|This is added just because EVERYONE could use a good laugh!|
|Mom mom! --Ain't she a beauty?! :)|
As I have driven, these last few weeks, through some of the Soweto township villages, with their tiny houses and hovel shacks, that are the homes of hundreds of thousands of South Africans, I have begun to understand the challenge of the process of the hastening.
As we drive to the Ward buildings in these densely populated areas, where there is a general sense of Christian belief and virtue, mingled with the traditions of the fathers from generations before them, we are struck with the challenge of the hastening. In these Wards, where there are very few members and very empty parking lots on Sunday, even though neighboring church parking lots are filled with hundreds even thousands of worshipers, I came to realize just what is hampering the hastening.
We continue to meet new converts and hear of others who have, quite literally, come into the church, without invitation of members or missionaries. The only invitation they have had is that of the Spirit. These are the fruits of the Lord’s and His Holy Spirit’s hastening of the work. The work could be increased a thousand fold, yet, it cannot be hastened beyond that, which we, the members and the Leadership of the Wards and Stakes, are capable to support. We are the hamperers of the hastening.
The Lord can call countless souls by the Spirit’s prompting to come, yet they must not come to us, members and Leaders, if we are not ready and prepared to apply the love of the gospel and to fully extend the hand of fellowship of membership in the Kingdom to them. What good is it to cause them to come, if they remain strangers and foreigners, even in the Lord’s true Kingdom? We, the Saints and the Leaders must not be too busy, or have higher priorities than the critical need of nurturing these new converts. We must hasten our work of extending the full hand of fellowship to see that their needs for friends, a calling and to be nurtured by the good word of God from loving teachers, home teachers and visiting teachers. If we fail in this vital part of our baptismal covenant, new members may dwindle -- their testimonies become like the proverbial sprouted seeds that sprout, but can’t find sustaining support and will find it difficult to take root in the Church and the full gospel message and ordinances.
The great work of hastening is largely dependant on each of our own personal commitments and commitment to hastening OUR WORK. We must hasten to be ready for His hastening of the work.
The Lord is hastening His work and His influence. Now we must hasten our work to make room in our buildings, classes, programs and hearts. We must change and quicken our priorities to that end. I am certain that as we do, we will see the mighty gathering power of the Word, even the voice of the Lord as He calls to gather his sheep and chicks this last time. These good Soweto souls who already accept Christ as their Lord need only to hear the Spirit’s testimony of our testimony of the fullness they lack, to be drawn in mass to the Church - here and everywhere.
I see clearly how this rising new first generation of African Saints is being prepared to lead and to sustain the flow of souls that are undoubtedly soon to flow to the truth. IT is exciting to see, to feel and to understand the hand of the Lord in whom He has and is calling to prepare for the great harvest of souls that is surely soon upon us.
This week I had a profound experience with the Sacrament I must share. For most of my adult life I have tried to increase the significance and spirit of my partaking of the emblems of the last supper and the ordinance of the Sacrament of the Lord’s super. As I thought and pondered this last Sunday about the words of the Prayer to partake of the bread “in remembrance of the body…” my mind was focused on a desire to more fully understand and appreciate those sacred words. SO, in simple quiet prayer, I asked for more personal inspiration of how I should think and what I should feel during the Sacrament, regarding the body of the Lord. As I say, it was a simple request, sincere, but soon set aside as the service ended.
That evening we had the Missionary Elders in the area over for dinner. Incidentally, that included a new Elder Asay, even Kerry and Eunice Asay’s son. That was a treat to see and remember with him some of the wonderful contributions his dad had made in my life. We’ll do that again soon.
As they sat down, I started to feel what I have felt a few times in the past. I knew what it was and I knew what was likely coming, fast, and it did. The kidney stone soon had me writhing in pain. I had had a stone surgically removed just a little over a year and a half ago and have been free of that pain since then. Those who have dealt with them understand and women who have had babies naturally know. To those so lucky as to not have suffered them, let me simply say it is like being torn in half from the inside out.
The stone progressed and the pain intensified until I would have fain taken about any drug I might have been offered to remove the “cup” of my pain. It was then that the quiet voice reminded me of my sacrament pondering prayer. In an instant I knew, powerfully and deeply personally what “remembrance of the body” of the Lord meant.
