Sydell’s Blessings


Assist to bring forth my work, … and you shall be blessed (D&C 6:9).

Sydell sniffed the air as she skipped down the cobblestone street of Kingstown, a port town on the little West Indian island of St. Vincent. Although it was a beautiful Saturday morning, she held her nose. “Whew! It smells like rotten eggs! La Soufriere, the volcano, must be stirring up sulfur gases,” she muttered.

Sydell hurried around the corner and looked down at the blue water of the fishing bay, where sailboats rocked back and forth on the tide. It must be past lunchtime, she thought, and she wondered if her father and two brothers had returned with a catch of tuna or shark on their own small fishing boat. As she quickly turned her steps toward home, she clutched the new hair ribbon she had bought to wear to church the next day.

Mother, Father, and her two brothers, Japeth and Seraft, all went to church together in rooms above a mortuary. Father was a counselor to the branch president. Mother was the Relief Society president. Their whole family was responsible for seeing that the rooms were clean and for opening the louvered windows to let the fresh sea breeze flow into the room before meetings started. Although he was only twelve, Seraft led the singing. Japeth prepared and blessed the sacrament with the missionaries.

Sydell left the town below and climbed up the trail to her small wooden home perched on the side of the mountain. Halfway up she paused to greet the big black cow tied to a banana tree. “Good evening, Blessing,” she said, patting the cow’s silky neck. Blessing only blinked her big brown eyes and went back to munching grasses. Mother called her Blessing because there was no dairy on the island, so the family was blessed to have fresh milk and butter and cream.

Sydell sniffed the air. The aroma of roasting breadfruit filled her nose. “I know what we’re having for lunch,” she called to her mother as she ran up the steep path to the porch.

Mother was sitting on the steps, enjoying the sun while she busily chopped onions and fresh thyme to season the food she was cooking. She smiled at Sydell, who leaned over and kissed her cheek.

“Oh, Mother, I am so hungry! Is the breadfruit ready?”

“Get a stick and see,” answered Mother.

Sydell put her new hair ribbon away, then found a sturdy stick and poked it into the blackened ball baking in the coals. Carefully she carried it to her mother and set it on the ground beside the step. “It’s ready!” she exclaimed, very cautiously picking out a bit of the hot meat of the fruit that tasted like bread, then stuffing it into her mouth.

Mother stood and wiped her hands on her apron. “Here comes Papa and the boys with a fine catch of fish for supper!”

Papa always stood tall and walked fast. Sydell thought that he was the handsomest and strongest man she had ever seen. But today his shoulders drooped, and he had a worried look in his eyes. Japeth and Seraft looked very serious too. “What is it, Papa? Is something wrong?”

“No, my little one, something is very right. But we have an important matter to consider that concerns all of us, and we must ask our Heavenly Father to help us.”

Father put his bag of fish down and washed his hands at the basin on the porch. Then the family all knelt together in the little home on the cliff, and Papa talked to Heavenly Father.

“Our Father in Heaven, we are thankful for the missionaries who taught us the true gospel of Jesus Christ. My son, Japeth, now is nineteen and desires to go on a mission, but we have very little money with which to help him. We ask Thee to help us find a way for him to serve. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

It was very quiet after the prayer as each family member thought about where such a great amount of money could come from. Fishing brought only enough to keep the family fed and clothed, and there was no other way to earn it.

Sydell and Mother put their arms around Japeth and told him that they were very happy that he wanted to be a missionary. “You will be a great example to the rest of the people here on St. Vincent,” his mother said.

“I will miss you very much,” whispered Sydell as she hugged her brother.

“And I will have to milk the cow every night,” Seraft remembered. “I hear her calling now.”

“The cow! That’s the answer!” shouted Papa. “We will sell the cow. Fresh milk is such a luxury on this island that she will bring a large price.”

“Oh, must we, Papa?” cried Sydell. She thought of Blessing’s big, soft brown eyes.

“Sometimes we must give up something we love to get something better. I know that Heavenly Father will give us many blessings if we are willing to sacrifice for Him,” said Mother.

“Come,” said Father, as he gathered his family in prayer once again. “Sydell, will you say the prayer this time and ask if we should sell the cow?”

Sydell could hardly keep from crying as she told Heavenly Father that they were willing to sell Blessing, if that was what was necessary, to send Japeth on a mission. As she looked around the circle after finishing the prayer and saw the smiles of her family through her tears, a warm and wonderful feeling came into her heart, and she knew that selling Blessing would be the beginning of an even greater blessing in their lives.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown