About three months ago, I was perusing the book of Faces and tasting its virtual tapas-bar of entertainment. Amidst the adorable baby videos, outraged political rants, and quizzes that look deep into my soul and tell me which kind of 90’s fashion accessory I am, I happened upon a video from the Daily Show. Now I love me some John Stewart, so I clicked and watched a segment mocking the panic about Ebola possibly breaking out in the US. The clip was well-written, well-performed, and had biting commentary on the current state of human nature. These are all the elements that make me love the Daily Show. Except this time, it wasn’t funny. Not because the jokes weren’t good, or John was off, or it was inaccurate, but because I couldn’t laugh at Ebola. The jokes implied how removed we were from Ebola, but I didn’t feel that way. The physical dangers and effects, yes those were far away, but the other effects Ebola had on people? That was quite close.
Our local ward covers a suburban area right outside the city of Minneapolis. We have a high number of immigrants and refuges in the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis and Saint Paul), and in our ward, there are a lot of immigrants from Liberia. Some have been here many years, but I believe most have come here somewhat recently. All of them, however, have left family (sometimes immediate family) and friends behind. When the Ebola outbreak happened, I honestly didn’t pay much attention at first because it felt so distant. But when I’d go to Church, if any of our Liberian saints prayed in meetings, they passionately pleaded with God for understanding and hope and grace for their families and country. Their prayers were so fervent and sincere, especially compared to the reserved Minnesota Mormon tradition I come from, that it literally felt like my heart was getting pierced as I listened. Such a simple but intimate communication with God shot through my walls of indifference, apathy and ignorance reminding me of something important. These were my people too.
If I am truly to take my baptismal covenants seriously, I am entrusted with bearing the burdens of my brothers and sisters, even if those burdens originate in a land far away. This experience made me realize the real cost of an international church: Disasters and wars no longer happen to distant people far removed from us, they happen to our people. The world’s fate is our fate because our people are everywhere in it. The price is not money, but comfort. Our hearts must collectively expand to hold everyone’s burdens.
I used to think that sounded all perfect and lovely, and “la, la, la, we’re a world of happy love,” but now I see it’s not pretty getting there. Our hearts must be pierced and broken repeatedly to make more room. It’s painful. It’s messy. It’s sometimes brutal. But it’s also necessary if we want to know God and share in the kind of life He has. A life that shares in the joy and sorrow of every soul.
Of course it’s not always something dire that causes our hearts to expand towards one another. It can come bit by bit as we do what we can in our current circumstances. I can’t do much from here to fight Ebola, but I can pray for those involved. I can listen to and honor the stories of my brothers and sisters who have been through so much and who are wracked with worry. I can ask what is needed and do it. As I do these things, I can feel a small bit of apathy or indifference scraped away from my heart to make more room for love. I believe strengthening and expanding the borders of our own hearts creates the foundation we build Zion upon.
Another thing we can do is offer aid when we have the means to. If you are feeling a desire to help those outside your immediate circle, but aren’t sure how to start, please consider donating to the Liahona Children’s Foundation. Our blog has adopted a stake in Ta Khmau, Cambodia in the hopes that we can raise enough money to provide nutritional needs to the stake for one year. If you would like more information on the project with a detailed explanation on how to donate, please click here: Join With Us.
I wish you all an expansive holiday season!
I have a question. How come the church is not helping this stake with its nutritional needs?
I thought this is one the the reasons we have bishops and stake presidents, to assess the local needs. Especially those life saving needs that are food/shelter/water.
If these are fellow saints you are raising money for, why do I feel like I am being cheated with my tithing and fast offering funds?
I would love to donate but if these are members, I feel like I am being deceived out of Salt Lake. Are they picking and choosing who to take care of? Do bishops not have access to funds and resources? Is Salt Lake aware of fellow suffering members in basic life sustenance of nutrition? Is this the church I below to?
