so the orchestra of animals was also frequented by shouting people and vehicles whizzing by.
There was a lake, well it’s more of a pond, like a great big BROWN pond. There was a pool, a GREEN pool- it had a sign that said ‘closed for a special event’, but I’m certain there was no special event going on, they were just trying to cover for the fact that their pool was the wrong color.
The cottage was cute but it was so musty I could hardly breathe. The tap water came out rust red, and the hot water was luke warm at best. Don’t worry, there was a sign which indicated that you could turn up the temperature of the water if you so desired simply by turning the knob at the top of the water heater.
The knob, however, was so high that no human could possibly reach it. I was not going to be deterred. This was my retreat. I had no kids, and the one thing I knew I could count on was an uninterrupted HOT shower. I was desperate for that hot shower, so I crept out of the bathroom naked and shivering and looked around for a chair to stand on. There were none, instead I settled for a little table.
I carefully balanced the table into the bathroom and climbed onto of it. I was determined to turn that knob. I turned it, all the way to its highest setting. And then tried again. The water was still the same tepid temperature. Oh well I thought I guess no hot water for me today. After drying off with the towels provided, I grabbed the soggy bar of soap and bit of one ply tissue paper- now I knew what the ‘eco’ part of their name meant…
I was excited for the breakfast but the breakfast voucher which was for a ‘free breakfast’ was really only a voucher for $5.50USD and didn’t cover the cost of any of the breakfast options on the menu. When I ordered fruit, yogurt and toast, (knowing I would have to pay extra) I got whole wheat bread. This was a score, because in Vanuatu they don’t sell whole wheat bread! I normally don’t eat wheat but just knowing that I could indulge this once I spread the toast with butter and took a bite. It was mouldy. I’m not sure why this surprised me. I briefly contemplated telling the waitress, but considering the state of everything else we had experienced since arriving I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be too alarmed.
I left the breakfast table hungry, and returned to my room where I picked up the beautifully coloured brochure. It included an interested array of subjects including these paragraphs…
SAFETY “Regarding the security, there have been some distressing violent attacks over the past years but at the time of writing there has been no reported acts of violence..” okay, well that’s nice to know! I looked towards the front door of our cottage and noticed the chain lock which had been installed for our added security. Something didn’t seem right about the way it was installed. I went outside the door and asked Eric to lock it. Then I opened the door, reached my hand in and easily detached it from it’s ‘security’ lock. Well, hopefully we wouldn’t need that lock for our safety!
EARTHQUAKES “You should be aware that we are located in an area at risk to earthquakes. In the even of such an incident, it is important you follow the instructions below.”
CYCLONES “We take the safety of our guests and staff very seriously and therefore we must ask you abide our instructions without question and DO NOT PANIC!”
MEDICAL CARE “Health care in Fiji is not as good as health care in developed countries…” thanks I’ll keep that in mind in case I have an emergency.
FIRES “Please note that when batteries run out in smoke detectors the alarm will sound- DO NOT PANIC!- notify reception and we will replace the battery.” Okay, I’ll try to keep that in mind at midnight..
ROOM SERVICE “Given the distance form the restaurant and bar to your accommodations we do not encourage room service…”
I could have cursed, or cried. But instead we just sat there and laughed. Laughed because life rarely turns out how you are expecting it to, and laughed because it was just too much to hope for that we could be totally spoiled on our vacation away from home. And most of all we laughed because this was our life. Our life which is full of palm trees, and tropical fruits and which looks so desirable has it’s mould and cold water and it’s bugs. And the best part is, it’s okay. It keeps it real.
I opened my scriptures and read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I think I’ll sit down and write a nice letter to the owners of the resort, because maybe the next guests won’t appreciate such an authentic experience- and then I plan to book a different hotel because two nights is all I can possibly stand in this lovely place!
And after that I‘ll write a list of things I’m grateful for…just so I don’t get too distracted by my surroundings! Rebecca Proffitt P.S. I wrote a nice letter to the owners to which they responded “I have to dispute your experience the toast could not have been mouldy because we pick up our bread fresh each morning” I think the majority of the letter was lost on them…but here is the new hotel we went to