Only too obvious to any who have been thoughtful about the words, but sometimes the obvious loses the intensity and significance of the meaning and the emblem’s symbolism fades. I simply share that I was reminded in a powerful, hopefully never-to-be-forgotten way, in the smallest way about what Christ suffered and that he was not offered a release from the pain or the promise of what He was doing for us, for me. The experience also gave me more insight into the passing of the cup request in the Garden where the suffering was more intense than under the hammer, spikes and cross. Now, as the “cup” comes to me in the Sacrament, I will again recall the kind gift of understanding that came this Sunday.
The stone moved and the pain dissipated soon after the realization was understood. I share with you honestly that the pain was worth the revelation. Like the revelations that came from and through my cancer experience, it was worth the learning and the reminder. I hope the vicarious sharing will magnify the blessing of prayer being answered in your life too.
We are seeing and feeling more and more answers to our prayers and requests on the prayer rolls of the Temple each week. We are grateful that He is making His hand and gifts more clear and that in so doing our faith is rewarded and increased. Indeed our confidence in our righteous desires and requests is increasing and we stand more fully “all amazed.”
Now, on a little more comical note…The next morning after the kidney stone, I stayed home from our daily morning walk with the Davies. Judy walked with them and told them about the attack. As they passed under a tree with quarter-sized spiny seeds, Elder Davie pick one off the ground and instructed Sister Cloward to slip it into the toilet and then call me to see what “I had passed.” I could laugh about that then, but the night before the experience was no laughing matter. I’ll undoubtedly find a way to get back with Elder Davie…:)
And so another month has slipped away from the mission calendar. We have worked with the Soweto Institute choir to get them ready for a recording next week of a song that will be broadcast in “An Evening with a General Authority” throughout the CES world in August.
We prayed with a young Institute student who feared for his life. He feared that if he returned home that night (again to a small hovel he shared with his 12-year-old sister, older brother and a young man his age who was really his uncle) he would be shot and killed by his older brother over the theft (he believed that was by his uncle). The theft was of his brother’s R200 (about 20 dollars - admittedly a lot in their situation). After a strong prayer we drove him to his “place” a most scary drive and place with no lights, narrow streets and many huddled around small fires to keep warm.
We had notified the Bishop and Stake President of the situation, but we realized that as crazy as this sounded, it was all too common in the crime and poverty-ridden area where we and they serve. There is much more to this story, but I will end by saying how glad we were to see him again at Institute, without a bullet hole.
As he saw us, this young 20-year-old boy with no father, grandparents, and a mother who is somewhere else on the streets, and who walks so far in such conditions to be with members of the church, came up to me for a hug that spoke of his gratitude for our little support and his yearning for male support and love. Can I tell you how empty and weak I feel each time these poor youth look to me, us, for support, understanding and hope.
They, like the many beggars on the streets at dusk who now with barely a shredded pant or shirt and a tattered blanket to face the night of sub-freezing cold, make me to feel inadequate and weak and sad. Some of these beggars, mostly young men, kneel barefoot on the street with cars passing within inches holding a can or paper cup for a coin or two that would be pennies to us. We know they will have no home or place to stay as the frost forms overnight in these so cold South African winter nights and mornings. At best, they will share a small fire with others like them after perhaps getting enough coins to get a little bread or something to sustain their frail bodies.
There are so many of them. And yes, there are the professional beggars who stand at the intersections with babies and signs and there are those who walk between the traffic with their hands out and motion to their mouths asking for what you would expect is food. And yes, we have seen some who are the regulars at that intersection smoking or peddling stolen or pirated goods. And I am clear that these people and their assumed and real situations are yet more schooling of my feelings and priorities and realization of the incredible gifts and blessings I and we enjoy by contrast to these lives that are always on the edge of real survival.
I am finding more, everyday, and I really mean every day, that I, we, are here to be prepared and to be repented and reminded and committed to the faithful execution of that which the Lord expects from those of us who have been so richly blessed by the knowledge of the gospel. Truly He expects us, me, to hasten the work, even if it is only for the blink of the eye that we are here. And so we serve, or try to. And so we see and we feel and we wonder and are in awe of the truth we have and are coming to more fully appreciate and understand. We are becoming grateful for our learning in calling to be here, to learn here and to come to understand why.
So here are some of the thoughts this month that have been rattling around. Now I better let Sister Cloward tell you more about things from her perspective.
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I am trying to encourage Elder C to write our blog AT LEAST once a month. My memory isn’t hanging onto all that I wanted to write about for this long….! And yes, I added the :) to Elder C’s sentence… it’s my “Judy” touch :) (And I think happy thoughts and smile when I see it!)
