My two earlier blogs about the Banda family were intended to set the stage for this last blog. However, since Carole and I have each posted intervening blogs, I doubt the earlier messages will have the intended effect. In any event, I would like to share some of what transpired during our first visit with the Bandas and a few of my impressions. Theirs was the first home I visited; Carole had already been in several homes during earlier compassionate sister visits. Our visit was in the mid-afternoon, but the room was dark, the only light coming through the front door, left slightly ajar for ventilation, and a small wood framed window. Like most homes in the townships flanking Mount Soche, the Bandas’ home was humble, small rooms, a cement floor, minimal furniture, no indoor water or plumbing. It was not cozy or quaint, no fireplace, handcrafted wood furniture, pewter platters, pitchers, and everyday plates, nothing like the vintage New England cottages of the 1700s and 1800s. Instead, it was barren and dusty. Yet for the Bandas, it was home--their place of refuge from the world, however modest it might be.
Early in the conversation, we asked the Bandas about their experiences with the Church. They have been members for just three years. I asked if they felt the Church had been good for them. Given that they are stalwarts in the Zingwangwa Branch, I expected them to be positive. But I wasn’t really prepared for Brother Banda’s response. He said that his testimony of the Church had given him great hope Before joining the Church, he felt despondent. But after becoming a member, he had hope of a better world, not just for the world after this, but also for the here and now.
Perhaps, given the setting, I found his remarks to be extremely moving. Even now it is hard to me to capture the power of the moment. Here I was, sitting in a home more humble than any I had ever visited, talking to a wonderful, but poor family, who face, almost daily, challenges unlike any that either I or Carole or any of our immediate family had ever faced, wondering how they manage to keep up their spirits. And yet that is not how they respond. They do not harbor in their hearts resentment, or bitterness, or complaints. But instead, they go forth with a spirit of hope. They find the gospel empowering.
Not surprisingly, this event brought immediately to mind some of the well-known scriptural passages dealing with “faith, hope and charity.” Faith, being the first principle of the gospel, is the bedrock for both hope and charity, for without faith there is neither hope nor charity (at least not charity as it is defined in the scriptures). “Wherefore, if a man have faith: he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope. And again behold, I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.” Moroni 7:42-43. And those who are meek and lowly of heart are those who have charity, the pure love of Christ. And what precisely is the hope that grows out of faith. It is the hope of every good thing that flows from the promises of the Lord—the hope of a better world here; of receiving the blessings that come from obedience; --the hope of being cleansed of our sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ and of enjoying the blessings of eternal life; --the hope of a better world in the world to come—where there is no more death neither sorrow neither crying neither pain, for all these former things will have passed away. And the hope of being reunited with loved ones when we die.
There was nothing abstract or academic or dry about Brother Banda’s belief and hope or that of his family. Here is a family whose life has been radically changed as a result of joining the Church. Now they go forth with a new vision of their potential. They believe they are sons and daughters of God and He cares for them. Their lives are full of meaning. They have spiritual gifts and talents that they can and should develop. The Lord promises to bless them as they are faithful and endure to the end. These are the beliefs that change individuals, and families from the inside—certainly not aid programs or narrow humanitarian efforts. The Bandas are a wonderful family today, but I know they will continue to be transformed, little by little, as they nurture the faith they now have.