I remember when my husband was in school, our income was $300 month, and we had 3 kids. I would get my loans and grants and pay my house payments, utilities in advance, and then the $300 was for food and gas (time-11-15 years ago). My mother-in-law took me shopping when she could and bought my kids clothes and even gave me cash regularly, and this made the difference. I remember one Christmas, without even requesting, they brought us a bishop storehouse order (obviously our tithing was minimal at that income and we were full tithe payers).
Where is the disconnect with church local leadership and Salt Lake leadership/funds? You should be sending money for the ward to help their neighbors with nutritional needs- not fellow member. Am I missing some information about how the church is suppose to operate? Does it only operate well in affluent areas? Please help me understand.
I am a nurse and I have seen suffering. There is no illness that does not have a ripple affect. Love and compassion are so important to all suffering. I have learned that those who dismiss other’s suffering are only doing so because they are externally dismissing their own inward suffering – a coping mechanism of the ego.
Wow Sue you point to some real hard questions that I have no way of answering. I know that fast offering funds are lower in low income areas of the world, that also typically have much greater need. I’ve seen this as I have served my mission in Cambodia.
Regarding the disconnect between SLC and those in dire need, I cannot help resolve this. I wish it were different but kids are still starving and in need, and until that goes away we have chosen to do what we can through whatever means possible. Paying fast offerings helps and donating to the LCF helps too. For those that can offer aid I hope that they will act.
Then I will be giving you my next fast offering. It seems that until Salt Lake figures this out, I would rather give to the small guy, where I know my money is going.
How are you administering the money? Are you using the local leadership? Has the stake leadership notified Salt Lake of their needs? Is there a way we can encourage that avenue as well? Give them all the access to resources that they would not otherwise have access to. Is there a knowledge deficit on the part of leadership in the area of how to get help from the church? (nursing diagnosis from my nursing school days) What is their access to medical care? Saying goes…squeaky wheel gets the grease.
I value the work of the Liahona Children's Foundation but can't help wonder why the church isn't on the front lines in their own wards and stakes. Members tithe and give fast offerings in the hope that their money will help the poor among them. Certainly the LDS Church is not so large that it cannot take care of malnourished church members.
It is deeply unfortunate that the Liahona foundation even needs to exist.
As you say, there must be some disconnect between Salt Lake and the wards and branches that need these funds. The truth is, we can never know, because the church is not open with its financials. A breaking point for me, personally, is when the church put the legal notice on the bottom of our tithing slips telling us that all offerings were the general property of the church to distribute as needed. Because I could no longer know where my contribution would go, I had to stop doing my tithe in the official way.
We now give to various organizations we value. We still pay fast offerings (weekly actually) because our ward has so many needy members, I know for a fact, that not a penny of fast offering revenue leaves our ward. Our ward is dependent on other units in the stake to give generously.
All I know is that when the economy crashed, and more members needed help than ever… local leaders were instructed to be more stringent about giving aid. Meanwhile the church built a 6 billion dollar shopping complex, and several temples. Not Hinkley-era small ones either. It is frankly, very hard to trust the church, when even conservative estimates place annual tithing/offerings revenue in the neighborhood of 7 billion. Not including what the church makes in its various for profit ventures.
Thanks for this Laurel. We all need to change the way we think. We need to enlarge the borders of our personal tents.
Fast offerings are used to administer to the poor. Tithing is not. Fast offerings are collected and distributed locally, through the stakes. I’m not sure what all the technicalities are but distribution is geographically limited. Salt Lake responds to large scale crises with special aid but even then, they may ask for a specially designated fast offering. We. Should. Not. Depend. On. Any. Organization. To relieve us of the responsibility of caring for the poor.
Daniel, I am seeing the light. I just believed that we took take of each other around the world. That is what we are shown in the media and conference. It is more important to feed the hungry than build a temple (obviously my opinion). You are right that we can’t depend on any organization but I have a huge problem when I have given that organization 10% of all my income since I was 12 years old in the name of “needing blessings” or else.
I was blind to the fact we didn’t take care of our own flock with all the “money” we give. I have lost so much faith in the church that I feel no need to pay tithing to the church. My husband wrote out this last tithing so we could be “full-tithe” payers this year. The check list complete for the year…yuck.
I think I am going to just take a long break this year from church.