“So Let Him Give,” New Era, Aug. 1988, 9
“So Let Him Give”
Many times I’d heard lessons on service. Now, as I knelt on the floor of a little adobe hut, they made sense.
The two months that I spent in the Missionary Training Center had prepared me well for the mission experience; I had a reasonable command of the language and felt comfortable teaching the memorized discussions. Culture classes had been sufficient to prepare me for the cultural conditions that abounded in Central America, and with daily vitamins I seemed to be staying healthy in spite of food that I was unaccustomed to and never seemed to get enough of. Sure, there were a lot of things about living in Honduras that took awhile to adjust to, but the actual missionary work didn’t seem to be a big adjustment.
I truly believed in and thought that I really understood most of the truths that I was sharing. I had grown up in an LDS home and was confident that my background had provided me with just about as much as there was to know about basic concepts like faith, baptism, and service. I’d probably heard Sunday School lessons on service a hundred times. I’d always participated in Church service projects and had even done a big community service project to earn an Eagle Scout Award. And now I was giving up two years of my life to share the gospel with people I didn’t even know. When I left on my mission, I was sure that if I hadn’t understood the meaning of service before, I certainly did now. However, in this foreign land, I was finding out that there were quite a few things that I didn’t fully comprehend—and service was one of them.
The rough and dusty trails that led from hut to hut among the palm and papaya trees had become familiar to me in the short time that I had been in the village of Santa Barbara. I had also grown accustomed to cold showers at 6:00 A.M. and was actually developing a taste for bananas at every meal. Our area was small enough that my companion and I knew the location of the homes of every member, and we were able to pass by at least once a week to encourage them to attend Sunday meetings.
The Sortos were a humble family with great faith, and I knew them as the family whose dog always came with them to the small rented building that we used as a chapel. He would sit patiently and wait for the meetings to end and then disappear along with the rest of the family up into the hills. Brother Sorto made adobe bricks for a living and would pick up an odd job here and there cleaning the brush from someone’s field. This he did with a machete, inch by inch, as he literally crawled along the ground.
One day as we approached the one-room, thatched-roof home of the Sorto family, the little dog with near perfect church attendance ran down the trail barking and wagging his tail to greet us. Looking into the open doorway we could see that Brother Sorto was lying on the floor, and the other family members were gathered around. As my companion and I got closer we could see that one of Brother Sorto’s thin brown legs was covered with a mixture of dirt and blood. A moment of explanation from Sister Sorto painted a sickening picture. While cleaning a field that morning Brother Sorto had been swinging his sharpened machete from side to side, cutting away the weeds and brush. The machete had slipped and, instead of swinging along the ground, had dug into his shin. He had made his way home and was now lying quietly waiting for the bleeding to stop.
It quickly became evident that no one quite knew what to do, so my companion and I went right to work. He took the oldest son with him and went down into the pueblo to round up some gauze and perhaps a little rubbing alcohol. I remained with Brother Sorto to clean the dirt and blood from his leg. Sister Sorto brought me a large towel and a basin filled with water that she had been warming over the fire. I tied the towel around my waist and knelt down on the dirt floor next to Brother Sorto. The floor was smooth and hard from being constantly swept with large, dried palm branches. As I began to bathe his feet with the clean water, Brother Sorto looked up, smiled, and took my hand. With the other I continued to clean away the dirt and blood.
“Esta bien, hermano.”
“Te quiero, elder,” he replied.
My heart filled with love for this man, and suddenly my mind was flooded with images from the scriptures:
“He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
“After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:4–5).
So many times I had read the account of Christ performing that sacred ordinance. So often I had sat through lessons on service and humility, and now, suddenly, kneeling on the floor in a little adobe hut in the hills of Honduras, it all made sense. Jesus, throughout his ministry, showed us the perfect example through the love and service he gave. Service should be given because there is love, not because there is an obligation.
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
As the dirt and blood were washed away I could see that the wound was not as deep as I had first anticipated, but the lesson I had learned affected me more deeply than I could have imagined.
Maybe the true meaning of service isn’t found in all of those big projects but rather in the simple everyday kindnesses that we can show one another.