Some of my greatest spiritual experiences have come from visiting less-active members. I have had the privilege of learning from them, and as a result my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has been strengthened. When I engage in the rescue, I feel the Saviour’s love more abundantly as my understanding and gratitude for His Atonement is increased. I leave each visit with a clearer vision of His work and His glory.
Recently, three fellow priesthood holders and I were in the home of a mother who was the head of the household and caring for at least four children. After a brief visit, one of my colleagues asked this matriarch to share her favourite hymn. Without hesitation she responded with “Come, Ye Children of the Lord.” They had not attended church for years, and we asked if we could sing that hymn for the family. Her face lit up as we sang, and the room reverberated with the beautiful words of the hymn. There were smiles on every face as the Spirit of the Lord filled the room. It was easy for us to invite this wonderful family back to church and share with them how our Savior wants them to return.
In another city we were in the home of a less-active young man named Melusi Ngwenya. He was Tasara Makasi busy writing exams, and he gladly accepted when we asked him if he would like a blessing. Joining us on that visit was a seminary friend of Melusi’s. This inspired friend reminded Melusi of the good questions he would ask in class and that his participation had inspired and helped other students. His big smile suggested that he had no idea that he had positively impacted anyone.
As we were leaving Melusi’s homestead, we stopped by his pigeon house and noticed that there were 10 birds inside and the cage door was open. We asked why he leaves the door open and if the birds ever fly away. With another big smile he responded, “They always come back; they know there is food and water here and that it is home.” He then told us that he actually had about 50 pigeons and the rest would return that evening.
As we left this young man, his words “they always come back; they know it is home” did not leave my mind. I thought of the Church as the shelter, with food, water, and safety. Some may wander at times and pursue strange and forbidden paths, but when we have eyes that see and ears that hear, we return to partake of the living water and bread of life and the embrace of our Savior. We then realize that “His hand is stretched out still” (2 Nephi 19:17), beckoning us to come unto Him that we may “have eternal life” (3 Nephi 9:14). I was reminded again of my responsibility to make it easier for any who may have strayed to come back through loving them and not judging them.
A third visit involved myself, the bishop, and another colleague. We entered the home of an active member and grandmother who was caring for at least 10 less-active children and young adults. After we got acquainted, I invited them to share their favourite scriptures. Diana promptly replied that Jeremiah 29:11 was a meaningful scripture to her. (This is a beautiful scripture and not often quoted.) I asked her why she loved this scripture, and she explained that it reminds her that the Lord loves her. She then paraphrased Isaiah 49:16, saying, “I know that He loves me and will never forget me because He has written my name in the palms of His hands.”
I will not forget this sweet experience with Diana and her scriptures. We took this opportunity to discuss our need to remember Him. We spoke of the blessing of partaking the sacrament every week as one way of remembering Him. We highlighted the significance of the promise, “If ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you” (3 Nephi 18:7).
Melusi and the two families we visited are once again actively participating in church. Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the Seventy said, “As we go to the rescue, God gives us power, encouragement, and blessings” (“To the Rescue: We Can Do It,” Apr. 2016 general conference). I have learned that we will receive help and inspiration when we are on the Lord’s errand. We surely do not go alone when we go to rescue His children. He has indeed graven us upon the palms of His hands and will therefore never forget any of His children.