I assumed our new ward in the East of England was a ‘regular’ ward of the Church. It is full of good people, striving to do their best, ready to bring a casserole over when someone is sick, or lift boxes for an hour when a family needs moving. But at the same time, very busy with their lives.
So, when our family of seven unexpectedly had to move houses within the ward boundaries, I decided to do it all by myself. A few people offered to help, but I was sure that their offering was simply out of a sense of obligation, and I dislike inconveniencing people.
The moving day had nearly arrived. The moving van was booked, boxes packed, and two days off work arranged. The day before the move was a Sunday, so we thought attending Sacrament Meeting would be a respite before undertaking the arduous task of moving all our household belongings. The chapel was full that beautiful winter’s morning. A single row of chairs could not accommodate our entire family, so our eldest child, 14-year-old Preston, sat two rows in front of us on an aisle seat.
A few minutes into a talk by our High Councillor, Preston slumped over and fell into the aisle and laid there for a few moments before the onset of a full-body seizure. The scene that followed was traumatic for all in attendance. The ensuing days and weeks in hospital, while Preston was intubated, was a time of great uncertainty.
But there was one special thing – the love and service offered by our ward members. The entire ward was mobilised to a degree I never would have imagined was possible. Sisters of the ward tended our children, not for hours but for days, to allow Preston’s mother and me to be by his side. Meals were provided; children were taken to and from school, and a kind sister with five children of her own drove five hours to pick up my mother from the airport.
And if that was not enough, other members worked until 1am to move our entire household and then clean the old home spotlessly. These and other labours of love were performed while my wife and I were far away at the regional medical facility with our son.
The hours spent in service to our family were incalculable and remarkably synchronised. How the bishopric and Relief Society presidency organised help was astounding. It took the notion of ward coordination to an entirely new level.
The spiritual encouragement of the loving Bishop of the Huntingdon Ward, and the wisdom offered by the caring Stake President of the Northampton Stake, were significant.
When all hope seemed lost, our children’s seminary teacher was called upon in an instance to provide a priesthood blessing of healing in an ICU unit. That blessing appeared to shake the hospital’s foundation and replaced despair by faith in the hearts of Preston’s parents.
We learned many lessons from that harrowing experience. But chief among them is that, given the opportunity, members of the Church can marshal and serve with awe-inspiring intensity. There is no obligation, and no one waits for thanks. Members of the Church are disciples of Christ and invariably respond to the challenge, whether providing a casserole or moving an entire household.
In the end, it turns out we do belong to a ‘regular’ ward of the Church. And we thank Heavenly Father every day for that fact.