'I Cannot Say the Smallest Part Which I Feel'

'I Cannot Say the Smallest Part Which I Feel'
In 1988 Elder Kyle Marchant and I were assigned by President  RJ Snow to work in the Soweto Branch.  Brother Lekwati was the Branch President and Sister Julia Mavimbela was the Relief Society president with Sister Dolly Ndholovu, Brother Moses Mahlangu and many other wonderful, committed,  enthusiastic members.  Oh how we loved singing, preaching and teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to these good faithful saints.
Chris Howden.JPG

We were introduced to a bright young lady named Gladys Saiah, her sister Ellen and the Saiah brothers.  Gladys was the most outspoken and inquisitive.  After several weeks of teaching the gospel, one particular Sunday, Gladys seemed unusually reserved and quiet.  We asked her what was wrong.  She relayed an experience I will never forget. 

She told us about a frightening dream in which she saw her ancestors, her uncles and grandparents, gathered around her bed.  They appeared to be in distress in a place that looked dark and foreboding.  This was no abstract vision, but a communication from people whom she knew very well.  They were so real to Gladys that she called out in fear to her mother for help.  After describing the experience, her wise mother, Typhness, instructed her to “Ask the umfundisi (us) - perhaps they can show you how to get them out of jail.”

Those simple words electrified us.  We were so grateful for an opportunity to talk about the plan of salvation, where we come from, why we are here and especially what happens to us when we die.  The glorious atonement of Jesus Christ allows the work of salvation to continue in the spirit world with vicarious ordinances performed on the earth.  As we taught Gladys, Ellen and the boys, the Holy Ghost was shed upon us in great abundance and we were all enlightened and uplifted.  A brilliant, radiant smile reflected Gladys’ newly acquired knowledge.  Doubt and fear were replaced by a clear, bright conviction of truth confirmed by the still small voice.

On a subsequent Sunday we took the members of the Soweto branch on a trip to the Johannesburg temple grounds.  As we walked I asked Gladys how she felt on these holy grounds.  In a voice deep with feeling she expressed to me that she was quite sure that those same ancestors were now waiting in that building (pointing to the Johannesburg temple) for her to help them become free.  Gladys was baptized as a member of the LDS Church shortly after that.  What a glorious experience it was.

Over the past 26 years I have tried to contact Gladys with no success.  I have often wondered about her and her family.  Life is hard for young women in Soweto.  Was she safe?  Did she still 'sing the song of redeeming love'? Through a series of miraculous events in June 2015, I was introduced to two faithful priesthood holders from Soweto.  They kindly went out of their way to meet me at short notice and at considerable inconvenience to themselves.  Upon inquiry, contact information was provided for Gladys.  I can’t express the feelings that filled my heart when we began to speak to each other.  We did “…rejoice exceedingly….” (Alma 17:2).  We shed tears of joy and gratitude.  

That evening I went to the Saiah home in Soweto, reminiscing and being introduced to the expanding family of 22 baptized LDS members that have resulted from Gladys’ acceptance of the restored gospel. A nephew is preparing to serve a full-time mission in a few months. A daughter has been sealed to a returned missionary. Brothers, sisters, parents, nephews and nieces have all embraced the light of the everlasting gospel.
Ellen Saiah, Typhness Saiah, Gladys Saiah.jpg

I drove home with a feeling of deep reverence. In my top shirt pocket I had several blue ordinance name cards of deceased Saiah relatives awaiting sacred ordinances in the temple. The work of salvation continues with both the living and the dead and “…I cannot say the smallest part which I feel…” (Alma 26:16)