Monday, February 20, 2012

There are Worse Things Than Miscarriages

SOOOOO many people are suffering in this world. Despite the fact that teachers in this state have not received a raise for the past three years, we still have our house, we have working cars, great neighbors (Batman's parents moved) and our parents, all four of them are still alive. AND we have Netflix. We have nothing to complain about.

The reaction from my OctoMom series has been awesome. Thank you all for reading and commenting. It's because of God, Andy and my dear friends and family that I am able to write about this little thing called infertility and still keep myself relatively sane. I fear, however, that some may feel sorry for us. Don't. There are worse things than miscarriages. I might express bitterness and hopelessness because that's how it feels in human time. But in God's bigger picture, it's just eight tiny hiccups. I can live with the hiccups.

Back in 1986 I was called to serve an LDS mission to Bangkok, Thailand which in itself was a miracle of sorts. I had been a naughty college student. As the distance grew between me and God, I looked for opportunities to fit in somewhere else. My culture was my church. Leaving the church would mean that I would need to completely re-invent myself. I was about 21 and I still really didn't even know who I was to begin with. I examined my life and thought long and hard about what it would be like to give away my belief system and my standards completely. All my friends were doing it. It was "easier," almost trendy. I felt, that by staying in the church, I was losing my popularity fast. What would I gain? Popularity? I craved it. But I had already experienced the dark feelings of immersing myself in sin. It was never a good feeling. No gain there. It always felt like I was drowning.

I was lonely. Boys filled that void...but never permanently. "Cheap and easy" is not my favorite feeling. ;-) No gain there. Desperation is not a popular look. While I experimented with the freedom of doing what I wanted, it always felt like jail. That in turn, would make me mad. I could never shake the feeling that I was being stupid. Stupidity feels worse than drowning and even makes cheap and easy look good.

I was working in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a bunch of "good" kids from BYU and SUU including my best friend Gayliene. Several of them had been on missions and they were happy people. I hadn't been truly happy in so long. They were sincere and accepting. They were not the snooty prudes they were rumored to be. Exactly the opposite. They seemed to know who they were and I craved that. They were full of light. And in this group, it was trendy to have so much light. I wanted in.

While I was in Jackson, my brother Steve received his mission call and I realized, that even if I wanted to go through a Mormon temple with him, I couldn't. I wasn't living worthy of that privilege. I needed to get my "poop in a group."

So I went back to church with the Cougars. These kids saved my life. I clung to the light they were giving off, wishing, so badly, that I could give off that light too. I poured my soul out to my Heavenly Father and asked him to forgive my stupidity and help me find a place to fit in.

So when I got my mission call to Bangkok, Thailand, it was no less a miracle than the parting of the Red Sea. I felt that serving a mission would repay God for taking me back into the fold. In hindsight, I just got further and further in debt.

I proselyted for the first ten months of my experience in Thailand. It helped me learn the language, wreck three bicycles and kill a few (million) cockroaches. I wasn't great at introducing Jesus Christ to the Buddhists. Then, my leaders assigned me to work in a refugee camp near the border of Laos and Vietnam. It was called the Phanat Nikhom Transit Camp for Refugees in Thailand. There were four or five LDS sister missionaries assigned to teach English in the camp. We were not allowed to proselyte or even speak casually about the church or we would have been thrown out. The camp was supervised by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. It was three square miles of land owned by the world, for refuge from the world.

16 refugees lived in 20' X 16' shelters made of corrugated tin and a thatch roof. They were given a kilo of rice each day, two small fish and a bucket of clean water. Everything else, they had to buy. Many of them were rich doctors or professors that had been reduced to swallowing plastic bags full of money to hide it from pirates so that they could survive in the camps to come. I'll resist from telling worse stories. But most of them were destitute. It was life-changing. I wish every high school student could experience it, could see it, could smell it. Open waste canals, public showers and laundry everywhere. But happy people populated this place. How could it be?

On one side of the huge electric fence that separated the property were the Vietnamese people. Most of their families had been decimated by Ho Chi Minh. Many of them were still dealing with injuries suffered on the walk or boat ride into Thailand. Yet they were flourishing in their new found freedom. The Vietnamese people are so smart! Many of them spoke English far better than I did. They are a funny and happy people. It was a lesson for me to see how happy they were and how much it meant to them to have the freedoms that other people had in the world even though they were not allowed outside of that fence and they were surviving in the heat of Thailand with one bucket of water a day.

