Saturday, November 20th, will probably go down in Church history as the day Young Women of the Church set the world ablaze with light. From Israel to Illinois, from New Zealand to New York, young women all over the world pitched in on service projects, then participated in programs that helped everyone involved to “Walk in the Light.”
“My heart went crazy when I heard young women all over the world were doing service projects today,” said Rossy Natal, a Laurel in the Bronx Second Branch, Bronx New York Stake. This was the third worldwide Young Women celebration, but the first that focused on service projects as a major part of the program.
Witness some of the activities that made the world a little brighter, a little warmer, on that exciting Saturday in November:
—A key turned, a hatchback rose, and a light went on in the back of a car. Young Women from the Woodstock Ward, Marietta Georgia East Stake, were tromping through the rain to fill the car with the Thanksgiving feast they’d prepared for a mother and four children who recently left a battered women’s center and moved into a small apartment of their own.
“We were going to deliver it on Thanksgiving,” said Brenda Bain. “But we found out they could be hungry right now, so we didn’t want to wait. We’re going to continue helping them through the rest of the year,” she added, as she pushed the car hatch down.
—Click! A switch was flipped, and a tiny sewing machine light guided adroit fingers over a swatch of terrycloth. The cultural hall of the Irvine California Stake Center was lined with sewing machines, and the middle was filled with cutting tables. The young women were making bibs for a local home for abused children.
“When they told us they use about 350 bibs per day, I thought, Wow—this service project really will make a difference,” said Katheryn Clayton.
—A pot-holdered-hand pulled a door down, an oven light went on, and a wonderful, sweet smell filled the room. Another concoction was complete to add to the menu of a tea the young women of the Ashington Branch, Sunderland England Stake, were preparing for senior citizens in their community.
Not only did the young women share food, but they also shared a program of songs, thoughts, and prayers. “We wanted to show them how much they are appreciated for all their hard work,” says Rachel Woodward.
—The lights were already blazing at the famous Lincoln Center in Manhattan, but their glow was a little brighter when reflected in the eyes of the young women who had been doing service projects in New York that day.
Young women in the Manhattan Spanish Ward spent the day helping at a crafts fair and celebration to benefit a facility that assists women dealing with AIDS. The girls decorated hand towels, handed out fliers, and helped cook lunch. They not only provided service but were educated as well. “Now that we understand about the virus, we will not brush these people off,” says Karina Mora. “We know how to help people and not be afraid.”
—You would think that the twin lights illuminating the road for the snow plow would have made the girls of the Greenwood Village Ward, Willow Creek Colorado Stake, groan. After all, they’d planned a winter carnival for the guests at the local Ronald McDonald House. But there were no long faces.
“When I saw that it had snowed, I thought the scene would make a perfect picture,” said Heather Boyd. “We had a great time being with our friends, being cheerful, and spreading our happiness to others.”
—The snow outside didn’t mute the lights inside of the Paisley Scotland Stake celebration, either. They were putting bows all over the stake Christmas tree, each bow representing an act of service performed by one of the young women. Among other things, they had collected household equipment and used clothing for a women’s refuge center and had put on a concert at a home for the elderly.
“We should serve everyone, not just those we like being around. Christ is our best example of service,” said Heather Wallis, as she pulled her coat on and prepared to walk out into the snowy dusk.
—The dishes were so clean they sparkled, throwing glints of light around a room that was once shabby and rundown. The Young Women of Iowa City were working in connection with a transitional housing program to prepare a home for occupants who were previously homeless. They scrubbed and cleaned on a morning most others would have spent inside with a good book or movie.
“I don’t like to clean my own house,” said April Biggs. “But then I realized that some people don’t even have one to clean. Many people are going through life with a vacancy, and we can fill it through service and the gospel.”
—A kindly light showed in the eyes of Mrs. Barnabe, who has lived 17 years in the home the girls in the Laval Ward, in Quebec, Canada, visited. Caroline Poirier helped put the light there.
“At first I was really shy, and it was hard to have a conversation,” Caroline said. “But she asked me all kinds of questions, like what I intended to do with my life, if I liked animals. I even had the privilege to tell her a little bit about the Church. Before parting, she held me really tight. I want to come back and see her again.”
Later that day, girls all over the world washed off the grit from the morning’s service projects and returned to their chapels in their Sunday best to celebrate the light in a different way. At that point they were glowing. “Serving others is not just a one-day event. It can be an important part of your life every day as you commit yourself to the way of light, to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Young Women General President Janette C. Hales told them, in a recorded message played at the programs.
Christmas lights, glow sticks, flashlights, luminarias, and many other light sources were used in different meetinghouses, as young women and their leaders sang about and talked about sharing the light through service.
Taryn Harmsen of the Garden Park Ward in Salt Lake City, said, “I was in India and volunteered in Mother Teresa’s homes for orphans and for the dying. We visited the City of Joy in Calcutta where people lived in awful conditions, but they were still happy because they have found joy in love and service for each other. I think everyone should get more involved in service to others. It makes the world a better place.”
It certainly did in Dallas, Texas. A young woman in the Dallas Texas East Stake invited her non-LDS friend to be a part of their service celebration. Her non-LDS parents were passing by the stake center and wanted to see what their daughter was doing there. They came in, listened to the program, felt the light. “We want to become a part of your church,” they said afterwards. The missionaries are now giving them the discussions.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” quoted Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, from Matthew 5:16, in his recorded message that was also played to the young women that day. There is no doubt that the young women let their lights shine, and the brilliance was reflected in the heavens.