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree

Hundreds of trees of every shade of green surrounded our little home on the beach. The giant nabunga tree was visited daily by children climbing it or hunting the cobra constrictor snakes that lay hiding inside. The palms were overloaded with coconuts that we used for our meals. Mangos dropped by the dozens each day from the mango tree and were gathered up by kids, neighbours and friends who filled their bags to overflowing with the tasty treats.  The avocado tree provided more avocados than you could imagine eating and the papaya trees, banana trees and lemon trees all contributed their small part to the family dinner table as well.

The trees were so beautiful, each one different and each one doing their part for the community. I sat outside on the deck swing looking over towards the edge of the yard. This wasn’t the first time I had noticed the towering tree whose canopy of dead branch spread out into the sky and overtop of the road and swimming pool. In fact several times throughout the year I had wondered about it.

Several months ago we had hired a master tree cutter to remove all the dead and dying trees to protect us from dangerous flying branches during the upcoming cyclone season. I had laughed thinking about just what a fool the so called expert was that he could be hired to do a job and miss something so obvious as that large tree I was now staring at. 

In November I discovered that it was I who was the fool. I woke up to the birds singing loudly outside one morning and when I peeked through the bedroom window I  beheld to my amazement that the whole world was covered in a sea of bright red blossoms. That big tree that I had resented for taking up so much space in our yard wasn’t dead at all! In fact it was more alive and vibrant than any tree around. I couldn’t believe that all this time, I had been wrong.

When I asked the local villagers the name of this glorious tree that had just come alive in my garden, they said it was called the “Christmas Tree”. All year it just simply waited. Waited for it’s time to bloom. And while I secretly criticised it for it’s empty bare branches, it knew all along that it was something much more.  Then, just when we were getting ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior the tree amazed us with it’s magnificent display of colour. Each day the thousands of vibrant red petals falling from the top of the high, high, tree and cover the world with a fresh coat of colour.

I bent down and picked up the delicate, rich blossom studying the black and yellow and red so intricately woven into the shape and colors of a flower.

“Remember the worth of a soul is great in the sight of God” the scriptures were trying to teach me again.

I thought back to all the times I had felt discouraged, downtrodden, and useless. My physical limitations preventing me from doing so many things I wanted to do, or my financial situation making me unable to give as much as I wanted to give, or endless nights awake with crying babies creating a hazy dissatisfaction with my role as mother during the day.

When all the earth trusts, and obeys God so completely, why am I so impatient and filled with doubt?

I looked down at the flower in my hand again, but this time noticed the dirt on my hands. I didn’t even remember how it had gotten it there, but now the camera was put away and there it was. Sigh…it always comes back to Jesus doesn’t it?

For without Jesus there would be no atonement, and with the atonement each of us would be so burdened with unresolved Sin that we could never return to live with God again.


I am learning that like the Christmas tree, sometimes we must trust God and wait.  It takes faith, and patience but I am guessing that if it’s anything like what is happening outside my front door, dirt and all, the results can be breathtaking, glorious and better than anything we could have imagined!

Beckyboo
P.S. I’d love it if you’d share a personal experience of when you waited on God 🙂

Join us In Vanuatu :)

The darling beach cottage stands empty and lonely, perched on a sloping grass hill to the beach where the ocean rolls in and out on a black sand beach. It’s only 328 square feet, but you’d be surprised how many people can actually fit in there and how many wonderful memories it’s already created within its walls. It’s connected to the main house via the large outdoor deck and 4 swimming pools.

Imagine for a minute what a few weeks in Vanuatua with my family would look like. For starters you know it would include endless conversations under the palms trees and around fires as we discussed life, cried, teased, prayed and reminisced together.

If you decided to come for a visit, we would take you on hidden jungle hikes to gather food, to the tops of mountains and down again, up rivers to breathtaking blue holes where you can swim and see fish in a clear pool of sapphire blue water in the middle of the jungle. We would strap on our snorkels and dive down to the discover the world reefs filled with fish so colourful you don’t believe it’s real.

