My Mission President, Paul L. Ward, passed away this month. At the last minute, I decided to travel up to Boise for the funeral. As I listened to the speakers, many memories of President Ward flooded my mind. Here are a couple.
Not long after I got my second companion in the field, our mission president told everyone that if a missionary complained about an inability to get along with a current companion, that companionship would be extended at least another month so that the two individuals could work it out. That wasn't a problem Zuster Pollard and I were having -- in fact, we had been great friends from day 1. Our problem was that we hoped to spend the holidays together, and that neither of us would be transferred out before the New Year.
That year, we managed to acquire some cans of pumpkin (not a normal Dutch commodity -- we made a connection with someone at a US Military base) and found we could order small turkey at a local store, so we decided to put together a Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of our district. (Prep day was on Thursday then.) Since we had such grand plans, we extended an invitation to our mission president and his wife, and to our delight, they accepted!
During the meal, President Ward asked "so sisters...how are you getting along?" Just the opening we had hoped for! We told him that we hated each other and were not getting along, and needed to stay together at least until after Christmas in order to "work things out". He laughed and told us he would keep it in mind. And as luck and inspiration would have it, we stayed together until January.
Later in my mission, I had a companion who was not a native English-speaker (nor a native Dutch-speaker). I was her second companion since she had arrived, so she was still struggling quite a bit with the language. Communication between us was tricky, because she had to listen the first time I said something and determine whether I was speaking in Dutch or English, and then I would have to repeat what I'd said so that she could sort out the words. Those who know me well know that I'm a bit of a smart-aleck and rely on humor to get me through many a rough spot. Well, humor was lost on this poor girl who was struggling with both English and Dutch. I soon was only saying what was absolutely necessary, in the clearest way I could. That meant no plays on words, no goofy comments, pretty much no funny stuff at all.
About 2 months into this companionship, our president paid us a surprise visit. He asked to visit with me, and we went outside and sat on the front steps. "How are you doing Zuster Harvey?" he asked. "Fine, President" I replied.
"How are you really doing Zuster Harvey?" he asked? "I'm really doing just fine" was my reply.
"Zuster Harvey, how are you really doing?"? he asked again. The third time was the charm and I finally shared my struggles and concerns. I was so touched that he would go out of his way to stop by and check in with me and give me a chance to express my frustrations. That seemed to ease my stress level and give me the capacity to deal effectively with the communication challenges for another 2 months.
My Mission President was one of the best men I have ever known. Kind, compassionate, fully committed to doing what was right. I know his wife will feel his absence keenly, and my heart goes out to her. Farewell for now President Ward!