This isn't the first time I have posted about our family service projects (see links at the end of this post) and I certainly don't post for recognition or to boast. I post because this is mainly our family history and these projects are regular part of my children's lives. When Linda Burton spoke a couple of weeks ago ("I was a Stranger", General Conference, April 2016) she urged each of the women in the world to come to the aid of the millions of refugees around the world. She reminded us that,
“The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.” Leviticus 19:34
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”Hebrews 13:2
And the Savior said:
“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me.”Matthew 25:35–36.
It was a call that my parents have answered over and over again in our lives. A quick text telling us that in between the Saturday sessions of conference we would be putting together hygiene kits was hardly a surprise. They had contacted the Utah Refugee Center and prepared everything for when the children arrived. Their whole lives have been filled with such projects. They were eagerly talking about who would be at what station and recollections of past projects came into conversation frequently.
"Serving others need not come from spectacular events. Often it is the simple daily act that gives comfort, uplifts, encourages, sustains, and brings a smile to others. May we always find opportunities to serve." (Elder Michael J. Teh, "Out of Small Things," Ensign, Nov. 2007, 37)
This quote is what my parents have taught me. Through small things you can make a difference. I wouldn't be able to pull off a big project like this, but in my own small way I can help by making receiving blankets or quilts that bring warmth during our brisk winters. I might not be able to make many, but if one or two people can wrap up in something I create it will be worth every minute I spend.
The garage was laid out with four large banquet size tables. Mom and Dad had each table stocked with the necessary supplies in a specific order to add to the bags based off the items requested at our local refugee center (see here). The children each found a spot and the filling began. Loaf was in charge of opening the bags and giving them to Fred. She was quite shocked to learn that people don't have basic things like toothbrushes and soap, things we all take for granted. Even the smallest of people can help.
Guelita's health no longer allows her to participate but she loves watching the children. I have thought a great deal about her life after she immigrated to the U.S. and the deplorable living conditions they were forced to live in because the government would not accept their degrees. All my life those stories have been interwoven with my experiences and I have always been so grateful for the sacrifices that she and Guelito made in my behalf.
As I watched one of my sons work on assembling these kits, I couldn't help but think about his birth mother. She was a war refugee from Liberia. She spent time in Ghana until she was able to come here to the U.S. We only know a few things because she doesn't like to talk about that time but imagining what she must have endured is painful. Elder Patrick Kearon gave this statistic: "There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world today, which means that “1 in every 122 humans … has been forced to flee their homes,”2 and half of these are children.3 It is shocking to consider the numbers involved and to reflect on what this means in each individual life." ("Refuge from the Storm", General Conference, April 2016)
He went on to say, "As members of the Church, as a people, we don’t have to look back far in our history to reflect on times when we were refugees, violently driven from homes and farms over and over again. Last weekend in speaking of refugees, Sister Linda Burton asked the women of the Church to consider, “What if their story were my story?”5 Their story is our story, not that many years ago."
What if her story was my story? How would her life be different? What would I have done in her situation? Most importantly, how can I help in this little corner of my world?
So as I listened to Elder Donald L. Hallstrom talk ("I am a Child of God", General Conference, April 2016) about the saints in Liberia, tears flowed freely. We are all engaged in this work together. No matter who you are, no matter where you are in the world, you are not alone. There is someone who loves you.
We have not forgotten you. We might not know your name and may never see your face but you are in our prayers and in our own small way we hope that you know that you matter. For God knows you by name. He hears your prayers.
For more information you can go to: "I was a Stranger"
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