Angie and the Storm
After months of fierce winds and heavy snowfall, our Idaho winter melted into an early spring with its ever-changing weather of cold and warm. The blue skies of one March afternoon seemed particularly blissful as I walked across the Ricks College campus to teach my one o’clock class.
As I entered the Smith Building, I saw a young woman standing by my classroom door. She introduced herself as the roommate of Angie, one of the students in the class.
“Brother Dearden, have you seen Angie?” she asked. Her anxious voice alarmed me.
“No, I haven’t. Is something wrong?”
She swallowed hard and explained. “It’s Angie’s mother—she died this morning. Her family called about two hours ago. Angie was upset, of course, and was crying a lot. We talked, and Angie seemed to be taking it OK. Suddenly she went still and just sat there staring. When she wouldn’t respond to me, I ran to get our dorm mother. When we returned, Angie was gone. I’ve been looking for her ever since. I’m really worried. I hoped she had decided to still attend this class.”
Concerned, I looked into the classroom, but Angie was not there. Her roommate left quickly to continue her search. As I stood there, I thought of Angie. I could see her face clearly: brown eyes, red hair, and a constant smile. She had come to my office several times, and we had become friends. I learned she was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters and that she had intentionally chosen a school a thousand miles from home to help her develop independence but that she missed her family intensely. When homesickness overwhelmed her, she would do something kind for someone else. Not surprisingly, she had been appointed freshman leader for the service club on campus.
Heavenly Father, please help her wherever she is, I prayed silently as I entered my classroom full of chattering students.
Quite some time into the lesson, I saw Angie hesitantly enter the room, look around, and walk toward a desk at the front. Her eyes were red and puffy.
“Angie, what’s the matter?” one young man said. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” As heads began to turn in her direction, I pleaded silently, Don’t let her get hurt anymore. Please guide me in what to do. I sensed how fragile her emotions were at this moment.
Then the noise of hail pelting against the windows surprised us. Unnoticed by us, clouds had gathered to produce a brief squall. Fortunately, the other students were distracted and went to the window to watch hail pile up on the ledge. Grateful for the distraction, I quickly walked to Angie’s side and quietly remarked, “Your friends are looking for you. They will help you.”
She looked up at me. I repeated, “Angie, your friends are looking for you. Please remember Heavenly Father loves you and knows what you are feeling. He is watching over you.”
She blinked, and color began to wash back into her face. Silent tears brimmed, then coursed down her cheeks.
As with spring storms, its intensity soon subsided, and then radiant sunshine again glimmered through the window, producing tiny rainbow prisms in the drops of water clinging to the glass. As the students began to return to their seats, I announced, “I can’t compete with dramatics like that. We’ve come to a good end on the topic anyway. Let’s call it quits for the day. You’re excused.”
By the time Angie was ready to start back to the dorm, she seemed more composed. “I guess I was lost for a while,” she said. “I don’t even know where I’ve been. But I need to go home now and help my dad.”
I knew the timing of the storm had been no accident. Angie was being watched over while she was reacting to the news of her mother’s death.
“What Church Is That?”
While I was working as a Church Educational System coordinator in Russia, my wife and I attended an activity of the Vesyoly Posyolok Branch, located in St. Petersburg, where we met the branch president, Aleksandr Tomak, and his wife, Yuliya. President Tomak, 28, was obviously well loved by the branch members. He and his bride of only a few months had joined the Church in 1994, and scarcely six months later Aleksandr had been called to serve as branch president.
After the activity we walked with the missionaries to the metro station and then home to our apartment. As we walked, the missionaries told us that despite his cheerful front President Tomak had been out of work five months.
The work situation was tough in Russia at the time, and good jobs that would support a family were difficult to find. It seemed the only available jobs required Sunday work or conflicted with gospel standards. President Tomak decided he could not accept such jobs and continued to seek work, pleading for help from Father in Heaven.
Then, a few weeks later, we visited with President Tomak at his apartment. He told us the following story.
“One day,” he said, “I answered a classified ad and found the advertised position suited me completely. The job would be interesting and well paid. I went to interview with a Finnish firm that was about to open a factory. Interviews were being conducted by a group of Russian and Finnish men, and prospective applicants were offered alcoholic beverages. When I was offered a drink, I declined. I wondered what they would think of me for refusing their hospitality since I hoped to be offered any position at all with the factory, even on the production line.
“During my interview, the boss asked me about my refusal to take a drink. ‘Do you have a health problem?’ he asked. ‘Are you sick?’
“‘No,’ I answered, ‘I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’
“One of the Russians asked, ‘What church is that?’
“My prospects didn’t look good,” said President Tomak. “I explained to the men that we were also known as Mormons.
“There was a pause, and then, to my surprise, the boss smiled. ‘I know some Mormons,’ he said. ‘I live near a branch of your church in Finland. I know these people to be very honest and without harmful habits.’”
President Tomak was soon offered a job—not just any job, but the position of main supervisor in the factory. “I know that my dear Heavenly Father helped me to get such a good job,” he said. “This experience has been a testimony to me that Heavenly Father watches over us and will help us through our trials.”
