Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"What If The Goats Had NOT Died?"

My good friend Jim Ritchie is proving to be a wonderful source for incredible (and true) stories. I've had this one on my mind for a few weeks since he shared it, and I believe it will be uplifting and motivational to some who may be struggling with their own set of challenges with adversity.

Some say America has seen better days, and that the "American dream" is something that is more myth than reality. However, those who come to these shores find almost unbelievable opportunities, unimagined in their prior lives. Out of adversity comes the blessings if we have faith to move ahead.

We never know when adversity might strike us, but the mortal experience being what it is almost guarantees we will all come in for our share. Recently, Patsy's mother (in her 93rd year), fell in her bedroom and broke her hip. Near death last week, she has made a near miraculous recovery and following surgery to replace the broken pieces, she is in a rehab center today beginning physical therapy. This latest trial has come to her late in life, but she has had her share of challenges all along the way.

What, one might ask, would her life had been like without the seemingly tragic circumstances that befell her? Would she have become the woman she is today without all those difficulties? Not likely.

I'm certain you will all enjoy this latest story from "Bro. Jim" as he shares the life story of one young missionary, Joseph Oryang, and his progenitors. I'll bet every one of the 90,000 missionaries currently serving has an incredible back story to share, but this one is unique to be sure. Enjoy! Who knows, maybe there is someone in far away Uganda or Mozambique who may know this story better than me.

* * *

Joseph Oryang is the son of David Oryang who is the son of (I don’t remember  his name. so plug in a good Uganda name - let's call him John). “John” was a young man growing up in the hills of Uganda, who along with his brother rose up early each day to head for the hills to stay with and protect the family's growing goat herd.

They would spend each day from early to late tending to the goats. They were just lads, "tenish" in years and destined to spend their lives on the foothills of Uganda, except for a disaster that hit Uganda. A deadly disease coming from Europe invaded Uganda that was devastating to the goats and nearly all of the Uganda goats died from the plague.

At least it hit the Oryang family hard. as all their goats eventually died and the Oryang family no longer had any chance at temporal success. The family was destitute and desperate.

In the middle of this incredible set back, “John” decided to strike out on his own as a teenager to see what was on the other side of the mountain. With his meager belongings strapped to his back he walked the many miles to the "big city," probably Kampala, where he somehow got himself enrolled into a school and worked his way to a high school diploma. He did so well he was awarded a scholarship to a university, which paved the way for another round of luck. He was awarded an opportunity to go to Oxford University in England.

Graduating with honors, he returned to his native land and was immediately rewarded with a good paying job with the Ugandan Government. Now he was a man of influence and privilege. “John” married and began to raise a family with his new found rank as a "Man of Importance," which gave his children privileges he could never have dreamed he might have if he had remained a goatsman of Uganda.

David grew up under this "influence," which got him enrolled in the better schools, and eventually he earned a scholarship to the University of Washington, where he worked his way through and ended up with a significant degree.

I’m vague (as I’m old) and can’t remember the sequence of the next events, but along the way he runs into the gospel - which "sticks" - and then in a gas station he meets the woman of his life and the David Oryang story begins to take deep roots.

David landed a US government job, which gave this driven man an opportunity to rise in Washington DC as a VIP. His testimony and leadership skills are recognized by both the Lord and his priesthood leaders, and as of 2014, he was serving as a counselor in the stake presidency of the Woodbridge Stake in Northern Virginia.

His story might have never been written, except he came to a Launching Leaders program as a guest speaker, and shared his exciting and entertaining story. We were all dazzled with the events which brought him to America, Woodbridge, and to become a family of prominence in the gospel and the government.

As he concluded his story and appropriate application to each of our lives was made, I stood up and said the first thing that came to my mind!!! “What if the goats had not died?”

We speculated the differences in the story, had the goats never died. David's father, "John." and his uncle might have spent the rest of their "professional" life herding goats and raising their families in Uganda.

Joseph Oryang and the Ritchies
Then, enter David, and eventually Joseph. This is the family that might have been known to this day as the finest goat herdsmen in Uganda had they settled for what appeared to be their predestined fate.

But Mozambique would not have been the testing ground for their 6’6” strapping son, Joseph, nor would the gospel or education or influence in the stake presidency or government have been in the family history of the Oryang family if "John" had remained the goat herder.

Oh, what a different family story would NEVER have been told.

* * *

So, think about where you are in your life today. As you consider what people might say about you in describing your life at your funeral, what stories are you writing today that they might tell someday? Will they say that when the goats died in your life the tragedy overwhelmed you? Will they say it was just too much to overcome? Will they say you stayed on the foothills that were familiar and scratched out a meager existence because that was your "fate?" Will they say you could have taken the easy route out of this life with a broken hip and would they all forgive you for simply giving up with just cause? 

Or will they tell of triumph arising from the ashes, and will you leave them a legacy of achievement in their own lives to cherish because you left the dead goats behind and went on to an unknown but fruitful future because you went to the other side of the mountain to see what new vistas might present themselves to your view?

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