With Glad Hearts…
“In my life I have been blessed abundantly. I believe that of one thing or another we may all with thanksgiving speak these words. It is not that we have all been blessed equally, nevertheless, it seems that someone else is always in greater need than ourselves, and thus abundance is in our hands to hoard or share that all may benefit equally. A man planting only one seed, when he has ten to spare, will not harvest the same he could share if he had planted in faith and good care. As the good word expounds, ‘He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully’ (2 Corinthians 9:6). If we with glad hearts sow bountifully, and share in the same spirit of which we are blessed, our harvest will be bountiful indeed.”Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 23 September 2023
During missionary service in 1984 I was assigned to serve in a small community of saints on the outskirts of Asunción, Paraguay, called Luque. It was a struggling branch that was lacking in leadership, unity, and was suffering a plague of poverty and near homelessness for some of its members. I commenced my Luque service in January, partnered with an upright new companion Elder Scott Woolley. Although I found a certain hopelessness to the place, at the same time my heart found a new home, and over the following seven months I would witness the unification of a loving, outreaching, and hope filled people.
The roots for this Zion community to gather was always there. They were good people, willing to give the Lord everything required, and to share all they had for the benefit of others, but it took leaders aroused by the Spirit of the Lord, to establish peace and harmony in this beautiful place.
I saw miracles as the Lord through humble faithfulness of good people was able to make small things great, weak men strong, and through the dedicated efforts of willing servants was able to turn that struggling branch into a mighty congregation. With hard work, fasting and much prayer the Lord guided our efforts and provided the leadership that was so desperately needed in Luque.
With a new branch president and others baptized into the fold, a rejuvenation occurred that strengthened all the members, those already present, and a new flock, ready to serve and be fed. Presidente Vitale taught the importance of the law of the fast, for all to give generously, self-reliance, and unity to achieve Zion. Like the Apostle Paul of old, he encouraged the saints of Luque to “…give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) Members responded faithfully to the branch president’s vision and soon the curses of disharmony, greed, idleness and poverty dwindled away.
Not only were members generously giving offerings, but they were actively working together to help improve the situations of others.
It started with sharing the Lord’s message of hope amidst hopelessness through His redeeming love and sacrifice. With a desire to improve the lives of all, home improvement projects were initiated by a shared community. Soon, on a small piece of land, branch members gathered and built a home with a sweet widowed mother, for her children, from the ground up. We dug foundations and outhouse facilities, we laid bricks from the ground to the roof, and in two days she had a home for her family.
A much larger plot of land was soon-after purchased and the saints of Luque, rich and poor in harmony, labored with and for members who had been living in substandard conditions. They made their own bricks from the red Paraguay clay, they provided their own labor, but more importantly they provided for themselves and for each other with cheerful giving hearts. They named their neighborhood for an ancient prophet who lead his people in harmony with God’s laws, calling their new Zion “Barrio Nefi.” It was a miracle and it was achieved by saints wanting to share and wanting to be self-reliant. They wanted to live after the way of the kingdom that God was establishing.
Just a few months later that once struggling branch became the first ward of the Church in Luque, and a man who had been baptized during that period of rejuvenation became its first bishop, Obispo Raul Alderetes. Today in the vicinity of Luque there are eleven thriving congregations, thousands of faithful followers of Christ, building God’s kingdom and taking care of His flock.
By seeking for ways to help one another and diligently following the counsels given by the Lord through His servants, the saints of Luque not only benefited those in need, but blessed their entire community. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “Rich or poor, we are to ‘do what we can’ when others are in need. …God will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again” (General Conference, October 2014).
Communities where love, equality, compassion, and self-reliance, in abundance, can be achieved. It takes unity, a desire to overcome our circumstances, a willingness to work hard, and cheerful givers who not only give in plenty, but in meager circumstances with glad hearts. With a willingness to help ourselves and to help one another, without reservation or judgment, we can achieve the kind of harmony in Zion that the Lord wants for us in our communities and families. Let us share the love of our hearts, bear one another’s burdens and help the Lord fulfill the promises that He has made to us all. May we give generously, receiving in humility and grace, with glad hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.