“Love, Your Visiting Teachers”

By Melinda Suttner

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    About four years ago my husband, David, and I bought an old “fixer-upper” house in Clarksville, Tennessee. We gutted the insides, ripped up some of the floors, replaced the wiring and plumbing, and added on to make a duplex. It was a major undertaking! And we stayed in the house the whole time.

    Needless to say, we lived in a veritable construction site. At night before falling into bed, I’d rake the sawdust, sheetrock, chips of wood, and other debris from the sheets. I used a corn scoop, a type of large shovel, instead of a broom to clean the floors. Lumber and sheets of plywood were stacked in the living room. Batts of insulation, rolls of wallpaper, cans of paint, boxes of nails, and ladders, tools, and sawhorses decorated other rooms.

    During the remodeling, I was pregnant with our second daughter, Caci. On a weekend two weeks before my due date, we stained the floors and painted the addition. Monday morning, the baby started coming. We rushed to the hospital, leaving behind a house with no heating system, no windows in the living room, and no place for an infant to sleep.

    Mama and Daddy came to the hospital that afternoon, driving the seventy miles from their backwoods farm near Crofton, Kentucky. I was apprehensive about Mama coming. She and I hadn’t been on good terms since I joined the Church in 1976. But she knew I needed help, with a new baby and the house all torn apart.

    Before returning home, Mama stopped by the construction site. Overwhelmed—and a little dismayed at the living conditions her new grandchild would be brought into—she made plans to clean the house the next afternoon before I came home from the hospital.

    Mama came as planned, clad in workclothes, with shovel, rake, and bucket in hand. To her surprise, the construction site was spotless. Lumber, plywood, wallpaper, paint, and tools were all neatly stacked in one room. Clean sheets were on the bed. A bassinet with a new mattress and new sheets waited for Caci. The dirty laundry was missing. A fast-food lunch for David was in the refrigerator. And a wrapped package of baby clothes and a large bag of disposable diapers sat near the front door. The card attached read, “Congratulations! Love, your visiting teachers, Carol and Barbara.”

    I hardly knew these sisters—they had been called to be my visiting teachers only the month before. But when I came home from the hospital the next day, Carol brought the freshly washed laundry. Barbara brought supper—roast hen and dressing, vegetables, salad, homemade rolls, and dessert. Although it was only October, we felt as if Thanksgiving had arrived.

    But something else had happened, too.

    Mama had taken the missionary discussions while I was on my mission. She had even read the four standard works and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. But her heart did not begin to soften until she saw the gospel in action.

    Mama and I had a long talk later that week. We hugged each other for the first time in years. Tears fell long into the night, and we felt a closeness as mother and daughter again.

    We currently live in the West, and I look forward to Mama’s calls and letters. We wouldn’t have traveled back to Kentucky with our three daughters last summer—four thousand miles round-trip—if it hadn’t been for Carol and Barbara, my visiting teachers. They had come to clean a house and cook a meal. But they had no way of knowing that they were mending hearts and healing wounds and putting a home back together again.

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    • Melinda R. Suttner, a homemaker, teaches the Gospel Doctrine class in the Brigham Young University Thirty-fourth Ward.