[email sent April 18, 2016]
Dear family and friends,
I am just racking up the sweetly awesome, sometimes painful, stories! This week was one of those really painful stories…
Beginning sometime last week, I started to feel small pain in the back of my mouth, which terrified me! I have always brushed my teeth 2 or 3 times a day, flossed, and never had a cavity in my life! I guess it was just my luck to end up in Africa when dental care was needed. I even dragged out not going to the dentist office for a week, because I kept telling myself I could wait another 18 months until I could receive excellent treatment. The pain increased after a week though, so I decided to suck it up and face the Ghanaian dentist.
On Wednesday, I showed up on time for my appointment at the headquarters of all ghetto dentist offices in the world (AKA one of the nicest dentist offices in Kumasi) and walked up to the nice receptionist who took my name and then directed me to sit in a plastic chair outside, because there was no room in the tiny, crowded office. After an hour of breathing in the fine Ghanaian breeze, I was called back into the office where I was then taken into an even smaller back room with the type dentist equipment you could imagine in Africa. The dentist came into the room, talked to me a little bit (He was a nice guy), hit my teeth, poked my gums, and then told me I didn’t have a cavity! Apparently I just had a rouge piece of food deep in my gums that had caused bad swelling? I thought, “Sweet mercy! Whew, that was close.” I hadn’t cleared the storm yet though.
The dentist told me to wait outside for a bit, so they could prep the death machine for destruction of my mouth. Only a small spit of time latter, once again, I entered the wee dentist office broom closet/teeth cleaning room. Every memory that proceeded entering the torture room is painfully seared into my brain. I sat down into the very used looking dentist chair and patiently awaited dooms day. When the dentist (A different one then the one who had taken a look at my teeth the first time) came in, I am pretty sure he was wearing a “Got pain?” shirt… He pulled out an extremely sharp electric implement, walked over to me, told me to open my mouth, stuck it inside, and began turning the inside of my mouth into a sliced thanksgiving turkey. Immediately, he started jamming whatever he was holding deep in my gums causing probably some of the worst pain I have ever had the pleasure of bearing. I was death gripping my thighs, so I wouldn’t punch the man that was mutilating my mouth. All I could hear was him continually telling me to open my mouth wider and the woman standing next to him saying “sorry elder…” over and over again. That’s the closest I hope I will ever get to torture in my life. I felt tears running down my face, but could do nothing about it.
Finally, after what felt like waiting in traffic during rush hour in Dallas, he stopped and told me to spit into the bowl next to me. All that came out of my mouth when I spat out was dark blood. He quickly finished shining my teeth and let me go. As I walked out of the *Hanoi Hilton, I could feel a flap of flesh hanging loosely from the top of my mouth… But it was done. I had emerged victorious and alive! How blessed am I? Very, very blessed to be alive.
On a more upbeat note, the assistants to the president are the coolest! I love having them in my apartment! One is an American from Wyoming and the other is a Nigerian. They are both super funny and great to talk to. Since they stay in my apartment and my companion and I are office elders, we spend a ton of time together. They are both consecrated missionaries, but they have a playful side too. This last week we had an apartment pillow fight, because we’re awesome.
In my scripture studies this week I have come across a number of scriptures that talk about repentance. How we as humans sin so often and forget our loving Heavenly Father frequently, but He is always reaching out to us. His hand is stretched out 24/7.
In the book of Alma when Alma the younger is speaking to one of his sons on the subject of repentance, he says how he was “racked with torment”, because of the many sins he committed. He continues though and explains how he cried within his heart saying “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me…” After he had had a mighty change of heart and cried unto the Lord, he began immediately to share the gospel and try to be a better person.
Another favorite scripture of mine is that in Matthew 14:28-31. This is the story of Jesus walking on water. As cool as it was that Jesus was walking on water, that is not my favorite part. My favorite part is when Peter desires to be like Christ and follow His example of walking on the water. Peter even has the privilege to stand with Jesus on the water for a small time, but because “he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…” Peter was the chief apostle. He had such faith that he was able to walk on water. But even he, Peter, became afraid, lost the necessary faith to stand with Christ on the water, and began to sink. We too can stand on the “water” with Christ. We too will fear at times and sink. That is why we too must call out and say “Lord, save me.” Only Jesus Christ walked this earth in perfection. Only through Him can we be saved.
*What I went through was in no way close to the torture our soldiers had to go through in that evil place.