BETA

Pure religion: Shepherd walks again

Amaraa, 12, was alone and tending his family's flock of sheep the night the blizzard hit. Driving snow and biting wind blasted the Mongolian countryside with deadly cold as the young boy fought to stay alive and survive the night. They found him the next day — alive but so severely frostbitten that local physicians were forced to amputate both of his legs just below the knees.

Amaraa soon realized that he had lost more than his legs. He had also lost his independence, his self-reliance and his future. Because he had to be carried wherever he wanted to go, Amaraa was forced to drop out of school.

Eventually, Amaraa moved in with his sister and her husband's family, both of whom were members of the Church. As the years passed, Amaraa began developing friendships with the missionaries of the local Songin Branch who would come to visit his family. Five years after that fateful night, he entered the waters of baptism and became a member of the Church.

Early Sunday mornings, the elders arrived at his house and carried him on their backs to a taxi. Once they arrived at Church, the missionaries would, once again, carry him into the chapel. When the meetings were over, they carried him back to his home.

When President Gary R. Gibbons of the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission learned of Amaraa's dedication, he was moved with compassion. Amaraa's family was willing to work hard for a set of prosthetic legs, but it would be impossible for them to come up with the money needed so that Amaraa could once again walk. President Gibbons supplemented their efforts with fast offerings and by September 2002, seven months after Amaraa's baptism, everything was in place for an operation to prepare his legs for prosthetic limbs. The operation was a success. Soon, walking only with the help of a cane, Amaraa passed the sacrament for the first time to a teary-eyed branch.

As a result of his operation Amaraa has been able to begin his schooling again, attends seminary weekly, and joins the elders — sometimes several times a week — to teach the gospel alongside them.

Six years after that fateful night in the blizzard, Amaraa will tell anyone who will listen, "I want to serve a mission for my Church." — Byron Peacock for Welfare Services

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