Part Four in the Derailleur series.
Four months of tracting (door-to-door proselyting) yielded nothing but a carnet full of log tracts and a map full of X’s. We managed to knock on every door in the Belgian town of Mouscron and taught only once. That once turned into return appointments with the young family we found on the last door of our night, Pierre and Karren and their daughter Isabelle. She must have been ten or eleven. Her dad was French and her mother Flemish, a mixed marriage by Belgian standards.
They were gracious and humble and eager to hear what we had to teach. Mormon legends are made of the experiences I had with this family. We became instantly close and were amazed at the chemistry. Pierre translated everything for Karren and what didn’t translate we spoke to Isabelle in English and she would make sense of it in both her parents’ languages.
Three weeks of discussions, and two Sundays at church – a little branch that met in the apothecary of one of the member families. We challenged them on the fourth week and they didn’t hesitate.
It was one of those experiences where you go, “Oh, okay, that’s why.”
That’s why I’ve been wearing and washing and rinsing out the same pair of garments for almost sixteen weeks. That’s why during that same time we endured the mail strike and lived off of potatoes. That’s why any trace of my service previous to this ville and all of my worldly and not-so-worldly possessions wound up in some baggage handler’s flat in Paris (I’m only guessing here, but it seems plausible to me).
I was so entrenched in cause-and-effect fate; every blessing predicated upon a principle of obedience, every trial “shall be for thy good.” So this golden family was my why. And that was good enough for me. In fact, it didn’t matter any more, none of it, because I had found one of the most deeply felt relationships I had experienced up to that point in my life.
And this is when I became aware of a sense I had inherently, an invasive premonition that one would sooner deny than validate, but couldn’t because it was the truth about how serendipity would evaporate into the effect that it indeed had no connection whatsoever, unless you considered yourself unworthy. Then guilt would override any consideration that this sense was truly complementary to the physical ones instead of subsidized by a shitty self-concept.
I knew that Saturday morning as we prepared to go to Pierre’s house, that the phone would ring and Isabelle would tell us in English, in no uncertain terms, that they we were not getting baptized that day nor any other. And it did. We rode our bikes into Mouscron and canceled all the proceedings and then went out to their house.
They were upset and sad and fearful that their decision had terminated their relationship with us. Isabelle and Pierre were in tears and Karren was mad as hell. “What does this mean?” Pierre would translate as Karren drew her right thumb across her throat. “And what does this mean?” as she did the same action across her abdomen. “I cannot say,” was my only answer. And I couldn’t, for I had sworn an oath.
Karren received a phone call from an old college friend that Saturday morning who was once a briefly endowed member up in Amsterdam. Talk about fate. Upon learning her friend was about to be baptized that very morning into the same cult in which she had just terminated her membership, the well-intended friend told her about the signs and the executions involved in the oaths made in the endowment, issues that had become a deal-breaker for her friend.
Such tender testimonies were no match for the juxtaposition of salvation represented in the Temple. I think Karren wanted to slap me. I wish she had. I betrayed her, her husband and her sweet Isabelle. We all cried after Karren lost her animation, and before we left their home we agreed that subsequent visits would have nothing to do with religion.