Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sermon on the Nile

Yesterday afternoon we went out with the YSA from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Syria to have a devotional on the Nile. Unfortunately it was several people's first time in Egypt on the Nile and it just wasn't a very good day for a felucca ride. The air quality was so poor we could hardly see down the street or across the river and there was no breeze so we didn't really go anywhere; we just sat by the shore looking at trash.

What we were hoping for was a fast-paced trip around the island and back while we enjoyed a colorful sunset. What we got was this:

Our "captains" sailed out a few yards and then tied our feluccas together and we just sat on the water for an hour. Doing nothing. No sailing. At all. Our captains just sat there and didn't even try to go anywhere. I suppose that since we had the same captain as the time we got stuck in the middle of the Nile, we should be grateful he just stuck us close to shore this time. I suppose we can't really blame them for the lack of wind.

We all had a fine time, anyway, and having the boats siddled up together made it kind of fun. We were able to share our devotional with the other boat--Tasi and Pita had been planning on giving the devotional there but ended up with two throwing-up kids instead--and we could walk freely between the boats so could visit with everybody.

We were a little nervous to start our devotional, though. Bearing testimony to a boatload of strangers is hard to do. I really admire missionaries a whole lot more now than ever before. I struggle bearing my testimony in sacrament meeting, so getting up in front of all these people I hardly knew at all was rather intimidating. It isn't that I'm ashamed of my testimony of Jesus Christ; it's simply that I'm shy.

Finally, though, with enough poking and prodding, I got Andrew to jump up and start talking. In order for both boats to hear him, he stood balancing with one foot on either boat. I, however, was wearing a skirt and was not quite that daring. I just stood in our boat and spoke as loud as I could. Which wasn't very loud.

The inspiration for our devotional came when I was flicking through my friends' blogs, trying to read what they had written as fast as possible. My friend Stephanie mentioned a quote by Elder Worthlin, about having a positive attitude and laughing instead of moaning. I thought that would be a good topic, so that's what we went with.

Andrew started with some scripture references, namely D&C 78:17-18 (one of Andrew's favorites), Romans 8:28 (one of my favorites), and Psalm 37:4. Then he gave some scriptoral examples of how things that looked like they wouldn't work out did, because of the Lord, namely the Fall, the missing 116 pages, etc. He also mentioned how Elder Bednar calls these lovely coincidences the "tender mercies" of the Lord.

Then he turned the time over to me so that I could mention some miracles in our life, namely some of these and this one. I ended my section by sharing the story of the cyst on Rachel's brain and how scared I was that she wouldn't be born healthy. Granted I blew the whole thing out of proportion, but I was pregnant and the doctor told me to the face that there was a chance my pregnancy would either spontaneously terminate or that the baby would die shortly after delivery. Just a chance, which I already knew. There's always a chance of that happening. But to have the doctor tell you that? That was hard.

My cousin Jenna wrote me an email when she heard about it and I shared her testimony:

Keep your head up - your baby will probably be perfectly healthy. Have faith and know that Heavenly Father and your family will be there for you no matter the outcome and that their love will lift you up and help you get through ANYTHING!

And that helped me come to grips with what the doctors had told me. Jenna had recently burried a baby and she was, amazingly enough, still happy. Plus she was pregnant and due just about the same time that I was so it was rather easy to relate to her.

I added my testimony to hers, that, with the strength of the Lord, we can overcome any trial. The hymn The Lord is my Light came to mind, but I didn't share that. But it came to mind.

I could feel the spirit so strongly and I know that others did, too. I know this because when we were leaving the boat one of the captains (the young one who cut his hand) said, very sincerely, to me,

"That was nice. That was nice. That was very, very nice. That was, oh! Nice! Thank you! That was nice! Thank you, thank you, very, very thank you! That was nice!"

It was quite clear to me that he didn't have the words, in English, to describe how or what he was feeling. I'm not sure that he had the words in Arabic to describe what he was feeling. I don't think he even understood a word either Andrew or I said. And if it wasn't illegal, I would have explained to him what it was he felt.

