Saturday, September 24, 2011

Relief Society Service Learning

Sept 24th 2011
I finished my little dresses that I had signed-up to do and promised to make for the little girls in the country of Sierra Leone. It was so much harder this time around. When I hurry, I take short-cuts and each time I do that ...  my messes begin with the gathering, adding on the skirt the top side, and it would all bunch-up! I would make small stitches, of course the smallest stitches would be among the many that ended-up where they didn't belong.

The project for Relief Society for this year, was one of service to Muslim girls and boys that live in the poorest country in the world. It's similar to the project we had done last year. This is the country that was mostly taken into slavery at the end of this century for the diamond mines. Sierra Leone and the people who call it home, were the inspiration for a famous movie, "Blood Diamonds" and was written somewhat about the terrible things that happened to a whole country when the greed of people become more important than human lives.

This humanitarian project was started early in the year. It was a goal accomplished without any notoriety and very anonymous. This was a very personal commitment. I guess I'm writing about it now, because I'm so overwhelmed by every one's commitment and great sacrifice of time, energy, effort, and money as a group. I want to share the joy that we have received, by trying honestly to have Christ-like charity.

This Was the picture in The Desert News
 Last year, I made five dresses and made one to represent each of my five daughters. I think the final count of dresses the last time we did this the count for our stake was around 800 dresses. This year I wanted to "Lengthen my stride" and do more, two more. Then, at the same time the Relief Society presidency also wanted to do more, and asked for additional humanitarian hygiene kits ... as many as we could make. One kit was for anyone and all the others would be for infants. These packages have a bunch of very important items contained in them; as soap, a washcloth, diapers (if needed) toothpaste, and toothbrushes and more. The kicker here is my daughter, Kiely and her husband arrived here from Utah after her school let-out in May. She was called as the person that kept a record of all the humanitarian items being turned-in to the coordinator. I would hear her say, "Oh, we need more soap and more toothbrushes." "I hope everyone remembers." I just saw the goal sign and knew I needed to help in this. The sign-up sheet would pass me on Sunday and I just felt I needed to again, do more. We would give knowing that it would be a sacrifice for us money-wise and also I had suffered another fall. (It takes forever for me to get patched-up) Instead of asking for money to buy the washcloths, or other items I had a new idea. .I would go in a store and come-out telling Steve what a great price the soap, washcloths, or toothbrushes were in a bundle. My Steve's very generous and he'd reach in his pocket and pull-out a few dollars and little by little, in time, and I mean THE ... wire, in time... I had done it.

My Seven Dresses
This whole project isn't  exclusively a "Mormon" service. We work with another couple of churches and the person that helps take the needed supplies into the county is a children's doctor from our county of Ventura, California. I think one of the names of the church is Lighthouse Ministries in Santa Monica, but I'm not sure. Again, our church doesn't care about getting recognition, it's mission to provide a very needed service. Stake Centers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all have assignments on the inspiration of their Relief Society presidencies and the Stake President. I'm not sure there are Mormons in this Sierra Leone because it's exclusively Muslim. I hope they know that we do care about them and saddened that we have so much in clean clothes and bodies and ... we take all of this for granted, the children need so much. This service has been a real catharsis for me and my family.

Mostly, the way of dealing with 9/11 has been one of patriotism, but with also fueled with the emotional hurt and anger directed of a large group of people in this world that want us to not be here or exist. Our feelings should be different and the only way we could truly be Christlike is to love our enemies and love those that strive to hurt us. This process of trying to purify myself has changed me and I can't write or find words to write what my heart feels.

We have brothers and sisters that don't like us, because we are Mormon or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, still ... in our own county. I'm not sure why, because our country was founded on the right to religious freedom. All humanitarian missions have some supplies that go to those of our faith and even more are given to those who are our neighbors and non-members. It isn't as some believe, that we (Mormons) just take care of ourselves.

This particular project has brought a healing and there's not a more combined group of people that have suffered more from 9/11 than those that are a part of the fire service. From the beginning when our country was young, almost all the firemen were related in various departments and these men were usually the poor working class that joined the volunteer departments. Firefighting has been a vocation that really believes in family within the department so much, that they would die for each other. The firefighters are a close-knit family and we all have to believe that Heavenly Father gives justice to all those doing unrighteous acts and still claiming to be of a certain religion. Anyone can become capable and warped, and still belong to any religion. One charismatic person can twist and  provide a way to gain followers to believe an interpretation that's completely off-kilter and do very unspeakable acts of terrorism, just like others before. We know that these things happened in just a few past decades. Who is it that twists and changes scripture and the Prophets voice? The great deceiver, Satan himself.

Oh, the dresses! It was more than a charitable heart that helped me finish what I had started. The spring that holds the presser foot on my sewing machine had quit working. I had to do something and the fix-it shop would take too long and ordering a new one was also out-of-the-question. I used some jewelry tools to fix the wire and continued working on that project, I ran all the straight stitching with the foot off my mother's 1922 Singer. It fit the shank, I've never been so happy to actually rig something that would work. By the time the fourth dress had begun, I had just bent the whole fast-change foot attachment with every bit of muscle in me and the foot stayed. It was better than the day I received the machine and in the mean time, I found that basting and well-ironed garment on a gathered waist or anything for that matter, is actually faster ... because there are no mistakes and no ripping-out endless seams.

The day I finished the dresses the electricity went out all over the county. It came back-on in almost all the areas, but ours. The tree that fell and caused the problem was less than a mile from our house. It went on-line  for the evening, but Verizon came to my door and told us that the electricity would be out again in the morning because the adjustment on the huge electrical towers in our pastures. My work was done and the Lord blessed me and helped me in what I desired to accomplish.

Today, I'm thankful for the help I received and I'm grateful for my daughter, Kiely that pushed me to do more. I'm glad my daughter, Kiely be attending with all of her husband's family at The Latter-day Saints Conference Center, near Temple Square. I look forward to this meeting and have prepared myself so that I can receive counsel and learn in summary, about the new lessons that we'll be receiving in Relief Society this year. I've already learned and received blessings this entire year. The "topping on the cake" will be the final course of the spiritual meal that we have been receiving. Relief Society conference and I'm truly excited to go. Yum.

Added note: Oct. 9th, 2011
Our Relief Society President Carolee Johnson reported:
The final stake count for the stake humanitarian service project was:  926 hygiene kits, 306 infant kits, and 636 dresses.  The Relief Society Stake presidency is sincerely grateful for the time and service given.   Me: All I can think to say about the loving service in our own little Ventura Stake is, wow!

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