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I had a hard time reading this, I started to cry. But so glad I finished only because it’s important to be aware of others who are struggling. 

This young adult from Ghana knows that even when life seems hopeless, you can always rely on Heavenly Father

kneeling in prayer

Far away from home, Eric wraps himself in a blanket from Ghana as he prays. “The blanket reminds me of my earthly home,” Eric says, “and prayer reminds me of my heavenly home.”

When 21-year-old Eric Ayala of Techiman, Ghana, was 3, he and his mother were at a street-side market when a car veered out of control and struck them.

“It hit my mother first and broke her leg,” Eric says. “Then it dragged me a long way before my body rolled into the gutter. I was pronounced dead and taken to a mortuary. The mortician was preparing my body when he discovered I was still alive. I was rushed to a hospital.”

Now paraplegic, Eric faced challenge after challenge as he grew up without the use of his legs. He eventually obtained leg braces that allowed him to stand, but he soon outgrew them and couldn’t afford replacements. He was given a small wheelchair, but outgrew that too. His legs withered, sometimes shaking with spasms, and his feet became deformed.

In Ghana, those with disabilities are often considered a burden. Eric’s family had little money, not enough to pay for medical treatment. When Eric was about 10, he developed pressure sores caused by lack of movement and by sitting on wood and concrete. The sores festered, oozing constantly, and they smelled terrible.


The open-air shed where Eric lived for years still stands behind the family home.

As a result, Eric lived outside, on a bench in an open-air shed. His mother, Lucy, and his sisters brought him food, washed his clothes, and helped him bathe. Eric was often drenched by rain and shivered from cold in the night. He learned to love morning sunshine because it brought warmth. Too poor to go to school and unable to work, he spent years in that shed, occasionally venturing into the neighborhood on his wheelchair.

The Beginning of Belief

Rather than becoming resentful, “I started to love and believe in God,” Eric says. “Nobody taught me about Him, but I could see His creations, and I could see the good and bad in people. Sometimes it is hard to believe in Him when life is hard. But then I would see something good come into my life, and I would say, ‘See, God is here, and it is wonderful.’”

Eric had not been formally taught how to pray, but he began calling upon God. He received answers—when he was sick, an unanticipated opportunity to see a doctor; when he asked for relief from his sores, they went away; when he outgrew his small wheelchair, a kind stranger brought him a larger one. “God did many good things in my life,” he says.

Still, sometimes Eric would get discouraged. He found himself crying when he was in pain and hungry. “I decided if I was going to be happy, it was up to me,” he recalls. “I forced myself to smile. If I didn’t, I was afraid I would turn to something bad.” In particular, he saw friends using alcohol and drugs, and, “my heart told me that was wrong.”

Then, in what seemed a miracle, at age 14, Eric was accepted for school. His mother, by cooking for others, had scraped together enough money to buy him a uniform and pay for books and tuition. At school, “I couldn’t go out and exercise with the others,” he explains, “so I stayed inside and studied all the time.” He amazed his headmaster by receiving top scores in math, reading, and writing.

A nun from the hospital donated a new tricycle that Eric could pedal with his hands, making it easier for him to go to school. But as Eric went back and forth, pressure sores opened again. Infection returned, along with the putrid smell as the wounds leaked. Students complained about flies constantly buzzing around Eric. He was 17 when the headmaster told him to go home and get well, or he could not return to school.

Eric’s father had a tiny farm out in the country. He had taken the family to work on the farm, but Eric remained at home in his shed, alone. Meanwhile, his sores enlarged to huge wounds and infection entered into his bones, a life-threatening condition called osteomyelitis.

Talking with an Obruni

When he was 18, Eric saw his friend Emmanuel Ofosu-hene speaking English with an obruni (white man). The obruni was a Mormon missionary, Elder Old. “I only spoke Twi, but Emmanuel interpreted for me: ‘I am so sick I think I will die. Can you help me know what to do so I can go to heaven?’

“Elder Old and his African companion sat with me and taught me. For some reason, they started with the Word of Wisdom. I knew they were speaking the truth because I already knew coffee and tobacco were bad.” They also gave Eric a brochure about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and invited him to church.

