Out of Africa a message is heard. What is this message that seems to be coming from so very many different places, and day-by-day is growing in strength and in scope? It is the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The message is being heard by more and more people and they in turn are telling family, friends and neighbors about a gospel which brings hope and the promise of salvation for all those who are willing to fully embrace and live the standards this gospel sets forth. Those who forsake the ways of their past, who pray, study, and live the principles the dedicated and able missionaries teach, find joy and understanding like they have never heard nor felt before.
This gospel is refreshing and satisfying, like delicious water bubbling from a cold and beautiful spring on the side of a tree shaded hill. It is a pleasant soul filling process that quenches deep spiritual thirst just as that cool spring water revives a tired, dusty, parched and weary traveler. This beautiful gospel answers age old questions not answered satisfactorily until these latter days. The scriptures the missionaries effectively use reveal truths long hidden from the casual, unmotivated reader.
Where missionaries in some parts of this vast world must work ever so diligently to hopefully find a family, or an individual to teach, the missionaries in many African countries have large teaching pools of those persons who are anxious and eager to be taught and baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is certainly not uncommon for the missionaries to have ten or more baptisms to attend to every week or two.
The missionaries are diverse in their individual backgrounds. There are many who arrive from the United States, England, Canada, and other nations, as well as the fine young men and women who come from Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other countries where the Church has been established. Those coming from the African countries are generally black members, but there are also those caucasian members whose roots run deep from several generations of their families being members. Almost all of these young men and women enter the MTC here in Johannesburg, to be lovingly and effectively taught to become an army of God, anxious to go forth and prove themselves in the battle for human souls as well trained ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an air of anticipation and excitement, in their walk and in their voices. They are happy to be here, ready to go forth and serve, even as Helaman's stripling warriors were well prepared for their assignment. These missionaries are capable and full of great faith to do as they had been prepared to do, to teach and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Almost all of the black missionaries come out of places of poverty. So many live in the townships, where thousands upon thousands live in conditions which bring tears to your eyes as you see the terribly difficult conditions deep, abject poverty places on those who have relatively little hope of ever being able to move forward to a better life. Africa is a land of rich minerals and millions of acres of rich productive farm land. It is a land where there are so many millionaires, and so very many more millions of the impoverished, untrained, visionless, masses of humanity. What is the hope for Africa? What is the hope for all the many ills which beset so many of God's children? The answer to all these many problems is found in the message of the restored gospel. Here can be found a new view of life, and life’s purpose. Here is found the courage to listen, learn, accept and commit one’s self to the possibilities of a new day dawning, to embrace fully and assuredly that which cannot be bought, that which a loving Heavenly Father, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, make available to those who will but try to learn and grow. It is a marvelous thing to witness the joy seen in the faces of the members here. They become fully dedicated to the Lord and His work. Oh, they struggle and have challenges - don’t we all - but they see something tangible, something beautiful and rewarding in every way as they take hold of the restored gospel truths.
We look in amazement every Sunday as we see how very well dressed are those who live in such squalor conditions. The men and boys wear brilliantly white shirts, and the women and girls are dressed in their very finest, they only wear on Sunday, or for some very special occasion. They bring their scriptures with them and they use those scriptures. When they give talks, even the very young, speak with confidence and love for the Lord their God. When the priests say the sacrament prayers, it is a thing of beauty. When they sing, they really sound wonderful, for they sing from their hearts and with emotion and great feeling. Last Fast Day, near the end of the service, two young men bore testimonies which brought tears to our eyes. Theirs were not just casual, unfeeling words spoken; these two gave from the depth of their very beings the thoughts that sprang from deep within their souls. Their testimonies were what one would normally hear from someone with decades of rich spiritual background, but these two could not have been a day over the age of ten. Oh, what composure, and their testimony was not casual, repetitious, nor what is commonly heard from one of that age. Giants, (spiritual), are being trained and prepared in the role of leaders in the Church and in the land.
Do we love Africa? Oh yes! We love the land and we love the people. There is here, “the arm of the Lord stretched out still”. The Spirit is brooding over Africa. The Church is growing and it is a delight to be here, and be a part of this, the Lord’s work. We are busy, we have a large number of students who are attending a college, university, trade school, or some other training NGO, (non-government organization). It is a challenge to work through the methods used to bring fruition to the Perpetual Education Fund program of helping the impoverished to realize educational opportunities not even dreamed of here ten years ago.
We send our love and greetings to you. May the Lord bless you abundantly in every righteous effort. May your testimonies grow as you nourish them with the good word of God. The gospel is true, the work is marvelous. These are the end times. Shall we labor diligently so as to not have any empty chairs in the kingdom of our Father?
Elder Dean and Sister Margaret Hooks
Perpetual Education Fund Missionaries
Johannesburg, South Africa