Today I made a phone call that changed my perspective slightly. I already had a good idea of how I was going to approach my lesson, but after this conversation, I decided to revise the lesson (this a lesson I had pondered and prepared for nearly a month). Let me tell you about the call, and then let me challenge you to find a similar conversation in your ward or branch.
Several weeks ago, I overheard a comment that we had ‘given up’ on a sister in our branch. This comment shocked me speechless; if you know me, you’d realize the full impact of that statement. I resolved to call her. Having been told that she had children close in age to mine, I decided to invite her to get together to play one day. I called and left a message, but did not leave my phone number since it was long distance. Then I became immersed in organizing the Relief Society dinner and kept forgetting to call her.
This inactive sister, who did not attend church, ran into another sister. She gave her cell phone – a better number to reach her at – to this sister and asked her to pass it on to me. She also wrote a note telling me to leave my number because she didn’t incur long distance charges on her cell phone.
Did this sister want to be contacted and loved?
I called her tonight, two days after receiving her phone number. I spoke with her briefly and talked about a playgroup. We laughed about my insanity; I’m from Georgia, where it might be a bit cool to go to the park, but certainly not like Pennsylvania, where we are getting snow and ice in feet. Nor can I invite her to my home since I live in a motorhome. Six kids in a tiny space is definitely a difficulty. I promised to ponder the problem some more and we would get together. Then, since I had her on the phone, I invited her to the Relief Society birthday dinner next week.
She told me that she might have to work, but should find out her schedule soon. I told her to come anyway, even if she was a bit late. She said she didn’t want to walk in the dark from her house, and I told her I would pick her up. I then promised to call her “early next week” to find out if she would be able to attend.
“I get my schedule on Thursday,” she said.
Is this a sister who doesn’t want to attend?
We talked for a few more minutes, and she said, out of the blue, “Let me tell you why I don’t come to church.” She shared some hurtful remarks that had been passed on and had offended her. I acknowledged that the things she had been told would certainly be upsetting, but then I said, “But I want you to know that your Savior loves you very much.” She said she knew this. I told her that we would love to have her come to church, and that she was welcome to sit with my family (there aren’t a lot of small children in our branch, so we stand out). I did not give her a specific date, since I didn’t want to push her in our first conversation. I simply extended a general invitation.
“I’ll come to Sacrament next week if I’m off,” she said.
Is this a sister who doesn’t want to be in church?
How many inactive sisters in our wards and branches similarly desire to return to activity, but need only that loving bit of contact? How many would benefit from us taking our time to give them a call? How can we show them the same love that our Savior would show?
This sister may not come to church. She may not come to the activity. But as we closed the call, she asked me for my phone number. I told her to call anytime she needed to talk to someone.
All of our inactive sisters will not return so easily. I visit taught an inactive sister for four years, extended frequent invitations to church and to activities. Sometimes she came. Sometimes she did not. With some sisters, it takes a great deal of time, patience, and love.
But the point is, nearly all of our sisters need that love. They need to know that we care for them and want them back. If we are neglecting our visiting teaching, if we are “too busy” to contact them, who knows what opportunities we may be missing?
I challenge you to prayerfully select one inactive sister in your ward to love. This may be someone you already visit teach. It may be someone with children close in ages to your own. It may be an older sister who feels ‘useless’. Call this sister. Serve this sister. Love this sister. She may not return to the Savior’s arms in your lifetime. But at least you will know that she felt the Savior’s love through you.