Tucked away in Marshall County, Kentucky is an unincorporated community between Paducah and Calvert City called Possum Trot. Like a place imagined out of a script of one of those classic TV shows like the Beverly Hillbillies or the Dukes of Hazzard, I found myself living and working in the area.
That was back in late 1980 and early 1981. I was assigned there as a Mormon Missionary, a fairly new convert ( just about two years) from Guam.
I grew up as a Catholic, converted to Mormonism, and was now in middle of Baptist and Evangelical country. I was barely 20 years old. Mormon missionaries are totally self-sustaining or supported by their families ( in my case by some members of my church group). They are not paid by their church. It is volunteer service. For me , it was a privilege and an adventure.
Although, I am no longer an active member of the church, my mission remains one of the greatest experiences of my life. Beneath the veneer of the white shirts and ties, the bicycles, the Book of Mormon, and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ…was this whole life experience.
I was literally in the mode of service to my fellow human being in terms of assistance to the poor, service projects, youth projects, community service, family presentations, etc. I learned to live out of myself and to embrace people different then I was and to accept them. I learned to live with adversity. I learned about prayer, faith, the human condition, God and Life. I learned about myself. I learned how to be a leader.
I kept a journal of my experiences and it is amazing to see the writings of the 20 year old young man that I was at the time and the lessons of that time that have carried me through life. It was the happiest time of my life and it was also the hardest time of my life.
Here are some excerpts:
” Struggles come within us that we may grow”
” We taught the Harpers tonight. Mr. Harper related how he prayed three times before going to bed last night to know if the Book of Mormon was true. Tears of joy streamed down his face as he recounted vocally what he felt in his heart was his answer. He knew it was true.”
“There were many negative reactions when we went door to door. It amazed me to see all these people reject a message about Jesus Christ.”
” Goals must be made, and then worked for continuously and diligently.”
” We had Christmas dinner with a certain Price family. He’s a doctor and his wife is Russian. Mrs. Price said she felt impressed to invite two strangers to Christmas dinner. That is how we met them.”
” Last night we got into a car accident. Elder Paxman was driving. We were heading from Possom Trot back into Paducah. Our car hit some black ice and started sliding. In the course of sliding, we hit a car, and ran over some street signs right into a ditch. The temperature was freezing outside. We were unharmed with not even one scratch. No one else was hurt. A miracle.”
” We each write the story of our lives.”
I no longer affiliate myself with the Church. However, my mission and its experiences contributed to who I am today.
I wish that every young man and woman in our country could have the opportunity to dedicate at least one year of service in a worthy cause after graduating from High School. It will change their life. It will change our country.
Possum Trot was just one of the areas that I served in during my mission. I was assigned to other towns and cities in Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia also. However, Possum Trot stands out in my mind as one of the most significant places of my life.