On Friday nights we’ll go down the road to the Beach Bar Restaurant and buy homemade pizza grilled on the outdoor fire while we watch a world class fireshow on the beach, and on Tuesday nights we will go to that same place, but this time we’ll be snuggled up on chairs and couches watching an outdoor family movie on the beach.

We will visit beaches covered in so much sea glass you can’t pick it all up, and in the mornings we’ll shop at the local outdoor markets for fresh fruit, veggies and fish. We won’t mind giving every last dollar we have to the old ladies from far away villages who sleep on cement floors throughout the week just to sell fruit at the market. We will come home with our arms so full of mangos and pineapples that we wonder how we will ever eat it all and then, two days later when the entire load has disappeared, we will do the whole thing over again and keep smiling because there is no where else we’d rather spend our money.

We will ride recklessly in the back of a pick up truck filled so full with people you wonder how it’s possible to transport that many- but don’t worry we will drive slow. We will drive slow because we’d hate to wreck a tire on the astounding amount of potholes that mark the roads and because we don’t want to hit any of the many people who are just strolling down the road but most of all we will drive slow because there is no reason to drive fast. We aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere and we would hate to miss out on the beautiful scenery.

Thursday nights the pool will come alive with half a dozen young men whose screams and splashes will wake up the neighbourhood.

After they have dried off they’ll come inside our house to eat ice cream and popcorn and watch an inspirational movie about being godly men. I’m not sure why we never seem to attract girls around here, but with these young men we’ll chat late into the night and then just when we are so tired we think we can’t stay up any longer, the good looking group will grab their things and in the dark of night with the stars and the moon as their light make their way to their various homes.

On Sundays we will walk to church together. Once we have walked for nearly an hour and are so hot and stinky we will arrive and join all the others who have walked to church as well. We’ll get lots of time to ponder our relationship with God because all the talks and prayers will be in another language. If the little boys get restless you or I might bring them out to sit in the shade of the mango tree and pick a few to feed them. If that still doesn’t satisfy them we can let them run around with the chickens and dogs that meander into the church yard, but usually that makes more noise than is acceptable at our little church meetings.

At night you can take a cold shower under the stars- not because we don’t have hot water, just because it’s usually not working. But thats okay because once you’re clean you’ll just get sweaty and hot within half an hour of coming out of the shower and you won’t even be able to remember that you took a shower at all.

In our spare time, we will sit in the hammock listening to the ocean come in and out and birds sing back and forth, all while we read the same good book that we brought on the plane over again. Or maybe we’ll lie on the beach, or snap pictures for instagram. If you’re young you might catch bugs, climb trees or beg somebody to crack you another fresh coconut off a nearby tree.

If you’re a mom, you’ll probably help me cook, clean, teach school and do laundry, but it’s okay because we have the best helper ever (a full time house girl) which makes the chores easy and quick.

The whole family will give when there is something to give and help when there is someone to help. Because here giving 1 sheet of metal, or a rat trap, or a bar of soap, or a bag of rice is received with such gratitude and thanks that you just want to keep on giving, and nothing you give is too little and nothing you give is too big.

There are dozens of tiny islands to explore, some covered in turtles, some with white sand beaches. For a few dollars we can do down to the dock together and pay a fisherman to drive us wherever we want to go. Then we can spend the day exploring a new place. We might hike to a waterfall where we’ll go swinging off a rope swing and splash into crystal clear water, or perhaps we’ll drive to that giant Nabunga tree that is so big 30 people can all climb it at the same time and get lost in it together!

At first when you come you might think you are bored and hungry. Your kids will probably say something desperate like “there is nothing to do here, I’m bored” or “you can’t just eat fruit for lunch mom” But when your body gets used to the slow pace of island life and a diet full of vegetables and fruit, you will realise it’s just what you’ve been missing your whole life. Within a week you will start to appreciate the island time, quiet space, the clean air, the chemical free food, the interesting company (the Proffitt’s are not very normal), and all the sunshine and water that you desire. Chances are you’ll lose weight, because all that healthy food and exercise agrees with mostly everybody.

