A Labor of Love

By Tiffany Tolman


 

A Church-service mission wasn’t really in the plans for Paul Watt several years ago. He was enjoying retirement while his wife, Barbara, continued her part-time job serving lunch four days a week in the cafeteria of the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. But then a need arose—one that was custom fit to Paul’s circumstances.

With only two employees in this cafeteria, things get busy for them during general conference season, when more General Authorities are at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. So when Barbara’s manager (who also happens to be her bishop) put out the call one Sunday for volunteers in order to meet the increased demand, Barbara immediately thought of Paul.

Assuming this would be a short-term assignment, he agreed to help out. After working through the details, Paul became a volunteer dishwasher. Little did he know, however, that his short assignment would lead to something long-lasting and personally meaningful.

Paul’s volunteer work made such a difference in the cafeteria that Barbara wondered if it could become a more permanent Church-service mission assignment. After working out the details with his bishop, Paul submitted papers to serve a three-month trial period. Imagine his surprise when he received a call to serve for 18 months, every Tuesday and Wednesday, by his wife’s side.

But that wasn’t nearly as surprising as the day Paul related the story of his call to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. When Paul told him that he would be serving for 18 months instead of the planned-on three, President Uchtdorf, with a grin, shook his head and, holding up an open hand, said, “No, five years.”

After extending his period of service three times, Paul is now in year three of his service with no sign of slowing down. And the experience has truly been a labor of love in a number of ways.

For one, Paul recently explained, “It has deepened my love for Barbara.” Even though their circumstances are unique (he is a missionary and she is an employee), Paul has been able to care for Barbara while working by her side. His service has made it possible for her to continue working, especially following a stroke she suffered a few years ago. Working so closely together has, in Paul's words, “brought us closer together as a couple.”

Paul has also gained a greater love for the General Authorities of the Church. Through serving them in this capacity, he has been able to witness just how much they sacrifice to serve the Lord. He has also come to realize that they are ordinary people able to accomplish great things because they are willing to serve. He considers it a blessing to serve them in this small way.

But most important, Paul shared, “This Church-service mission has added to my love of service for the Savior. When we serve other people, we are really serving the Savior, and that has been a great blessing in my life.”

Even though Paul is currently serving as a ward missionary, a Temple Preparation teacher, an emergency preparedness specialist, and a member of the high priest group leadership in his ward, he still makes time to wash dishes, set tables, and serve food as a Church-service missionary. And while he admits he was a little hesitant to take it on in the beginning, he now says that “working with the people is great,” and he loves his Church-service mission.