Elder Dallin Dean Gomez

Friday, March 18, 2011

Three Bags Full :)

 I have been reminded just this morning of how well the Shepherd knows His sheep.  It started with a friend's comment (thanks Claar); part of a nursery rhyme quoted by my brother-in-law Rich to a group of people who needed a good laugh at the moment.    Medardo and I were with Con and Rich in Tiajuana where Rich was having some stem cell treatment (from sheep) to fight his cancer a month or so before he died.  It was a group setting -- with lots of sick folks hooked up to IV poles getting similar treatment all in the same room.   Rich's bladder was no longer functioning well because of his bladder cancer and so he had a urinary catheter filling bags that he had to keep emptying.   Sitting there, looking around at the quite depressing scene of patients getting this "last resort" kind of treatment,  he became his usual goofy funny self - and set out to make them laugh.   He suddenly said:  "Baaaaa....  I'm feeling sheepish -how about you?"    The patients started laughing  and anyone who knows Rich, knows that once he gets a laugh, he doesn't stop until someone drags him out of the room.    For the next couple days as we would come back across the border and again meet with that same group of patients and sit there while they were hooked up and had the sheep stem cell treatment pumped into their veins, Richard came up with all the lamb and sheep jokes he could think of.  "No worries, the shots aren't that baaaaaaaaad."   One time he stood up to empty his urine and said "Baa baa black sheep... three bags full."   I think everyone in the room wet their pants - - bags or not.  I told Rich - whose nickname had been "Moose" for a long time -- that he would have to start going by "Sheep".   
     Those few nights staying in our motorhome in San Diego with Rich and Connie are sacred to me, because it was my last time spent with Rich here on earth.   It was a mixture of serious talks about death and trials, some special priesthood blessings Medardo was able to give him for his pain, some scripture reading and prayer with them, but also the last humor I got to experience in mortality from Mr. Funny himself.      One of those evenings we were reading and Medardo and I told Rich there were some scriptures just for him - - "My sheep hear my voice..." and "The Lord knows His sheep."  We all got a good laugh out of it - - but also had a neat talk about the truth of it.  The Lord does know His sheep.  And His sheep do know His voice.  How grateful for the witness that came then, and comes again to me now, that the Lord had a plan for Rich.  That He was aware of Rich, and that Rich trusted in Him -- even as an already claustrophobic man,  cancer was causing Rich to feel very claustrophic in his own pain-ridden body.
     That time spent with Rich and Connie in Mexico under those circumstances was far from a vacation - - but I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I learned in a powerful way that the Lord knows His sheep. 



      On a different note - but same truth...  the happenings of the latest natural disaster bear witness that the Lord knows His sheep and His sheep do know His voice.  That truth is one that those of us with 19 year old missionaries out in the world serving hang on to. And it's proven over and over again for us.    Sometimes more dramatically than at other times.   I received an interesting email for missionary moms... about the missionaries serving in Japan.  Terrible things do happen in life -- but the Lord is mindful of His sheep.
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We are getting a few emails from our missionaries in Japan, and I just want to share a few things with all of you from some of the missionaries.


First, all of the missionaries are now out of Sendai and Tokyo. One Elder reported: "Sendai missionaries in the southern part of the mission went to Tokyo and then were flown to Sapporo while missionaries in the northern areas were going to be bussed to the north and then ferried across to Sapparo."


One thing not reported in any media was that many missionaries all over Japan were in Mission Offices or Churches for Zone and District leader training and conferences when the earthquake hit. Many were not in their apartments nor outside, which we think helped protect so many of our missionaries. They were with groups of missionaries along with their Mission Presidents.


Elder Dowdy emailed his mom: He said on Sunday Pres. Tateoka took him and his companion, Elder Carthew, back to their apartment in Fukushima to get some things. When they got there Pres. Tateoka would not let them go up until he went and checked to make sure it was safe.


The entire apartment was trashed. The refrigerator was on its side and had moved across the room. All the dishes were broken and the windows were all blown in. He was able to get some stuff but because of all the debris and glass he was afraid to dig through it to look for some things (like his camera).


He said it was a blessing that they had been at zone conference when the earthquake struck because if they had been in Fukushima they would have been in the apartment for planning time and would have surely been injured.


He told me that they were on the second floor of the church in Koriyama when the earthquake started and that there is a warning system that sounds on the cell phones when the Earthquake gets past 6.0. All the alarms started going off and Pres. Tateoka yelled at them to get out now!


Benj said that he had to hold onto the railing to get down the stairs and that the Earthquake kept slamming him up against the wall. As soon as they got outside it started snowing heavily.


He said that he has heard many miraculous stories about how missionaries just happened to be doing things just a little differently than they normally would, or had planned to, and that is what saved them!


It was really, really difficult for them to say goodbye to members and investigators.


Some missionaries were not allowed to return to their apartments to get their clothing, etc., so they arrived with only what they were wearing. They are being taken care of. :-)



From Conan Grames, in Tokyo: March 16, 2011
 We have had quite an experience here in Japan the last few days. Cindy and
 I were in the office when the quake hit. We have experienced several of
 these during the years we have lived here, but I immediately knew this one
 was different. It was the first time I decided to get under my desk. It
 took very little encouragement from Cindy to do so. While under the desk,
 the shaking continued to grow and seemed to last forever. At that point I
 began to wonder, “How bad can this get?” Coincidentally, last week I
 had read two first-hand accounts of our missionaries who were in Japan
 during the great Kanto earthquake of 1923. I wondered if this is what would
 happen. It actually turned out to be a stronger quake up in Sendai. We
 suffered little damage here—lots of noise and things falling off shelves and
 shattered nerves.

 We have spent the time since, pretty much around the clock, looking for
 missionaries and members. All the missionaries were found alive and well,
 even those on the coast. It took us four days to find two sisters who were
 on the coast in Ishinomaki and get them out of the area. So far we have had
 no reports of serious injury among members of the church, although many have
 had to leave their homes.

 Our responsibility is communications. Much of our time has been spent
 coordinating with Diane Sawyer’s ABC news team about doing an interview
 with a missionary who experienced the tsunami. It turned out she couldn’t
 get into the area, but their 20/20 team is here and they are still seeking
 an interview. The missionary who will do the interview climbed to the
 second floor of the chapel with his companion. They watched the water come
 through the parking lot, sweep away their bikes, and flood the first floor
 of the building.

 Tuesday we sent our first team into the area since there was no
 transportation until now. They will assess needs so we can begin to send
 relief. We have met with the Red Cross and the government and have offered
 cash contributions in addition to the in-kind help. The greatest physical
 need is gasoline, diesel fuel, food and water.

 Wednesday we received instructions from church headquarters to evacuate all
 our missionaries out of eastern Japan. This was due in large part to the
 radiation threat and the fact that many of them have no food, water, and
 electricity. This is a real blow to the members who love the missionaries
 and depend on them, but they also want to feed and clothe the missionaries
 when they can’t even take care of themselves at this time.

 I am sure you have seen the devastation on TV. It really is unbelievable.
 We feel there has been much divine help in finding people. We hope we can
 be of some help to those in need.
 Conan and Cindy Grames
 Directors, Public Affairs
 Asia North Area - Tokyo



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