Elder and Sister Hodgson are one of the wonderful couples who have been assigned to the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. They have had many spiritual experiences as they have served in Rustenburg and Phokeng. Here is one of those special experiences, related in their own words:
When we arrived in Rustenburg, we
were assigned to the Rustenburg Ward and the Phokeng Branch
to assist in whatever way we could, principally in fellowshipping inactive
members. We were given a very difficult family to fellowship in the Rustenburg
Ward. The father was from another country (
All their troubles escalated about the same time. The family was hit by tragedy when the father’s mother and sister were killed in a fire caused by a candle burning inside their shack. Simultaneously, the young missionary returned home, and of course needed his home. He was most generous in being willing to let the family stay in the shack until they could find a new home. That solution was short lived when the true owner of the property, the missionary’s grandmother, insisted on an immediate eviction. It was the middle of winter and very cold. The prospects for the family were grim.
We were very concerned, and took food to the family periodically. Just about the time all this happened, Elder Hodgson was called to be president of the Phokeng Branch, which ended all association with members of the Rustenburg Ward. Then we learned that our impoverished family really lived within the boundaries of Phokeng and that the bishop of the Rustenburg Ward was sending their records to us in Phokeng. While startled to suddenly have official responsibility for the family, it was in many ways welcome because we now were in a position to care for this family that we had so grown to love. We feel we were asked to care for this family originally because the Lord knew we would become their caretakers in a few months. Although we were familiar with this family, we were at a loss as how to help them.
Then a series of seemingly
miraculous things began to happen. A sister in the Phokeng
Branch said the family was welcome to build a shack on her property. This was a
great blessing because the land in Phokeng belongs to
the king of Phokeng, and foreigners cannot own
property. The property sounded wonderful, but where could the money be raised
to build a shack. The cost of a shack would be about 3,800 rand ($600). That
sounds like so little in some cultures, but in
We remember well the inspiration came to President Hodgson that perhaps this was an opportunity to truly see the Gospel in action. Is not the whole purpose of the church to bless lives and alleviate suffering and help people to grow spiritually? We approached our seven children and 24 grandchildren to see if they might be willing to be involved in a humanitarian project. They were already aware, from our e-mails, of the difficulties the family was facing. We told them the cost of a shack and received an overwhelming response – not just willingness, but thanking us for the opportunity. Some of their comments were: "Count us in! We’d love to help." "Thanks for letting us be a part of building this shack. I think it’s an honor!" "We are excited for the opportunity to serve as a family. My kids want to do a lemonade stand and bake sale on Saturday and donate all the proceeds to the African Project." We were shocked to hear of our grandchildren having bake sales, selling snow cones, etc. and to hear of one pair of very young grandchildren raising 1000 rand in one afternoon, and another raising over 100 rand in one hour.
We could now build a shack for this impoverished family. We were just speechless with joy. To see the family’s reaction was truly a rewarding moment. The mother exclaimed: "You mean we will have our own shack?" This was beyond anything she had ever dreamed of – her own home. Although the shack looks simple and crowded, a neighbor saw it and said: "You don’t have a shack, you have a home."
The love shown by our children did more than build a shack. The mother who had been so hurt previously has regained all her trust in the Church and its members. We now have a family of nine attending regularly. They have three Aaronic Priesthood holders with another just around the corner. The father is learned and is now serving every Sunday as the Melchizedek Priesthood teacher in the branch. His wife loves children and will likely be serving in the Primary.
And lastly, the
issue of employment. After years
of unemployment, another blessing has come. A counselor in the branch
presidency became aware of a job. Jobs are incredibly hard to find, especially
being from another country (
The following pictures show some of our grandchildren busily raising money for their "African Family” and a most grateful and happy family standing proudly beside their new home. How blessed we are to have the Gospel in our lives to teach us charity and to love and serve others.
President and Sister Hodgson