Julia Mavimbela
April 2021

“Julia Mavimbela,” Friend, April 2021

Pioneers in Every Land

Julia Mavimbela

Community Leader in South Africa

“Love comes only by forgiving others.”

woman standing in garden

Julia wiped her brow. Then she picked up her shovel and started digging. Right now, the ground around her was a patch of dirt. But soon it would become a beautiful garden.

Times were hard for Black people in South Africa. Laws there kept Blacks and Whites separate. Many Black people had been forced to leave their homes and live in certain areas away from White people, and they couldn’t vote. There had been violence in the township where Julia lived, and the schools were closed because of it. Sometimes it was dangerous to be outside.

But that didn’t stop Julia. She wanted to do something to bring goodness to her community. That’s why she was starting a garden.

Some children saw Julia working. “Can we help?” they asked.

“Of course,” said Julia. She handed them each a shovel. She showed them how to loosen the soil and dig up weeds.

“Let us dig the soil of bitterness, throw in a seed of love, and see what fruits it can give us,” she said. “Love comes only by forgiving others.”

Weeks passed, and more plants grew. Other people came to work in the garden. They pulled tall weeds. They planted more seeds. They watered the plants. It made Julia happy to see so many people helping.

One day Julia met two young men. Julia was surprised because White people rarely came to her neighborhood. They said they were missionaries. She invited them to share a message in her home.

When Julia’s son heard they were coming, he was shocked. “Why did you invite them?” he said. “They are White. It’s not safe.”

But Julia trusted the missionaries. “These men are different,” Julia said. “They are preaching peace.”

When the missionaries came, Julia welcomed them in. One of them noticed a photo on the mantle. It was from Julia’s wedding.

“Who is that?” the missionary asked, pointing to the photo.

“My husband, John.” Julia looked down. “He died in a car crash.”

The missionary nodded. “We believe families can be together forever, even after they die.”

A feeling of peace washed over Julia. She felt happy to learn about God’s plan and kept meeting with the missionaries. Love for the gospel grew in Julia’s heart, just like the plants in her garden. Soon she decided to be baptized.

At church, Julia met lots of new people. Some were Black. Some were White. But they all served and learned together.

Julia showed the children at church how to help in her garden. “We must be soft in our hearts, like this soil,” she said. “We must make a place for the gospel within us. We must make a place for love.”

Thirteen years after Julia’s baptism, the laws separating Black people and White people in South Africa ended.

There are almost 70,000 members of the Church in South Africa today.

South Africa has 11 official languages.

Julia helped start Women for Peace, a group to promote unity and peace in South Africa.

She was one of the first temple workers in the Johannesburg South Africa Temple.

Julia was a teacher. She taught children to read when they worked in her garden.

Friend Magazine, Global 2021/04 Apr

Illustrations by Tracy Bishop