Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sweet Music to My Ears

I'm actually grateful nothing has happened lately. This gives me a chance to write a "Thankful" post. I haven't done one of these for months. And you know what I'm Thankful for this Thursday, the hymns. I've been thinking about them a lot lately. They bring such peace to my soul. They truly are scripture put to beautiful music. Well, I'm going to share with you five hymns I am most thankful for and why.

1. Hymn #219, Because I Have Been Given Much.
It was the summer of 2000 and my mother's parents were quickly deteriorating into old age. My mom had a big question on her mind and in her heart. So of course she took this question to the Lord. She was debating between putting her parents in a home or bringing them into her own home to take care of them. One Sunday in sacrament meeting we sang this hymn with it's beautiful words "Because I have been given much I too must give . . . I cannot see another's lack and I not share . . . I shall give love to those in need." I remember looking over at my mother and wondering why she had tears in her eyes. Later she told me that hymn answered her prayers. Because her parents had given her so much, she too must give. And just a few weeks later my grandmother and grandfather were moved into our home. They didn't stay long, life took them shortly after they were situated. But I will always cherish the months they stayed with us. And I learned much from my mother. When the time comes for me to face the same questions I am certain I will also take my parents into my home to be cared for.
Jon and I with our grandparents at age four and two.

2. Hymn #134 I Believe In Christ
My Junior year of college was hands down the best. It was filled with ups and downs. Love and heartbreak. Questions and answers. And the greatest roommates of all time. One Sunday, shortly after I finally got my answer that I was to put in my mission papers, all six of us girls were sharing a pew when the closing hymn of Sacrament meeting was about to be sung. First, I must explain the Continental Ward is amazing. It has the highest activity rate of all the USU wards. And half the Institute Choir. Therefore, we sang beautifully as a congregation. I had always loved the hymn "I Believe in Christ" because of it's beautiful testimony of Christ, but this particular day the hymn was more beautiful than ever before. Three-hundred voices were booming with praise for our Savior. I looked to my roommate Gina with a smile and noticed tears in her eyes and she whispered to me, "I can't give the closing prayer like this," wipping tears from her eyes. I hugged her for reassurance, the hymn ended, and she walked to the pulpit and gave the most humbling group prayer I have ever heard. It was such a spiritual moment for all of us present. We were all moved by the spirit that day. It was amazing.
The greatest roommates ever. Emily, Janelle, Gina. Me, Michelle, and Jenny. They came down to Delta for my farewell. And Gina broke her foot while we were four wheeling together in Oak City canyon.

3. Hymn #98 I Need Thee Every Hour
Missionary work in Kuching, East Malaysia was a lot harder than I had expected. We rode our bikes hundreds of miles each week, in the humid jungle forest of Borneo Island. We had few investigators in the city of 1.2 million people. One of the two small branches was swamped with less active families who lived in the poorest neighborhood in the whole city - Batu Kawa RPR resettlement area. Each Friday morning started with a trip to visit all the less active families of this neighborhood. We road our bikes through the beauty of the jungle and into the filth of this neighborhood around 11:00 am. Just when I was thinking "I can't bike any further" we would reach the humble abode of Sister Bienna's family and find her three small children playing in what would be considered a front yard. Once the kids spotted us they would shout "Sister! Sister!" and start running after us as we biked towards Agatha and Juing's house. When they'd realize we weren't stopping at their house first they would start to sing, with flawless English "I need thee every hour most gracious Lord." They'd sing it from the top of their lungs, as they stood atop a giant mud hill. It was as if they were beckoning for us to come to their house first. The amazing part about this is that the family didn't speak English. But they could sing the whole song perfectly. It gave me chills every time. It was just the boost I needed to get through our morning visits to this poverty torn area.
Bienna and her family at Church. When I first arrived in Kuching her husband, Chundy wouldn't even greet us. By the time I left he was committed to baptism, I think it was little Gracie's singing that won him over.

4. Hymn #221 Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd
As I've already said, there were a lot of less actives in the Kuching 2nd Branch, many of which we didn't even have addresses for. The reason Batu Kawa RPR resettlement area was called "resettlement area" was because one weekend the government decided to uproot the whole neighborhood from one side of the city to the other. People had one day to build new houses on any flooded lot they could find in Batu Kawa. This panic caused the missionaries to lose contact with many recently baptized members, and almost a year later Sister Weldon and I studied the paper work on three young teenagers who were completely "lost" from missionary visits and branch contact.

