The Utah Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City is a key hub of the Church welfare system. With over 500,000 square feet of warehouse space and a fleet of 43 trucks, the storehouse facilitates the delivery of over 1,000 tons of commodities each week. But if you ask Brother Richard Humpherys, former manager of this vast facility, which figure is the most important to him, he is likely to cite the number of young adults who work at the storehouse as Church-service missionaries. These special young men and women may number as many as 40 at a time, and their work entails everything from scrubbing floors to greeting visitors to loading relief containers.
Despite his many other responsibilities, Brother Humpherys loved to take the opportunity to personally work with and train the missionaries. As a father who raised an autistic daughter of his own, he developed a unique understanding and compassion for those with special needs. He encouraged a missionary program that is a model for programs throughout the welfare system.
The missionary program at the storehouse offers young missionaries with a wide range of talents and abilities meaningful opportunities for mental, physical, and spiritual development. Senior missionary couples help guide the younger missionaries in gospel study and leadership classes. For 18 to 24 months, these young people serve as close to full time as their capabilities and situations will allow. Their service is further sanctified by their knowledge that everything they do contributes to the divine work of providing for those in need.
One of these young men, Elder Phan, shared how he gained his own testimony of welfare service. Given the strenuous and sometimes tedious nature of his tasks, he had begun to feel weary of his work at the storehouse, even to the point of wishing to end his mission. One day as he was riding the bus home, an elderly gentleman sat next to him and, noticing his nametag, asked Elder Phan if he was a missionary. In response, Elder Phan explained the nature of his service at the storehouse. Clearly touched, the elderly man went on to explain that, even though he did not belong to the Church, his wife was a member. He then proceeded to express his love and gratitude for the Church as he recounted a time in their lives when, facing financial despair, he and his wife had been sustained by food from the bishops’ storehouse. Because of that assistance, he came to know that the Lord cared for him and his family. From this experience, Elder Phan gained a testimony that his mission was worthwhile, and his daily tasks of cleaning and sweeping took on new meaning as he was able to see that his work formed a small but critical piece of a grand, overarching effort to care for the poor and the needy.
Another young missionary, Sister Mantz, worked at the storehouse reception desk. Noticing that she occasionally had spare time and wanting to make her service as meaningful as possible, Brother Humpherys asked Sister Mantz, who was fond of artwork, if she would create drawings of temples while waiting for visitors. Since that time, Sister Mantz created many drawings, several of which were proudly displayed in the Welfare Services headquarters office.
These special young men and women, who serve with diligence and enthusiasm, have become a testament to the words of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf that “in the Lord’s plan, there is something everyone can contribute” (“Providing in the Lord’s Way,” Ensign¸ Nov. 2011, 54).