Well, I thought last week was difficult, but this one turned out to be even tougher. The trials keep commin' and the Lord is truly humbling me. This email will be very descriptive and accurate as to what I have seen. This is a very sensitive story, but I need to share it.
It all started on a normal morning, the only time we could get a hair-cut appointment was morning, so we went to a sick Barber Shop, and got the fanciest haircut of my life!
|Fancy Barber Shop|
|My new Euro haircut|
We had some really great conversations with our barber and a lady with a cute little family, it was normal missionary work! After haircuts, we went to the church for skype interviews with President Ivory. As we were waiting I got a call from Sora Day asking if I knew the whereabouts of Elder Day. I told her that I had tried calling/texting him a couple times earlier and had no luck. This was suspicious, Elder Day always calls back, and would have called Sora Day. Something didn't sit well in my stomach and I was trying to think about possible options. We called the elders in Bucharest and they told us to retrace his steps. Shortly after, we got a call from Elder Day. It wasn't him, though. The police had found his phone and told us to get to City Hall as soon as we could.
Our church building is in the middle of nowhere and it takes a long time to get to centru. I had never had any luck getting a taxi near our area so I was pretty nervous. I said a prayer, asking God if he would help us get a taxi quickly. Then, we started running. When we got to the intersection, I noticed someone getting out of a taxi by the medical school. I'm pretty sure we didn't wait for the cross walk to turn green, we just ran. MIRACLE #1
We were getting close to the City Hall, but the traffic became really congested, and we decided to jump out of the taxi and run the rest of the way. I gave the nice man 10 lei and we were off. I remember seeing out of the corner of my eye an ambulance and knew that this wasn't good. We denied the evidence and ran into the building and asked an old guy if he knew anything about our friend. He gave us a hollow, and hesitant yes, and told us he was by the ambulance.
Sprinting outside, a million thoughts were going through my mind, but the thought of Elder Day dead was out of the picture. As we neared the ambulance, I saw Elder Day's awesome charcoal grey Hyundai i30. Then, I saw one of my greatest heroes on the ground, being put onto a stretcher. I could not believe my eyes. Immediately I recognized that although was the body of my friend, his spirit was not there. Shock hit me, and Elder Wilstead had to pull me away. I could not believe that he was gone. I asked a police officer to be sure, "El nu e murit, da?" (He isn't dead, right?) And the officer responded with two words that haunted me, "Ba da" (affirming an incorrect statement). That's when the tears came. I had to walk away. All I could think of was Sora Day. Oh Sora Day! MY heart just ached and ached for her. How could she ever here this horrible and life-altering news?
|Sister and Elder Day at the Provo, MTC in August 2016.|
There was not time to process all of this right now, though, Elder Wilstead was staying strong and conversing with the police. They told us that he had been in his car for several hours and people thought he might have been waiting for someone but finally someone called the police and found him dead. They thought it was a heart-attack. [After an autopsy the following day it was decided that he died from a stroke and massive brain bleed.]
The Arad news team quickly put their camera in my face and asked me to say something about Elder Day in Romanian. All I said was that "he was a friend of mine and I can't believe this." That's all I could say, frankly. The police told us that we needed to take Elder Day's car home. That was a real challenge for me because I had spent so many hours in that car talking with Elder Day. But I had to be strong. I removed the McDonald's wrappers and Diet Pepsi from the car because I couldn't bear seeing anything that Elder Day once was using just hours before.
Elder Wilstead had to break the heart-wrenching news to President Ivory. That was so hard to watch. The sisters were having their interviews at that exact moment and President Ivory told them to be strong and go immediately to Sora Day's home. I can't imagine what they were feeling but I am thankful that they were strong.
So we immediately drove to Sora Day's apartment complex and ran to her door. Oh, that was the hardest moment ever, the first time seeing Sora Day after her hearing the news. I just ran and gave her a hug. And we just hugged and cried for a couple minutes. I didn't really have any words but I have realized that actions are so much more powerful in this situation.
We mourned all together for a little while but in the evening we had to go to the police station to meet with the detective. Sora Day was so strong. The Lord was truly and is truly watching over her. On our way back we were at a stop light and suddenly felt a jolt that echoed through the car. No way. We had been rear-ended... We pulled over on a side street and the lady came out embarrassed and apologetic. The front of her car was a little dented and her license plate totally warped. When we looked at the back of our car there was not even a scratch! What a tender mercy! We told the lady to not even worry about it and to just go on her way. Wow. That was a cool experience. In the midst of all this badness, we told a lady to not worry, and to go on her way. I can't help but think about the Savior and how he tells us to go and sin no more after we have wronged him. MIRACLE #2
So we went home and continued to comfort Sora Day. Elder Wilstead was very courageous and read comforting scriptures and stayed strong. I, on the other hand, was a wreck. I hurt for Sora Day so much and just didn't know what to tell her. And Elder Day... one of my greatest heroes and mentors on this mission was all of the sudden gone. I could not believe it. I hugged Sora Day a lot that night. I think it helped both of us.
