Tuesday, May 16, 2017



                                           A Story about Solomon

I want to share a special story that happened a few days before we left Mbale.   Solomon (Butali) is one of the first people I met when we first arrived in Mbale.  He is a quiet, shy young man of 18.  He is very smart and knows a lot about the gospel.  He is one of the few members of our branch that had the opportunity of growing up in the church.  His family lived in Entebbe when he was young and they joined the church at that time.  He and his family were able to go to the temple to be sealed many years ago.  I felt a connection with Solomon when we first met because he loves music and can play the keyboard.   I brought a few music books with me to Uganda and he liked practicing from them.  We became friends and had a good relationship.  He had the assignment of playing the keyboard for our little branch and did a wonderful job.

The last few months of our mission I noticed that Solomon was not playing the keyboard.  He was also distancing himself from Elder Phelps and I.  When I asked him about why he was not playing he did not give me a good answer.  I encouraged him to continue playing for the branch but he wouldn’t.  Each Sunday, Allen, a member of the Branch Presidency would approach me just before Sacrament Meeting and kindly ask if I would play the keyboard.  Of course, I always did.  This bothered me that Solomon was refusing to play the keyboard for the branch.  Hymns can be sung a cappella but it is so much more enriching when there is some music behind the singing.  Plus, it helps people become familiar with the tunes and how the hymns are supposed to be sung.  His heart was hardened for some reason I did not know.

When we arrived back to Mbale after serving the month of March in the mission office, I had Solomon on my mind.  I had heard through the grapevine the reason he was refusing to play.  He was refusing to play because he was upset with our new Branch President.  When we received a new Branch President in January he decided it was best to lock up our church building during the days.  Before, the church was always unlocked and throughout the day many young adults would congregate and just “hang out” at the church.  There was a restroom, wifi, and power to charge their phones.  Sometimes, it was rumored, that some would even stay the night and shower there.  Well, President Isaac decided it was best to lock up the church during the days to keep the church (especially the sacrament room) undefiled and clean.  That did not sit well with many of the young adults.  Solomon was one of the young men that was caught up in the anger.  This is when he decided not to play the keyboards for the branch.  He also started avoiding Elder Phelps and I when we came around.

After arriving back in Mbale I knew that I needed to somehow talk with Solomon.  Our schedule was very full and I did not know if I would get the opportunity.  My head was full of questions.  What was the best way to approach the subject?  Should I just approach him and bring it all out in the open?  Should I write him a letter?  I did not know and I had convinced myself to just write a letter.  I did not see when I would have an opportunity to discuss with him.

Well, an opportunity presented itself.  Our last Saturday in Mbale we had a party at our home with the YSA’s.  Solomon was there.  I was busy the whole night preparing and serving food.  By the end of the night the kids were all outside playing while I was cleaning up.  Solomon had asked if he could collect the extra empty water bottles that were lying around.  I said he could.  I was surprised when after a bit as I was washing dishes I could see him and a friend through my back window rummaging through our garbage trying to pull out as many bottles as possible.  After a while Solomon was at our back door.  He stood in the doorway and called me over.  He simply said, “You promised.”  I didn’t know what he was referring to so I asked what he meant.  He said, “The music. You promised.”  It was then that I remembered he had asked some time before to look online for some classical music that he could practice to improve his skills.  I simply forgot about it.  I apologized and felt really bad that I had not followed through with my promise.  I knew that I was out of time  and that I would not be able to get any sent to him (through his email) before I left Uganda.  He simply said, “That’s ok. You can send me some after you get home.”

