This past week brought us good experiences in our regular activities of teaching English, Temple Preparation Class, and helping members with family history research. We are loving New England and the people here, and the many beautiful sights to see. We sat in a few lessons with friends and enjoyed meeting the people that the young missionaries are teaching. This week I gave a friend from Guinea a ride to church. He was a very polite young man of the Muslim faith. I was able to introduce him to a few members of the Lowell First Ward who speak French. He has happy to be able to speak French with them, although his English is quite good for someone who has been in the country for just a few years. I was able to help him look for new work and training opportunities this week and he was grateful for the assistance. In the past week I was also able to assist in giving a blessing of health to a young four-year-old boy of a family that the Hermanas are teaching. It was a great experience to be able to explain about the priesthood to them. We hope that they will be baptized soon. They have been to church every week for the past two months. They are from Peru.
On preparation day we drove to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to see Mount Washington, a place I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time. When we arrived at the ticket booth to make the drive up, Sister Zollinger, who was already a little concerned over the road we would travel, heeded the warnings on the signs and from the booth attendant, that “if you are afraid of heights, you should not travel up the mountain,” and told me I would have to drive alone. So, I dropped her off at the gift shop, paid my admission fee of $39.00, and began my ascent. At first it was a beautiful experience. It is about a 7-mile drive to the summit. The road is narrow, barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other in most places. It is well maintained for a mountain road. Mount Washington, according to Wikipedia, “is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2 ft and the most topographically prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather.” I scoffed to myself that it is only 6,288.2 feet in elevation. Los Alamos, NM is at about 7500 feet. What could be so scary about driving to the top of this mountain when I was used to driving the main hill road in Los Alamos? Now people who know me well know that I do not like heights very much. In fact, when we visited the Grand Canyon, I yelled at our boys constantly about playing too close to the edge. My wife told me to go sit in the car so I would stop embarrassing the family. I did and had to stop looking at them to calm my anxious heart.
So as the car climbed higher through the trees I reveled in the wonders of nature. The signs on the road warned you to keep the car in drive on the ascent and in low gear on the descent. There were pull out parking areas so you could stop and allow your brakes to cool when drove back down the hill. I thought to myself, “this road must get really steep, but how bad could it be?” At the bottom you are warned that there are no guardrails. “But I am driving so I will be in control and there are no other passengers to distract me and make me worry.” I thought the warnings were a bit overblown. “I can handle this,” I declared firmly to no one.
Then, I left the cover of the trees and found myself on narrow steep road with a sheer drop off to one side. No comforting guardrail as a safety net. I decided that I needed to sing some comforting primary songs to keep my attention focused straight ahead. Soon I was singing “I am a Child of God,” and then “Teach Me to Walk,” and then “Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam.” I kept my focus riveted straight ahead. Now I was driving on steep switchbacks. The view would have been stunning if I could have calmed down my anxious heart. “Why had I not heeded the warning signs like my incredibly smart wife?” Now with my pulse pounding and my palms began to sweat. I began to sing full blown hymns like, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “Jesus Savior Pilot Me.” I wondered out loud, “do they ever have to come rescue someone who is too frightened to continue?”
As my pulse began to pound, I realized that for the first time in my life I might have been experiencing a panic attack. Could there really be a transporter beam from the starship Enterprise that could beam me off that mountain? Now hymns were not sufficient. It was full blown prayer and bargaining with God to somehow keep me safe and alive to get back down the mountain. At about 5500 feet in elevation, or about a mile from the summit a parking area magically appeared on my side of the road. Gratefully I pulled off and parked, making sure to fully set the parking brake. I sighed in relief and got out of the car. It was not the summit. Rain clouds had moved in, and it was starting to rain. It was supposed to rain heavily that day at the summit. A clear impression came to mind that said, “this is far enough for you.” I don’t disregard promptings anymore. I enjoyed the view for a few minutes and took a few pictures. Without any hesitation I started back down the mountain. This time, I heeded the warning although slightly chagrined for the embarrassment. It was still somewhat frightening to drive down the mountain, but I knew that my wife was waiting, that we would laugh about the experience. When I started the drive I was given a bumper sticker that says, "This car drove to the top of Mount Washington." Lynn altered it at my suggestion to say, "This car almost drove to the top of Mount Washington." How like life, I thought, when we don’t heed the warnings we receive from God about the danger ahead of us. Many people travel up that mountain every day without any problems. But some people like me and others don’t handle heights well. God knows each of us and our abilities and he can make us capable of doing much more than we think. But he also knows our limits and will warn us when we are exceeding them. Could I have made it to the top? Probably. But I know that it was “far enough” and felt warned to turn back. In the Doctrine and Covenants 1: 4 it reads, “And the voice of warning shall be to all people, by the mouths of disciples, who I have chosen these last days.” Those warning signs and admonishments by the park rangers should have been enough for me if I had examined my inner heart fully. Lesson learned. I had a teacher in 7th grade who taught us, “A word to the wise is sufficient.” I guess I forgot that lesson.
As we drove back to Lowell, we passed by a beautiful, covered bridge in Jackson, New Hampshire. Here are some pictures. Out west you don’t see covered bridges like you see here in New England. This bridge was covered bridge number 51 in New Hampshire. Here are some pictures.
On Thursday night, we were at the chapel when the fire alarms went off in the building. We had just finished teaching the temple preparation class and evacuated along with the college age institute class that was there. The fire department arrived with five full fire engines no less. There was no smoke and after investigating it determined to be a water leak in the attic that had caused a smoke detector to fail.
Finally, here is a picture of the missionaries in the Lowell District. Two of them are finishing their missions in the next few days, Sister Wilkins and Sister Taylor. There will be transfers this week and others will probably be moved to new areas. After five months we get attached to these young people and it will be a bittersweet moment saying goodbye.