It was a regular morning, and companionship study was about to start. We were tired of the same old hymns we always sung. So I flipped through my book to see if there was a hymn simple enough I could sight read it. I had never tried to sight read before, but all my years of piano practice pulled through when I was able to hum out the tune of "Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd." The words really struck us, especially the fourth verse "Off to the rescue we'll hasten, bringing them back to the fold." These words inspired us to fill the block of time we had open in the evening with "searching for the lost teenagers of Batu Kawa."

In the dark of the night we were biking down streets unknown to us, in the swamps of the resettlement area when out of no where a boy not much older than nine asked us "Are you looking for Esther Kho?"

"YES!!!" We shouted. How he knew that is beyond me. I guess the whole neighborhood was use to seeing two orang putei (white people) wander the streets and visiting the same old houses.

"She lives right there," said the young boy pointing to the house on the corner. We approached the door and asked to speak to Esther. She was so surprised to see us. And was eager to agree to meet us later on in the week. She also agreed to tell us where Elson Sim, her brother's best friend, lived. We road our bikes home on a cloud that night, singing the words to our newly learned hymn.
Esther Kho, Me and Esther's Muslim friend. Esther helped us find Elson Sim, another less active, and Jasmine Lee a long time investigator. Jasmine, her mother, and four of her sibblings were baptized after I left.

5. Hymn #152 God Be With You Till We Meet Again
It was my last evening in Kuching and I wanted to spend it with the Bail family. Sister Taburnal, my Filipina companion was willing to do whatever I wanted so we biked out to Desa Wira for one last visit with the Bails. We only found half the family at home, but they were eager to let us share and spend some time saying our goodbyes. We gave a short lesson and then asked what song they wanted to sing for closing and Sister Nosey looked at me with a smile and said "God be with you till we meet again Sister." I tried my best to sing the hymn, with one arm around Fransisca - their teenage daughter. As we wrapped up the hymn Sister Nosey asked me to say the closing prayer. It was so cruel, I was so emotional, but I knew the words of the hymn were true.

As we were mounting on our bikes I hugged Fransisca one last time and said "See you in the Celestial Kingdom." She smiled back at me and said "No, Lah." To which I grabbed her tightly and said "Yes, Lah. You are going to make it. Easier than you think." And I know she will make it. Fransisca Bail is one of the most pure teenagers I have ever known. I actually was fortunate enough to see her a year later at Youth Conference in Sibu. I'll never forget how quickly she ran to me when she spotted me. It was the sweetest hug I've ever received. And I had a gift for her. Two CTR rings. I told her one was for her and the other was for her best friend. Much to my surprise I saw her older brother Michael wearing the extra ring the next day. The Bail's always knew how to put family first. I love that girl and can't wait till I see her again.
Little Edward Juing, Tina (an investigator Fransisca fellowshipped) Me, Domie Bail and Fransisca Bail.


The Briggs Clan said...

I love this post! I love the way songs evoke such powerful feelings and emotions! Hymns have always been such an important part of the spirit!
Liz I am sorry I haven't commented much lately, I can't sit in the computer chair very long or I can barley walk, but rest assured, I love reading what Lizzie has to say! You're the greatest. Miss you!

Mom and Dad Bassett said...

Loved your post sis, but the way the story went in #1 post was... I had already invited my parents into my home, and THEN I made it a matter of prayer, should of been done other way around , but you know impulsive me. I prayed about it Saturday, went to church Sunday and that was the opening hymn and yes the spirit spoke to my soul that I was to take them into my home. Wonderful, beautiful moment. Never regretted doing it. Did enjoy your stories you shared. You are such a good daughter! I love you! Mom

The Pitchforths said...

I love posts like this because so often it is life this and busy that, rarely do we really get to look into the soul of another! You have always been as beautiful inside as out! You're awesome!

The Pitchforths said...

Oh yeah, good look on the triathlon thing! Apparently it's the hot thing to do! I've been training for a half marathon Sept. 13th, but not sure if I'll make it. Some people weren't meant to run, but I give it an effort!!!!

Winsor said...

I finally found your blog! Nick's blog did it for me.

Mom and Dad Bassett said...

Dearest Bettylou,
What a beautiful blog. I so enjoyed it. You have had some great experiences with hymns. May those experiences keep you strong, I pray. The hymns serve a purpose -- that for sure. I love you.
P.S. I did feel deeply for your roommate that was whipped by her tears. How exactly did that happen? JK!!!

Winsor said...

We are in Salt Lake City. We are quite enjoying life!

Lydia said...

Oh Liz, great post. Thank you so much!

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