He felt the Holy Ghost. He felt the spirit of the Lord.

It is such a special, good feeling. Even if you don't know what it is, you love it when you feel it. It burns within your bosom and tells you of things that are true and good.

How grateful I am for the Gift of the Holy Ghost in my life; how grateful I am for the courage to bear my testimony because that always, always makes it grow stronger; how grateful I am for my Savior and a loving Heavenly Father who takes care of me so well; I know this is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It was fun to have so many saints around--our chapel was bursting at the seams! We had to take the chairs from all the classrooms and put them in the chapel to have room for everyone during sacrament meeting. With the YSA visitors and that group of students from USU we are just overflowing. And it's so fun to be among so many saints!

And while it's true there were a lot of strangers on the boats, there were some old friends as well. Sami (Andrew) was on study abroad with us in Jordan and he's absolutely hilarious. Jessica also lived in Jordan when we did, although she's in a military family and wasn't on study abroad. I almost freaked out that she was there as a YSA--she was only 16 when we were in Jordan and I taught YW occassionally. Yup, I just about died when I saw her. I'm getting old.

Some girls from the Amman Branch

Diana (#1) and Shadda (#3, fixing her hair) are staying at our house. So is Courtenay, pictured below (in the pink sweater). And Kristin (but I didn't get a picture of her on the felucca).

I thought this picture was funny because of that weird shadow across Pita's face. It's like a sensored photo.

Speaking of sensorship...I have this odd fear of being thrown into prison for having had a devotional in the presense of Muslims...even if they didn't understand English and we weren't even talking to them. So if I do end up arrested, please rescue!


  1. Thanks for the pictures! I can't believe Jessica is a YSA, either. What is Sami/Andrew doing over there? If you see either of those two or Armen (was Diana there too? Ramon's daughters from Amman), be sure to say hi from us.

  2. Sami started his MA in Israeli Society and Politics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in August (same time as me here)

    Diana is actually staying at our house.

    Nancy will see them all later tonight (she has to babysit at the church during their dinner), so we'll say hi and all that.

    Small Middle East LDS world, eh? :)

  3. So neat, Nancy. I am going to try to get Jenna to read this now, during this difficult pregnancy, so you can buoy her up--and she can buoy herself up.

  4. Yeah, I noticed how "hazy" it was last night (and today for that matter) Just wait till your young women start getting married, then it will hit you! Hey, I tagged you! Check out my blog for the details! It's not a Christmas-y one, but it's fun!

  5. Sounds like a well planned meeting. My name is Christine McCollum and I'm pretty sure I was in some of Andrew's Italian classes back at BYU, with Sowell I think. Anyway, I found your blog through Layla's and I like reading about your adventures in Egypt with your little girl. My family and I are also on our own little adventure in Turkey for a while. Are you on vacation this week for Kurban Bayram (or whatever they call it in Arabic)? Just thought I'd say hello.

  6. Yes, you poor thing, you're just ANCIENT. I'd feel worse for you if you were still single and watching all your younger siblings and cousins who are 8 and 12 years younger than you are getting married and having kids. haha.

  7. What an awesome experience! And on the Nile! I think that is incredible.

  8. I'm bawling... I wish I could go back... I wish I were different than the person here today... I wish I were more like you.

  9. @Abra - You can't go back. But you can go forward. Wasn't it President Hinckley who urged us to be a little better, stand a little taller, etc.

    We don't have to be perfect. Not today and not tomorrow. We just have to try a little harder to be a little better everyday.

    You can't be a different person now, but what can you do to help you be who you want to be tomorrow? A year from now? 5 years?

    Baby steps...we're all taking baby steps.

    I love you!

  10. Thanks, Christine! :) It's nice to meet you.

    Yes, we're off. They call it 'Id al-Adha here. Mostly Andrew is writing papers, but we're trying to do some fun things as well.

    Turkey sounds exciting... :) I love Istanbul! I'll have to check out your blog.