I Caught Myself Singing
Often the Lord sends us glistening blessings in the love and support of other people. One night, when I was experiencing a spiritual “low,” with laundry, piano lessons, and children’s quarrels assuming a disproportionate magnitude, I knelt and tearfully pleaded with the Lord for perspective and help.
A few minutes later, a friend of mine telephoned. She had been wrestling with a personal problem and was also discouraged. Though neither one of us came up with a satisfactory solution to the other’s problems, we enjoyed our brief chat.
However, a half hour later, I caught myself singing. With a start, I realized that my burden had been lifted. My friend later told me that she too had felt relief after our conversation. Though none of our problems had been fully solved, the Lord had helped each of us to derive strength from the other.
A Truly Blessed Wife
My husband, Floyd, was released after serving as stake president for nearly a decade. Certainly, being the wife of a dedicated Church leader can be a challenge. There are times when both have to make sacrifices in order to serve the Lord and help meet members’ needs. And every Church leader’s wife knows he can’t always be home as often as she and the children would like.
But despite its challenges, my husband’s calling brought us many blessings. This poem, which I wrote at the time of his release, expresses my feelings about his efforts to serve the Lord:
Caught in the Baler!
The warm, southwest winds were blowing as the sun set in the western sky, signaling the close of another beautiful day. It was late July at my ranch near Hysham, Montana. I had been working since early morning baling barley straw, and I was nearly finished. I decided to continue working into the evening hours, even though it was getting dark, because I had promised my two sons I would take them fishing the next day.
As night drew on, the air cooled rapidly, causing dew to form on the straw. With the increase in moisture, the straw became tougher and tougher, and the baler worked harder and harder. Before long, the machinery stalled. It was plugged tight.
I climbed down from the tractor to remove the blockage. I should have shut down the power before trying to remove the clog, but I was in a hurry and thought that this once it would be OK to let the engine run. However, as I reached into the machinery, my hand was caught tight, and I could not remove it even though I exerted all my effort to do so. Impulsively, I reached in with my other hand to pry loose the first, and suddenly both hands were caught firmly in the powerful machinery.
My situation was critical. The baler continued to pull me in until I was held firmly at a point above my elbows with my head jammed sideways at an excruciating angle against a metal bar. I yelled and screamed for help until I had nearly lost my voice, but no one heard me. The blackness of night and the continued pounding of the machinery enveloped me, and I began to realize how alone I was in a desperate situation.
I began praying, but no help came. Had my prayers not been heard? My whole life passed before me, and I wondered if it were my time to go. I prayed that if I were to be taken I could just go quickly. Hours passed, however, and I fervently continued to plead for help. I began asking that my wife, Sandy, come looking for me.
Sandy, meanwhile, had put our children to bed, then taken out a book to read while she waited up for me. She fell asleep, then awoke suddenly at 2:30 A.M., alarmed at my absence. Sensing something was wrong, she dropped to her knees and began praying. As she prayed, a feeling of great calm enveloped her. She rose from her knees and quickly left to look for me.
Hearing the tractor, she ran to the field where I was and began calling my name. As she came closer, she saw I had been pulled into the baler and let out a scream, fearing I was dead. In my now-hoarse voice, I asked her to please shut down the tractor and call an ambulance.
Soon firemen, police, paramedics, and personnel from the baler equipment company arrived at the scene. After nearly three hours of effort to disassemble the baler, they finally pulled me free. With the pressure off my limbs, my body immediately went into deep shock. A medical helicopter had been called, and everyone moved their vehicles with the headlights on to form a large circle so the helicopter pilot could spot us in the still-dark countryside. Drifting in and out of consciousness, I was flown 70 miles to a hospital in Billings.
Once there, I was immediately taken into surgery, where doctors worked on my arms and hands for hours. After surgery, I received a priesthood blessing that was of great comfort to me and my family and helped sustain us during the coming months of recovery. I had been told that I might lose an arm or hand, or experience nerve loss as a result of the injury. But the doctors were amazed at my rapid recovery in nerve growth.
During the three months I remained in Billings, Church members offered us much help, including a place for the family to stay. At home, members of our branch rallied. Neighbors brought in the last of our barley straw and grain and helped with the cattle. A Scout troop cut and split enough firewood to supply us for the winter.
I was required to undergo many kinds of treatments during this period, many of which were extremely painful. I shed many tears in moments of pain and often wondered if I had the strength to overcome this trial. Some days I suffered deeply from depression and anger at myself for doing what I had done. I found myself questioning many things about life, and I worried that I would have to give up ranching. It was a difficult challenge for all of us. In time, however, I slowly began to improve.
Even though I no longer have full use of either hand, today I am able to do many things at the ranch that I thought I could never do again. I am able to feed the cattle, drive a car, ride a horse, and work on machinery, although it takes much longer to fix things.
I am so grateful for the power of the priesthood and the support of my good wife and friends. This experience has brought me closer to my Heavenly Father. I know that through faith, prayer, and sheer determination I did receive the strength to overcome.