As a former bishop of an inner-city ward in Chicago, I found that personal safety is often one of the first concerns of new ward members. Their anxiety is magnified as they realize they will be doing home or visiting teaching in neighborhoods with bad reputations.
Although our ward had few problems with respect to personal safety, we made a number of suggestions to ward members to minimize their risk of encountering problems as they go about their Church assignments.
When visiting someone’s home, make an appointment. That way the member will be expecting you, and you’ll avoid making an unnecessary trip into a problem neighborhood.
Get directions. Carefully note the best route into the area and where to park or where bus stops are in relation to the house. Ask if any special safety concerns exist about the neighborhood. Making arrangements ahead of time minimizes the risk of becoming lost or taking unnecessary chances.
Always do home and visiting teaching with your companion. We are counseled to visit in pairs, and in questionable neighborhoods a companion adds a safety factor. Two people together are less likely to be approached by strangers and are more likely to make better decisions if problems arise. If safety concerns are particularly serious in a neighborhood, it may be necessary to find other ways to keep in touch than through traditional home visits.
Listen to the Spirit. No area is completely safe all the time. It is important to offer a prayer and ask for the Spirit to be with you, then be sensitive to any promptings you may receive. If you feel uncomfortable about making a visit or if questionable people are loitering in the area, it may be best to reschedule the appointment. Impressions should be respected, even if it means making a return visit.
Identify problem neighborhoods clearly. Some areas may never be safe to visit and others may be safe only during daytime hours. I have found that I am comfortable visiting most neighborhoods early Saturday or Sunday mornings. I also noticed that problems are more likely to be encountered in the streets on hot summer evenings and on holidays.
Assign priesthood brethren to be present at all events held in the meetinghouse, especially when sisters are using the building. Brethren can become a visible presence by opening doors or standing in doorways as well as escorting sisters to their cars. A priesthood brother should be the last to lock up the building and leave, and here again a twosome may avoid trouble.
Greet visitors to the chapel. Members should be alert for people they don’t recognize. Not only is greeting new faces an important part of missionary and fellowship work but it also minimizes the number of questionable strangers who come into the meetinghouse. If you feel particularly uncomfortable greeting someone, notify a member of the bishopric and let him do it.
By staying alert and practicing a few commonsense rules, many safety issues can be resolved.—, Morton Grove, Illinois
An Evening Abroad
To help our four children, ages 3 to 11, understand that we belong to a worldwide church, we began having an international family home evening once a month. We dedicate the entire evening to studying a foreign country, learning about the nation, the members of the Church who live there, and the customs they have.
To prepare, we turn to the Friend magazine and look for an article—usually labeled “Making Friends”—that spotlights a family or a child from a different nation. We look through several issues to find an article about a family from a country we want to study, and we use that material as the basis of our lesson. After choosing a country we go to the local library for books about the food, the culture, and the government in that country. Encyclopedias and Internet resources can also be helpful. We use those materials to supplement the lesson and to plan a dinner and dessert.
Our night begins with a meal featuring the food from our chosen country. Many lively discussions have taken place over each new dish. Then we start our lesson by locating the country on a large world map and placing a removable sticker to mark it. After several months we can look at the stickers marking the various countries we have already studied.
Then we read the Friend article and discuss the differences and similarities that our family has with the international family in the magazine article. The New Era and the Ensign also feature similar articles about members of the Church worldwide. The Deseret News Church Almanac (a new edition is released every two years) has other facts about how many members, wards and stakes, missions, and missionaries are in each nation.
Then we turn to material from the library and Internet and talk about the country’s culture, government, and social system. To finish our evening, we serve refreshments like those served in that nation. It can also be fun to invite neighbors, grandparents, and missionaries to share the evening, especially if one of the guests originally comes from the featured nation. Besides studying foreign countries, we study different regions of our own country.
These special family home evenings take some advance preparation, but they are worth the extra time because the whole family is involved and excited. Our children learn about geography, history, and respecting cultural differences. They also learn the Church is global in its reach and that children all over the world have some of the same interests and a testimony of the gospel.—, Vernal, Utah
“He Is Not Here” (Luke 24:6)
Because we wanted to find a way to help our children better understand the meaning of Easter, my husband and I started a tradition that works well for our family. By setting aside Saturday morning for dyeing eggs and receiving treats from the Easter Bunny, we are able to reserve Easter Sunday for a more spiritual activity.
On the Friday before Easter, we hold a special family home evening about the Savior’s Atonement and Crucifixion. We talk with the children about the events of the last week of Jesus’ life. As we discuss the Savior’s death, we use a small figure of the Savior cut out of paper and a matching cutout of clear plastic. Holding the two together, we talk about His death and then separate them, placing the picture of His body in a tomb (a box) and moving the clear plastic cutout to the “spirit world” (on a shelf). We explain that without His spirit, the Savior’s body is dead and can no longer breathe, move, or talk.
Early Sunday morning, I remove the picture of the Savior and put it together with the plastic cutout and place the two items outside the box. Later, when the children awake, we gather them and talk about the Resurrection. We go to the box, open it, and look inside to find it empty. We then see that the Savior has been resurrected because the clear plastic “spirit” has been reunited with the picture “body.” The children can understand that the Savior is alive in a newly perfected body and will never die again. This simple tradition has helped us teach our children the true significance of Easter.—, Hartsville, South Carolina