ISSUES OF FAITH: ‘Love thy neighbor’ is not always easy to do

MY WIFE AND I lived in The Netherlands for a year and a half on a work assignment.

I was fascinated by the stories we heard about what it was like to have lived through the German occupation of World War II.

One of the members of our church congregation in Almere, where we lived, told us of how the city of Rotterdam had been completely decimated by the German bombs.

She said that they just kept bombing and bombing even after all the buildings were rubble.

Nothing was left. After WWII, the entire city had to be reconstructed.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to go through that. So much destruction. So many lives had been lost.

Everyone had been through a terrible ordeal.

After the war, the Dutch members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints obtained some potatoes, not for eating, but for planting.

They kneeled and prayed over their potatoes and planted them asking God to bless them and the land for a bounteous harvest.

These people had hardly anything left. They were in a dreadful situation.

Across the border in Germany were members of the same faith.

Walter Stover, a leader from the church in Germany, came to visit Cornelius Zappey, one of the Dutch church leaders.

Stover told Zappey that the members of the church in Germany were starving and even in a worse situation than the Dutch members of the church, and winter was approaching.

Zappey felt that he needed to ask the Dutch members to donate their potato harvest to their German brothers and sisters who were in desperate need.

He wondered if he could ask so much of them.

Imagine being there.

Your country had been overrun. Unspeakable things had happened. You were left with almost nothing. Germany was to blame for it all.

Yet, members of your faith in Germany were starving, and you had been asked to give your harvest to those who were your foe just a few months prior.

The Dutch church members were blessed with a superabundant harvest.

These faithful Latter-day Saint Christians responded.

Seventy tons of potatoes were sent to Germany.

Of this harvest, they said, “These were the Lord’s potatoes.”

Soon, German families received 100 pounds of potatoes each.

It saved their lives.

The next year, the Dutch decided to do the same thing again, and in addition to the potatoes, they sent herring.

Things slowly turned around for Germany and, in 1953, devastating floods hit The Netherlands.

Who was there to help when the Dutch were in need? The German brothers and sisters who shared the same faith.

Despite both countries being war-torn, healing had occurred.

Sacrifices were made. Love replaced hate. Hearts were knit together.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.”

Sometimes, that might not be so hard.

We love God. He gives us everything that we have. But Jesus also said, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39).

That one can be a little harder, especially if that neighbor has not shown love to us.

The prophet Moroni taught, “Charity is the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47).

I don’t know of many better examples of the pure love of Christ than these humble people of The Netherlands, giving their potatoes to the Germans while their cities and homes were still lying in ruins and while their pantries were almost bare.

Striving and praying for this type of charity and love today toward our neighbors — even those who don’t think like us, who don’t believe like us, who look different than us or who are marginalized — will help knit our hearts together as a community and as a nation.

We are all children of our Heavenly Father.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Bishop Jason Bringhurst is the leader of the Mount Pleasant Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Port Angeles. His email is jasonbring@gmail.com.

More in Life

A GROWING CONCERN: Chill out before you plant too early

AS THIS PAST week’s chill lay heavy in the valleys and the… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “The Power of Spiritual Community” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “The Power of… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “Love is Golden… Continue reading

OUUF speaker scheduled

The Rev. Dr. Barry Andrews will present “Walden in… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Faith in the beauty of spring

“WOW! ISN’T THAT just beautiful?” This is what I find myself saying… Continue reading

Pictured are Susan Hillgren, on left, and Emily Murphy.
TAFY donation in Port Angeles

The Port Angeles Garden Club has donated $1,000 to The Answer For… Continue reading

The Olympic Kiwanis Club reports that its recent electronics recycling event was even more popular than planned for.
Kiwanis recycling event a success

The Olympic Kiwanis Club reports that its recent electronics recycling event in… Continue reading

Future Chefs contest names cooking contest winners

Sodexo and the Port Angeles School District have announced… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: Get the dirt on soil

SINCE WE TALKED extensively about you growing your own award-winning vegetables, we… Continue reading

OPEN’s Spring Tack Sale is Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 251 Roupe Road (off Hooker Road). Proceeds benefit rescued horses, minis, ponies (such as the one pictured with grossly overgrown hooves) and donkeys. Western and English saddles, saddle pads, halters, sheets, bits, bridles; western jewelry, clothes, boots and more. (photo by Valerie Jackson)
HORSEPLAY: Clean up after yourself and your horse

CLEAN UP ON aisle 7! Remember: Unlike a grocery store clerk who… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Finding solace in song

WHEN OUR DAUGHTER Maggie died, I found so much comfort in listening… Continue reading

OUUF speaker scheduled

The Rev. Bruce Bode will present “Are All Humans… Continue reading