A Mormon Woman’s Perspective on LDS Humanitarian Services
Laurie, an LDS woman, shares her thoughts about Mormon humanitarian efforts.
There is a crispness in the air today. Fall is upon us! I am adjusting to the school and lesson schedule, and quickly becoming consumed with menu plans and home reading records. Fall is a time of anticipation and excitement for me as it is for most moms, but at our house, it additionally means another season of DISASTERS. I’m not talking about my 9th grade daughter getting yelled at by the vice principal for shorts too short, I mean the real thing: hurricanes, typhoons, fires, and flooding. My husband, Nate, is a Manager of Emergency Response for the LDS church, and for some reason, these little emergencies seem to pick up around this time of year.
I should have known many years ago that my husband would end up in some type of humanitarian occupation. Nate’s favorite stories of his youth included the joy of planting tulips in the gully and pulling out cars that were stuck in snowstorms with his green truck. When our kids were little, I was often surprised when he would come home late because he had helped a stranger with a flat tire, when he would sacrifice his sleep to shovel neighbors’ driveways, or drop his long list of Saturday jobs if his parents needed help in the yard. Somehow I didn’t see it coming… was my head buried in the sand or what?! Needless to say, we are blessed Nate has a job he loves and for which he is well-suited.
The first things people ask about my husband’s job are: “Is he gone a lot?” and “Don’t you worry about him when he is gone?” Nate isn’t gone much more than many breadwinners, it’s just that quite often he doesn’t have a lot of notice when he needs to leave town. Disasters can happen at inopportune times. I recall a few years back when he decided to volunteer to be my daughter’s soccer coach. That year happened to be 2005, which was when Hurricane Katrina changed US history. But it is hard for us to complain when we know his time is truly making a difference to those who need it.
When Nate is responding to a disaster, we really don’t worry about him. If the Lord needs something done, second guessing his safety won’t accomplish much! Sometimes when he comes home and explains the conditions he addresses, I am grateful I didn’t know the sketchy details, or I might have been more concerned. Let’s just say he has learned which details are the best to share and not to share. I know that the funds used in the Humanitarian Department are sacred, and I feel that if our leaders feel they should be used in a certain way, Nate will be protected enough to make that happen.
One of the blessings I have received as an observer of LDS humanitarian work is my testimony of how the Church works. People from around the globe come to Salt Lake City each year to tour the Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square, and are amazed when they learn how the Church Welfare system runs. The labor is donated, the funds are donated, and even much of the distribution is a volunteer effort. By working together under priesthood direction, members’ needs are accounted for quickly.
During a disaster, local leadership at the local branch and ward level is able to quickly assess the situation, which is communicated to stake and regional leaders, and then to Church headquarters. There are rarely glitches when it is done as instructed. Watching this system in place has greatly strengthened my understanding of the temporal and spiritual ways the Lord has established to make sure His children are well cared for. Heavenly Father loves His children, and I am thankful for His wisdom in providing the priesthood and Church administration to bless others. I am grateful for wonderful leaders who are led by the Spirit in this work.
When Nate first started working in disaster relief, one thing that surprised me the most was how much the LDS church does with other churches in causes throughout the world. Many members of the Church might be surprised to find that they partner frequently with Islamic Relief, Catholic Charities, the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army. NGOs from all over the world come to the Church and ask for assistance in the projects they are working on; likewise, when the Church is looking to assist in a region where they don’t have a lot of members, they work closely with many religions and groups. From the sidelines, I love hearing about the vastly different groups the Church works with, and the many from all walks of life they assist, both inside and outside the Church. I didn’t realize how many people we are able to help. And when it comes to the LDS Church, it is ALWAYS a hand up, not a hand out.
The greatest blessing; however, is that of perspective. I am a typical mother with a busy life running many children here and there and trying to keep up with all that goes with it. It is easy to get wrapped up in insignificant things. I would love to replace my countertops. My white carpet is stained. My front doorknob is broken. We would all love a shopping spree at our favorite clothing store. There is no better way to move past all of those worldly obsessions than by recognizing how unimportant they are in the grand scheme of life.
When Nate was in Haiti, he shared with us a brief story. Upon his arrival, the Area Authority [regional Church leader] asked him to drive to any local church so that he could see the people. Nate chose a church, and as they entered the building, a sweet Haitian woman was coming into the final stages of labor. A doctor accompanying Nate and the Area Authority just happened to be an obstetrician, and 20 minutes after they arrived, a little healthy baby boy was born.
When he returned after his work in Haiti and we viewed his photographs, it was hard to complain about my carpet or my countertops. Nate’s work is a reality check for all of us. When life is challenging or frustrating for us, it is a blessing when he sits down at the table and tells us about what challenges are really happening out there.
I don’t think there is such thing as a perfect job, but how thankful I am for my good husband and the work he is able to do. Someday, I hope I can join him! Have you seen the news lately? At least it looks like he has job security, last time I checked….