As the ancient bus lumbered into view, bearing 50 Church members who had traveled 25 hours from Harare, Zimbabwe, Johannesburg Temple Pres. Charles Canfield marveled that the vehicle had actually made the journey Aug. 18. But, the travelers emerged from the bus, excited and eagerly looking forward to the experiences they were about to have in going to the temple.
Among the passengers were branch presidents, quorum presidents, Relief Society leaders, and children and babies. One passenger used a wheelchair; another used crutches to walk.All were soon enveloped in an environment of love, service and joy as they received instructions, were endowed as individuals and then received sealing ordinances as families.
Sabata Maturure, president of the Nguboyenta Branch of more than 100 members - 75 percent of whom are from the Jairos Jiri Center for people with disabilities - commented from his wheelchair: "My spirit is full. I have seen the love of the brothers and sisters in the temple and this has given me a picture of the eternities. What I have seen in the temple and have witnessed for myself will be so much help to me personally. Some day, many people from Zimbabwe will come to the temple with the help of the Lord. With the Lord, everything is possible. The gospel is true and I live for it. I would like to stay here forever in the temple.
"Being here is just magnificent. It will make a difference in our family. We feel we are actually doing the best we can to get to the celestial kingdom. All that remains is for us to keep the commandments to the best of our ability."
The thoughts of Pres. Maturure's wife, Susan, dwelt on the future of their daughters as she commented: "I pray that the Lord will guide our daughters to come to the temple."
Pres. Peter Tembo, first counselor in the Zimbabwe Harare Mission presidency, said: "Our leaders kept telling the people about the temple, but none had been to the temple. With them being able to come to the temple, they will be able to inspire others to go also. The crowning glory for me was being sealed as a family. You forget the troubles of the world outside. Even the children felt the Spirit."
Gibson Sala, president of the Remari Branch in Harare, went to the temple with his wife, Betty, and their children for sealing ordinances. "It is wonderful," Pres. Sala said. "I wish all could attend the temple. Everything I saw and felt is very spiritual, very different from what you feel anywhere else. Even the children enjoyed it."
Pres. Martin Humudikuwanda of the Mbare Branch said: "My dreams have come true. I am sealed to [my wifeT. I will never look back again in the world. It is only through faith that one can be led to the happiest life."
Daniel Mutata, president of the Enterprise Branch in Harare, reflected: "When I was reading a book about the temple, I was nervous. Then I found that the temple workers welcomed us with love, and their hospitality was wonderful. I am grateful to be sealed to my family. We have been told we could do work for the dead, and today I was able to do it. That made me very happy."
Milakafu Chisembe, president of the Mufakose Branch, traveled alone to the temple by bus for 36 hours in September 1991 to search for greater "spiritual power for preaching, teaching and doing all the Lord's work." (See Church News, Jan. 4, 1992.) Among those who traveled to the temple in August, Pres. Chisembe was sealed to his wife, Erica. He said: "I feel I am growing spiritually. I know God always loves me and is leading me into the right channels."
Martin Shirto, a recently returned missionary and now elders quorum president in the Mutare Branch, said the understanding gained through temple attendance made the greatest impact. "The word of God is true," he said. "There will be better commitment to the gospel by the members who have been to the temple. It will uplift them and increase their willingness to sacrifice and to be obedient."
On returning to Zimbabwe, five of the families stayed overnight at the mission home in Harare with Elder Allen H. and Sister Carmen Tuttle before continuing the journey to their homes. Despite the exhaustion from the grueling travel schedule, they talked of their trip. "They expressed their feelings. They said how they had learned from the South African saints who brought food, and from the temple missionaries and wives of members of the Africa Area presidency who demonstrated how Christ would have them treat each other in the family," Sister Tuttle said. "They [those who went to the templeT are eager to teach others in their branches how `husbands and wives are supposed to treat each other and their children.' "
Elder Richard P. Lindsay of the Seventy and president of the Arica Area commented on the contributions made by the South African members who spent many hours of labor and their own resources in providing food for the 50 Zimbabwean saints. "It was a beautiful example," he said, "of true Christian love so needed in Africa in these challenging times."
Pres. Canfield commented: "The Johannesburg temple is for all the countries of Africa. The day after the Zimbabwe saints left for home, local South African saints for the first time performed all the ordinances and endowment sessions without help from temple missionaries from America. The spiritual growth and the love I have seen in the Johannesburg temple, among the many different people of Africa regardless of race, culture, or nationality have really touched my heart."