Service Given and Received
When our two-year-old son was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and started chemotherapy, he couldn’t attend church anymore. Members of the Relief Society brought in meals for our family and helped with babysitting our other three small children. Our bishop released my husband and me from our callings, and we took turns going to church with our healthy children. Our home teachers arranged for the sacrament to be administered to whoever stayed home with our son. The bishop also asked us if the ward could fast for our son; we hadn’t thought of that and readily agreed.
A few months after his diagnosis, our son was recovering from a bone marrow transplant in another city, and I was there with him. The ward in that area arranged for me to receive the sacrament every week.
We are so thankful for our home and hospital ward families. They reached out to us and provided much-needed service during a difficult time.
Even though I was unable to do much besides care for our son, Heavenly Father helped me find opportunities for service. I had the opportunity to talk to our son’s nurses about the Church and to give a Book of Mormon to a new friend whose child had a transplant. Even though I didn’t have a calling and could not go to church at that time, I was pleasantly surprised at the opportunities I had to grow spiritually.
Tonya A. Belau, Connecticut, USA
A Simple Note
At age 81 my mother was thrilled to accept a calling to be a visiting teacher. Because she is unable to walk due to osteoarthritis, she is housebound much of the time. Still, she makes sure she contacts the three sisters she visit teaches every month with a handwritten note.
In each note my mother tries to think of interesting things to say to these sisters, known to her only by name. She invites them to ward events, sends the visiting teaching message for the month, inquires about how they are, and wishes them good health and happiness. Days turn into months and then into years as my mother faithfully writes to these three sisters.
As I mailed the notes, I sometimes wondered about these sisters and how they felt about the little gifts of love my mother prepared every month. Did they just throw the envelope away, unopened and unread? Did they read the sweet notes and wonder why a total stranger would continually write to them? Did it bring the gospel into their lives in some small way?
One Sunday morning one of the sisters who had been the recipient of these notes came to church. She was hoping to meet my mother and was disappointed to learn that Mother was housebound and not able to be at church. She told me, “Your mother has written me every month for the past two years. I wanted so much to meet her and thank her for all the cards and letters she has sent to me. I look forward to them every month.”
I was speechless for a minute as tears welled up in my eyes. I told her that my mother would be so happy to hear this. I mentioned that I had wondered how the notes were received from someone she had never met, and I told her how much mother enjoyed sending them. The sister said, “It made me happy to see that someone cared enough to write to me! When they came, I taped them to my refrigerator.”
She said she had a gift for mother. It was a vase of silk flowers with ink pens on the tips of the stems, given so that her visiting teacher would always have a pen to send notes!
I left church that day as if walking on air. I felt so grateful for the Relief Society program. I felt thankful for the sensitivity of a Relief Society president who gave a sister a chance to be a visiting teacher even though she could not leave her home. I felt especially thankful for a mother who shows me daily what commitment and love really mean, and for a Savior who has His loving arm around us all, no matter what our status in life is.
I will never doubt the importance of visiting teaching. This experience taught me that we can all render service regardless of our challenges.
Fran Ramsell, Pennsylvania, USA
Staying Connected through the Internet
I am homebound because my body cannot tolerate or process the wide variety of chemicals used in our society today. The combined smells of perfumes, colognes, hair products, deodorants, cleaning supplies, and even copy machines make it virtually impossible for me to step into a church meetinghouse and other public buildings.
Since learning what was making me so ill, I have become much more computer savvy. The Internet and television have become my windows to the world. I’m so grateful that the Ensign and other Church publications are available online because the ink in most magazines now makes me sick too. My husband brings home ward news, and members of my ward and stake check in on me via telephone. I have visiting teaching assignments and do my visiting teaching with cards, letters, and phone calls. I am also able to serve as a visiting teaching supervisor in my ward.
My testimony is that praying without ceasing (see Mosiah 26:39) brings physical and spiritual blessings. I have received relief from intense pain after uttering a simple silent prayer. Friends have run errands and made sacrifices on my behalf. I have discovered that I am still able to contribute to the world through my blog and by the quilts I make for premature infants and donate to hospitals with neonatal intensive care units. Indeed, there are blessings to be found in every affliction.
Sue Brown, Washington, USA
Becoming homebound was the last thing I thought would ever happen to me. I had always been physically active, but some time ago I had an accident that left me temporarily confined to my home.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from this time was the importance of reaching out. I discovered that being homebound did not have to keep me from calling others to see how they were doing or to encourage them.
I also learned the importance of volunteering to help other people. Some were hesitant to ask me for help because of my situation, but when I offered, I was blessed with opportunities to serve.
On the other hand, it was also important for me to learn to graciously accept help from others, including my home teachers. By accepting help, we give others the opportunity to serve.
I am grateful for my experience. Even though my situation was a temporary one, it taught me empathy for those whose health prevents them from regularly participating in church activities. It has been a blessing, not only during the period of my recuperation, but also beyond. I hope that I have learned to be more sensitive to the needs of others and more mindful of opportunities to give and receive service.
David H. Campagna, Iowa, USA
Photo illustrations by David Stoker, posed by models