Sunday I attended church in Hangzhou where we had a wonderful sacrament meeting that included a young couple from Ukraine who were the concluding speakers.
The talk by the young Ukrainian woman was uplifting and beautiful. My favorite part was her story of an LDS man in her congregation in Ukraine who was born with some severe physical problems that made it difficult for him to walk. In fact, she told me after the talk, the doctors had said that he would never walk, but as his faith grew while still a young child be believed that he could and needed to, and taught himself to walk around age five (I may have details wrong here–will try to check later). His physical limitations were still so severe, though, that it seemed unlikely that he could serve on a regular mission, but he really wanted to serve and applied to serve anyway.
If I understood correctly, it would require special permission from Salt Lake, and he was elated when it came and his application to serve was accepted. He served in Russia, as I recall, and inspired everyone by being one of the hardest working missionaries. He helped bring people into the Church and inspired members and missionaries in his mission and at home. He continues to inspire others today. She asked the man why he wanted to sacrifice so much to go serve a mission. His answer: “I want to be useful to the Lord.”
Those words struck me deeply. Many times I finding myself struggling with the wrong goals, struggling to know which direction to pursue. I think that Ukrainian perspective could help bring more clarity by asking, “How can I be more useful to the Lord?”
I was also inspired by her husband’s talk. I had spoken with him before the sacrament meeting and was impressed with how kind and friendly he was. But I knew he was uneasy with English. His English is excellent, but sometimes he struggles. As he began speaking, it was clear that the pressure of speaking to a group added to his burden. After a couple of minutes, he turned to a woman on the front row and said something to her. I was surprised to see her jump up, hand a baby to her husband who was on the stand, and stand next to the speaker.
I had met the woman before and had recently seen her and her husband in a video that a non-LDS Chinese man is making to help bring lessons from their positive example of parenting and family love to strengthen other families in China. From that video, I knew she could speak Chinese pretty well in addition to her native English. But then the Ukrainian man began speaking in Russian, and she translated into English. Suddenly a good talk became much more interesting. Subtle points and emotion were more easily conveyed. She even choked up at part of his talk, and so did I. Yes, she had served a Russian-speaking mission in Georgia, near Chechnya. Her Russian is still pretty good, it seems.
When I talked to her afterwards, I learned that I was not the only one who had a prayer in their heart for this good man as he spoke. She had been praying in her heart for him, for she knew of his fears and nervousness. She prayed that his message might be conveyed, that people might understand and be touched. As with many prayers on behalf of others, those offering the prayer frequently become part of the miracle.
Many thanks to the beautiful Latter-day Saints of Ukraine. May we all pray for Ukraine. May we pray for others around us as well. Imagine what life would be like if the people next to us on the subway, in the halls at school, on the streets, in our homes, and in our congregations were more likely to be praying for us than ignoring, mocking, or criticizing us.