If you get sick don’t worry, there are strange doctors who can feed you any manner of teas and herbs picked from the jungle for a nominal fee. And if those don’t work you have your choice of Chinese medicine men, $2 hospital doctors or in a pinch you can pay $100 and visit an Australian doctor (boring but safe). If you prefer to diagnose yourself that works too. Pharmacies don’t require a prescription for any drug and normally when we come across something we haven’t seen before we just march into the pharmacy and ask what they would suggest. Slathering ourselves with strange creams and eating pills that have labels written in either french, chinese or bislama.

If that isn’t enough excitement, there is always the possibility of earthquakes, cyclones, volcanos, dangerous bugs, and tsunamis that are ever present. And on top of all that you would get to see a different culture of people who are so happy.

So happy just to be the way God made them. Their teeth are falling out, their clothes are worn until they are covered in holes and they don’t wear shoes. But they know how to laugh, and love like nobody else. It’s medicine to the soul for every age.

Photo Credit: Government of Vanuatu Website

So my friends, that is honestly and truly a depiction of the experience you could have if you joined me for a few weeks in paradise. I have tried to paint the picture in a manner that was neither good nor bad. It’s all a mixture of both, and if you pray about this and feel like it’s an adventure your family would like to join us in, ask me and I’ll give you some details on the price you that you can expect to pay to fly here, as well how much you’ll need to have saved up for food, fun and service, once you get here. You can trust me when I say it’s an experience we’ll never forget and hopefully one you won’t regret 

An Island Thanksgiving Dinner

In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday of October. While living in Vanuatu we have been subject to all manner of degradations in our food standards (beatles in the pasta, bugs in the rice, maggots in the cheese, larvae in the beans, worms in the fruit etc.) Lindy is almost ready to go home and we wanted to do something fun to celebrate. So we invited every neighbor around as well as some favorite family friends to our home for a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner.
 
Making anything traditional in a developing country is exciting, so try not to laugh at Lindy and I’s lack of knowledge without the regular staples like ‘stove top’ and turkey while we attempt to create a Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner in Vanuatu.
 
Despite a few setbacks and difficulty finding all the ingredients that we usually have access to, we had a wonderful and fun filled Thanksgiving with all our neighbors and some brand new friends. Missed the turkey but loved the company:)

Camping in Paradise

‘It’s okay, just breath deeply and go to sleep.’ I felt a giant spider scamper across my arm and a cockroach tickle my forehead as it made it’s way over my face. This was going to be a loooong week. There were a lot, and I mean A LOT of bugs here.

Seriously why are there even spiders this size?

We had decided to take the family camping because well we didn’t have anywhere to live so that made it an easy decision. When we originally were planning to come to Vanuatu we thought we would just stay for 4 months. But the time came and went so quickly and everyone was enjoying our trip so thoroughly that nobody wanted to go home. We spent a few thousand dollars, changed our plane tickets, bought more travel insurance and extended our visa. It seemed expensive, but truthfully the price was so small in comparison to the gigantic return on investment.  For once in a long time our family was really content and everybody felt it and nobody wanted to let it go.

When we changed our tickets from 4 months to 12 months we needed to find a new place to stay and went camping between rentals.  It’s not like I had any camping equipment so we chose a place that had tents and beds already in them.  It was magical. Beach tents on the ocean, the breeze and the ocean and the birds.

We spent endless hours walking, swimming, playing with birds, roasting hotdogs, laughing and chatting around the fire. Everything was really fantastic. But there was more in store for our family.

The kids and Eric were walking down the beach when they found a path that led to a village through the bush. They ended up buying some island potatoes from them but when it was time to go home the entire village full of children followed them. For the next few hours they played soccer in the field.

