Some Saints you may still not have met

Some Saints you may still not have met May 25, 2024

 

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Political map of Africa (public domain, Central Intelligence Agency)

I’m falling behind on the photographs that Jeff Bradshaw, one of the Interpreter Foundation’s vice presidents, has been sending to me.  (He is over in Africa, working on the Interpreter Foundation’s Not by Bread Alone film project.)  Here, for example, are some photos that arrived in my inbox fully a week ago under the title of “Warm fellowship and flaming testimonies in the heat of Parakou.”  They are accompanied by Jeff’s comments:

“A wonderful finish to a wonderful stay. It was terribly hot, however (97—“feels like only” 106), and some went to bed early tonight to recover. Tomorrow we will walk to Church, then drive south to Cotonou for our last night in Benin.”

A newly converted couple
The Victor and Sabine Hounhouhin couple and their children were baptized just a few months ago. Before joining the Church his family practiced voodoo and she was Catholic. Victor is a carpenter. Sabine serves as branch Relief Society president. They have five children.

 

Neater than MY bookshelves
We loved seeing the shelves he made to keep the Church books for each family member.

 

Here are their four girls and one boy. He gave a testimony first week in January talking about how the year previous he spent New Years Eve out drinking with his friends, but this year he spent a quiet, peacement evening at home. Their family is not only happier but doing better financially.

 

Lamboni for Chinese motorcycles
Afterward, we drove to a dealership for Chinese motorcycles owned by the Lamboni family. They both live and work here.

 

okijuaosaioija Lambonis
They have been members for a year, but since it’s a small branch everyone has to learn quickly. Bro. Lamboni is now a counselor in the branch presidency and Sis. Lamboni is a counselor in the Primary. It was a very happy interview, except the little girl was very frightened of Spencer.

 

Clarisse, a Latter-day Saints
The trip to Parakou would have been worth it for just the last interview–with Sister Clarisse, the district Relief Society president. She was wise and warm and inspired and would, I think, from the love and understanding she expressed, rank with the best RS presidents I have seen anywhere in the world.
Clarisse is a single mother and had a very traumatic marriage earlier in her life. Every morning and every evening she went to Catholic communion after she and her husband separated, but she couldn’t find peace. After she met the missionaries, she attended Church once, but had no intention of going back until her children, two-years-old and four-years-old, convinced her. In sacrament meeting that day, she heard a talk on repentance that brought her peace.

 

A truant from CES! oipjik
Here she is with her daughter Marisa. Spencer chided Marise gently for missing seminary this afternoon, but she didn’t reply directly.

 

Beignets!!!!
Afterward, we found out why Marisa stayed home—she had made a big batch of amazing beignets for us while we were talking with her mother.

I love the capacity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the Restored Gospel to create a global fellowship that, while still valuing them, rises above cultures and ethnicities, and that can unify us in a cause that transcends such distinctions.

Many years ago, I was serving as a member of a high council in a stake that was not my own.  It was mostly made up of singles wards.  One day, though, the stake president assigned me to the one married ward within the stake.  It was an “Asian” ward.  At least one member of each of the couples in its membership had been born and raised in Asia, so it had classes on Sundays in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.  (When he made the assignment, the stake president quipped that he thought I would bring particular insight to my responsibility, since I taught an Asian language — Arabic.  He delivered that comment completely deadpan, so I couldn’t immediately tell that he was joking.)

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my relatively brief assignment to that ward.  I was eventually called out of it, and altogether out of that stake, in order to serve in the bishopric that was responsible for BYU’s octagonal foreign language residence, which is located up by the Provo Utah Temple.  In that ward, we routinely had Sunday school classes in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and etc. — and, yes, fairly frequently, in Arabic.  I was always amused when those offering the sacrament prayers would turn to me at the conclusion of a prayer, seeking confirmation from me that it had been offered correctly:  In Korean, for instance, or Chinese, so long as they concluded with an Amen they could have said just about anything and I wouldn’t have been the wiser!)

But back to that earlier, Asian, ward assignment:  I recall someone commenting to me once at the end of a high priests’ group meeting that the thing was a miracle.  What did he mean by that?  It was the only group of high priests in that stake:  The group leader was a distinguished and rather elderly Japanese member of the Church — an adult convert and a military veteran who had served in the Japanese army during the Second World War.  (He is long gone now.)  His two assistants were from Taiwan and from South Korea.  Given the historical animosities in the region, particularly for those of their generation, the person speaking to me observed, the ability of three such men to work faithfully and lovingly together was nothing short of miraculous.

I thoroughly believe that.  I’ve seen many such instances over the course of my now rather ridiculously long life, and I love to see them.  I think that we’re seeing them, too, when prosperous white Americans and Canadians and Europeans are called out of their comfort zones and sent to work in communities in Africa that they would never otherwise even have visited, among people whose lives and backgrounds and experiences are very different than their own — where they learn to love those people as their brothers and sisters.

“Wherefore,” as Doctrine and Covenants 65:6 puts it, “may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come.”

Posted from New York City

 

 

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