Junior Mkhabele of Johannesburg, South Africa


Junior Mkhabele of Johannesburg, South Africa

Jackson Junior Mkhabele (8) (who goes by Junior) likes to jump on his bike and go riding with his friends. He also likes to play soccer and watch TV. But what he loves doing is spending time with his father, Jackson; his mother, Dorah; and his sisters, Zodwa Majujwa (18) and Thembisile Lucille (4).

On Saturdays and holidays, Junior loves traveling with them to nature reserves and other South African wonderlands, swimming with them in the backyard pool, singing with them, and working with them. He loves sharing family home evenings, family prayer, and family scripture study with them. He loves welcoming the home teachers to teach them. He especially loves sitting with them in sacrament meeting—and that’s where a problem arises. As a member of the stake presidency, Brother Mkhabele often visits other wards. In his own ward, he’s invited to sit on the stand. From Junior’s point of view, this leaves a big, dad-shaped hole right in the middle of the family, and it makes him sad. Junior understands that his dad is doing the Lord’s work, but it still hurts. For Junior, it’s a real sacrifice, and he makes it with real faith.

Faith comes naturally to Junior. Reading doesn’t. And yet, he reads the scriptures faithfully. The two most memorable people he has met there are Nephi and Jonah. “If God tells Nephi to do something, he does it. He’s not afraid of what people will do or think. And when Jonah got on a ship to run away from God, a big fish swallowed him. From that I learned not to be selfish or run away.” Following her big brother’s example, Thembisile loves the scriptures, too. Though she can’t read yet, she insists on having her own copy for scripture study.

Junior has been blessed with a bright mind, but it isn’t like a lamp that shines steadily in one place. It’s more like lightning that flashes brilliantly here and there all across the sky. With such a lively brain, Junior sometimes finds it hard to focus on one thing for long. One thing he does focus on, though, is the gospel.

Junior was recently baptized. “Father baptized me and gave me the gift of the Holy Ghost. I felt fresh and clean.”

Brother Mkhabele was also deeply moved by the event. “It was the most edifying [inspiring] experience of my life. When I confirmed him, the Spirit was so great that I did not lack for words to bless him. I felt that the blessing he received was really inspired. And since then I’ve seen a change in him. He is beginning to concentrate better. He thinks more carefully before doing things. He feels a greater need to help people.”

Not long after his baptism, Junior was visiting another ward’s fast and testimony meeting with his father. He felt impressed to bear his testimony for the first time in public. “I wanted to see if I could bear my testimony in front of everyone. I couldn’t. Then Dad stood up and helped me, and I could.” Junior’s testimony is simple and strong. “I know that God lives. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet.”

Junior also has great faith in prayer. “When I pray, Heavenly Father gives me what I ask for unless it would not be right for me. If He doesn’t give me the things I want, it means they wouldn’t be right for me.” Honest as usual, he adds, “I usually pray at night, but sometimes I forget and just go to sleep. In the morning when I remember that I didn’t pray, I feel sad.”

Junior and Thembisile both love going to Primary. When they come home, Junior eagerly tells everyone what he learned. Thembisile loves singing Primary songs. They both love family home evening. Every Monday night Thembisile reminds her parents about family home evening. Ever hopeful, she sometimes reminds them on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, as well.

Thembisile and Junior have fun together. They play with blocks, swing on the swing set, and splash in the backyard pool. Sometimes they fight, but they always make up, often by building something together with Thembisile’s beloved blocks.

When Brother and Sister Mkhabele visited Junior’s school for a progress report, his teacher said, “Junior is so ambitious! He tells me that he wants to go on a mission.” Brother Mkhabele laughs. “She didn’t know that Junior belongs to a church in which most young men his age are planning on missions.”

Junior is already preparing for his. He has asked his mother to teach him how to cook and do his laundry and talked with his father about finances. Junior sees only one problem with missionary service. “I want my own room.” Why go on a mission and risk having a roommate? “Because I don’t want to be selfish to people who don’t know about the gospel. It will make them happy, and I want all the world to be happy.”

After school each day, Junior polishes his shoes and does his homework. After the evening meal, he takes all the dishes to the kitchen and sometimes helps to wash them. He does these chores by assignment, but he does many others by choice. His mother reports that he sometimes says, “Mom, you’re tired. You relax, and I’ll do everything for you.” He especially loves working on projects with his dad. He can do many things for himself—cooking breakfast, for example. He sometimes has an assistant, because whenever Thembisile sees anyone working (or playing), she joins in and helps.

When he grows up, Junior wants to be a policeman, a lawyer, and a college instructor, like his father; and a school teacher and dietitian, like his mother. And like his mother and father, he wants to be a good parent and a true Latter-day Saint. He’s on the right path.

[photos] Photography by Melvin Leavitt

[photos] Junior enjoys playing with his sister Thembisile and visiting the animals in nature preserves.

[photos] Lions and ostriches are nice, but Junior’s best friends are his family.

[photos] Lessons from Primary leaders and home teachers help prepare Junior to enter the temple and serve a mission.