One day after picking up my student, I was asked to take an extra wheelchair into a classroom. I let my student push it which he thought was fun. When we got back to the seminary, he sat down in the doorway and had a tantrum, kicking and screaming. I had no idea why. I tried everything to get him to stop but he wouldn’t. Brother Weaver came out of his office and asked what was going on and I explained. It took both of us to finally quiet him down. I never did understand the cause of his meltdown. I love this student. He’s usually well-behaved, but I guess we all have our “off” days. He was probably frustrated that we couldn’t understand what he wanted. I try every day to show my students that I love them. That’s the most important part of my job.
One of the highlights of my mission is that I’m learning to look beyond my students’ disabilities and see who they really are, as children of God. Some of them can’t speak or walk. Some talk too much or to the wall, others fall asleep in class and can’t respond to the lesson. But they are pure spirits. When I first started my mission, Brother Weaver told me that most of these students can understand more than it shows. I think even when they don’t look like they are getting anything out of the lesson, they really do understand some things. But even when they can’t understand anything, they can feel the Spirit. That’s why seminary is important for these youth who have severe disabilities.
At seminary today there were two students assigned to me because we were short-handed. Usually I only have one. When I went to pick up the first student, which was at the farthest end of the school, he was still eating lunch—and he eats super slow. He was sitting at his desk, and it was hard to get him to cooperate so we could help move him to the wheelchair. Finally, when I got him strapped in, I set off pretty fast to get him to seminary. I parked him in the classroom, and asked the teacher if it was ok for me to leave him for a few minutes unattended while I picked up my other student. She was ok with that. Then I raced to the other end of the school to get my second student. He could only walk slowly, but we finally made it to the classroom just as the teacher started the lesson.
Sometimes this student asks, “I see a firetruck? I see an ambulance?” He really wants to see one, but usually there’s nothing to see. One time, as soon as I got him settled in class and was on my way back to the seminary, an ambulance raced down the street with flashing lights and siren in a code blue situation. I felt so bad that my student just barely missed it.
I would like to bear my testimony that I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I’m grateful to be a missionary and serve the youth at the Dan Peterson Seminary, the Bishops’ Storehouse, and at the Mt Timpanogos Temple. I’m grateful to be able to teach the Plan of Salvation lesson to families in our ward. I’ve been thinking about my Patriarchal Blessing and some of the promises about my mission that are already being fulfilled even though I’ve only been out for a little over three months.
Our wood floors are finally finished, and we were able to move the furniture back into place. Papi and I did the heavy lifting, while Gram worked on the pad that goes under the rug. When we were finished, I grilled steak for dinner. Gram likes the way I cook it, so it’s always my job to grill whenever we have carne asada.
Things have been going about the same in seminary and the temple. Nothing new to report. Took a bike ride with Papi. Saw lots of deer in our yard—mostly bucks with racks. When we took pictures, they hardly moved. It’s deer hunting season. Maybe the bucks thought it would be safer to hang out in our back yard than in the mountains. Lots of leaves are falling and our grass is covered—hardly showing any green. I rode the tractor over the leaves to vacuum them up, then blew the rest off our patio. Still more leaves coming down, which means more work to do.
Sunday night we celebrated Gram’s birthday at the Dunns’ house. Ate a delicious dinner and Maddi made a cake. Amy couldn’t find candles but we sang “Happy Birthday” and then made her tell us the story of her birth. It was during World War II when her father had been drafted into the Army and deployed to Belgium. It was an interesting story. Some of the details I hadn’t heard before.
For the second time I got to ride horses with Brother Norton. Abby Christensen also came. This time I was properly dressed, because I borrowed Papi’s cowboy boots. They were tight, but it didn’t bother me much since I was in the saddle. The weather was perfect and the fall leaves were beautiful. It was so much fun! Brother Norton told me that next time we’ll ride in the snow. That will be a new experience for me.
On P-day I learned a great new trick. When I pull my shirts right out of the dryer the minute they’re done—and then hang them up, it saves hours of ironing! This week I didn’t have to iron a single shirt!
My calling in the ward is Priesthood Music Coordinator. When the bishop called me to this I was really surprised. I was hoping to be called as deacons’ quorum advisor. But whatever the Lord calls me to do, I will do it to the best of my ability. So for this music calling, it’s my job to select the opening hymn for Priesthood meeting in the cultural hall, and connect my phone to the sound system. Before I got this calling, the brothers were trying to sing without music and it sounded terrible. It’s much better now, and everybody’s sings. At first I copied off the words and handed them out, but decided to save paper. So now, everyone reads the words from their phones.
One of my students was at the playground in his bare feet when I went to take him to seminary. I convinced him to put on his shoes and socks, but he didn’t want to come with me. Instead he started climbing up the slide. So I said, “Go ahead and slide down one time. Then you need to come with me to seminary. Ok, that’s enough, let’s go. No, don’t do it again.” Then I called out, “Lord wants you to go to seminary!” Finally, once he was in the classroom, he settled down and behaved.
Another student likes to repeat the words after me when we read the Book of Mormon together. I have to read slowly and say just a few words at a time, but he will repeat them after me. He has a good spirit.
Many of my students can’t understand everything that is taught in seminary, but they understand some things. And most importantly, they can feel the Spirit. That’s the most important thing.
In seminary one of my students had chocolate milk for lunch and it gave him a sugar-high during class. I had to take him out to the foyer to settle him down. I thought the fresh air outside would help, but he didn’t want to go. He said, “I’ll be good.” So I took him back in the classroom and he was good.
I’m learning how to handle hitting. First I say, “No, don’t hit,” and then I redirect him to something he likes to do, such as playing with blocks. Most of these disabled kids don’t respond to the word, “No” by itself. They have to be redirected to an acceptable activity. Gram said this also works with little kids. Maybe this mission is preparing me to be a parent someday.
After work, my grandparents and I went to the Draper Temple to do sealings for some friends from Poland. The Polish names were impossible to pronounce and the sealer butchered every name. But that’s ok because the Lord knows these people. I’m sure I mispronounce lots of names when I work in the baptistry. Foreign names are hard.
It was my turn this week to give the spiritual thought and scripture in our seminary devotional. My topic was the Holy Ghost. I told a story from Conner’s mission, and used the scripture: 1 Nephi 13:37. I bore my testimony that we need to act upon impressions that come to us from the Holy Ghost.
The best part of the week was when my Uncle Caleb (bishop in his Idaho ward) and his wife Susie brought 40 youth to the Salt Lake Temple to do baptisms. They all brought family names. I met them at the temple and helped with baptisms and confirmations. It was a great experience to be in that beautiful temple. It was Elder Hales’ funeral that morning, and the temple was closed until 2pm, so we were able to attend the funeral. It was a great experience to be in the Tabernacle. President Uchtdorf conducted the meeting, and we heard talks by Elder Ballard, President Nelson, and President Eyring. In his talk, President Nelson said, “I know Elder Hales’ heart—LITERALLY!” That’s because President Nelson performed heart surgery on Elder Hales.