NEW ORLEANS — Matt Hutchinson was hospitalized for a year following a car accident that left him in a coma.
Adam Price is blind and confined to a wheelchair.
But both young men faithfully attend their weekly LDS institute classes. They are among many who inspire Elder Howard and Sister Karin Stansel, a missionary couple from Austin, Texas, who teach institute classes in southern Louisiana.
"As you work with these young people, you see their strong spirits. It's really neat," Sister Stansel said with emotion in her voice. "It's a wonderful experience."
For more than a year now, the Stansels have taught classes in the Nicholls State library, at an LDS building in New Orleans (Tulane, University of New Orleans and other area schools), a room at the Louisiana State University dental school, and in the student union on the campus of Southeastern Louisiana University. While some students never miss class, the challenge has been persuading more to come.
"The class in New Orleans has been very small even though there is a large number of single adults. It's easy for them when they come here from out of state to go to school and hide. They don't go to church or make it known they are here," said Elder Stansel, a retired chemical engineer. "They are all good kids and their lives are busy. Hopefully this fall will be better for attendance. Those who are dedicated find the time."
Students in most of the classes consist of young single adults. The institute class taught at LSU's dental school is unique in many ways. It consists of older, mostly married with children, students who come for 40 minutes and eat lunch while the Stansels teach the gospel.
"We've had several nonmembers who have come to the class," Elder Stansel said.
Outside of the classroom, the Stansels have attended many memorable activities with the young Latter-day Saints. One that stands out for Sister Stansel involved 150 pounds of crawfish. The seafood didn't look appealing to the sister missionary, but then she noticed the young single adults were watching closely.
"They got me to eat some. I only did it because I didn't want them to think I was a wimp," she said. "Boy, they were gone in no time. It made me sick, I'll tell you."