At dinner time I called my kids for dinner and my kids as well as at least another 10 kids showed up. For the next four days and nights these beautiful village kids showed up at our tents at 6am, stayed around the fire laughing and singing with us and sharing our meals. Pretty soon I wasn’t cooking for 10 I was cooking for 20. I was running out of food, and you’ll see in the video the creative ways that we found to keep eating as there wasn’t a store in a million miles from us. We gathered coconuts, ate island potatoes and even collected sea urchins when the tide was low and roasted them over the fire! #gross

This group of sparkly eyed, brown skinned, big smiled children joined us for movie night cramming everyone into one small tent to gather around the little computer screen and watch Moana and home videos with us.

They followed us to the waterfalls when we went hiking and were waiting for us till well past dark every night if we ever ventured out anywhere.  At the end of every night Eric would load up the truck with everyone and drive them home. It was sometimes 10 or 11 o’clock at night when kids were sprawled out all over each other exhausted from hours of playing. Some nights they just walked themselves home dissappearing into the blackness without a sound.

The BEST most beautiful part of the entire camping trip was the morning that we were to leave. At 6am we heard noises outside. The mommas, the dads and the children from the village were all there.

They came up and showered us with shell leis, necklaces, fruit, potatoes and a woven mat. The momma’s said to me “you fed our pikininis everyday and now that makes you their momma too, so we bring you presents” Everyone cried as we left this magical bit of paradise and said goodbye to our new friends. It was truly an amazing, fantastic, unforgettable experience and I now have ALOT of new children!

Watch the videos to join in the magic and it truly was magical!

Rebecca

 

A Happy Coincidence…

I felt ashamed to admit that I didn’t know if I would even recognize him when I saw him. He looked so ordinary but something in my heart leapt when he came towards me with a smile and his hands outstretched and I could feel that he was not ordinary at all. This was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, a specially chosen witness of our Savior and I was shaking his hand and kissing his wife. There were a thousand wonderful, brilliant things that I wanted to say but overwhelmed with the beauty of it my mind went blank.
“Hi” was all I got out. That was lame….The fact that I was here at all was a miracle and I felt so blessed to even have this chance. We found out last week that Elder Stevenson would be coming to visit Vanuatu.

Just like in ancient times when Jesus Christ had 12 apostles on the earth, Elder Stevenson is one of 12 specially chosen apostles of Jesus Christ on the earth today.
It’s been 8 years since an apostle of the church had come to Vanuatu so this was really special that we were getting this chance. It was planned that everyone would get to see him and listen to him speak during two planned meetings. One meeting for youth on Tuesday and one meeting for youth on Wednesday.  None of us knew that he was going to be here today. The only reason I was even at the airport was because it was the day that my niece and nephew were leaving. They had flown in last month from Canada to visit us and now we had to say goodbye.

Ethan is 18 and just received his mission call which is waiting in an envelope at home for him unopened.  Both my niece and nephew were devastated when they found out that they had to leave 1 day before an apostle arrived.
Because flights out of Vanuatu are all considered international you have to arrive at the airport 3 hours prior to departure. We didn’t really think this was a set in stone rule but learned the hard way a couple weeks ago when we dropped off a family member just 1 hour prior to departure and their plane had left them! This time we knew we had to come exactly on time. Our strategy was to check them in early and then spend time together walking around, taking pictures and hanging out until they really had to leave. Everything was going smoothly after the check in, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more going on. We noticed lots of shiny white cars, large men in suits and groups of dancers gathering around a particular area. It wasn’t too hard to guess that this must all be in preparation of Elder Stevensons arrival. He must be flying in on the flight that Ethan and Talia were flying out on. Suddenly we were feeling very excited.