I felt the spirit prompt me that this was the time to speak boldy and frankly to Solomon.  I said, “Solomon, I now I need to talk with you.”  He said, “Right now?”   I said, “yes.”  The first words out of my mouth were.  “Solomon, this branch needs you.  They need you to play the piano for them.”  That opened the door for me to express my feelings for him, for music, for pushing out pride, for serving the Lord in whatever capacity he calls us to. I asked him why he was not playing.  He simply said, “Why is it upon me?  It is very hard.” I explained that he has a talent that absolutely no one else in our branch has.  The Mbale Branch was suffering because of his unwillingness to use his talents and that those talents would be taken away if he did not use them to bless the lives of others.  I let him know that the Lord was not pleased with his actions.  I spoke of how life is not about “us”.  I said, “If life was about “us” I would not be here in Uganda serving this mission.  Do you think it was easy to leave my family to come and serve this mission?  Life is NOT about us.  We go where we are called and we do whatever the Lord asks us to do to further the work in his kingdom.” 

I kept on in this vain for about 10-15 minutes as Solomon stood with his head bowed.  I said to him again, “Solomon, this branch needs you.  Will you do it?  Will you push out pride and whatever is holding you back and play for our branch?”  He slowly nodded his head.  I expressed my love for him and then we went back to our duties. 

I was so thankful to have had the opportunity to speak frankly with Solomon and to encourage him in his responsibilities.  I felt that I had been empowered to speak my mind freely and clearly to this young man that needed direction.  I was so thankful  that Heavenly Father opened up an opportunity for me and helped me to express my feelings in a direct and bold way.

As I walked into church the next morning my heart was filled with joy as Solomon was sitting at the keyboard softly playing hymns.

After church and our branch baptism was finished,  Elder Phelps and I had a fun time on the church porch taking pictures of many of our branch members.  This was, after all, our last Sunday.  I approached Solomon and gave him a hug and told him how happy I was to see him in his rightful place behind the keyboard.  He simply said, “Thank you for helping me to see.”

As we were driving back home Rick said, “Oh, I forgot.  Solomon asked me to give this to you.  It was a handwritten letter.  He had written it after I had spoken with him.  I could not wait to get home to open it so I opened it right then!  The lovely handwritten words left an imprint on my heart.  I will share his beautiful words in this post.  I don’t ever want to forget them…. or him.

“Hello Sister Phelps,
     A few words I should write you before I realize how much you and Elder Phelps mean to me.  This night I realized it was not just a fun time to get to know you and share this six month duration together.
     Though I may not remember all the words you told me, the courage you planted in my heart, I cannot forget the Spirit I felt as you talked to me.
I felt silenced, downtrodden and grieved for I had not been my best in the service of others around me.
     You are one of them, those powerful inspiring women I have met along this journey of life…you have pushed me a distance I could hardly take at the moment I least expected heavenly relief.
     I’ll be ever grateful for such enlightenment.  May you keep these few words of mine with you this time of uncertainty on when we’ll ever meet.
     Be not moved for you have shown a great example and played a good part in my life.  You have found it easy, by the spirit to confront all weaknesses and evils that would otherwise cause great setbacks in my spiritual progress.  May you ever be blessed for that.
     Your actions and word has made me throw oft inferiority but instead reinforced the saying “I am a son of God…..and He has a work for me.”  If He has a work for me and I do it not, how will I be blessed?”
     Many people misinterpret my sayings or totally misunderstand me….but God is all understanding.
     A small while from this day you will hear; Solomon is out for a full time mission, Oh, he’s getting married soon, and more will come because you have helped me move a step more.
     I, though imperfect, have seen great divine potential in you.  I have been having days of much thought on how I can better my life.  It’s just been aware within my heart.  I had much trouble and felt it almost is an impossible thing to let go the past.  Today all things have turned out so good.  Let the past remain in itself.  I will move on and hold to the truths I have received.
     If I have tarnished my name….am sorry but from tonight I promise to serve the Lord in all faithfulness with full purpose of heart…..never should I injure my reputation……


1 comment:

  1. This letter from Solomon is SO BEAUTIFUL!! See what a difference YOU made, Janell, just by BEING there and acting upon your inspiration?! How WONDERFUL! This is just one little example of what a difference you made in a person's life--and I know there were many, many MORE! You are so GREAT to have taken the time out of your life to serve like this. I admire you immensely! Love, Karen