Another Christmas is upon us, with all the hustle and bustle that surrounds this time of year. We can so easily be swept up in the commercial and festive spirit of the season. However, the true symbol of Christmas is the birth of the baby Jesus, and He should be the centre of our attention.
What could be the most significant gift we can offer Him? He has said:
“… come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptised in my name; for he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; …” 1
We are living in a wonderful time. The Church is flourishing in the Europe Area, with several new branches, wards, and stakes having been created this year. I have felt great enthusiasm in all the wards and branches I have visited. I can see hope and faith in every footstep. I feel the devotion in the hearts of all those who engage in the work of salvation. The success stories are multiplying, with increasing numbers of our Heavenly Father's children joining the flock and many less-active members returning with a redoubled hope. I can testify that we are experiencing real growth in Europe.
At the last general conference, Bishop Richard C. Edgley said: “One of the most meaningful and important ways to establish real growth in the Church is to reach out and rescue those who have been baptised yet are wandering in a less-active state, void of the blessings and saving ordinances.” 2
How can we engage more actively in this work of “reaching out” to rescue those who have strayed or to find those souls who seek Jesus? How can we as individuals help the Church to grow in Europe?
Last May I presided over the Maidstone stake conference in England. I wanted to talk about the challenge set out by the Area Presidency of making June a month of invitation. I thought it would be nice to invite someone at the airport or during the visits that were scheduled for Saturday morning and thus use my personal example to motivate the saints. However, this did not happen and I returned to my hotel with a feeling of great sadness of "mission not accomplished." Still, I had not given up.
At a reception that evening I met an African lady who helped me ever so kindly. I noticed by her name tag that she could speak three languages, including Portuguese. Soon we started talking and I was able to tell her the purpose of my trip to Maidstone. I invited her to listen to the missionaries and she promptly accepted. During our conversation I realised that she was Cape Verdean. I told her that I visit Cape Verde often and was very fond of a typical dish called “cachupa.” She told me that her mother was an excellent cook and I would be welcome to have lunch with her.
Two months after our conversation I visited Cape Verde and went to see this young woman’s mother with President Roseveltt Teixeira of the newly-created Praia Stake. We had the opportunity to speak with her mother and stepfather and introduce the Church to them. We were very well received and were invited to have lunch with them at a future opportunity.
From this visit I gained another referral of a daughter who studies in Portugal. Soon I arranged for her to be contacted by the nearest group of young single adults.
Extending invitations is simple—we just have to open our mouths and invite others to come unto Christ. I know that my gift of “reaching out” pleased our Saviour, and I will continue to invite all to come unto Christ and accept His invitation:
“Come to me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”3
1. Ether 4:18
2. Bishop Richard C. Edgley, “The Rescue for Real Growth,” General Conference, April, 2012
3. Matthew 11:28-30