There was a small group of specially invited church leaders and their spouses behind the ‘Do Not Enter, VIP Exit Only’ sign. They were all dressed in their brightly coloured island dresses with fresh flower leis lined up nicely ready to greet the apostle. The men wore their best white shirts and ties some of them even had on suits despite the hot weather. We were on the outside looking in through the glass. Trying to stay back far enough that nobody noticed us but still hoping to catch a glimpse of the apostle. There were 9 of all together. My four daughters, four nephews and one niece. Unfortunately they were not dressed in anything other than what we wore everyday. Island t-shirts, cut off jean shorts and bare feet, of course they had bare feet. I at least had shoes on but was still wearing the grubby clothes that I had worked in all day. Gross, this was awkward. We briefly considered that we shouldn’t be standing around waiting to see an apostle in these clothes, but figuring that the kids flight would arrive before we actually got to see Elder Stevenson and knowing that we would probably have to leave anyways, we thought it couldn’t hurt.

We waited and waited and waited and still no sign of anybody. We weren’t worried about the flight yet because we were just around the corner for where they would have to leave and we kept checking in to make sure they hadn’t begun boarding. Because the airport is so small there isn’t anything fancy like boarding announcements or computer screens displaying flights. The airport only fits one airplane anyways so you know that everyone there is for your flight. . We even took pictures with the dancers to pass time.
The kids and I were hopeful that eventually if we waited long enough we’d get to see Elder Stevenson. Feeling so self conscious about our presence there in the first place I lined up the kids a dozen times telling them if they stood just right or looked nice enough maybe Elder Stevenson would notice them and at the very least look at them and smile. But after an hour of waiting it was seeming less and less likely that we would even get to see him.
Just as we starting to feel discouraged and preparing to leave, people started to gather around a little closer and excited chatter spread throughout the group. Naturally we also leaned forward taking a few steps closer. We were nearly up to the outside of the glass now with a great view of the door that the apostle was supposed to be coming out of.

We must have looked eager, or desperate or something because totally unexpectedly one of the sharp men in suits approached us and asked “would you like to see Elder Stevenson”, He gestured behind the glass that separated us from everybody else as though he was inviting us to come in. I was sure I must not have understood him correctly and shook my head ‘no’. He asked again and I quietly explained how kind it was of him to offer but we weren’t invited, and even if we had been we certainly weren’t dressed appropriately to join the beautifully groomed, specially chosen group waiting to welcome a representative of Jesus Christ.
The friendly man who I assumed was a body guard was gentle and kind as he insisted that ‘just this once’ it would be okay to not be dressed properly or have an invitation. I refused again, with a little less resolve and then finally the third time not wanting to be rude I thanked him and  timidly entered through the glass gateway with my entourage of 8 very excited youth.
Together we stood in the growing circle of welcomers. I looked around at the adult women in their island dresses, smiling and giggling like little girls as they waited. I saw full grown men with their arms folded reverently in front of them and husbands and wives standing next to each other holding hands, waiting together in happy anticipation. The feeling was electric, the spirit was so present and I was so happy that I had been at just the right place and time to be allowed to be here. Maybe Ethan and Talia really would get this chance, something that happens once in a lifetime to shake the hand of an Apostle of God. I felt peace. I knew this wasn’t what we had planned, the situation wasn’t ideal, but I knew it was meant to be an it was okay. Nearly out of nowhere the feeling of peace left me and another feeling replaced it. This thought was louder, stronger, more persistent.

I looked down at my blue knockoff Adidas sport shorts that were splitting apart at the seems. Honestly and truly splitting apart. My shoes were too big for me, my hair was messy and my old t-shirt was a dirty. What was I thinking? I was suddenly humiliated, I knew I didn’t belong here. I needed to get out and quick.  I tried to tell all the kids that we all should leave, and we weren’t dressed properly but they wouldn’t listen to me as they stayed firmly planted in their spots. I quietly edged my way towards the door and snuck back outside.