We did reminisce of funny things that Elder Day would say and words of advice that we heard. This man was truly a Saint; one who understood how the gospel should be lived and shared. He had the deepest love for everyone -EVERYONE- That he met. It doesn't take much time to feel like you are a friend of Elder Day. He helped me overcome my fears, understand what it truly means to be a minister and missionary of Christ, and how to properly handle the affairs of the church. And so much more. This man is a legend.
|We LOVE Sora Day!|
The next four days were spent right next to Sora Day. The sisters and Elder Wilstead and I did everything we could to help ease her burdens in this incredibly challenging time. We were her family. This wonderful lady is 5,000 miles away from any of her children and in a foreign country without her best friend. I admire her so much for being strong and having faith in Christ even when her whole world was collapsing beneath her. I am so thankful that I could be of help to her. I didn't really know what to say to her most of the time, so I just did what mom would do for people who are in pain- clean the house, make food, I did the dishes probably 50 times, helped her pack, I hugged her and listened. Mom always just does service without thought of reward or permission, and I tried to do the same. It made me feel better when I was helping Sora Day.
During all of this, my heart was just upside down. I was so sad, my stomach felt sick- I was experiencing emotions that I never had before. I was trying to understand how to cope through this. I learned how I cope with pain and sadness through talking with some wonderful friends and I learned how to include Christ in this healing and mourning process. I had neglected the Savior in the first couple of days, to be honest.
I had just sat in my misery. It wasn't until a really good conversation that I realized that this experience could and should be a very spiritual experience. This is a time where I can turn over my pain to the Lord and experience the power of the Atonement in my life!
|Love the uphill in life|
That is definitely easier said than done but I knew what I needed to do. The answer is in Matthew 14. One of the sisters showed this to me and it has been on my mind.
This is when one of Jesus' best friends- John the Baptist, was murdered.
13 ¶When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.
14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
Jesus felt the same pain that I felt and feel. He has felt ALL of our pains and sadness. It is OK to be sad. It is OK to mourn. Christ even did it- he needed some time alone! BUT amidst all of his emotions, he healed the sick. He feed the hungry. He truly turned outward. And that is what I need to do. That is what I have been trying to do.
It wasn't until the memorial service that I understood or truly even tried to turn outward and help comfort others. All of the members of our small band of saints were heartbroken. I realized that I have the opportunity to be there for them and remind them of the great plan of our God. How wonderful is it that we have the knowledge that through the power of the priesthood we can be sealed to our families for time and all eternity- that death truly has no hold!
The change began when I took courage to hug a member- Sora Krnacs- the one who we put in a stove and Elder Day had made her feel like a million bucks. When I saw her enter through the doors, I think I was the only one who could understand her thoughts at that moment. The incredible thing about having a rich, spiritual relationship with someone is that you don't have to say much- it is the trust that has been established through actions and the way you listen and show your love that you truly communicate.
Sora Krnacs just needed someone to cry to. Someone to hug her. Probably no one has hugged that lady in years. But I got to be there for her. And through testifying that I know God has a plan for Elder Day and for all of us. During this special time, something switched in my soul.
|Go through life with a SMILE!|
That sickening feeling was not there anymore. I started to understand how Christ comforts us and how we can truly be healed. I was able to have this special connection with many of the members during this time, and my love for them was truly strengthened. I feel so blessed to have so many wonderful, spiritual relationships with those who I have met with here in Arad. These friendships will be carried on into the eternities.
The memorial service was so powerful and I had the shivers from feeling the spirit so strong the whole entire time. My testimony of the Plan of Salvation was rooted even deeper into my soul. This knowledge of where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going isn't just a nice thought, it is truly real.
I have no doubt in my mind that God lives and loves us, in every possible way. I realized that I have a duty to strengthen and comfort these people who have been so impacted by Elder Day. That is what he would want. He wouldn't want me to be sad about him, in fact he would probably tell me that I would be dumb for doing that! He would want me to use this experience to bless the lives of the members in our branch, to testify of the truth of the Plan of Salvation to the less-actives and to become a better minister as I learn to come closer to Christ. When I thought about it that way, a new surge of energy filled my heart.
Yes I am sad, yes I miss Elder Day, yes it will be hard, but I know that I have a work to do here, and that Christ will give me power and strength when I put my trust in him, and turn outward.
I am dedicating this week to Elder Day. Heck, I am going to use this experience to give me motivation for the rest of my life! Elder Day, you can count on me to keep the branch running and keep it a "thing."
|Elder Day's Guitar... Truly an Honor to carry it with me|
I think about Sora Day so often. I know that she is being watched over and I pray for her and her family everyday and that they will have the strength to move forward and put their trust in Christ.
So this is a trial that isn't over yet, but I feel like I am in the right position now. I am putting my faith in Christ and am letting him mold me into a better missionary- a better ME. God did not design this life to be easy. That would be dumb, frankly. The only way we grow is through struggling and realizing where our true power comes from- Jesus Christ. I love seeing this truth turn into a reality. I don't know exactly what God has in store for me, but I know that when I put my trust in him, miracles will happen. And I have the chance every single day to recommit to this. In fact, we all do! Let's all commit to put our trust in God this week, no matter what life throws at us.
Please keep the Day family in your prayers. They need them. Please cherish everyday you have to spend with your loved ones. Thank you for all of the support and kind words everyone has sent- they have really given me the faith to keep going.
|The plains of Arad|
I love you all and know that God loves us, and his arm is always stretched forth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church. I know that!