Feed My Sheep

It’s only Friday, yet I feel as though this week could have been stretched quite easily over an entire month. In my calling, I observe that the workload often swells and subsides, over and over. It’s predictable in its pattern, much like waves coming in to shore. Occasionally, my little beach is hit by a crashing wave- this week has been a tidal wave week. I won’t go into the many, many visits and errands and emergencies I have attended to this week- I’ll just record that there have been many, and I’ll also state for the record that there’s no way Hollie McKee could have accomplished even a single thing that was asked of her alone.

I managed to leave work an hour early on Wednesday, and found myself with a blissful hour of time to myself. Realising it, I jumped off the tube and emerged at Covent Garden where I pulled out my earbuds, dropped my constantly-vibrating phone into my pocket and shifted my heavy handbag. I walked through the crowded square, being jostled  by the crowd. It was noisy- so loud with voices and clapping and ringing and ticking. Any other week, it would have driven me to shove my earbuds deeper into my ears and turn up the volume of my music to drown it all out. But on this day, amid the swirling chaos, I felt overcome. Overcome with tiredness, probably, but mostly with gratitude. I was painfully aware that I was not a perfect person. I was so flawed! And at least one of the girls I had tried to care for was incredibly displeased with me- that visit had really flopped. But despite the loudness and despite the heaviness of a challenging few days, I felt more love and happiness than I’d felt in a while. I don’t think I’ve ever been more aware of who I was, and what made me me, if that makes even a little bit of sense.

 

At our Relief Society Presidency meeting that night I felt that same feeling as I listened to the testimonies of my counsellors and secretaries (who I consider to be counsellors just the same). Their support and their faith is something I think is perfect. How grateful I am for their care for me and their faith in the Saviour. The way they talk of the women in our association is admirable- they really do love these women as they pray for them and praise them. I wish those women could hear them.

As the week progressed, the requests for help piled up and I delegated to my presidency. I threw my new secretary in the deep end, and asked her to visit a girl who was not even a member of the church, but her less-active member-mother and grandmother had felt impressed enough to reach out to me. Laura’s report of her visit was so sweet, I asked her if I could share it here:

Last night I attended the first RS council as newly called assistant secretary- what a powerful, wonderful meeting. I feel so blessed to be working along side these sisters. As Hollie explained of the hardships of certain members of the ward I felt the spirit so strongly. I hope that I can do my best, I pray that the sisters feel the Saviour’s love for them through us. That I may be a worthy instrument in the Lord’s hands.

Today I received an e-mail, a sister, not a member who is living here for an intern has been feeling unwell and is sad and needed someone to visit. I had no idea who this girls was, I also hardly had any time- in fact I didn’t have time- I didn’t go swimming and cut a previous meeting short and cancelled a later one so that I could go- but I felt that I should.

As I rushed out of my meeting I went to the library to quickly print some things and as I was about to leave I had an idea to pray- I had felt inadequate for this service call- I didn’t know what to do or what to say exactly and since I had received the e-mail asking if I could go this feeling of inadequacy hung around my heart. I was hopeful that a quiet, sincere prayer could help with this feeling and so I rushed up the stairs to the highest floor of the university library where no-one was and knelt down in a corner and prayed. I prayed that I might be a worthy instrument in His hands and that I may bring comfort to this heavenly daughter of His. I acknowledged that I didn’t know her, but I knew that He did and prayed for guidance and inspiration. As I stood up I felt slightly better, still a bit uneasy but better for knowing I had done something to prepare.

As I got out of the Liverpool tube stop on my way to this sister a young man stopped me – Ahmed I think was his name, coloured/Indian early 40’s, asked me for some change, I gave him a pound.

Before I handed it to him he looked at me and asked if I was a Christian- I smiled slightly, and replied yes, a bit unsurely at first and then with more conviction. It was a surreal scene- there were so many people bustling around us, running, busy, shut off and we were there for a moment and he told me with recognising eyes how he could see that I was Christian, that there was something about me, light was shining around me. He said he was jealous that I could have that faith and believe- then he tried to go back on what he said and say how he too however had found happiness in being an atheist but I could see he hadn’t, his eyes were empty and sorrowful. He told me he had depression, had been to hospital, his benefits weren’t coming through. How he had been an alcoholic. He then wished God would bless me and thanked me some more as I went on my way. I felt the spirit burning strongly in my heart as I walked away from that man. I realised I wouldn’t have had that experience had I not accepted to serve and visit this sister.

