Saturday, November 23, 2013

17-23 November 2013

Beautiful African Trees

It has been an exciting week. Teaching people how to be more competitive in finding employment is a challenge but a rewarding one. It is all about honing skills, developing poise, gaining self-confidence and having the determination to succeed. This past week we were invited to teach these skills to a group of university students that were in their final week of school. They heard about the workshops we put on through church friends and wanted to see for themselves if it would help them to improve their competitive edge. At the end of the course, they expressed their amazement at what they were able to learn. One individual who had already had the opportunity to have several interviews stated he wished he had had the workshop prior to the interviews – he felt he would have been much better prepared to respond to the questions he was asked.

At the conclusion of the course and after sharing some peanut butter sandwiches, one of the students asked us to take a seat; he had something he wanted to say to us. He explained, with solemn sincerity, that he/they could not understand why we would be willing to come and teach them for two days the tools they needed to be better equipped to get employment, feed them lunches and not ask anything in return. Such treatment they have never experienced and were truly thankful for it.

They were a great group (there goes those superlatives again). They were smart, energetic and ready to tackle the world and the world will be a better place because of them.


 Deng, a university student from South Sudan, posing with Lee in front of this very unusual 
tree trunk.

In another setting, we spoke with two entrepreneuristic young men who had taken the self-employment workshop. As a result of the course, one of them is being trained on how to be an appliance repair technician (by the fellow in the next story below) and will soon have his own business operating in the township where he lives. His vision is to service several townships and have employees. The seed of self-reliance was planted and nurtured with guidance and encouragement and it will soon bear its fruit to provide for his family and perhaps many more.

The other individual is determined to be a motivational counselor with hopes to work with schools to help their students to more diligently apply themselves while there. He admittedly did not and as a result struggles to pull himself out of poverty. However, with his newly gained insight and self-confidence, he has set his goals and knows what he must do to achieve them. He knows he has a long way to go but believes if he can have mentors like us beside him, he will succeed.

These are the ingots we are allowed to store in our sack of gratitude as we work with these people struggling to find light in a gloomy world.

 Joshua's story:
“Joshua, you must make up your mind what you want to become, this is the third time you have chosen a different path to walk in life. You have studied at major universities to become a professional but have always changed your mind. The Lord has blessed you with a great mind and he has called you to the ministry but you have not obeyed. You have studied to be a doctor, a lawyer and a preacher of the good word. You have a congregation of over 500 people who love to hear you preach; you mesmerize them with your humor, body gyrations and music. The music is loud but it causes people to feel of the spirit, the spirit is with them as they dance and sing and howl while you play. They all love you, my son, and now you say you are thinking about leaving the ministry, I don’t understand you any more.”

“I just don’t feel that it is right”, Joshua explained – “there is just something missing – it is not what the Lord wants and I must find out the truth and preach that.”

Joshua can still hear his father rant as he tried to convince him of the errors of his life. His mother, in support of his father, reminded him again, as she had so many times of late, that he is, and always has been, a “naughty” boy. And he will never forget the stunned look both of them gave him when he told them that he was taking lessons from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ missionaries. Incredulously, they both stared at him. When emotions exploded unchecked and words finally came from his father, they were venomous and cutting. Red faced and shouting his father demanded that he immediately stop participating with this god-forbidden, heathenistic cult group.

Choked with emotion of his own, Joshua tried to explain to them both that for the first time in his life he felt that he had found the true gospel of Jesus Christ and that he just had to find out for himself if it was true. “If it is true,” he explained, “then I have been teaching false truths to all these people who you say love me. I have got to know the truth.”   

“You are no longer my son,” his father shouted. “Get out of my house and never come back; I don’t want to see you again – never.”

Joshua recalls that it has been many years since that dreadful night and though he has not seen his father since that day, his mother has visited him occasionally. The last time she came, she turned on the TV only to have her 7 year old granddaughter get up and turn it off. Turning to her son, she questioned, “What did she do that for?” “That movie is not appropriate for us to watch, it is PG-13,” he said. “But I am an adult,” his mother fired back, “and I can watch it if I want to.” “You can, if you choose to, mother,” Joshua responded, “but not in this house.” “Joshua, you sure have changed from that naughty boy you used to be and I am proud to say you are now a “good boy,” his mother responded.

Joshua told this story as he spoke in church last Sunday. He concluded by saying, “I lost part of my family and my means to make a living when I decided to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And although the choice was difficult to make emotionally, I knew I had to do it or reject the truth. God had shown me the truth that I had prayed for all my adult life and now that He had shown me, I had to make a decision to accept it or reject it. The day that I entered into the waters of baptism witnessing to God that I was willing to take upon me His name, was the happiest day of my life and I have never regretted it.” 

I have heard others say they had heard people tell such a story as Joshua’s, but I have never heard anyone tell it first hand. As I listened to him, the story much more complete than I am able to remember, the Holy Ghost bore witness to me that what he was saying was the truth. We must all, in some way, sacrifice to know the truth of the gospel but it seems some pay a higher price than others. But is the price ever too high to pay to know beyond any doubt the truth? I don’t believe so and I am glad to be among those who know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. 

Joshua has gone on to have his own appliance repair business. While not repairing appliances, he is busy helping the poorest of the poor start their own business and serving others in any way he can.

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