Phewph…Feeling much more comfortable, I relaxed as I looked onward from the outside hoping to go unnoticed. Only a few minutes had passed when a nice looking, well dressed gentleman with a camera came and stood beside me. He didn’t say anything for a few minutes but then softly asked why I wasn’t standing with my kids and the others inside. I was embarrassed as I explained that I was not prepared to meet an apostle in the clothes I was wearing and felt quite out of place. He turned to me with a knowing smile and said “ You go back there” he gestured to an empty spot in the line up, “you can’t miss this chance to shake his hand, and if I know anything about the brethren of the Church it’s that they certainly don’t care what clothes people are wearing, they’d much rather be in jeans and t-shirts themselves”.  He was right. I did not want to miss this chance to shake his hand, in fact with all my heart I wanted it. Since the moment I found out that Elder Stevenson was coming to visit I had hoped that we might get a chance to meet him. I thanked my new photographer friend for his encouragement and took my place again amongst the other excited Saints inside. The knowledge that Satan wants us alone in the dark and Jesus wants us together in light struck my heart. I was meant to be in the light with all these God fearing, beautiful people around me. It isn’t my shoes, or my clothes or even my sins for that matter that define who I am it is my heart. And with all my heart wanted to be in the light.Ethan, my nephew came to stand beside me, he whispered “Aunty, is it time yet, when do we have to leave for our flight” oh ya, their flight. I had forgotten about that. I knew we were already cutting it close.
“Boarding closes at 4:05”, I told him as I looked down at my phone, it was 4:03. My heart fell, it was too late for him, he needed to leave.
“Ethan, you’re going to have to go without meeting him,” I whispered urgently.
“Are you kidding me? No way, I’d rather miss my flight than miss meeting the apostle”. Why was I not surprised. Since his birth Ethan has been incorrigible, impossible, and terrible at taking no for an answer. I turned to argue with him, but just at that moment the doors opened and there was a hushed silence that fell over the crowd.  There he was. Elder Stevenson came out the doors. (I was happy to know that I did recognize him) And at first he looked so ordinary but the closer he came the more I felt a spirit of absolute truth whisper to me that he was not ordinary. He was showered in leis and kisses and with a warm smile and enthusiastic energy he went around the whole group shaking each persons hand, asking them their names, who they were and what they did.
I had just overheard Ethan whisper to his cousin that he was excited but scared to go on a mission. Elder Stevenson grabbed Ethan’s hand in a firm handshake and said “Ahh, Ethan, I hear you’re going on a mission, is that right?”

Ethan’s surprise at being called by name registered on his face immediately as he turned to answer Elder Stevenson. Turns out one of the reporters that had been taking pictures and visiting with Ethan beforehand had told Elder Stevenson that there was a young man just flying home to open his mission call with his family. The contagious smile that gets Ethan out of all kinds of trouble spread across his face as he responded enthusiastically “yes I am!”. Elder Stevenson asked all kinds of questions as he visited with the kids as though there was nothing better to be doing in the world. I couldn’t stop the tears. A feeling of love and peace was just all around this man.

After Elder Stevenson and his wife moved on I looked down at my phone. 4:20- shoot, I had to get those kids out of there. Their plane would be leaving in minutes and if they weren’t on the flight I knew my sister would hate me forever. I grabbed the kids, and their bags and raced passed the crowds. There was literally nobody there, it was completely empty. We flew down the sidewalk and through the airport, there was literally nobody there. The lobby was completely devoid of people. Oops. We gave our last kisses and hugs and shoved our niece and nephew through the security gate.

As we were walking away thinking about everything I suddenly heard a pounding on the security glass beside me. I was already outside the airport, but apparently I was actually on the other side of the security gate. I looked through the darkly tinted glass and saw Ethan. “Aunty Becky” he was mouthing the words “ They won’t let me on the plane, I didn’t wear shoes.” SERIOUSLY??? That was just like my nephew… I ran back down the sidewalk and through the tiny airport as quickly as I could, I took off my shoes and threw them as hard as I could through the security door. Ethan caught them with a silly grin, slipped them on his feet and disappeared around the corner.

After a 30 hour trip home, and surrounded by his 10 siblings, mom and dad and a couple of friends, Ethan got everyone on a Facebook live video where he opened his mission call and read aloud to us:

“Dear Elder Pedersen,
You are nearby called to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the California Rancho Cucamonga Mission…”

What a beautiful beginning to two years of service 🙂