Little Reeve’s father Reg knelt down to pray in his daughter’s hospital room, and with tears streaming down his face he felt impressed to ask Heavenly Father to let her live. He added, “If you will allow me to raise her, I will commit her life and my own to your service.” While praying, Reg felt the bed jerk slightly. As he opened his eyes, he noticed Reeve’s eyes were beginning to focus. His little girl was awake!
Reeve lived, and her father Reg Nield made good on his promise. When he was laid to rest in February 2015, hundreds reflected on the remarkable life of service led by this “father of the Church” in Zimbabwe. His example inspired a former missionary to write a brief biography about his experiences. Its author, David Mayfield, shares some thoughts about why Reg’s life contains inspiration for each of us. His words are accompanied by memories shared by the daughter whose life was spared that day, Reeve Nield.
No respecter of persons
Reginald Joseph Nield, a native son of Zimbabwe, was an exemplary husband and father, a renowned humanitarian, a devoted Church leader, and a national sports hero.
In the 1990s, Reg served as the in-country director of Deseret International Foundation’s charitable work in Zimbabwe, which not only brought volunteer doctors into the country to perform surgeries for the poor, but also enlisted local medical personnel as partners to provide ongoing support for those in need.
In 2000, Reg helped organize and teach HIV/AIDS prevention to an estimated 114,000 Zimbabwean school children. In his vital support of Eyes for Zimbabwe, Reg helped bring cataract surgery at no cost to tens of thousands of Zimbabweans all across the country. And, as a Zimbabwe national marriage officer since 1982, he performed hundreds of civil marriages as a public service without remuneration.
And then there were his smaller, unseen acts of kindness. “My father regularly frequented the city’s rubbish dump where he assisted to feed and clothe the roughly 300 families living there,” said Reeve. He said, “You are only really serving when you receive nothing in return!”
Reg performed a key role in the extraordinary transition from the essentially all-white Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in pre-1980 Rhodesia to the predominantly indigenous LDS Church in Zimbabwe today. He loved and served people of every colour, ethnicity, and social status without distinction. “My father was no respecter of persons. He loved all people everywhere!” said Reeve. “As a branch president in 1980, he would spend his Saturday afternoons playing soccer with the children and youth.”
During the 1970s, he served as district president in Rhodesia when the local membership was exclusively white. Then in the 1980s, after Zimbabwe gained its independence, he served a second time as district president while the local membership was becoming predominantly black. He was one of only a handful of Church leaders from the 1970s who stayed in Zimbabwe—despite enormous political and economic hardships—and thus helped build the Church to what it is today. At the time he died, Reg was stake patriarch in the Harare Zimbabwe Stake.
“My father really loved the Lord,” says Reeve. “He prayed often and encouraged others to do the same.” The special relationship he shared with his wife, Iris was another “tremendous example to all who knew them,” said Reeve. He “truly adored my mother. From the moment he first saw her, it was literally ‘love at first sight’ and that sweet love grew and strengthened until his passing.”
And his influence extended to helping missionaries serve in Zimbabwe too. “In the mid 1990s I was saddened to discover that foreign missionaries were no longer allowed to serve in Zimbabwe,” said Reeve. “I asked my father if he might be able to assist in changing that directive. Shortly thereafter he had discussions with our government officials. Following those talks, foreign missionaries were once again permitted to serve in Zimbabwe. For many years my father patiently stood in line at the Immigration Offices to obtain temporary employment permits (TEPs) for each foreign missionary who came to serve,” Reeve recounted.
‘With God, all things are possible’
Despite his success in life, on occasion Reg went through some very hard times, faced criticism, and experienced deprivation. However, he had a firm determination to never give up, even in the toughest of times. He learned from his trials, gained compassion and humility, and became ever stronger and wiser. He was truly a man for all seasons—one who rose to every challenge no matter what the circumstances.
“Whenever someone asked for his assistance, regardless of the difficulty of the request, my father always said yes,” recalled Reeve. “He had the faith that all things were possible with the Lord’s help. He acknowledged the Lord’s hand and goodness in all things!”