As President and Sister Thomas progress in their stewardship here in the Congo they are beginning to make their own mark on the tapestry of the mission. At first it was subtle changes in the way they did things (a natural result of being different from the previous mission president), but as they grow in their callings and begin to sense the direction the Lord would have them take the mission—and the missionaries—I can see that some big changes are coming for all of us!
The Lord has never designed or chosen leaders that are the same. To do so would, in fact, defeat His purposes. Every person, every leader, is different, and brings with them different talents and abilities. The Lord knows and understands this fact, and therefore uses these natural differences to enhance and move forward the Kingdom of God on earth. By placing leaders with differing talents in succession, he can modify and direct how the Kingdom is shaped and the direction it moves.
Think of God as an owner of a fishing ship. The owner wants to make a profit and reap rewards, so he selects captains for his ship that have the ability to direct the work in a certain manner. For example, if the market is good for shrimp, he might hire a shrimp-boat captain for a few years and reap the rewards of the current market. If the market changes and suddenly crab is the best-selling item in the market, the owner might change the captain to one who knows crabbing, etc. By his choices of captain he would not only be selecting the type of work being done, but where the ship would be traveling (as each different product would be found in different areas of the ocean). A thoughtful owner could not only make sure the ship was always making a good profit, but could protect his assets, simply by the choice of the captain who would lead the ship.
The same is true with the Church (as the ship) and the Prophet (the Captain) that are chosen by God to lead the Church.
I remember a wonderful talk I heard many years ago while on my first mission given by President Packer. Harold B Lee had just died and Spencer Kimball had become the new prophet. President Packer described the change in leadership this way:
President Lee was a “policy” president—he focused on and was concerned about the organization of the Church and the policies that directed the day to day workings of the Church organization. As President Packer described it: the Church was like a bus and President Lee was like a mechanic. The problem was that with President Lee driving the bus, every time the bus had a problem, the mechanic would stop, fix the problem, and then start driving again. The bus was in good condition but wasn’t going anywhere very quickly.
Then came President Kimball—he was very different; he was a driver, not a mechanic. He was focused on getting the Church moving to a specific destination, and didn’t care about the mechanics of it all. When his bus hit a problem he would simply give the engine more gas and drive through, or around, the problem. President Kimball’s favorite saying (put on a sign on his desk) was: ‘just do it!’
Very different leaders, with very different approaches to running the Church on a day to day basis. Yet the Lord, knowing their specifics strengths and weaknesses, had chosen them to serve in succession to both prepare and to move the Church in a specific, long term direction. We, as mortals, cannot always see the designs of God—until we look back on history and go: oh, that’s why He did that! But we can have faith that God knows and understands His own grand design and can and does choose specific leaders at specific times to fulfill His ultimate goals—both for us as individuals and for the organizations within which we serve.
I find it fascinating, fulfilling, and exciting to witness the unfolding of God’s plan for the Congo! How grateful I am to be able to participate in this work and contribute even a little to the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth.