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Thursday, October 11, 2012

FAR AND WIDE


I have a friend I will call Ted (not his real name).  Ted has been in my prayers many times over the past few years.  Ted lost his job more than five years ago, and tried living very carefully on his savings and investments, but with the economic turndown, soon was out of money.  At age 55, he knew that getting a traditional job would be next to impossible, but he tried.  After many job interviews and not one job offer, he decided to invent his own job.  He tried running an internet business, but that didn’t work.  He wrote a book, but couldn’t get it published.  He worked with a partner to start a business, and the partner disappeared with the investment funds.  Finally Ted sold his own possessions, one by one, even the precious silver passed down to him by his grandmother, and heartbreakingly, the mahogany grand piano on which his own mother taught him to play – he was a piano prodigy, performing in public by age 5.  

Ted was informed that the bank was going to take over the house where he had lived for 15 years, since he hadn’t made payments on the house for a year.  He got a break when the bank couldn’t find the mortgage papers, so he was able to stay in his home for another year.  But finally a few months ago the papers were found.  Ted was told to move out of his house, and let the bank take it over.  He talked to lots of people – lawyers, bankers, realtors – and found that if the bank could sell the house, he might get a few dollars out of the sale, based upon the terms of his mortgage.  He retained a realtor, and the bank agreed to sell the house in what is called a “short sale.”

Based upon the information his realtor and the bankers gave him, Ted figured he would have $3000 to his name when he walked away from his home   After many weeks, a buyer was found, but closing came and went without the papers being signed – the buyer didn’t show.  Ted had already turned off the electricity to his home, since he could no longer pay the electricity bill.  He took his laptop computer to the library, where he could get on the internet and stay in touch with friends and relatives who worried about him, but who weren’t in a position to help.  He was living with cold water, candlelight, and cooking on his outdoor grill.  His few remaining belongings were packed up in boxes, and one friend stood at the ready to load those boxes into a van and drive him to his own home, to stay until Ted could find a way to support himself.  Ted had used the time available to him to choose a new enterprise: he would be a street vendor on a nearby island (a tourist favorite), and he would sell homemade fruit drinks.  He priced a three-wheeled vendor’s cycle, and a machine that would mix and chill enough drinks to make it worth staying outside for the day.  If the buyer would just come through, Ted would have enough money to buy the needed equipment and three weeks’ worth of ingredients.  But the money from the sale of the piano and silver was slipping though Ted’s fingers quickly, just being spent on groceries and gasoline for his lawnmower.  And then more bad news came.

The buyer wanted to delay the purchase one month.  One month doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference to most people, but when you are living on candles and sandwiches, a month can make a very big difference - an awful, dreadful, stressful difference.  On October 4, Ted entered his status on Facebook:  “I’ve just gotten word that closing will be November 5.  November 5?  How am I going to make it through a whole month?  I feel like hitting something.  Very hard.”  None of us blamed Ted for his feelings of frustration.  It seemed like every time he tried to do the right thing, all he got in return was a slap in the face.

I had done this before, but that Thursday night, the night of October 4,  I felt prompted to put Ted’s name on the prayer rolls in the LDS temple here in Tonga.  His was not the only name I wrote down, but I know by the next morning his name was in a package of papers being presented to humble, faith-filled, prayerful people.  And less than 24 hours after that, Ted entered his status on Facebook:  “AT CLOSING!”  The closing had been rescheduled.  Then a little while later, “I’m officially homeless!  I’m so happy!”  Ted had gotten the $3000 and was making plans to move out of his house and into his friend's home on the nearby island.  In the few days since, Ted has expressed only optimism as he moves on to this next chapter in his life.  

I bow my head in gratitude.  Thank you, Heavenly Father, for answering prayers, and for always being mindful of each one of your children.   Thank you, dedicated Tongan Saints, for your prayers and faith in behalf of my longsuffering friend.  Thank you, Ted, for your shining example of integrity, determination, persistence and problem-solving in the face of adversity.  And thanks all around for letting me learn this lesson once more: the Lord answers prayers.  

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