NORMAN — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Norman held a large crowd Sunday night during a public devotional.
The devotional featured a couple who talked about two very different spiritual journeys that ended up intertwining in Africa.
Mothers Without Borders Founder Kathy Headlee-Miner gave her message first, talking about the love many people in Africa had for God, and the love that God has for each of his children. She also talked about the impact just one person can have in sharing their love.
Miner recited a quote from Mother Teresa and how the famous woman only helped one person at a time, also reciting a quote about getting closer to Christ by coming together. She told stories about the problems in Africa she and other volunteers have witnessed and helped with.
According to a church press release, Mothers Without Borders is a non-profit organization reaching out to children in
Zambia to address the needs of orphaned and abandoned children in a holistic manner. The organization supports efforts to provided safe shelter, food and clean water, education and access to caring adults.
Every 14 seconds a child loses a parent to AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa. In just one day, 6,100 children will lose a parent, she said, reading several statistics from her PowerPoint Sunday.
“They’re not just numbers to me, they’re children,” Miner said. “This crisis is enormous, but we are bigger.”
By knowing what the problem is, people know where they can start helping, she said.
Miner’s husband, Phillip, shared a different story and different experience with the audience Sunday. He talked about his journey to Africa to portray Jesus Christ in a portrait by Christian artist Liz Lemon Swindle.
Swindle’s painting, set in the African orphanage, helped him find Christ and led to his conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the beginning, he thought of the situation somewhat like portraying Santa Clause and what the children would think if they found out he wasn’t really Jesus.
The audience laughed as he talked about remembering what it was like when he found out Santa Clause wasn’t real and then realized there were young children in the audience listening.
He said he was struggling with maintaining his integrity without jeopardizing the project. He was meant to portray Jesus in order to catch authentic reactions from the children for the portrait. When a little girl asked him who he was, however, he told them his name was Phillip and said he had come to remind them that Jesus loves them.
“I thought I ruined the project,” he said.
But one little girl burst into tears.
“She cried tears the like of which I had never seen before or since,” he said, describing it as a deep and soulful weeping.
The little girl, whose name was Carol, affected both him and Miner, as well as hundreds of others.
Miner described her as an “island in the storm” in a place so devastated by hunger and poverty. The girl was constantly putting others before herself. Even when she had gone days without eating, she stilled tried breaking up a sandwich given to her and passing it out to other children who had already eaten.
The little girl remained positive even when she was diagnosed with AIDS at the age of 12, Miner said.
The girl taught an important lesson: that no matter how insignificant you might think you are, by embodying love, faith and hope, so many people’s lives can be changed, she said.
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