As I found where [Cecily, name changed] lived I signed in to the student accommodation and went to her living area. We sat on her bed and as we started to talk she started to cry- she was upset and tired and frustrated about not knowing what was wrong with her- she had felt pain, dizziness, headaches. As I listened I was a simple friend to her, I said what I’d say if Carola or Giulia my best friends in Italy would talk to me about those things- before leaving however I felt that I should say a prayer with/for her- I was nervous as I had never done something like it before and knew she didn’t want the missionaries converting her etc. so the church subject was slightly sore. I asked if I could however and she accepted- I knelt on my knees and I think I felt a bit of what priesthood leaders feel as they give blessings- I had a mild idea about what I wanted to say, or rather, I felt the love I wanted to transmit to her but the words that came out of my mouth were not my words, the Spirit had so lovingly and gracefully prompted me with what to say- simply, lovingly and sincerely. As I opened my eyes her face was wet with tears and she hugged me tight whispering “thank you, thank you.”

As I left I felt overcome with the Spirit- how grateful I am to serve- how grateful that the Spirit has such a strong comforting and cleansing effect. I realised further how the Lord guides us and directs us as we serve Him and how if we trust His motives He’ll hold our hand all the way through it. As I was going on to institute I felt full of energy and light and thought how absolutely true it is that we are nothing without Him- he gives me the strength I need to do everything. Oh how blessed I feel.

I pray for Cecily and Ahmed- that they may find peace and comfort.

Laura’s experience made me think of two things. First, the prophet Isaiah said, “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” Laura experienced what I think is the coolest part of our calling- when the spirit takes over, and when we really are just a body. Our words are not our words.

Secondly, I thought of the hymn As Sisters In Zion. How is it that one song can capture so perfectly what our Heavenly Father’s vision is for the work of women on earth? The second and third verses read,

How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission,
If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed.
Oh, naught but the Spirit’s divinest tuition
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.
I love that- the Spirit teaches us how to act with divine purpose- to act as God would act in those situations.
The errand of angels is given to women;
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.
I’m so grateful for Heavenly Father’s mercy- that he’d allow me, and women like me- so imperfect and flawed, yet willing- to serve and to fill the calling of an “angel” for a few moments.
After a disastrous appointment this past week, I cried all the way home. The entire way. First silently, then pretty desperately and ugly. I hated the thought that I couldn’t help- that I couldn’t fix something or make it all better. My friend and bishopric member Ionut, who was with me, tried to comfort me. He said something that I’ve been thinking about all week. He reminded me of the Saviour, who turned to maybe his best friend, certainly His most trusted companion, whom He was preparing to one day lead the Church. To Peter He said, “Peter… Lovest thou me more than these?” to which Peter said, “Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Christ responded “Feed my lambs.” Christ asked him again- do you love me? Peter answered again: yes. A third time Jesus asked- do you love me? Peter, probably exasperated, says, Lord! You know everything! You know that I love you!
I thought about it. Peter was being groomed to one day serve as prophet and leader of Christ’s Church. What a huge responsibility. But to be tutored and prepared by the Saviour of the world: the man after which the Church was named; I’m sure the task seemed less daunting considering a God who as peter even notes, knows all things, would be the one doing the training. However, The Saviours counsel was simple- in order to have success, you just need to feed my sheep. He doesn’t say “feed my sheep and get a certain number of baptisms, feed my sheep and get a certain response out of the sheep, feed my sheep and get 100% visiting teaching for the month. The requirements of being a leader are not results-based. We’re asked to simply keep trying, simply keep reaching out, simply keep teaching. When Christ stood with Peter and taught him and ministered to him, He wasn’t concerned with Peter’s neighbour or friends or the people Peter had stewardship over: He was concerned only about Peter, because the gospel is always that personal. It’s always about how YOU are feeling the spirit and growing and whether or not you are completely committed to just simply feeding.
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