I was reading the story of Alma and Amulek and their encounter with Zeezrom. The thought came to me forcefully that God really loved Zeezrom. I have never thought of that story in that way, but this time that is what I learned.
Three weeks ago I was cleaning the windows at the church when a fellow came through the gate looking like he wanted to talk. He said his name is Collinx and he is from Nigeria. He is on St Kitts to attend one of the medical schools here. He appears to be a little older than many of the foreign students we have seen here. He has the typical musical African accent, soft voice with points on the end of some of his words. He said he does not start school until next year and came early to see if he could find a job. He wanted to help us clean the church, but we were just finishing. I told him to come on Sunday and perhaps some of the local members could help him with his questions. He said he did not want to be paid to work on the church because that was working for God.
Collinx came to church the next day and had his questions answered. He is on a student visa so he is not permitted to work at all. If he does, he might be sent back home. But he stayed for Sunday school and priesthood meeting. I visited with him after the meeting. He wanted to come back.
Collinx did not come the next Sunday, which I must admit was not surprising. We don’t like to get our hopes unrealistically elevated. But yesterday he was there again. He missed sacrament meeting because he has to walk quite a ways to the building, but he attended the Gospel Principles class where I was filling as the teacher because the branch mission leader didn’t show up, again. The lesson was on The Fall and how it fits in with the doctrine of The Atonement. Maybe it was a good lesson and maybe it was a title confusing, but I felt that I had everyone’s attention and we read a lot from 2 Nephi 2.
After Sunday school we went outside under the mango tree for our priesthood meeting. We had two not-yet-members and more who are recent converts, including Suresh. The discussion was about home teaching. Suresh spoke up strongly for the need to act in ways that show our love for Jesus, as Jesus shows his love for us. For a new member he is really moving forward. It was a good discussion. Then at the end of the class Collinx indicated that he would like to add something. He was raised Catholic in Nigeria but during his university studies he became Pentecostal. He could not find his church here, but now he is interested in learning more about us. He said he feels something different here and he wants to come back.
I asked Collinx if he has a Book of Mormon. He wanted to know if that was something that Muhammad wrote. He is not Muslim, but there are many Nigerians who are and they do not get along well with the Christians. I told him that the Book of Mormon is a record of God’s dealings with a different group of people in America, and that it teaches about Jesus Christ, his doctrine, and his visit to these other people. I went to the truck to get a copy of the Book. I wrote a brief testimony inside it, addressed to My Friend Collinx, and signed it, Love, Elder Patterson. He accepted the book very graciously and showed in his words and his face that he appreciated the gift and that he would honor it.
But there is more. Last week Gaye and I went to the station to fuel up the truck. As we were sitting there I heard a rap on my window, and there was Collinx, smiling at me. I put the window down and he warmly greeted me. I told him I had missed him at church and he said he would try to come this Sunday (which was yesterday). So yesterday he came because he felt that we had been put in the same place so he would meet me and be invited to come to church.
I believe God knows each of us, and I believe God intersects our lives in real ways. I am a little hesitant to accept everything that takes place as an active expression of God’s will. However, by their fruits ye shall know them. Maybe I don’t have enough faith to accept all the ways God intervenes in my life, and in the lives of others. Maybe we were really brought together at the station because God loves Collinx and wants to bless him. I am sure that the result is true, I am not so sure about the cause. However, my faith is growing stronger. I don’t need folk lore to help me gain a stronger testimony. In fact, those stories have the opposite effect on me. We are put here in this mortal situation so we can learn from our experiences to discern good from evil.
Is God in control? Does everything that happens occur because God wants it that way? He notices the fall of every sparrow, but does God make every sparrow’s fall take place? Now we are getting into some of the questions that I have had to put in my box and place on the shelf. But is God in control? And if God is not in control, then who or what is? Is it just random? Is it sometimes random and sometimes orderly? I don’t know, but I do believe that the order of things in the universe is according to God’s will.
If God is not in control, then it really does not matter who or what is in control. I really believe Satan wants to be in control, because he is the one who wants to act upon us, not let us act. We are here to act, not to be acted upon, so Satan is not a good master. I choose to believe that God is in control, even when it might not appear to be the case. I believe that God cares about each of us. He knows our needs and he knows what we need to learn. Furthermore, he knows what we need to go through to learn those lessons. So do I have the courage to say with President Kimball: Give me this mountain? I pray every day for the faith to endure to the end, faithfully.