In February 1991, my husband, Maurice, and I were called on our second mission to South Africa - this time as Johannesburg Temple missionaries. From 1984-87, my husband was president of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission.
Shortly after our arrival for our temple mission, I was asked by a non-LDS singer, Michael Bird, to accompany him on the piano in a concert. The non-denominational concert was to benefit a local township in raising money for a medical clinic.On the appointed evening, we went to the Rand Afrikaans University Auditorium in Johannesburg, where the concert was being held. Toward the end of the program, I went backstage. At that moment, a large community choir called the Benjamin Singers was performing. The choir was from a black township from Pietersburg, about 180 miles southwest of Johannesburg, and there were about 75 people of all ages.
I was somewhat idly listening to this impressive choir singing in their native tongue, when suddenly my eyes opened wide in awareness as I heard, "Come, Come, Ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear . . . ." Singing without accompaniment in English, the choir brought tears to my eyes as I listened to them sing, "Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard. . . ." I was in awe as I contemplated this unique application of William Clayton's words to the condition of these humble African people.
The next day, Michael related to me how he and an LDS friend, Ken Randall, saw the Benjamin Singers boarding their buses. Michael had not been able to hear "Come, Come, Ye Saints," and he expressed his disappointment at that to the choir's conductor. The conductor had his singers perform the number again. When they finished, Michael asked, "Do you know anything about that hymn?"
"Oh, we didn't have music," the conductor responded. "We heard it on the radio and liked it. It fit us."
Ken then ran to his car, returned with an LDS hymnal and showed the music to the group. He and Michael related the background of the song. Ken presented the hymnal to the choir.
My husband and I now have a video of the group's performance of "Come, Come, Ye Saints," the hymn that touched the lives of so many people, including the spiritual people in a South African township. - Arlene S. Bateman, Mesa 25th Ward, Mesa (Ariz.) Maricopa Stake
(Another in a series of "Missionary Moments." Illustration by Deseret News artist Reed McGregor.)