Say you get a new job that will require you to load all of your earthly possessions into a U-Haul and move over 2,000 miles away. Say it’s just you, your wife, and your one-year-old daughter, and all of your earthly possessions fit in less-than-a-U-Haul. And say you don’t know a soul where you’re going. What would you do?
Well, if you’re a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you’d probably call your bishop. And that conversation might go something like this:
Bishop? My wife and I are moving into your neighborhood from Michigan. We don’t know anyone in the area. So we’re calling you. We hate to impose, but is there any way you could find some people who might be willing to help us unload a truck on Thursday night at 6 pm?
Say it’s your turn to be bishop and you are used to getting the occasional phone call from a stranger asking for help: mothers worried about wayward children, children worried about wayward mothers, the homeless, the hungry, and of course the people who don’t listen to the announcements during services. And say that this week’s Call from a Stranger is young father asking for help on a Thursday evening. What would you do?
Well, if you’re Bishop Watkins you’d send a quick email to Kyle, your Elders Quorum President, and Warren, your Young Men President, who in turn would contact a bunch of other guys. And you would hope that in spite of the short notice and the inconvenient time that Kyle and Warren won’t be the only ones who show up to welcome this family into the Santiago Creek Ward.
Say it’s Thursday and you’ve got an important meeting that night following a long day at the office, but someone asked if you might be willing to provide a couple of hours of manual labor on behalf of someone you’ve never met. And say that as you think about that family and the U-Haul, you remember what it’s like to be newly married and trying to make a small apartment feel like home even though it’s hundreds of miles from anything familiar. What would you do?
Well, if you’re a member of the Santiago Creek Ward, you’d postpone your meeting and drive toward that upstairs apartment still dressed for work. And you’d turn into that apartment complex only to find cars triple-parked and the U-Haul half unloaded already. You’d find young men and old men, three Ellis brothers and a couple of full-time missionaries, a dozen guys or more happily squeezing past each other on a narrow staircase with furniture and lamps and boxes full of various bits of past and future life. And by 6:22 pm the truck would be unloaded, and as you’d pull out of your illegal parking spot you’d pass others still arriving, disbelieving that they could already be too late to lend a hand.
Say you witnessed all of this unfold, and felt within yourself the deep gratitude for good men, faithful priesthood holders cheerfully serving the newest members of our ward family. And say you could see within this familiar scene the embodiment of an injunction that sits at the heart of Christianity: to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light (Mosiah 18:8). What would you do?
Well, if you’re me you’d remember how you have been on the receiving end of this sort of service many times yourself, and you’d pause once more to give thanks for the Church—and for the Santiago Creek Ward in particular.