What Elder C didn’t include in his kidney stone episode was that he was either pacing the floor, rocking back and forth when he was sitting or writhing on the bed until 1 am. At times I was pacing the floor with him as he was groaning, to try and make sure he didn’t fall as he was walking with his eyes closed in our well-lit flat. Doug had me rub his back and press my knee or hands or elbow as hard as I could into the lower left side of his back to help add an equal pressure on the outside to what he was experiencing from the inside. I came to realize how weak my strength is compared to what my dear Companion was feeling! I felt pretty helpless at times. I offered my fervent prayers in his behalf, to have his stone pass or subside so that he could rest. And our prayers were heard. And we did sleep. And Elder C hasn’t had a recurring episode. It was a learning for him and me.
I have pondered a lot about prayer and the power that comes when prayers are offered.
Yesterday the Sacrament Mtg speaker said that when you have a sudden situation arise where you need to make an instant decision, the first thought in the mind of a righteous person is correct. The next thought is wrong. And then more thoughts come continuing to support the second thought. As I reflected on his examples in his life with sports and the consequences of his decisions, I realized that my experience would be “Amen!” to what he said.
As I was sharing this with Bryndi, her experience is that the first thought becomes quieter as the 2nd thought become louder and more convincing with other approaches and angles to the asked question, “what should I do?” The Holy Ghost does testify of truth and the sooner we can recognize those promptings, the better our life will be. And I have found that the smoother my life becomes.
And as the saying goes, “A mission may not be the “best” two years of your life, but it will be the best two years FOR your life.” I keep telling Elder C that we may be here for us more than for them…
The Institute Choir sang an African version of “Israel, Israel God is Calling” and an original version of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”…the young adults sang for 5 hours to get the two recorded. It was a labor of love and the kids loved being together for a common cause. As they were tiring (the men in charge didn’t let them sit down in the choir seats and the kids were hot and tired and dressed in “African” attire – SO cool! – (I felt bad for the guy that had a thick folded blanket across his shoulder) – so on their last 3 “takes” I was silently showing them to “SMILE” and “think” about “food” they would “eat” when they were done. The kids smiled and laughed at my Grandma antics…afterall, there have to be some benefits for being one, right?
This blog is long enough. I will try to recall the weekly tender mercies I wanted to share that we’ve been experiencing these past two months…yes! I just remembered one!
Yesterday, after going to 3 wards and attending 2 Sacrament meetings, Elder C realized that the extra key fob to our flat wasn’t in his pocket….after we drove up to our flat. He rehearsed to me how he told me he had found them in the trunk of our car and he asked me if I had them. I told Doug that he had not given them to me but I checked my purse several times just in case I truly had forgotten. We decided to “hurry” over to the chapel (a 30+ min drive) again and we might get there just before the 3 hr block ended. Elder C then remembered that he got in our car’s trunk to get some biscuits (African “cookies”) to an elderly woman who was sitting on a short brick wall at the entrance of the Florida chapel. He surmised that perhaps when he reached in his pocket to retrieve the biscuits to give to this woman, the flat keys fell out of his pocket. I asked Elder C if he heard them fall. He said ‘no.’ I suggested that they probably fell on the grass and not on the brick walkway to the chapel entrance.
Elder C thoroughly searched the trunk again. But no tamale. So we headed back to the Florida Chapel. [I had been silently praying that we would get the keys back and thanking God for helping us.] When we arrived, Elder C went in to see the bishop while I searched the premises. I didn’t see any keys around our car or on the grassy hill. I continued to silently pray as I waited for his return.
Five minutes later, Elder C came out with our flat (apt) keys. Someone had found them on the grass outside and took them into the Bishop. What was lost had truly been found….
May we each put our trust and faith in our Savior and return our thanks to Him for everything. So many more tender mercies to share with you on another blog…Journaling has not been my strength, but through the Lord, I can do all things…and I will.
We love and miss every one of you and think and pray for you daily. May your week be filled with joy and light as you seek the Lord in all things. We have truly been blessed to be close enough to attend the Johannesburg Temple once a week and we will sorely miss not going for these next two weeks as it will be closed.
So Onward ‘n’ Upward and Forward, not Backward!
Here are a few of their pictures they sent in.
|Sheep for sale.|
|Elder C with a new Missionary.|
|Often whole area's will have the power turned off for not right or wrong reason. Here is an institute class powered by cell phone lights! Faithful students!|
|Sister Falco when at the MTC!|