Thirty Years as a Visiting Teacher

By Irma de MacKenna

Print Share

    I know that the visiting teaching program is divinely inspired. The longer I live, the more evidence I see that it is one of the ways the Lord wants women to give love through service. And I believe that anyone who fulfills this calling with a humble heart will have great experiences.

    I was baptized over thirty years ago in Quilpué, Chile, and since then have watched the kingdom of God move steadily ahead in this part of the world. Its remarkable growth reminds me of Christ’s parable of the leaven, in which a tiny bit of yeast can make a mass of dough rise. In a similar way, visiting teachers can help our Heavenly Father’s kingdom increase as we minister to each other in love.

    Timely Visits

    My first visiting teaching companion was Sister Necochea. She and I were the first two people in Quilpué to accept the gospel. Now we have a stake plus a large district here, but in those early days we traveled long distances to visit our sisters. One of them, Mercedes, was the wife of a seaman who was often gone from home. She lived with her five children on an elevated site near a stream. Their fine house had a solid foundation with five or six steps leading up to the door. Two faithful dogs guarded it.

    One winter when it was very rainy, the stream near their home turned into a raging river. It overran its banks and flooded the land, sweeping away homes, animals, and all kinds of objects. When the worst had passed, Sister Necochea and I went to visit Mercedes. She cried with joy to see us and excitedly related how her family had been preserved.

    For several stormy days she had watched anxiously as the river kept rising. Then one night the dogs, who were tied outside, began barking desperately. She opened the door and found to her amazement that there was a lake where her yard had been. She waded in water up to her knees to untie her animals and bring them into the house.

    She woke up her two older children, about ages ten and twelve, and had them get dressed. The three of them watched transfixed in the open door as the water covered, one after another, the steps leading up to the house. Then the three of them got on their knees and cried to the Lord with all their strength. The water stopped two steps away from the floor and did not go one centimeter higher. They never had to leave their home. How wonderful it was that day for my companion and me to be able to offer encouragement to Mercedes and hear her inspiring experience!

    Mercedes became a dedicated visiting teacher herself. She and her companion, Olga Barros, visited an elderly sister who lived with her daughter, who had an intellectual impairment. One day Mercedes and Olga arrived to find the daughter distressed and confused. She said that her mother had been tired after lunch and had lain down to rest. When the daughter tried to rouse her, she refused to wake up. At that very moment the visiting teachers arrived.

    Since I lived nearby, Mercedes ran to get me while Olga massaged the old woman. We called a doctor and did everything we could for the mother until the doctor arrived. How remarkable it was that the visiting teachers had arrived at the very moment when we could call the doctor and calm the frightened daughter!

    Instruments in His Hands

    At another time my companion and I visited two sisters who lived with their mother. Both had a great desire for their mother to join the Church, and whenever we came to visit, they would call for her to join us. But she would always answer, “I’m busy,” or “I have a lot to do,” in an unfriendly tone.

    One wintry day—a day when we got so cold and tired that we practically had to force ourselves to finish our visiting—our last stop was at the house of this aloof woman. But when she opened the door, we could see that her whole countenance was changed. Her little granddaughter had just fallen and cut her forehead and was bleeding profusely above the eyebrow. I took a towel and pressed it hard against the wound while my companion quickly found coats so that we could take a taxi to the hospital. While the child was taken care of, we comforted the grandmother and watched the other little girl. Then we took everyone home. Eventually this woman became a member of the Church and a visiting teacher.

    A Strong Prompting

    We can seldom foresee how the Lord will make us instruments in his hands. One year when my companion was out of town, my daughter Elizabeth went with me on my visits. It was Christmastime, so we baked cookies, wrapped them in cellophane, and tied them with red ribbon and a pine branch. Then we put all these little gifts in a bag and had a prayer together. At the last minute I felt a strong prompting and slipped in an extra package.

    After visiting several houses, we reached the home of a sister who lived with her married son and his family, all of whom were members. Another older woman, looking very tired, was there delivering clothing. Her name was Margarita, and she earned her living doing laundry by hand. Knowing what hard work that is, I handed her the other little package of cookies and wished her a Merry Christmas. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she was completely alone and that this would be her only gift.

    I spoke to her then about the Lord Jesus Christ and told her that if he is with us, we will not be lonely. I assured her that she was a daughter of God who loved her just as an earthly father loves his children and that if she sought after him, he would receive her with open arms. I told her many more things. Her face lighted up, and she agreed to receive the missionaries.

    The next month when we went to visit that house, Margarita was there again. She hugged us and said, “Now I can really call you sisters. I was baptized last week.”

    A Letter and a Prayer

    We used to make monthly visits to a lovely young woman who lived with her parents. Her father, also a member, was ill and would ask us to pray for him. After his daughter moved away, he wanted us to keep coming. Twice we took him to the hospital, and after he came home, we visited him for almost three years.

    The shipping company he had once worked for had retired him because of his illness. They owed him quite a bit of money, which he needed very much. He had appealed to his former supervisors in vain. I offered to write a letter on his behalf to the superintendency, the company’s highest office. After praying for inspiration, I carefully composed a message describing his difficult situation. We prayed and also put his name on the temple prayer roll.

    Truly the Lord is willing to work wonders for his faithful children! A short time afterwards, he received word that the company would pay all of his expenses retroactively. He was able to live comfortably during his final days. His wife, who at one time didn’t speak to us, became friendly and eventually joined the Church. She confided to us that she had decided to hear the gospel because of our faithfulness in visiting her family. Less than a month after her baptism, her husband died, and we stayed near her during that difficult time.

    I could go on and on with wonderful experiences, for through the years I have had the privilege of visiting many homes in different parts of the city. I have enjoyed helping, encouraging, and listening to my sisters and taking a simple message in the Lord’s name. What thrills me most is the feeling that He is walking beside us. I always return with a radiant joy in my heart. Now we are visiting a sister who is ninety-four years old. She can no longer go out, and she sits at the window of her little house each month to wait for us. She is so glad to have someone to talk to. We love her dearly and would never disappoint her.

    A Great Host of Sisters

    At one time in my life, I thought that I didn’t need visiting teachers myself. I had a strong testimony of the gospel, and I had no major problems. But one year I was alone on Christmas Eve. My husband was busy shopping, and all my children were married and living out of the country, except for one daughter, who couldn’t come. The house was so empty without the hugs of my little grandchildren. I’m not used to feeling sorry for myself, but that night I sat down in the dark in my living room and let the tears run down my cheeks. Just at that moment the doorbell rang. My visiting teachers! My dear sisters had come to bring me a greeting of Christmas joy. It was as if the Lord himself had reminded me that I was not alone.

    By the time they left, my mood had completely changed. I turned on the lights, put on my best dress, decorated the table, and prepared a special supper. When my husband came in, we celebrated Christmas together and gave thanks that we were both alive and healthy.

    In so many ways these beautiful sisters serve our Heavenly Father. Every month a great host of them, of every race and nationality, treads the streets and lanes of this globe. Armed only with love and faith, they knock on the doors of their assigned sisters, introducing themselves with a cheerful smile and with the happy words, “We’re your visiting teachers.”

    Sister MacKenna as a young visiting teacher

    Illustrated by Larry Winborg