Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miracles in Small Packages

My last mission companion in South Africa was a petite Angolan woman named Laura. We only spent six weeks serving together in Three Rivers. Funny how little time it takes to find a connection that lasts eternally. Laura is wise and kind. She is funny, hard working, and does not give up. Ever.

How do I know all of this after only six weeks of serving? The 24/7 thing helps, as did her grace when someone investigating the church told us we would not be allowed back because Laura's skin was darker than the woman's husband liked being in their home. I can still feel the sting of indignation in my heart and how Laura quietly lowered her eyes, bringing them up again with love.

But six weeks was just the beginning. A year or so after moving to Portland with Tyler, I was Facebook chatting and found out that Laura had a sponsor and had moved to the Utah to complete a degree in medicine. She was living in a tiny room of someone's house and had no car, few friends, and limited income. Even though I was away, I knew my parents and family would fall in love with Laura immediately and arranged for them to have Thanksgiving together (Have you ever met my generous parents? Come in, sit down, and let Bob and Nancy offer you some homemade grape juice and some delicious baked goods).

Soon Laura moved in with my family and spent several years there. I can't tell you how many opportunities Laura had to give up on her dream of getting an education. Language struggles (when she went to South Africa, she spoke/understood NO English, just Portuguese) made comprehension of math and science challenging. Visa problems, extreme health problems, home sickness, a lack of resources, changing schools, changing degrees, the list goes on and on. Just when one setback was overcome, another loomed in its place.

It's really not my story to tell, all the struggles and miracles Laura experienced while here, but I am grateful I got a glimpse of her miraculous determination to keep going through all of it. Laura graduates from BYU-Idaho this month with a hard-earned, well-deserved bachelor's in Information Technology. She will be moving home to Angola where her sisters and their families are waiting for her, as they have been for years.

I had the privilege of seeing Laura one last time, as she ironically came one last time to my parents for Thanksgiving. She had yet to see my greatest miracle in a small package:

(Thank you for the darling dress, Laura!)

As we chatted at my in-loves' home, I asked her what the best thing about coming to the States had been for her, in the midst of all the trials. "You know," she paused, "I think it was that every time I thought I couldn't do it any more, someone came."

Someone came. Lots of someones came through. They could not help themselves. They looked into the eyes of a woman who has known pain from her earliest days, when her country was always at war and she could hear the bombs each night. They saw this tiny package of a woman who carried a bundle of faith and hope and charity bigger than her challenges. And they paved paths that she was willing to climb.

Laura looked tired to me this last time, as she should. But her eyes are still bright. Her soul is light. I thank the Lord for this small angel.