'An exhilarated busload of young people, all from Harare, Zimbabwe arrived at the Johannesburg Temple grounds on Monday, June 26. All 23 were from the Highlands Ward, including their adult leaders. They had worked, saved, and prepared for months for the opportunity to attend the temple and perform baptisms for their kindred dead.
Simply obtaining the required passports and permissions was difficult enough. Because the passport office was closed on weekends, the young people had to use school time to queue at the passport office and then keep checking back to see if their passports had arrived. Young Women advisor Sister Peterson said, “Unfortunately, some of the passports did not arrive at all for nineteen more of our youth, who we had to leave behind.”
“When everybody else got on the bus and the engine started, I began to cry,” she said. “I watched as the bus pulled away from me. There I was, standing there with my belongings.”
However, Bishop Spencer also stayed behind, determined to get this young woman on the temple trip. Using different cell phone techniques, he managed to get through to her mother, who was en route. They all agreed to meet at the road port where the bus would be waiting. Gillian says, “We met my mom and she signed the papers and hugged me. Everyone cheered when I finally boarded the bus!”
One young man on the bus was Russel Manashe Nyasocha, 15, who nearly missed the trip on purpose. He reported feeling “stressed and moody” in the weeks leading up to the temple trip and wondered if it would be worth it. Finally he asked Bishop Spencer to give him a blessing. He just made the request without mentioning any of the concerns that agitated him. He says, “As [Bishop Spencer] was giving me the blessing, it mentioned all the things I was feeling. I know that it was the Holy Spirit speaking through him. This strengthened my faith in the gospel and my testimony. I know Heavenly Father knows me and loves me. I felt assured I should go forward, and I’m so glad I came on this trip!”
From Tuesday through Thursday of that week the young people visited the Family History Centre and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. They had Mutual with the Johannesburg 1st Ward youth, and later a youth devotional with Elder Chatora in the Temple Chapel. They often burst into song throughout the week. People working in the Johannesburg Area Offices left their lunches to watch the young people singing outside. Their harmonious versions of 'I Am a Child of God' and 'I Love to See the Temple' were particularly touching.
Most importantly, they participated in many baptisms at the Temple. Their responses to their experiences were profound: “ The temple is so beautiful, ' said one young woman, adding, 'There is such a spirit of love inside.” Another young woman reported, “I was baptized today for my grandmother. When they pronounced her name, I felt her happiness and peace.” One young man said, “I feel good, because now I have been to the temple, I have hope. I know where I came from, why I am here, and where I’ll be going after this life. I have received a better understanding of who I am.”
What about the nineteen young people who did not make the trip because they had not received their passports? They have their passports now. They also have dedicated youth leaders who not only made the first trip possible, but never forgot the ones left behind. They explained, 'They have already planned another temple trip for August!”