On the other side of the barbed wire, were the Cambodians. They were running away from Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. If you've seen the movie "The Killing Fields" this is their story. Their suffering was fresher than the Viets. Three million of them had been killed in the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. They were still psychologically scarred from the torture. They were doctors and lawyers, teachers and children. They had the clothes on their backs and their paperwork was the most valuable thing they owned.

We lived in Phanat Nikhom proper and would drive out about 30 minutes every day to the camp. Our neighbors were Save the Children, The Seventh Day Adventists, The Catholic Nuns (we had a lot in common with them) and the Peace Corps. What an incredible neighborhood we had. We each had different responsibilities in the camp. We (the LDS Church) had an office on both sides of the fence. We taught English. We were to get them ready, verbally and culturally to meet the challenges of being accepting to their new country.

We employed several grammar teachers. These were Viet and Khmer kids (ages 13 - 30) that spoke English really well. They taught the beginning classes and then we would go in and teach the advanced classes. These young, punky teachers changed my life. I was assigned a translator for one of my intermediate classes. We'll call him "Tiger." Tiger was Vietnamese and he spoke 6 languages.  He was full of LIGHT!!! I was in love with this kid from the first second I met him.

We had daily "inservice" to help our teachers with the curriculum they were assigned to teach. One day I asked them all to write a biography in English. I wanted to get to know them. I wasn't prepared to read what I had assigned.

I'll share Tiger's story.

Jeremiah 3:14 "I will take you one of a city and two of a family and bring you to Zion."

Tigers dad was a professor at a medical school. The new government beat him to death in the street infront of his family. Tiger's mom split up the nine brothers and told them all try to escape to Thailand. They planned to meet in the camps there. Tiger, being the youngest, stayed with his mother and one older brother. They started walking to Thailand. When they were within four miles of the border, Tiger's mom stepped on a land mine and died. Tiger, who was 9 years-old at the time, and his brother picked up her pieces and buried her on the trail and continued walking.

When he made his way through the camps along the Thai border, he met up with several of his brothers and an aunt and uncle. They had been accepted to Toronto, Canada (if I remember right) and that was a day of rejoicing for everyone. While they awaited their Visa's, Tiger came to our office and volunteered to be a translator. He was just 13 when I met him. We ended up working together for eight months before he got his freedom.

In an effort to challenge him, he wanted homeowork. He had nothing else to do. So I gave him the only book I had in Vietnamese. It was a "Gospel Principles" book. The church had sent us a box of books translated into Vietnamese including the Book of Mormon, but the box laid untouched because we were not allowed to hand them out. In 1988, the GP contained about 30 chapters of basic church doctrine and a bunch of hymns at the back. I didn't think I would get into trouble if I had Tiger translate the hymns from Viet to English. So I ripped off the back part of the book and handed it to him. I pointed at the first song and said, "I want you to translate those three verses into English and bring them back to me. If you have done it correctly, I'll be able to tell what song it is and I will sing it back to you." "Translating songs are hard," he said. He was right. I hoped he could do it.

The next day, Tiger brought me the text of the song. I still have the note in his child-like handwriting and I will cherish it forever. It reads:

I am God's child.
He sent me here.
He has given me the earth and parents that love me.
Lead me, guide me
Walk next to me
Help me know what to do
Teach me what I need to do to return to You someday.

Tiger had translated the most famous children's song in the Mormon church "I am a Child of God."

It wasn't just a song to me. It had always been a testimony of my divinity as a daughter of God. God was teaching me, reaching out to me through Tiger, his Vietnamese son. I'll never forget the light that came back to my soul that day. My confidence in God was reassured.

It was with great alligator tears that I sang that song back to him. He was so excited that I recognized the song immediately. But my tears confused him. "Is that a sad song?" he asked. "Not sad at all, " I replied. "This song reminds me that you are my brother and that makes me very happy."

The world is my group! "I am a Child of God" was meant to be sung in every language not just English. Learning my place in the universe was such a blessing to me. Learning it from this brilliant boy, priceless. The only thing that has ever really mattered to me since then, is knowing that God is all around me. He lives in every one of us equally. He loves His Viets, His Khmers, and His Americans. In my search for God, I found him across the world in a thirteen year-old orphan named Tiger.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one