When Horst Scharffs was 14 years old, his mother gave him money for a railroad ticket and sent him into the country to try to buy food. The Scharffs lived in Hamburg, Germany, during World War I, and food was scarce and had to be rationed. Townspeople often tried to purchase food from farmers who sometimes had a little extra.
After a two-hour train ride, Horst arrived at a village where he began walking door-to-door. Though he visited more than 40 houses, no one would sell him anything.
Horst was determined not to return home empty-handed, so he decided to walk 2.8 miles (4.5 km) to the next village. After walking about 45 minutes and stopping at all of the houses along the way, he met a farmer who sold him 100 pounds (45 kg) of potatoes. Horst couldn’t believe his luck! The most he had hoped for was a pound of butter or a few pounds of bacon.
The farmer lifted the sack of potatoes across Horst’s shoulders, and Horst started back the way he had come. It wasn’t long before he realized the difficulty of his task. The potatoes, which weighed at least as much as he did, were almost too great a burden for an undernourished boy. If he dropped the load onto the roadside to rest, he might not be able to lift it back onto his shoulders.
As Horst wrestled with this problem, he suddenly thought of his mother, who had taught him from the scriptures about the power of prayer. He remembered a story in the Book of Mormon about the people of Alma in the land of Helam. These Nephites, who were in bondage to the Lamanites, asked the Lord to help them bear their burdens. The Lord answered their prayers by making their burdens seem light. It occurred to Horst that the Lord might also lighten the weight of his burden.
Horst began to pray. Instantly, he felt as if the load had been taken off his shoulders. He was able to walk with ease all the way to the train station without resting.
At the station, another miracle occurred. Village police had the authority to take away any food they found on passengers. Many people tried to hide their food, but there was no way Horst could hide 100 pounds of potatoes. To his surprise, nothing was said when he boarded the train, and he was allowed to take the potatoes home to his mother.
Those potatoes not only fed Horst’s family during a difficult time, but they also fed his spirit—he developed an unshakable testimony that the Lord hears and answers prayers.
“Our faith is acquired through prayer with a sincere desire to draw close to God and trust in Him to bear our burdens.”
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Finding Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 73.