Wheelchairs and other treasures

If you were limited to owning only ten items, would your scriptures be one of them?
Lately we have been visiting homes in small villages where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in partnership with the Tongan Ministry of Health has provided wheelchairs to people in need.  Technically, we are checking up to ensure the wheelchairs were given to people that needed them and they were taught proper use and maintenance of them.
The health crisis for Tonga is diabetes, so there are many people that have lost legs or other appendages.  Being an amputee in Tonga is tough for many reasons.  If you live in a jungle or a country that doesn’t have handicap accessible facilities, moving around is essentially impossible.  Anything that provides locomotion is treasured and is a game changer for people that have lost limbs.
My observation here in these small outer islands isolated from the world is that another game changer for shut-ins, the elderly, poverty-stricken people, and people with physical challenges are their scriptures.  I come to this conclusion because I visually inventory each small shack we are visiting, and I look at their meager material possessions; one common item I see are their scriptures within arm’s reach of their bed.
The typical small shack we are visiting is essentially a 10’x16’ shed that has been upgraded some.  There is a short wood ramp, some electrical wiring inside, no insulation, no finished walls, the wood has been painted, sometimes there is flooring.  There are three small windows and one door.
The furniture is a twin bed, and the house could have a small table, a hot plate, maybe a very small fridge, a bowl, a few utensils, and perhaps a water jug.  There are no cupboards, no running water, no TV, no magazines, no books, no closet full of clothes, and no curtains.  There might be a chair.  The bed is well worn and used. 
When people are poor and do not have many material possessions, the few things they have are either essential and necessary to sustain life or a treasured family keepsake.  My grandmother died with only a few old photographs and a worn-out family bible to pass on.  Here in Tonga, almost everyone has a machete because it is necessary to harvest bananas and coconuts, and other assorted fruit.  For San Juan County, it would be akin to a rancher and his pocketknife or wire cutters.
As I mentally inventory their meager earthly possessions, what jumps out at me is that they have their scriptures on the table near the bed.  These good people live close to the edge of survival.   Everything they have is essential and each possession is well worn.  Everything they keep near them in this small shack is a lifeline and therefore treasured.  Everything they have enables them to live through the trials and challenges they endure each day in a country that has no social safety net, little access to medical help, and no preventative dental or medical care.
The poor may have few earthly treasures but use and therefore importance can be measured by how smooth or soiled the wooden handrails are, or how tattered and frayed the pages of their scriptures are.  I am reminded of the scripture, “For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Spending time here in Tonga has been a learning experience for me.  The clarity these good people have about what is important helps me focus and reprioritize my overly blessed life; I will certainly be changed.  As Glinda and Alphaba sing in the musical Wicked, “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?  Because I knew you.  I have been changed for good.”
Because I am getting to know these humble people of Tonga, I do believe I have been changed for the better…I hope it lasts. 

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
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