He Walks by Faith
I was sitting in a booth drinking sodas with my friends, chatting about the changes World War II had brought to our sleepy little Wyoming town. We spoke of how uniforms transformed boys into handsome men and of the exciting parades we marched in, to and from the depot, each time a soldier came home from or left for the fighting.
As we talked of the changes brought by the war, I had no idea how significant those changes would be for my family. Suddenly my father stood above me, his hand heavy on my shoulder, his face sober. His somber look frightened me and turned my thoughts to my oldest brother, who was among the troops that had just invaded France in an intense battle.
“Come with me,” my father said. As we drove through town, sadness permeated the air in the car. We stopped at the edge of town, and Dad sighed to control his tears. Still gripping the steering wheel with his work-worn hands, he blurted out, “Your brother is blind!”
Shock froze my entire body, and time seemed suspended. The words hung in the still air: “Your brother is blind.”
Blind, blind, blind—the word echoed through my soul. Hot tears burned my cheeks, and I wanted to run from the awful news. My beloved brother, Smith, was blind! I pictured him on his last visit home, his light red hair blowing in the breeze, his eyes sparkling at me. Those twinkling eyes—what did they look like now?
No other words passed between us, and he started the car. When he told Mom the news, she barely flinched. She held her head high and said stoically: “Smith will be all right. Our Father in Heaven will help him handle this.”
As word spread and others lamented that such a fine young man, partway through medical school, was now so badly wounded, my mother constantly cheered them and expressed her belief that Heavenly Father would give all of us the strength we needed.
The first time I saw Smith again was in the Dibble Hospital in California, where many injured and blinded soldiers were sent. A ramrod-straight boy holding a white cane walked up to meet us, blue powder burns and scars covering his face. He stared straight ahead with unseeing eyes, and I ran and hugged him, sobbing hysterically. He patted my back, and whispered in his familiar voice, “I’ve never even cried, Beth, not once.” Then he hugged Mom, and at last she cried.
We met with doctors and therapists, who told us how quickly Smith was responding to rehabilitation and therapy. He would be permanently blind, but his attitude was inspiring many of the other newly blind. Smith never mentioned that his dream of being a doctor had been shattered; instead he talked of going into social work to help the blind. Enthusiastically, he spoke of all that needed to be done and how eager he was to be part of it. Within weeks we returned home.
Words of comfort were frequent and welcome, but some occasionally missed the mark. In one instance an aunt, whose son was held prisoner in Germany, shocked us when she said, “Smith, if you’d had enough faith, you’d have been unharmed, too.” But before my bristling father could respond, my tiny mother stood—all five feet of her height—and, with her hand on Dad’s arm said, “Jesus prayed that his cup could pass from him, but he also prayed, ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’” (Luke 22:42.)
That night, before family prayer, Dad said, “If Smith can keep his faith, we can, too. We’ll pray for the strength to bear this tragedy.”
For forty years, Smith has worked with the blind and has inspired them by his own example, an example he attributes to his parents. “They taught me to pray for light and to desire knowledge,” he says. With the light and knowledge he has gained, he walks by faith.
“No Money, No Books, Nothing”
When World War II broke out, all foreign Latter-day Saint missionaries serving in Great Britain were sent home. In order to keep the British mission active and organized, a fund was established to support a few British members who might serve missions within the country. Families generously donated to the fund.
I didn’t know about this when my branch president asked me, “Sister Ripley, would you like to go on a mission?” I was so concerned about the war and my own lack of finances that the thought had not entered my head. So I told him that I would love to go but that I had no means—no money, no books, nothing. He explained, “If you are willing to go, you will be provided for.” To me, the prospect seemed impossible.
Three days later, my mother told me of a sister in our ward who wanted to see me. She had become less active in the Church because her husband objected to her involvement, but she had two books she wanted me to have. One was her triple combination; the other was Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. “Take them,” she told me. “You’ll make more use of them than I.” She knew nothing of my being asked to serve a mission.
Soon after that, a niece said, “Auntie, you can have my Bible.” After receiving these scriptures, I began to see how the Lord was going to provide for me to serve a mission. I was overwhelmed; for the first time, the mission seemed possible.
My mother then took me to the market, saying, “If you are going away, you’ll need some new clothes.” In spite of our tight budget, she was able to purchase what I needed. The very next morning, all clothing went on ration, as so many commodities did during the war. Could we doubt that the Lord was providing? In less than a week, I had the books, the clothes, and the promised funds, so that I could accept the call.