“When I went, I saw this Church was different,” he says. “It was reverent.” Even though it took him an hour to push himself to church in his wheelchair, Eric loved the meetings. “I wanted to go up front and be with people,” he says. “But I stayed at the back because I knew I smelled bad.”

Eric told the missionaries, “What I am learning is true.” He also told them he wanted to be baptized, but doctors had warned him not to get his wounds wet. “I will rely on God to provide answers,” he said. He attended church for about a year and then became too ill and weak to wheel himself there.

Eric’s mother, Lucy, met the missionaries, studied the gospel, and was baptized in 2015. But because her broken leg had never been properly set, it was painful for her to walk. Attending meetings was a challenge for her, as well.

Eventually, Eric was taken to the hospital again. In Ghana, patients have to provide their own water, food, bedding, medicine, and bandages. If they have no money, they are not treated. Eric’s mother and sisters did what they could. Eric received food and medical attention infrequently, so he grew weaker.

An Unexpected Visit

Then Eric received some unexpected visitors. Missionaries, Sister Peprah and Sister Nafuna, had seen his photograph at the church and came to see him in the hospital and brought him food. It had been a year since he had been to church, but he told them he still wanted to be baptized.

A few days later, Eric’s sister visited him and found him very ill. She ran home and told their mother. Though their mother had suffered permanent leg damage in the accident with Eric, she walked to the hospital, wincing with every step. “You must come home,” she told Eric. “If you’re going to die, I at least want you near.”

The next morning, the sister missionaries came to the house. “You weren’t at the hospital,” Sister Peprah said. “So we came here.” With them were Elder and Sister Wood, senior missionaries from New Zealand. They took inventory of needs and promised to return.

A few days later, Eric’s father took the family back to the farm—except Eric, who found himself alone again and without food or water. When Elder and Sister Wood returned and discovered Eric alone and hungry, they brought him food and water. They returned the next day and noticed fluid running down his leg and found a huge open ulcer on his thigh. They immediately took Eric back to the hospital.

The Woods learned of a medical humanitarian team from the United States that would be coming to Ghana. The team would perform surgery for Eric without cost. The surgeon treated the ulcer on Eric’s leg. But when he saw the severity of Eric’s wounds, as well as the osteomyelitis, he determined he could not do all the necessary procedures in Ghana. Based on his recommendation, the humanitarian organization initiated a process that would eventually bring Eric to the United States to receive additional treatment and permanently close his wounds. In addition, a shelter in Winneba, Ghana, run by members of the Church, agreed to have Eric live there when he returned so that he could attend school and complete his education.

Eric in front of Salt Lake Temple

While in Utah for surgery, Eric visits the reflecting pool near the Salt Lake Temple. Eric says he loves the feeling of peace he finds at the Salt Lake Temple.

The Lord Provided

Elder Wood, an engineer by profession, rebuilt Eric’s hand-pedal tricycle. He performed a similar overhaul on his wheelchair. He also counseled with President Cosgrave of the Ghana Kumasi Mission, a medical doctor. They felt Eric could be baptized if proper precautions were taken.

Eric with his tricycle

Eric shows his tricycle to his mother and siblings after senior missionaries repaired it.

“Elder Wood wrapped my body in plastic, with tape around the plastic,” Eric explains. “Then he carried me into a font filled with water treated with disinfectant. I was baptized on June 26, 2016.” Eric had relied on the Lord, and the Lord had provided a way.

Today, Eric is studying to become a computer technician. But also feels he can influence others through music—he likes to rap in Twi. His upbeat message talks about how God rescued him. One of his favorite scriptures says, “Look to God and live” (Alma 37:47). And he still says, “I see God in everything.”

He adds, “I don’t want anyone to think the way Heavenly Father has blessed me is identical to how He will bless them. But He will bless those who trust Him. When you have to deal with hard things, pray and trust God.”

Eric smiling

Eric looks forward to a bright future. He’s studying to be a computer technician and also feels he can inspire others with music.




#lds generations are affected by the choices we make


How to Pray in a Way God Can Answer

April 12, 2016


It’s 4:30 a.m. and my two-month-old son is up again—for the fourth time tonight. “God, please help him to go back to sleep,” I silently beg in my head.

