When I was a young boy about eight years old, in my small heart swelled a desire to serve a mission. When I was 14, I started going with the elders on exchanges. This increased my desire for the work, and I also developed a love for it.
Who could have predicted that a dark cloud would soon threaten my desire to be a missionary?
When our most precious earthly possessions were taken from us, including our small house in Gweru, Zimbabwe, there was nowhere to go. Our few possessions were soaked by the rains, so everything was rotting. We were destitute, and the load of care hung heavily on my single mother’s shoulders.
There was nothing to be done except move to my grandmother’s rural homestead. I proceeded to do my advanced-level studies at a local rural high school. Life had changed. School was far away, so I had to walk many kilometers daily. There was no electricity; I had to study by candlelight. Water had to be fetched from a nearby borehole.
In the midst of these tribulations, my family was united in prayer, but we were far away from where the chapel was. We often felt the Spirit in that remote area as we sang hymns and taught one another the gospel. There was little hope, but I found more hope in those moments when the Spirit embraced us so strongly.
My flickering hope and desire to serve a mission had to overcome arduous times. My country fell into political turmoil and economic decline. It became expensive for me to travel to my aunt’s house in the city, where I could attend church on school holidays. In the midst of all these hardships, I lost view of what I had hoped for—to serve a full-time mission.
After two years of education in my rural area, I went back to Gweru. I started attending church again, and the Spirit I had felt before returned. My family remained in the rural area, and they suffered many problems there.
During that time I submitted my mission papers. The money I used for medical and dental checkups could have been used to sustain my suffering family. But they did not murmur or question my motives. Both my grandmother and mother knew that I had grown in my desire to serve the Lord. My mission call came in February 2003. I was to serve in the South Africa Durban Mission. The preparations were difficult, since I had to do it all on my own.
Time neared for me to leave for the mission field. In April I traveled to the rural area to bid my family farewell. When I walked toward the small hut my family slept in, the gladness I was expecting was not there. My grandma lay on a mattress, ailing. No words could come out of her mouth. Tears welled up in my eyes, and my heart was heavy. Grandma could not even tell I was there.
The next morning before the cock crowed, I woke up to go back to the city. I said my last good-bye to my seemingly lifeless grandma. Then she spoke in Shona—a language of Zimbabwe—in a clear voice: “Tafadzwa, ufambe zvakanaka.” Travel safely. That is all she could say. I knew that she would die while I was on my mission.
That night my grandmother stopped breathing. I went back for the funeral, and my departure to my mission was filled with sorrow, grief, and heartache. There were no smiles that usually accompany someone leaving for the mission field.
As I served, I couldn’t help but imagine what my family was going through back home, where life, at least for the moment, was almost unbearable.
But it was for my family, my country, and everyone facing hardships that I hoped to continue in faith on my mission. The heavens are not blind. To all who suffer in many nations, remember the words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church” (D&C 100:15).
I can’t say that things were easy on my mission or that they were easy when I returned, but I am comforted by the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (see Rom. 8:35–39).
I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission. I solemnly testify that Jesus is the Christ and that through Him we can find hope where there is no hope.
“The missionary work of the Church is a panorama of more than a century of service and privations and hardships and sacrifices. The closer one is to the program, the more completely one can understand and appreciate it. When my grandfather Heber C. Kimball left for his mission, he and Brigham Young left their families destitute and ill and they themselves needed help to get into the carriage which took them from their homes. As they started off they raised themselves … and waved back to their weeping wives and children. Thousands of people came into the Church as a result of those missions, and tens of thousands have been benefited indirectly and are now enjoying the blessings of the gospel because of those sacrifices. To one who did not understand, such devotion and sacrifice on the part of those men would have been considered foolhardy and silly. But to the Young and Kimball families it was a mark of great faith. And to the thousands who will, through the eternities, call the names of those missionaries blessed, the privations and sacrifice were not wasted.”
—President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 253.