Sunday, January 16, 2011
Posted by Kriss Gates
Written by Ed: This week, we had one of those experiences every missionary dreams of having. We had to stop by the one of the elders' apartments to drop off some gas for the generator. Sister Gates's responsibility was to go upstairs to check on the apartment for cleanliness and on two sick elders, who were still asleep. In the garage, I saw a stack of Books of Mormon that had been damaged by rain. I was to get those into the truck to take to the garbage. As I put the 12 books into the back of the truck, a young man asked if he could have one. I said "sure" but I wanted to give him a good one. I went into the garage again and went out and gave him a new one. I tried to explain in my very limited French that I would like him to make a commitment to read it. As I gave him the book, two other gentlemen asked if they could have one. I returned to the garage to get two good Books of Mormon. As I gave those two out, a crowd of about 20 people had already gathered. Everyone wanted a Book of Mormon! I decided that I would give all of them one, and I went back in for a case of undamaged books. When I returned, all the damaged Books of Mormon were gone. I thought about the best way to do this in an orderly manner, and as I thought what to do, the crowd continued to grow. All this happened in a matter of about a minute and a half. I dropped the tailgate of the truck, and jumped into the back of the truck. I am sorry that I don't have a picture of this moment, because it is hard to describe the arms reaching up. I felt a panic attack of anxiety. I started to holler "Kriss, Sister Gates, where are you? I need help NOW!" One of our shyer, less French-fluent elder's came out with her, along with an elder that speaks only French, who is about 4' tall. While our Elder Olai tried to talk to the people in French, I realized that I needed an elder who spoke good English and good French, so I ran upstairs and woke up our zone leader, Elder Healey, who speaks excellent French and is a great interpreter, and told him I really needed his help. I ran back downstairs and climbed back into the truck bed. Kriss was up on top of a high wall, where she felt she could safely watch the action. I wanted to ask her if she “bought a ticket?” I hollered to her to take some pictures, and she hollered back that the cameras were in the front of the truck and that there was no way for her to get through the “MOB” to get to them. I laughed and pushed my way through, unlocked the door, and got the cameras. I climbed back in the truck bed, passed them up to Kriss, and she started taking pictures, therefore, these photos were taken well after the action started. A couple of the Elders were nervous about the “mobs” but Kriss told them, “This is every missionary’s dream come true and start enjoying it!” Elder Healey came down at this time, and even though he was very ill, rose to the occasion and joined in the action. He climbed into the truck with me. I started talking, and he interpreted for me. I explained that the book is a very special book that is a companion to the Bible. It is very sacred to us, and I didn’t just want it thrown away. Most everyone here are Christians, but most cannot afford to buy a Bible. We gave out three cases of Books of Mormon, immediately, to the Mamas & Papas. (I tried to give to the Mamas first, but there is no "Ladies First" in Africa.) There were children and teenagers that were very disappointed that we were hesitant to give them all a free book. We decided to start giving out some of our beautiful pamphlets with a picture of Jesus Christ on the front. They tell about what we believe and encourage the reader to call a number and set up an appointment with the missionaries, to receive a free Book of Mormon. Kriss and the three other elders started writing phone numbers as fast as they could... ... and then we gave out well over 300 pamphlets. I explained to the crowd that if they would read the pamphlet, and call us, we could talk to them. It is hard to explain how I felt both excited and frustrated at the same time! Everyone knew it was a religious book about the Savior, and they all wanted one. They held the pamphlets as if they really treasure it. Every so often, I could see that someone was really wanting a Book of Mormon. I could see one man that seemed especially anxious. He spoke a tiny bit of English and I looked him in the eyes and said “If I give you a book, will you read it?” He sincerely answered “Yes, I will.” I went in and got him a book, and snuck it out to him, so as not to create another pandemonium. For and hour and 15 minutes, we gave out pamphlets and preached as quickly as we could. It was a wonderful experience, and something that I will never forget. The next day, when we had the elders over for dinner, Elder Healey wanted to tell us about something that had happened as a result of our “Street Meeting”. He told us that he had already received a call from one of the men, that works close by. The man said he wanted to talk to the elders. They set up an appointment for that day. When they met with him, he showed them that he had read the pamphlet, which had been underlined, and showed them that he had begun reading the Book of Mormon, which had also been underlined. He related that he had a dream several days before. He dreamed there was a crowd, and someone was giving things out. He knew in the dream that he wanted what they were giving out. A few days after the dream he was walking to work and saw our “action” and he knew, then that he wanted what we had. Through our discussion and looking at the pictures, we realized this was the same man that was so frustrated when we quit giving out the books, because he knew he was supposed to get one. This was the man that I snuck a book to. Thursday, Elder Olai was telling the story to the elders in the other district, and said he had never seen anything like it on his mission. He realized, he was overwhelmed at first, but then he realized what a special opportunity it was. We all felt great about it. I have tried to capture the anxiety and the spirit of this special hour, but I struggle to find the words of such strong feelings. For the following days, Kriss and I kept saying… “That was so much fun!” It will be interesting to see what comes of that special event. ************************* Update #1: This post was featured on the Deseret News' website for Mormon Times as part of their "Today in the Bloggernacle" column. Update #2: Sister Gates has posted two more pictures and a quick update.