When a young returned missionary in Lusaka, Zambia, offered to help someone who was ill, to get him anything he needed, such as a drink of water, a sandwich, or a priesthood blessing, he didn’t know that he would turn the young man’s life around.
Phillip Miner woke up in a backpacker’s hostel feeling dizzy and nauseous. He was in Zambia as a model for the Saviour. With shoulder-length hair and trimmed beard, he would be painted by the well-known LDS artist, Liz Lemon Swindle. Although he was a shy person, he was dressed like the Saviour and was playing with orphans as part of a photo shoot in preparation for the painting.
The children at the orphanage were familiar with who Christ is, but Phillip worried about how the children would feel if they discovered that he wasn’t really Jesus. Even when he told them his real name, they wanted to hug him through their tears of happiness. In their broken English they sang songs about Heavenly Father.
“I told one 12-year-old girl, Carol Zulu, that I was there to remind her that Jesus knows and loves her. She started sobbing, a letting go of emotion from the depths of her soul. Her tears were pouring,” Miner said. “It was clear to everyone that those were tears of joy as the young girl remembered that her Saviour knows and loves her.”
Liz noticed that Phillip was becoming sick, and was worried about him. During one difficult moment, she offered a prayer. When she looked up, she saw him holding a 3 year old boy named Kennedy. At that moment, he kissed the back of the orphan’s head. “The child looked right at me. An epiphany just washed right over me. Here is what you should paint. This little child looked so sad. The only one who can fix this problem is the Saviour. The symbolism of the Saviour kissing this little African boy was so profound and so simple.” She knew what she would paint.
When Phillip had become a model of the Saviour for Liz, he hadn’t been active in the LDS church and knew little about Christ. He became ill while modelling, and was grateful when a young man, a volunteer with their project, came to check on him as he lay in the hostel battling the oncoming flu. The young man, a recently returned LDS missionary, thanked him for the work he was doing and offered to get him anything — a sandwich, a drink or perhaps a priesthood blessing. He also gave Phillip a journal and encouraged him to write down his experiences.
When the young man returned that evening, Phillip said he would take him up on the blessing. The young man left to find a second priesthood holder and returned wearing a white shirt and tie. The next few minutes turned Phillip’s life upside down. “Until then, I was on a paid vacation having some interesting experiences,” said Phillip, who considered himself spiritual but not religious. “Then a stranger laid his hands on my head; it became clear that these weren’t his words.”
For several long minutes, the young man, in his early 20s, spoke with a wisdom and intimacy that cut to the depths of Phillip’s soul. “It became a little scary and I started to worry, 'Who was this guy?'” Phillip said, “I knew he was an LDS Melchizedek priesthood holder.” The more the young man said, the harder the words of the blessing became to dismiss.
“It was crystal clear to me that those were not the words of a stranger, but the words of a Heavenly Father who knew me and loved me,” Phillip said. “I had some serious reconsidering to do. The truth is, the Spirit touched my heart and gave me a wake-up call.” Two months later, Phillip was active in the church again and learning about the Christ whom he had modelled as in Zambia.
Read the full story here.