Soon I was on my way to the Sheffield District with my companion, Delia Bedford, from my branch. We were welcomed with open arms in the branches and worked there for six months, tracting, teaching, and serving in other ways. We were asked to serve an additional six months, but the mission president told the members there were only sufficient funds to support one of us. A member came forward and offered financial means so that both of us could serve for an additional six months, and we were each given a new companion and were under way again. I was set apart to serve with Mabel Fitton from Oldham, and we were blessed to teach the gospel to someone who came into the Church.
In the Grimsby Branch, we began to teach a couple with a little baby. Because we showed special interest in and concern for their baby, they welcomed us back. The Spirit worked on them until they both joined the Church.
After that six months, I was asked to continue to serve for another year, bringing my mission to two years altogether, during which time I served in five districts, with five different companions. One of the most common problems in contacting people related to the war itself. People thought we were conscientious objectors and would reject us or criticize us. “Can’t you find something else to do?” they would ask. “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”
We never mentioned it when our funds ran out, but the members seemed to sense it and would support us and feed us. At times, this support came in ways that could be attributed only to the Lord. On one occasion, my companion and I were to attend a missionary conference in a distant city. I had very little money, and my companion had not sufficient to help me. So I fasted and asked for the Lord’s help. I told Heavenly Father in my prayers about the conference and my lack of funds. Two days after my fast, I received a letter from Scotland, although I’d never been there and knew no one there. The short note read:
“Dear Sister Ripley,
“My sister and I have been looking in the Millennial Star for reports of missionaries who are doing good work, and we have chosen your name. We had this check in the house, a small amount, and send it hoping you will accept it in the spirit in which it is given.”
I wept, thanking the Lord for these two dear sisters and asking him to bless them. In the note I wrote to thank them, I assured them that I was not the only missionary doing good work but that I was one who had prayed for financial help. I felt sure the Lord had inspired them to assist me.
After paying tithing on that check, I bought my ticket to the missionary conference and had three pennies left. Once again, the Lord had blessed me with a very real answer to my prayers.
“Let Me Have Your Shoes”
Brisk October breezes stirred the red and gold leaves outside my warm kitchen window that year. I was just taking pumpkin pies out of the oven when the phone rang. “Linda!” Dad said, his voice quivering, “It’s your mom. She’s collapsed in the hall and I can’t get her up alone! Please hurry.”
In his confusion, Dad neglected to hang up the phone. Since I couldn’t disconnect from his line, I sent my daughter next door to call 911, the emergency number, and request an ambulance. Then I rushed to my father’s side.
Despite all that was done to save her, Mom was gone. We took Dad home from the hospital and tried to determine the necessary events of the days ahead. Neighbors of thirty years and many friends streamed by, offering sympathy and help. It was touching and overwhelming to see so much love and compassion on our behalf.
Among those offering help was Clark Anderson, a highway patrol officer whose wife had served as one of Mom’s counselors in the ward Relief Society presidency. “I’m so sorry, Wilson; how can I help?” Clark asked my father.
Dad responded with thanks but said that really everything had been taken care of. Brother Anderson was emphatic: “You don’t understand. I want to help. What can I do?” He stood there silently as Dad again assured him that he couldn’t think of anything. Then the man said something to my father I’ve never forgotten: “Let me have your shoes.” Dad looked surprised.
“What do you want with my shoes, Clark?” he asked.
“You’ll be busy the next few days, and I know how to put a nice shine on your dress shoes. Please let me shine your shoes.”
With tears in his eyes, Dad returned from the bedroom with his dress shoes in hand. “You really don’t need to do this, Clark,” Dad said, handing the man his shoes.
“Yes, I do,” Clark answered.
Within a few hours, Brother Anderson returned with Dad’s shined shoes. Dad chuckled as he thanked him for the favor, almost embarrassed that someone had helped in such a personal way. “Now let me have your other shoes,” Brother Anderson said.
Again puzzled, Dad asked, “What for?”
“Well, you’ll need a shine on the others to match this pair.”
Reluctantly, Dad brought out his other shoes and gave them to Brother Anderson. The next day, the shoes were returned, so well polished you could see yourself in the reflection.
Over the days and weeks that followed, Brother Anderson faithfully returned and continued to shine Dad’s shoes. Finally one day, Dad said to Brother Anderson, “Clark, if you’re going to insist on shining my shoes, I would like you to teach me how you put such a shine on them.” Brother Anderson agreed.
Through that initial act of simple kindness, a friendship grew. Soon the two men were spending their spare time together seeking out bargains at yard sales and thrift stores, sharing a meal out here and there, and just visiting.
Recently, Dad passed away. Again, Brother Anderson came to help. We asked him to speak at Dad’s funeral, and he spoke of friendship and love. My memory of his exact words may fade, but I will long recall the simple, thoughtful service he provided when he polished Dad’s shoes.