TACOMA, Wash. — Nine priesthood holders dressed in white helped once again ease Clifton “Cliff” Russell Jr. — a blind, double-leg-amputee normally confined to a wheelchair — into a hydro-therapy pool on May 5, where he baptized a second friend from the health care facility where they both live.
In 2011, Russell, a member of the Lincoln Ward, Washington Tacoma Stake, had shared the gospel and attended the baptismal services for his roommate from the facility. That man passed away shortly after. Then on Feb. 12, 2012, some of the same nine men helped him baptize his next roommate at the facility, Robert “Bobby” Merritt.
The full-time missionaries assigned to Lincoln Ward at that time — Elders Jordan White of Tremonton, Utah, and Austin Smith of Centerville, Utah — worked with ward mission leader Gordon Macdonald and former Soundview Ward bishop Pat Garlock, a physical therapist who owns a sports medicine facility with a hydro-therapy pool, to enable Russell to actually perform the ordinance.
Unfortunately, Merritt passed away five weeks later to the day. Russell had already begun to help another patient at the facility, Andrija “Andi” Hale, on the path to conversion. Hale also uses a wheelchair most of the time.
The missionaries — Elder White and his new companion, Elder Brian Jones of Magna, Utah — worked again with Macdonald, Garlock and seven others to wrap a life preserver around Russell and get him and Hale into position in the pool. After Russell recited the baptismal prayer, they then helped him immerse her.
“It was a very special baptism,” said President Douglas W. Weaver, president of the Washington Tacoma Mission, who was there.
“I think it was really amazing that we were able to do this again. How awesome that is for Cliff,” Elder White said. “He is fantastically missionary minded.”
Elder and Sister Foley are currently serving as member and leader support senior missionaries in the Washington Tacoma Mission.