When I was asked to give a talk in church about "Finding Hope through the Atonement," I asked mom and dad if they could share a good Africa story of hope with me. They gave gave me one that fit perfectly in my talk. I thought I would post it here; hopefully, that is OK with mom. Thanks for your help mom.
Stories about Hope and Africa
August 20, 2010
(by Kriss Gates)
When we were called on our mission to serve as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Republic of Congo in Africa, we read all the articles we could find on the church in Africa. We were amazed at the reports of how quickly the church was growing. One report said that there were 20,000 members in our mission area. 10,000 of them joined last year. Other reports were just as positive.
Soon after reading these reports, Ed and I were discussing what would make the gospel grow so quickly. In our ward in Irvine, we only have a few baptisms a year. I had recently been released from serving as the Relief Society President (women's organization) of our ward (congregation), and in my narrow mindedness and my Orange County, California mentality, “I wonder if the reason the Africans are joining the church in throngs is because the people are very poor and they are just joining so they can collect welfare.” Then, I wondered if it they were joining in groups because it was the “in-thing” to do. I kept trying to think of why else the gospel was growing so rampantly in Africa.
A couple of days later we had the opportunity to attend a homecoming for one of the elders who had just returned from serving in the city where we had been called to serve - Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo. This elder stood up and looked across the well groomed affluent congregation in Newport Beach, California. He started his talk by telling us that the bishop had asked him to speak on “Hope”. And then he shared a story with all of us about a night that he and his companion visited the home of a woman in Pointe Noire.
In a country that is ridden with poverty, alcoholism, wars, broken homes, abuse in the home and general despair, I discovered something wonderful! Let me give you just one example. One of the sisters that we had the opportunity to teach worked hard from early in the morning until late in the day. She had several children and she was the primary provider for the family. Wednesday nights were our regular night to teach her. When we arrived one evening and entered her very humble home, with a dirt floor, she was sitting on her “sofa” with her head in her hands. (Her sofa was really just some springs with a piece of fabric on it.) She looked up at us and said… “Oh, elders. I am so sorry. I am just too, too tired to have a lesson tonight. I am just not up to it.”Perhaps their tune and accents were less than perfect, but their hearts were full of love and compassion for this sweet sister.
The elders said she looked exhausted so they said… “Can we just sing a Hymn to you, and we will be on our way?” She nodded and the 2 young men, who had been transformed in one short year from being high school socialites and athletes into stalwart men of God, started to sing in French all the verses of “Come, Come Ye Saints."
When they were done singing she lifted her head up out of her hands and smiled a big smile. “Thank You, Elders, I needed that. Now I am ready for the lesson.” These fine young men had brought the Gospel into this home and with it, the power that the Gospel brings of HOPE.I sat in the chapel that day and felt my testimony grow by leaps and bounds as my spirit was humbled and my heart burst with happiness. I knew then why the African people were joining by the thousands. It isn’t a “social thing” or a “welfare thing”. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ in it’s purest form. The marvelous byproduct of believing in and loving Jesus Christ is HOPE!
|Family Home Evening|
In the 6 weeks since we arrived here in Pointe Noire, we have had the opportunity to see the happiness in these great people’s lives. We have sat in homes where the fathers shared their testimonies with their wives and children at Family Home Evenings. We have been with investigators as they were taught by the young elders and watched as they flipped through their well-read and very highlighted scriptures and glowed as they asked questions.
We have seen branches with over 150 children, teenagers, young married couples, and families fill up a small chapel… with only 2 cars in the parking lot. We realized that they had either walked to church (long distances) or used their precious funds for bus rides to get to church… and they were thrilled to be there.
We have seen HOPE glow in their faces as they welcomed us into their meetings.
The heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is HOPE in everything that is now and all that is forever.