As we left the teaching appointment and were walking along a berm through the fallow rice fields, we turned back to wave at the man standing in front of his nipa hut. One of the sister missionaries could not help making a comment.
I love that man so much! I don’t know why it is, but I have been so touched by the old “tatays” (a Cebuano term of respect for older men) that I have met on my mission. I am remembering a tatay that I worked with on another island.
She paused in her story as we detoured around a carabao (water buffalo) staked near the path.
Then she told about an old fisherman named Edgardo. Actually, he was the town drunk. He was known for drinking a gallon of tuba (coconut wine) every day. That was a lot, even for him!
He hung around while they were teaching his mother, but never participated in the discussions. His mother became less interested, and the missionaries said they would need to stop their visits. Then the fisherman spoke for the first time.
I’ll listen to you.
Really? Are you sure.
Yes. I want to listen.
The man came to church the next Sunday. The church was a long way from his home, and he walked the whole way.
Tatay, you are here! And you have a new haircut!
Yes, I cut my hair so I could come to church.
The sisters gave him a Book of Mormon.
Sisters, what do you want me to read?
Well, Brother, why don’t you just start at the beginning?
At the next visit, he showed them where he had been reading.
Okay, Brother, you have been reading in 1 Nephi. What did it say?
Sisters, I don’t know.
Well, keep reading.
He reported again at the next visit.
Where are you reading now?
What did it say?
The fish died.
The fish died?
Yes. They were stinking.
Tatay, are you sure?
Yes. The fish died because they were thirsty.
Oh, Brother! The fish were thirsty? You think that is what you read?
Show us where you read that!
The man pointed to 2 Nephi 7:2. The sister read where he pointed and her jaw dropped.
“Behold, at my rebuke, I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness, and their fish to stink because the waters are dried up, and they die because of thirst.”.
Brother, you got that exactly right! That is a quote from Isaiah (see Isaiah 50:2), and you understood it perfectly! Of all the verses in the Book of Mormon, you understood Isaiah!
I have quit drinking, too.
You have quit drinking “tuba”?
Yes, except for a small glass at night so I can sleep.
Only one glass?
Yes, just one small glass.
That is great! Keep up the good work, Brother.
At the next visit, the brother had more news.
Sisters, I have something to tell you.
What do you have to tell us?
I have quit drinking.
Except for one small glass?
No, none at all. I have no desire all to drink!
He continued to go to church and the missionaries continued to visit.
Sisters, I have something more to tell you.
What do you have to tell us now?
The man showed them a plate covered with fish.
Look what I caught. I have never caught that many in one day before!
That is so great, Tatay!
Yes, it is a blessing from the Lord.
His baptism date approached. The day before, he was not feeling well. His mother was concerned.
If you are not feeling well, maybe you should rest. You can be baptized next week.
No! I need to be baptized! I will be okay.
On Saturday he was baptized. On Sunday he was confirmed and given the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Sisters, I am clean! My sins are gone! I am okay before the Lord! i
The next day, the man did not feel well enough to get out of bed. The day after, he died. The doctor said it was liver failure. His mother was distraught.
You made him quit drinking and it killed him!
No, Sister. His liver was failing for a long time. When he quit drinking, it helped him to live long enough so that he could be baptized. How did he look after he was baptized?
He looked happy.
And he died happy. He was okay before the Lord.