God Has a Sense of Humor (Ab-Wheel Story)

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Six-Pack Abs

When I had only been on my mission to Brazil a couple of months – I had this strong desire for a piece of exercise equipment that I had used every day before my mission – it was called an ab-wheel. I’m not sure why I wanted it so bad, but I have always hated sit-ups and they just weren’t doing it for me out there and I felt like I was losing my six-pack. :)

My companion was a Brazilian named Elder Mariano, and while I still didn’t know the language very well yet, I told him about the ab-wheel and asked if I could find one in Brazil somewhere. He had never heard of one but said I should mention it to some of the members to see if they had. I did this at several houses, but no one had ever heard of one. Since I was new to Portuguese, I remember struggling to explain what this was. “E uma roda. Como… uma roda plastica, pequena que voce usa para fazer exercicios. Assim – eu vou te mostrar.”

I’d say: “It’s like a plastic wheel with handles that you use on the floor to do exercises, like this!” Then I’d try to demonstrate – which must have look ridiculous. One of the members was taking a trip to Sao Paulo to go to Wal-Mart and I asked them to look for one and buy it for me and I’d pay them back, but they couldn’t find one.

I became sort of obsessed with finding one and since missionary work can be somewhat monotonous and unimaginative, I started working my new-found obsession into our door approaches. “Hey there – I was hoping you could help me with something: I’m an American and I’m looking for this exercise thing (I’d describe it) have you heard of this?” The answer was always no, but Brazilians love helping and to ask for a favor (a glass of water or help with an address) was always a better, more effective approach then just telling them we wanted to share a message.

My companion started to really tire of my obsession with finding an ab-wheel. I could tell it was starting to bother him, but I didn’t know a ton of Portuguese yet and I had gotten pretty practiced at my approach so I kept using it. Finally, one morning during our companionship prayer before leaving the apartment, Elder Marino was saying the prayer and said (with a lot of pent-up frustration): “Heavenly Father, please help us today to find Elder Westra’s stupid ab-wheel so he can stop talking about it.” I opened my eyes to scowl at him, but this was as earnest and sincere as I’d ever seen him. I got the hint that he had had enough and decided to drop it.

We went out knocking doors as usual and I avoided the “ab-wheel” approach since I knew my Senior Companion was at his wit’s end. But one street in, we came to a house where this really strong guy was exercising out front with his shirt off (doing pull-ups). I looked at my companion and he said “Okay – ask about the thing.” I went up to the guy and said, “Excuse me, but you look really strong and like you exercise a lot.”

He was flattered and entertained by where this was going. I said, “I’m an American, and there is this one piece of exercise equipment that I can’t find anywhere in this country, it’s called an “Ab-wheel.”’ His eyes lit up and he got really excited. “They don’t make it here.” He said. But he had a huge smile, like he knew something I didn’t. “But I do!” He told us to come in his house and he had three of these home-made ab-wheels that he had made out of wood and broom handles. “I’ve seen these on TV, but they are only in the United States – I wanted to try one so I made a prototype out of wood. It’s not perfect, I’m still working on the design, but this ought to take care of you.” He handed me one of his three wood prototypes and said “It’s yours.”

I looked at Elder Mariano and he was speechless. We had somehow found “Elder Westra’s stupid ab-wheel” on the day that he earnestly prayed and asked that we would. I’m convinced that in that huge country, we were led to that house, where someone was making these out of wood and was willing to just give one away.

Now, wouldn’t it be cool if I had some awesome conclusion about how we went on to teach that man, and how he became a great Church leader? Well, that didn’t happen. :) He had no interest in the Church or our message, and I never saw him again, but I used his homemade, wooden ab-wheel every day until it broke a month before I came home from Brazil.

I’m convinced that Heavenly Father knows us personally and cares about the details of our lives – even the insignificant cares that matter more to us than they should.

Story by Derek W. from Utah