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Pure religion: Mending a heart

In far-away Sri Lanka, a priest by the name of Father Cruz marched through the streets warning the people not to listen to the Mormon elders. They could not be trusted, he told them. They would corrupt those who listened to them.

David and Marva Coombs, of Washington, Utah, were serving a humanitarian mission in Sri Lanka when they heard stories of Father Cruz. "He is an enemy of the Church," the members told them. "Perhaps it is time for us to meet him," Elder and Sister Coombs replied.

When they first met face to face, Father Cruz was reserved and suspicious. "Why are you here?" he asked.

"Before you ask us to leave," Elder Coombs said quickly, "we are not missionaries. We honor you that you serve the people of this area. We appreciate what you are doing. We have not come to change your faith, but to help."

The priest looked at them warily and asked, "What do I have to do to receive this help?"

"Nothing."

"Do I have to listen to your missionaries?"

"No."

"Read your Book of Mormon?"

"No."

At that, the barriers seemed to fall and Father Cruz softened. "God has sent you to me," he said at last. "In my parish are two convents. If I had sewing machines, the nuns could learn a trade. Perhaps they could even earn a little money to provide them with food and other necessities."

After the project was proposed and approved, Elder and Sister Coombs took Father Cruz shopping for sewing machines. They spent time together talking about their very different homes, cultures, and their cherished desires to help others. Slowly, Father Cruz's attitude began to change. And Father Cruz, the enemy of the Church, became Father Cruz, the friend.

"I have been told many lies about you Mormons," he said to Elder Coombs afterwards. "I know now that they were not true. You have been a blessing to me and the people of my parish." — Neil K. Newell, Welfare Services

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