Why would some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints travel thousands of miles at their own expense to share time, talents and energy in the service of strangers?
President Thomas S. Monson said, “I believe the Savior is telling us [in Luke 9:24] that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish — and in effect save their lives” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?”, October 2009, General Conference).
The following are some accounts of service by Church members in 2016 that benefited both givers and receivers.
On December 1, Michael and Kimberley Potter of Edmonton, Alberta, took to heart the Church’s “Light the World” Christmas Season campaign by teaching their two younger children about service and doing what Jesus would do.
Their first stop was the Edmonton Emergency Relief Services, which provides assistance to refugees.
Next was a local inner-city homeless shelter, where the Potters gave food to people waiting outside in -27 C.
The final stop was the local food bank to show appreciation for those who help feed the hungry.
Church members Barbara Norell of Hamilton, Ontario, and her daughter, Tia Arcaro, flew 3,400 kilometres to El Salvador in June to work alongside other volunteers from Youth With a Mission, an organization which builds homes for the homeless and provides a feeding program and English classes for children in the community.
“These people have so little and are so grateful for every kindness,” said Sister Norell.
Sister Arcaro also returned earlier this year from serving in Germany and Turkey, where she volunteered in refugee camps.
An innovative way full-time missionaries of the Church simultaneously offer free service and share the gospel in and around Hamilton, Ontario, is by using “no cost” online classified ads, which produce a text, call or email almost daily.
One request combined the efforts of eight missionaries to lift and position a 1,000-pound roof on top of a shed, only to discover they had put it on backwards!
After painstakingly removing the roof, flipping it around and repositioning it, the missionaries were rewarded with lunch by the grateful family.
In July, Amber Kosubovich, Relief Society president of the Hamilton Mountain Ward in Hamilton, Ontario, and her daughter Natalya, flew 5,000 kilometres to Ecuador to work alongside other volunteers from Medical Ministry International, a nondenominational Christian organization offering compassion and health care worldwide to those in need. During the 10-day visit, Amber provided professional physiotherapy services to 145 people, while Natalya gave 50 fluoride treatments to children, demonstrated exercises prescribed by her mother and helped organize mobile clinics.
This was Amber’s third humanitarian mission to South America. She expressed gratitude for the opportunity to provide hands-on service to those less fortunate and to be able to share that experience with her daughter.
Responding to the Church’s initiative to provide assistance and support to new arrivals of refugees (“I Was a Stranger”), a project was spearheaded by the young women of the Church in Brampton, Ontario (ages 12–18), partnering with the Christie Refugee Centre in Toronto to assemble kits with most-needed items.
Enthusiasm for the project was contagious and resulted in the purchase by Church members of new shopping carts, which were filled with household items for the families. All donations were delivered by the young women and young men of the in August.
The Inter-Faith Food Bank Society in Calgary, Alberta, received cash and food donated by over 300 guests attending a free Christmas charity concert featuring Amo Cantare (a choir of Mormon singers), children’s choirs and the Draper Family Handbell Choir.
After eight years, Mormon missionaries continue to help residents of Churchville, Ontario, clean up a pioneer cemetery. It was here, in 1837, that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and where an estimated 100 residents joined the Church. One of the missionaries commented, “It was a privilege to tend the graves of those who, in all likelihood, heard Joseph Smith teach the gospel.”
President Spencer W. Kimball noted that, “God often meets others’ needs through our small acts of service” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 79–88).