First things first, Elder Barnes, my wonderful compy comp, is transferring to Norköping and I’ll be receiving Elder Shultz, who I know hardly anything about so it will be exciting! Borlänge had a mighty fine week this week after ages of hardship. We found 5 very positive new investigators in just a few days. The work is still quite hard and humbling, but ever so lovely. I would not want it to be any more easier. I need these hardships to make me better, after all.
This week one very specific subject has been impressed upon my soul more than anything else; Children. Every day of personal study I stumbled upon another scripture about children, it seemed all of my dreams were about children, and I had the greatest honour of becoming friends with a nice little gang of neighbourhood children.
“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
Why? What is it about children? Any decent human being, and indeed even many indecent human beings, can soften their hearts and give of themselves liberally, for the welfare of a child. Even many vulgar, immoral, violent people I have seen hold back their crude language and terrible actions when a child is present. They would watch and listen to the most vile of filthy content but absolutely forbid their children to see or listen to it. Why? What is it about children that can get many of the gruffest men to be tamed gentlemen, and many of the coldest selfish adults to soften? It is their innocence.
We have all lost it, even when we try to be the best we can be……….it is just a sad fact of doing that awfully bothersome required activity of growing up. Our faith, our imagination, our optimism, our simplicity, our joy, our innocence, by default of aging, lowers. While many good attributes such as knowledge, diligence, patience and charity for the most part increases as we grow older, the attributes of a child can all but vanish away entirely from our character if we do not work to maintain them.
We are to be humbled and become “as little children” to enter the kingdom of God, meaning, as I am to forsake the childishness of my boyhood, (i.e. my temper tantrums, incessant need to be the centre of attention and stubborn avoidance of memorising the times tables) I need to reclaim the child-like attributes of my boyhood. (i.e. my humble faith in Christ, my humility and my innocent nature) And the best place to look for an example is the children!
Never underestimate children. This week a seven year old in my ward here in Borlänge gave one of the best testimonies I have heard in a very long time. All by herself, she stood boldly at the podium in front of the whole congregation and said (in Swedish of course) “I love my family and Jesus and…..I have a suggestion! I want you all to be much more nicer to each other. Sometimes you may have a reason to be mean but you should still be nice. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” The power of her young sermon surpassed any conjuring of words an adult could say. I could speak at the pulpit for hours on end, quoting from every book from God and from mankind on how and why we ought to love one another, but the simple words from that one brave little girl left a far deeper impression upon the hearts than I could ever give. Children can speak from the spirit, and often pick up what adults cannot….and the words from their sweet innocent mouths can change hearts and change the world.
In everything, it is the children that matter most. If you find it hard to find reason to help the refugees, just remember half of them are children. Say and think whatever you wish about their parents, about their cultures, but could you turn away an innocent child? Can you let a child die?
I can honestly one of the happiest single moments in my life, was in Karlstad, playing barefoot soccer with several dozen Syrian 6-12 year olds at a refugee camp. The sun would set over the beautiful Swedish countryside, as our feet would kick up dust into the evening golden glow. The air was filled with young laughter and my heart felt like it would burst with joy. These adorable children (and believe me, nothing save my future children will I ever find to be more adorable than Syrian children) had seen horrible terror. Many had seen death. Their lives were torn absolutely to shreds before they even reached the age of accountability……and yet, because of the truly heaven-given power of their childhood goodness, they were still so innocent, so good, so happy. They had nothing to call their own but a few miss matched dirty outfits……..it did not matter if they had to wear a little girl’s coat as a little boy……it was warmth and that was good enough… they slept on the floor in cold empty rooms with sobbing and screaming always coming from some other’s nightmare in some other room. They did not have any of the luxuries of the Swedish kids who would always watch them in curiosity from the other side of the fence. Some had lost a mother or a father or both to gunfire or explosives or the harsh journey north through desert and over sea……..and yet, they were so happy and content with their raggedy half inflated soccer bag and sticks and pebbles to be called toys….so happy with beautiful life, even when life for them had been worse than we can ever imagine. Why? How? It has baffled me.
Their parents are going to live with emotional scars which will never fully heal in this life, which is heartbreaking. Their parents will work day and night for their children, pushing through language barriers and racism and persecution and trial after trial after trial in their seemingly hopeless lives. The cold, painful truth is not every refugee will find a happy new life. Many of the parents will have to wait until heaven to receive a full reward of rest for their labours and goodness…… but let us look to the children. There is the hope. These young refugee children, with their muddy second hand clothes and brightly shining eyes, can be tomorrow’s doctors and poets and politicians; to make the world a better place, because they will not forget their humble childhood as a refugee in a dreary camp in Sweden, where they were empty pocketed outcasts in a strange new world. What is now a world destroying tragedy can, 30 years down the road, prove to create one of the greatest generations of mankind. A generation of humility, empathy, modesty, love and respect. A generation molded by the sorrows of their childhood….If we do our part to help them, serve them, give them light and a way up and out of their dark hole of war-torn pain, we can help create a truly incredible generation……because today they are still children, and children are blessings from God.
I wish so dearly I could escape back into childhood for a quick day every now and then…..Back when there were real faeries and elves and trolls in my forest, my Hogwarts acceptance letter was coming soon and the cliffs in my backyard were really castle ruins. Those endless barefoot summer days with my siblings in the woods that surrounded my house , back when responsibilities were minimal and practicality was irrelevant, will always be looked back on with the dearest of fondness. My wise parents raised us with very little television and a great deal of imagination, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
I can not dwell forever longing the past…..what I, and all of us for that matter, must do is provide the same childhood for our children. A childhood lived in such a way that those precious child-like attributes of humility, faith and innocence, can be maintained as they inevitably grow into adults. Only through nurturing our children with love, imagination and God can this world ultimately become a better place….whether they be our children or the children we can influence……the refugee children we can nurture and provide for…
I would highly encourage you to look to the children, whether they be your children, your future children, or the refugee children, and ponder what you can do to give them the necessary childhood to help them create a better world. Jesus Christ was passionate about this. Nothing on this earth is of greater value.
Therefore, no, I do not view it as ineffective use of proselyting time to take a break from knocking on doors to kick around a soccer ball or climb trees with the Iraqi and Syrian kids in the neighbourhood……in fact, that is one of the most effective things I could be doing. I will keep on knock on doors of course…..but equally, I will keep on playing with the children.