Some of our recent teaching experiences (photos below) have uniquely brought to mind, a passage of New Testament scripture, which accounts for the world-wide characteristic of today's Christianity. Subsequent to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, He had conferred the Holy Ghost upon His Apostles and commanded them to feed His sheep. They proceeded to do so, traveling about Israel, sharing the good news of His gospel and seeking converts only among the Jews, as those outside the Abrahamic covenant (Gentiles,) were considered to be unworthy, unclean. The Apostles so proselyted in the face of peril, as Israel was ruled at the time by Rome, which was not tolerant of this new religion and its leaders.
In the tenth chapter of Acts, we read of an event which would become the tipping point, where, by the will of God, His Church would leave the tight confines of Israel and advance into the world, to become available to all mankind.
This episode starts in Caesarea, as a certain Roman Centurion named Cornelius, a devout, God-fearing man, who was kind to the poor and prayed to God always, was visited by an angel and told that his "alms [had] come up for a memorial before God." Therefore, he was to send men to Joppa (on the Mediterranean coast - about 33 miles distance, or a couple of days journey by chariot) and seek out a man named Peter who would give him advice, who was the senior Apostle, the president and prophet of the new Church of Christ. Cornelius immediately complied by sending an entourage of trusted soldiers to Joppa.
Meanwhile, the next day, Peter, while praying on the roof of his dwelling, became very hungry and fell into a "trance", or vision, where he saw a vessel descend from heaven, wherein were all manner for four footed beasts and creeping things, and a voice said to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat," to which Peter answered, "Not so Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." [This reflected Peter's strict adherence to the restrictive Jewish health code of the day that precluded the eating various kinds of meat from certain hoofed and wild animals.]
To Peter's refusal, the Voice then said, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." This exchange occurred three times, and then the vessel was taken back up into heaven. As Peter awoke from this vision, and queried what it might mean, Cornelius's men arrived at the gate of his residence and the Spirit told him that three men sought him, and that he was to go with them. Without that spiritual direction, Peter may have been reluctant to go with them, seeing that he and his followers faced persecution at the hands of the Romans. However, because of the Spirit's direction and the mens' explanation, he readily went with them to the house of Cornelius.
Meanwhile, Cornelius had called together all his kinsmen and friends ("many,") awaiting Peter's arrival. As Peter approached, Cornelius went out to meet him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. Peter took him up saying, "Stand up; I myself also am a man." And then, seemingly now comprehending the meaning of his earlier vision, he said to them, "Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean." Cornelius said to him, "We [are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God."
Then, Peter said, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (We are all His children, and He loves us all equally. He desires that we all know His saving gospel.)
Then he proceeded to enumerate the gospel message (first principles and ordinances, the atonement) to this gathering, as do our missionaries today: "The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published thoughout Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."
As Peter so taught by the Spirit, "the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard his word. And they of the circumcision (Jews,) as many as came with Peter, were astonished, because that on the Gentiles also, was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." And Peter said, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" And thus, Cornelius and his house became the first Gentiles to be baptized as Christians.
This area of the world, British Columbia, has become an expansive melting pot of the world, accepting immigrants of virtually any nationality. A few weeks ago, while sitting in a park with we observed Korean Elders Kim (full-blood Korean born in Korea, raised in Boise) and Murray (half Korean, half Caucasian,) teach in English, two attentive Buddhist women from Tibet, who like Cornelius are good, God-fearing people, but who had no prior concept of Jesus Christ and His gospel. They talked of good and bad karma, reincarnation, etc., but I believe they were impressed when Elder Murray told them that the atonement of Jesus Christ could take away their bad karma, and provide them immortality through resurrection. They agreed to a follow-up appointment to learn more.
Earlier that week, we had helped teach a man from Iran who announced that it was time for him to become a Christian, that he had read the Farsi Book of Mormon in two days, and that he knew it to be true. He was particularly impressed with the kindness and gentility of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (p.s. he decided not to be baptized because of the safety of his sisters.)
Later in the week, we helped Elders Okamoto and Porter teach a Korean woman who had become discouraged by divorce and single parenthood, who felt that she had lost her way, that she needed something sound to give her confidence to move forward. I believe she has found it in the attentive teaching of Elders Okamoto and Porter.
Debby has recently taken on the responsibility of teaching an ESL (English as a Second Language) class twice a week at the mission office. Most of the class members are Chinese (Richmond, BC is more than 70% Chinese), and some have no English skills. One of the class members is currently also being taught the message of Christ in her own language by young missionaries. We have been blessed to observe some of that activity as well.
Just last week, again with Korean Elders Kim and Murray, in the same park as before,...
we had opportunity to help share the gospel message with two asian roommates, one from Japan and the other from Korea.
Obviously intelligent and bright-eyed, neither of them had any firm religious affiliation. We'll see where that goes.
Last week on a visit to Kelowna, in the Okanagan interior of BC, we spent some quality time with Elders Huni, Davis, and Ortiz. They readily express confidence in their knowledge of the true gospel as they approach anyone who will listen and excitedly share the message. The mission goes through many boxes of pass-along cards every month.
They can also go through a lot of food, and are always happy to have visits from senior couple missionaries who are willing to feed them.
Last month, we had the unique experience of attending a Korean wedding where this beautiful young woman, born and raised in the Church, married this dynamic young man who is a recent convert. They were married in typical western dress (gown and tuxedo,) but donned this traditional Korean garb out of respect for their elders. They anticipate a trip the the temple in about a year.
There are many devout Sikh and Hindu followers in this area, mostly from India. Our landlords are such, and we have found them to be very kind, family oriented people. Not many from this group have accepted the gospel of Christ, but in time, it will happen.
Back in the park with Elders Kim and Murray, we are impressed with their passion for spreading the word. Every spare minute is filled with efforts to find new investigators.
They are confident in the truth and the eternal benefits of the message, and do all they can to invite others to come unto Christ.
As we associate with the established Korean Branch of the Church here, we become the recipients of many a feast at the hands of these good people who love one another and do all they can to associate with others who love the Lord.
These two young ladies are native Chinese speakers, Sister Yeung on the right, from Hong Kong, and Sister Tsai on tthe left, from Taiwan. They are very faithful and work so hard to bring the gospel of Christ to their people here in British Columbia.
This is a photo of a photo of a tribal gathering of Haida Indians the "First Nation" or original natives of coastal British Columbia. They primarily subsist on an island off the BC coast, called Haida Gwaii. They are well known as Totem carvers, using the abundant giant red cedar trees as their canvas. There is a branch of the Church presently on Haida Gwaii.
These senior couple missionaries are listening to English translation of the spoken word in the Korean Branch Sacrament meeting we attend each week. In spite of our language barrier, those resourceful and tech-savvy Korean people have got us covered. There is no question in our minds that they love us as a brother and sister, as we love them.
How great is it that God is no respecter of persons? That He loves us all equally, from every nation. How great is it that 2,000 years ago, through the Apostle Peter, he opened the gate and provided the way for all of us Gentiles to hear His word, to receive an opportunity through the Atonement of His Son, to find our way back to Him? We are all brothers and sisters in His eternal family. He desires that we might all pass the test and return to Him.