“Ministering To Our Father’s Children” is a series of articles compiling selected journal excerpts of Brother Christensen, who has travelled to many parts of the world providing charitable service to the poorest of our Heavenly Father's children, many living under the most severe of conditions. Experiences he describes [without editing] have been organized into collections that demonstrate Christ-like attributes or qualities shown by these wonderful people.
D&C 78:19 He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorius.
Some murmur when the sky is clear
And wholly bright to view,
If one small speck of dark appear
In their great heaven of blue:
And some with thankful love are filled,
If but one streak of light,
One ray of God’s good mercy, gild
The darkness of their night.
Henry B. Eyring, (General Conference, October 1989)
Over the past eight years I have travelled the world, seeking out children who have been orphaned by disaster, disease, violence or poverty. This endeavour has taken me to Haiti, the Philippines, Guyana, Japan and many parts of Africa.
Although born and raised in Canada, I have felt a need to help my young brothers and sisters wherever they might be. I have sought out those who could not help themselves and provided the blessings my Father has given me with the charge to, 'Feed my sheep'. These accounts are some of the many wonderful experiences I had through this work in Africa.
We live in a very blessed situation. Canada is safe, clean and provides for everything we need temporally. Our standard of living is so much higher than many parts of the world. It is hard to imagine people struggling to find water to drink or food to keep them alive. In Africa this is a common occurrence. This work I have undertaken can best be summarized by the beautiful hymn, “Because I Have Been Given Much”, Hymns, #219.
The children of Africa express sincere gratitude for the simplest of blessings. A cup of water, an orange or a small stuffed animal. The things they treasure the most are each other and their relationship with God. They love to sing and do so with all their heart. They do not despair for the things that are out of their reach, but rather enjoy the meagre blessings they do receive.
Journal Entry: BREAD CRUMBS FOR LUNCH
It was midday and we were visiting a children's home. The 100 children had gathered for their main meal of the day. I could see that they were anxious to be fed. As I watched each child line up for their portion, my heart sunk as they approached the table and were each given a handful of bread morsels. That was it, that was the meal. Yet there was no complaining as each child took his food and sat down to eat. We have been helping them for two years now and things have improved.
On one occasion, we brought new clothing and shoes for all the children. As each child was fitted with new pants, they excitedly scurried downstairs to try them on. One little boy returned back upstairs in pants that were obviously too big for him. He was beaming as he held up his new trousers with one hand. At that point, we had started handing out candy and he realized he had a great dilemma. If he held up his pants, his hands were not be free to pick up the candy. He had a choice to make. It was quick and simple. Down with the pants and go for the candy.
Today, we visited another children's home. We started supporting this one two months ago and the effect has been rather dramatic. The whole disposition of the children is much brighter. They have been able to go from two meals a day to three and the meals have become more nutritious. They were also able to purchase beds for many of the children who were sleeping on the floor. The children sang songs of gratitude and one sweet young girl gave a prayer thanking God for our coming and asked God to bless and protect us for all we were doing for them. I helped her understand that the things we provide don’t really come from us, but rather they are blessings from God and we are only the delivery men. It was a wonderful visit.
In Africa, schooling is a challenge as well as being a great blessing. Although it is supposed to be free for the primary years, with the requirement to supply their own uniforms and supplies, many orphaned children cannot attend school. Once a child misses the first few years of school, they are seen as too old to be admitted in later years. On the positive side, all the children love going to school. The conditions of the schools are often very poor with bad lighting, few books or supplies and teachers who often only have a very basic education themselves. Most of the lessons are done through rote memorization and do not involve problem solving.
One day, I was visiting a school and it was an arithmetic class for 14-year-olds. Once I determined their ability to add and subtract, I held a contest. The prize was 200 shillings ($2.50) to the person who could first solve the problem. Everyone was then sitting on the edge of their seats. I went to the chalkboard and proceeded to outline a very long series of additions and subtractions as fast as I could write. They all worked furiously to come up with the correct figure. Some started to work as teams to combine their abilities. It was fun to watch. After about ten minutes, one young boy came up with the right answer and received the prize. We all laughed and I saw that he had just found many who desired to be his new best friend.
We had informed the villagers of Amaya, deep in the interior of Ethiopia, that we would visit their village. We were held up elsewhere throughout the day and determined that we might not have the time to visit them. Despite the delay, we felt impressed that we should still seek out the village. As we followed the directions given, it soon became clear that this village was so remote that there was no road to it. As we travelled across the open landscape, we came across a small river, only then did we see that the villagers had made a crude bridge for our vehicle to cross. We came across three more rivers and, in each case, a small bridge had been constructed for our truck.
Once we arrived in the village, the people came from all directions to “see the white men”. They led us to a large tree in the centre of the buildings where all the people gathered. The children had all climbed the tree to get a good view. Not being able to speak Ethiopian, we were provided a translator. Three men were appointed to convey to us the situation in the village. The first rose to his feet and conveyed that they needed benches in the school. I thought this was an odd request so I asked why. He explained that the school walls are only sticks covered with mud and the floor is dirt. When the heavy rains come, the water washes right through the building turning the dirt into mud and the children become sick sitting in the mud. The second man then rose and explained that they really need clean water. He pointed out that they use the same creek water as the animals and the animal waste contaminates the water, again making the children sick. Finally, the third man then stood up and expressed that they needed a road. Again, I asked why as they have no vehicles and walk everywhere. He explained that in Ethiopia there is one doctor for every 80,000 people, so there is no doctor in the village. When a child becomes sick, they use a wheelbarrow to take him or her to the nearest doctor and sometimes the child does not survive the trip.