29 January 2013
This one time on my mission...
October 16, 1998; the Northern part of the Philippines had been ravaged by a typhoon. Streets were littered with debris; rivers and ditches were overflowing; flooding was rampant. In the town Aparri, which sits on the edge of the South China Sea, two elders went back to work after several days of being holed up in their house.
Elder Bennion and Elder Antonio went to visit a man who had shown interest in their message. The neighborhood where the man lived, was nestled between the sea and the Cagayan River. A drainage ditch, filled with black sewage water, had overflowed onto the street. Luckily, the way in was easy; the Elders rode in the side car of a motorcycle, also known as a trike. They passed through the water without incident and arrived comfortable and dry at the man’s home.
Sadly, the man admitted his wife said he could no longer participate in discussions with the Elders. Downhearted, the Elders walked back down the road they had just traveled. Once they reached the black water, they had a decision to make. Elder Bennion had some new shoes his mother had sent him just a few weeks before. He did not want to wade through the mess with those. Elder Antonio led the way by taking off his socks and shoes and carefully wading through the muck. Shoes in hand, Elder Bennion followed suit, trying not to imagine the type of disease or parasite he might catch wading through the stagnant, filthy water.
The day continued on without incident. However, during one of the evening appointments, Elder Bennion discovered a large pond, quite by accident, rendering his efforts to protect his new shoes useless.
Back in their abode, the two missionaries joined the other Elders living with them. Because of the typhoon, the power had been out for days and the house was lit by candles. While Elder Bates cooked dinner and Elder Layton enjoyed a large bottle of Coke at the kitchen table, Elders Bennion and Antonio retired to the main room. Thinking of the nasty water he had waded through earlier in the day, Elder Bennion decided to soak his feet in alcohol to kill anything that might be dwelling there. He grabbed a small stool and sat in the middle of the cement floor. His flipflops cradled his feet and the alcohol spilled over the lip of his sandals as he continually added more liquid to assure a good cleanse. He noticed off to the side, a small puddle of alcohol. Whether from fatigue or stupidity, he reached for a candle to light and burn off this excess liquid. At the precise moment Elder Bennion lit the puddle, a large, raging fire engulfed the middle of the room, including his own, alcohol-soaked feet.
Leaping from his stupor, and from his chair, he screamed “I’m going to die! I’m going to die!” He spun around on the floor, frantically batting his blazing feet.
Hearing the commotion, Elder Bates abandoned his dinner on the stove and ran into the room, spatula in hand. Without regard for his safety, he leapt into the flames in a wild attempt to stomp the fire out. Unfortunately, a vapor fire is not easily stamped out. Also to consider, was the lubricating effect alcohol has on a smooth, cement floor. Amidst his jumping, Elder Bate’s sandal had broke, resulting in his tumbling to the floor. He arose quickly, but hadn’t avoided the mayhem; his now alcohol-soaked backside was aflame.
Elder Antonio, the only sane of the four Elders, grabbed a shirt from the laundry bin with admirable agility and quickly put out Elder Bennion’s feet. Elder Bates continued to beat his body, singing all the hair off his arms and legs, but successfully putting out the fire on his person.
Meanwhile, Elder Layton thought he probably ought to take a look and emerged from the kitchen – Coke bottle in hand. He impassively stomped out a small fire coming from a burning sock, and kicked the still flaming Flip Flop across the room, putting it out. Without comment, he slowly turned and walked back into the kitchen.
Elder Bennion and Elder Bates, still breathing hard, looked at each other in horror, trying to take in their near-death experience. Elder Antonio just shook his head at the silly Americans, wondering how they hadn’t died their first few days in his country.
Elder Bennion soaked his feet in a bucket of water for an hour that night. He also repented for the “grandpa” swear word that had escaped his lips at the end of his ordeal. His feet still hurt as he went to bed, but in the morning there was no pain, and he and Elder Antonio continued their work the next day. Perhaps the fire was a blessing, because any parasite or disease that had the potential to grow upon Elder Bennion’s feet had been successfully burned to death.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” Isaiah 52:7