Nope. He’s still awake.

I pick him up, feed him, and put him back down. “God, please help him to sleep in!”

Nope. He doesn’t sleep in and wakes up an hour later.

Now repeat this scene for two more months.

I think when my third child was born, a good 90 percent of my prayers revolved solely around our collective sleep patterns. However, these prayers never seemed to be answered—at least not in the time frame I was hoping for.

This did not cause me to lose my faith in prayer or the power of prayer, but it did cause me to reflect on how I could improve my prayers to ask for things that God is more able to answer.

The Bible Dictionary says: “We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ—when His words abide in us (John 15:7). We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind.”

What are those things it is possible for God to grant? How could I make sure my wishes are the wishes of Christ?

To figure this out, I drew a little diagram: my desires on the left, God’s on the right, and things we both want in the middle.

On the left I wrote some things I tend to pray for a lot (sleep, ease, comfort, health, happy and obedient children, happy husband, everything happy and easy); in the middle are the things that I want that I’m sure God wants for me too. These circles are not mutually exclusive. It could be God wants everything in the left circle as well; I’m just not sure what His will is for those desires yet. But I am sure He always wants me to keep His commandments and to be faithful, kind, and forgiving.

On the right, I wrote things God wants for me that I don’t always want for myself. The biggest thing here is trials. I rarely want them, but I fully admit my times of trial are when I learn the most and grow closest to God. It’s good for this heart-changing goal we both have. Also in this circle could include commandments that are particularly difficult for me to keep.

I noticed that the things I want are largely circumstantial things—things based on the circumstances of life—while the things that God wants for me are mostly un-circumstantial (don’t look that up; it’s not really a word), or things relating to the state of my heart.

Does this mean I should never ask for circumstantial things that I want? No way! Does this mean God will never answer my prayers if I just ask for things I want? Certainly not! I have had way too many experiences praying for things I want when God has given them to me to think that God doesn’t care about the left side of this diagram. I think God loves every one of us and cares deeply about our wants. I think He delights in giving us even those little things we ask for sometimes. Like any good father, He knows how to give us good gifts. But above all, He wants what is best for us, and what is best for us eternally does not always include the circumstances we desperately hope for.

So how to pray to align these two circles? How to pray for the things I want while accepting God’s will and His desires for me?

I came up with a little formula to help me in my prayers. It is simply this—whenever you ask for something you want and you’re not totally sure if it’s something God wants for you, tack on the phrase “but if not” and then add something you’re sure God would want for you.

For example: “God, please help me get some sleep tonight, but if not, help me to have enough energy to be pleasant and hard working anyway.” “God, please bless that my child will get over this sickness and feel better, but if not, help us to trust in Thee and be patient with each other.” “God, please bless that I will be included in my group of friends, but if not, even if I feel excluded, help me to be kind and generous.”

I’ve tried this out for about a year now, and I can say my rate of prayer success has skyrocketed. Here are some benefits I’ve experienced so far:

I feel like I’m finally fulfilling the real purpose of prayer, which is not to negotiate my desires, but to align myself with God. The two circles from my graph have grown much closer since praying in this way.

An unexpected benefit has been that I don’t fear hard situations or not getting what I want nearly as much as I used to because I’ve seen and felt God answer my prayers—both my desires and my “but if nots.”

It’s been a great exercise in praying not for my circumstances to change, but that I in my circumstances may be changed, which is what Elder Bednar says is the key to unlocking grace in one of my favorite gospel talks of all time.

I feel a deep trust in God growing up inside me.

And eventually my son and I did get more sleep (though he still has this lovely habit of waking up at 5:30 a.m.). But that’s OK. I may not always get what I want when I want it, but I can feel God’s love and receive those things I need to become the person He wants me to be.

Celeste graduated from BYU with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology. Her proudest accomplishments include her marriage, her three kids, and that one time she had all the rooms in her house clean at the same time.


A watercolor illustration of the sun over mountains with the quote, “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith."

Inspirational Quotes | Christian Printable Art | Inspirational Quotes About God | Inspirational Quotes Motivation:

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Mary, the Mother of Jesus



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