The best advice we received prior to serving our mission in Zambia was “Be yourself.” That came from Brenda “Beans” Tate who shared it as she and her husband Dave were wrapping up their three-year stint as mission leaders in Puerto Rico. “Go about doing good,” from Elder David A. Bednar was the best advice we received while serving here in the country called “One People One Nation.”
Even though we have been at this business for longer than a year, it remains a daily struggle to balance when we are helping and when we are enabling. Witnessing the poverty in virtually every literal step we take has been far and away the prevalent challenge for Janna and myself.
Long ago and far away while on a mission in North Carolina, I remember visiting a family and saying to myself, “Man! They are poor.” It was the first time I ever remember knowing someone who did not have the basics of food and shelter within arms’ reach.
We received advice that as missionaries we are not in a position to economically assist those who need help. However, we have primarily ignored those well-meaning words and decided to follow what we have been taught about helping those in need.
We do what you do. We help out where we can. It may not make a difference in the overarching Zambian economy, but we feel it may help someone in need.
King Benjamin’s teachings ring true:
“…also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
“Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just…” (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 4:16-17).
And of course, the line that constantly rings between my ears: “For behold, are we not all beggars?” (Mosiah 4:19) We are.
The Savior taught this Christian principle throughout his ministry. Days before the crucifixion, Jesus taught us to assist those who are thirsty, hungry, and without clothing and homes. He told us to visit those who are sick and imprisoned.
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
These divine teachings prove perplexing for us to follow at times.
Since our arrival in Luanshya four months ago, every time we leave the grocery store, we are greeted by a herd of young boys. “Hungry, boss” is the most common phrase we hear. These young men are homeless and probably without parents. Handing out money — regardless of the amount — is a terrible idea, so we decided to buy a small bag of apples each time we shop to share with these boys. We affectionally refer to them as the “Apple Dumpling Gang.”
In order to relieve the stress (and sometimes guilt) by not helping more, Janna and I decided we will continue to follow Elder Bednar’s advice and “Go about doing good.”
Charlie Roberts and his wife Janna are currently serving in the Zambia Lusaka Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.