Beyond the Mud

by LaDawn S. Dalley

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    Water plus soil—irritating mud, or a great place to plant seeds?

    The buzzing alarm sounded all too loudly in my ear. I reached up, flicked it off, and closed my eyes. The groggy Buen Dia from the other side of the room woke me again, so I rolled out of bed and knelt beside it to pray.

    I was discouraged. And tired. I was tired of cold nights and early mornings, tired of microbuses and rude drivers. I was tired of my mission in Bolivia and longed to go home to Ohio. I knew I needed a better attitude, so that is what I prayed for that morning.

    After my prayers, I got up off of my knees and called to my companion, “Come on, Hermana. It’s Sunday. We’ve got meetings to go to, appointments to make, lives to change.”

    A groan was the only answer I got at first. Then there was a hopeful, “It’s not still raining is it?”

    “I don’t think so.”

    “If it is, I’m not getting out of bed!”

    I knew how she felt. At that moment, I would have given anything for the comforts of home: reliable electricity, hot water, washing machines, the family car. The list went on and on in my mind as I got ready for church.

    From her bed, my companion knelt and looked out the window.

    “Well, the sun may be shining, but guess what it’s shining on.”

    “About a foot of mud, no?”

    “You got it.”

    I glanced at my galoshes—full of mud from the previous day. Another day of sliding in thick mud and wading through puddles.

    I picked up my scriptures and tried to read, but my mind kept wandering. I turned to Third Nephi and read about Christ’s visit to the Americas until it was time to go.

    As we slipped and slid in the mud on the way to the church, I mentally counted the days until I could walk on a paved road. Nearing the chapel, my companion and I pasted on smiles and entered, greeting members and laughing with the children.

    A less-active family entered the building, and suddenly my smile seemed a little more real. We had been working with them for a long time, and this was the first time they had been to church in two years. As I rose to greet them, another family entered, carrying with them their brand-new baby. The father came to church regularly, but the mother didn’t, and until just two days before, had been unwilling to allow the father to bless the baby.

    Before the beginning of the meeting, three more less-active families we’d been working with arrived. My bad mood was rapidly disappearing. As we sang the opening hymn, my heart filled with an overwhelming sense of love for these people. Before my mission had started, I thought I would be the one doing all the giving. But sitting there in that sacrament meeting, I realized how wrong I had been. The people had given so much more to me.

    As the sacrament was passed, I realized that, although I loved these people very much, Christ loved them more than I could comprehend. Christ loved those who loved him and those who hated him. That was what my mission was all about.

    My tears flowed freely now, and I was filled with humility and shame for my negative thoughts that morning. I looked around the little chapel and suddenly I wasn’t tired of Bolivia anymore. I could put up with the inconvenience and the mud a little longer. In fact, how could I ever leave? I wanted to share the feeling I was having at that moment with everyone—a knowledge of a God in heaven who loved every one of them.

    With a real smile on my face, I put my arm around my startled companion and focused my attention on the speaker at the pulpit.

    Illustrated by Greg Newbold