Man of few words radiates serenity

It was Wednesday night, Sept. 11. The last session at our beautiful Johannesburg South Africa Temple had concluded and the ordinances workers had completed their tasks. I turned out the lights in the back of the temple on my way to the office I shared with Pres. Ben De Wet, first counselor in the temple presidency. He was talking with another brother as I bade him good night and left the temple.

I had hardly arrived home when the telephone rang. It was Pres. De Wet relaying a message he had just received from a police officer at the train station in Johannesburg. There was a member from Zimbabwe, who had been traveling for 36 hours by train, who had just arrived and was waiting at the police station [at the train station]. He spoke a dialect that no one at the station was able to understand, except the words "Johannesburg Temple."He had produced a well-worn temple schedule and had asked the police officer to contact us. After checking his passport and visa, which were in order, the officer had called the temple and, fortunately, Pres. De Wet was still there. He relayed the message to me that a member was evidently coming to the temple from Zimbabwe and may be in some kind of trouble. I agreed to find him and bring him to Duke's Court, where the missionaries live and where there was room to stay.

I asked Elder Maurice Bateman, former Johannesburg South Africa Mission president and currently a temple missionary, to accompany me on the drive into downtown Johannesburg to the train station. We had to pass through areas that had been the scene of violence the night before and which were off limits to missionaries. The police were in full view that night with flashing lights and dog patrols.

We parked our car at one entrance to the train station, chained up the steering wheel - a regular procedure - and wished we could have chained the car itself to the nearby lamp post. After wandering through this huge dismal building, we finally came upon the police station area marked by a single light over a doorway down a dimly lit hall. We gave them the name of the person we thought we were to pick up, and out stepped a young stern-faced man in uniform.

We stated we were there to pick up a man from Zimbabwe on behalf of someone who had called from that station. The stern expression on the face of the policeman melted into a warm smile as he explained it was he who had made the call to the temple.

The police had offered to let the man stay at the station that night to protect him from the violence in the streets and were willing to assist him in any way to reach his destination, but he had insisted that he must contact the temple. No one there understood the language of this man, but they did feel the calm serenity that seemed to radiate from him.

The young police officer went back into the offices and came out with a small black man, about 5 feet tall, carrying a big suitcase. We were introduced to Sandalamu Milikafu Chisembe. While Elder Bateman was getting acquainted with Brother Chisembe, the young policeman who had been so impressed by this little man began asking questions about our temple and inquired if he could come and visit it.

The hustle and bustle of the police station was not too conducive to explaining the gospel and the temple. However, I was able to tell him about a book that I would get to him, which, if he read with pure intent, would teach him more about the Church and the function of temples better than I could at that time. We parted with the typical South African handshake, each feeling he had gained a friend.

Our conversation on the way home with Brother Chisembe was difficult, since we couldn't understand a word of his language, and, as he indicated [in a letter he carried with himT, he couldn't "hear" English. But our spirits spoke to each other as though we were long-time friends.

Upon arriving at Duke's Court, I was able to review Brother Chisembe's papers. In addition to the passport, visa and temple recommend, he had a large manila envelope containing documents of baptisms, ordinations and other records for himself and all his family. Also included was a most touching letter that he apparently had someone write for him in Engish explaining why he come so far.

The letter identified him as S.M. Chisembe, branch president, Mufakose Branch, Harare, Zimbabwe. Following is a copy of the letter, with its wording and punctuation unchanged:

"I have come to the temple to seek for spiritual power, for preaching, teaching, and doing all the Lord's work. This is the only way I can communicate with you, because I only can talk Chewa and I can hardly hear English. I know that there's no other place to get spiritual power other than the temple.

"There are seven townships meeting at Mufakose branch for sacrament meeting. Our number of attendance sometimes goes up but sometimes drops. But I am aware of the problem. When missionaries teach the new members. It is our duties to do home teaching.

"We the branch president, first counselor, and all priesthood find it very difficult to go to members who are far away. Our buses are very unreliable. That's why I have come here to seek for solution to this problem I am facing at this branch.

"I had only a few dollars but through asking from the heavenly Father I have managed to come here. From here I will go to Malawi and see two brothers and my daughter because I have sent a Book of Mormon. They also want me to explain about the book so that they can join us. Luke 11:5-13.

"(Signed) S.M. Chisembe"

After reading the letter and brushing some droplets from my cheeks, I knew why this little man in ragged clothes commanded so much respect from all he met. The Spirit of the Lord is his companion. This great branch president had come to the temple to receive greater "spiritual power for preaching, teaching, and doing all the Lord's work," as well as to fulfill an important ordinance in his own life.

By the time Pres. Chisembe had spent two days in the temple and a weekend with the temple missionaries and other Church members, the great spirit he possessed had unforgettably touched many, many lives even though the spoken words were few.

While waiting for the bus to take him back to his home, he bore his testimony to a young man who spoke his language and could interpret for us. His testimony was full of love and appreciation for our Savior and Lord, and included this humble statement: "So many big businessmen around the buildings where I work, but Heavenly Father chose me."

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