I shared some thoughts from my last post with the committee on Wednesday. I was careful to preface my remarks with praise for their powerful efforts and time in behalf of our children. Then I basically put it to the brothers like this:
As moms we loan our children to you for a weekend a month and every Wednesday night, hoping that they will come home a little better each time. We pray that the young men's program will give them something that we are unable to, while encouraging their growth as men and as priesthood holders at the same time. Please don't squander that time with them. Take opportunities to share your love of the gospel, your best and most faith promoting mission stories and your love of your families.
I felt emotional when I spoke, but this was a roomful of men here, so I kept it together pretty well and felt the spirit. Even in a little calling/assignment you can have a stewardship for which you get inspiration.
My comments were well-received, particularly because some of this very thing was done just a couple of weeks ago at Scout camp, a thing I also acknowledged and expressed gratitude for. It was agreed that, by and large, it was one of the better scout camp experiences the boys from this ward have ever had. The boys had greater unity and more fun than ever before.
A few years ago, I sat in a parent and leader meeting with two wards as we discussed the possibilities of combining our programs. Numbers of youth in both wards were low and many of the kids attended school together. We were looking for a way to make it possible to staff cubs, YM and YW as well as create larger groups of kids so that they might be more encouraged to attend. It was an emotional evening, with the vast majority of adults present in agreement that despite any logistical challenges to combining the programs, it was up to the grown ups to figure it out and get along for the sake of the kids.
One brother, in particular, was very emotional as he basically begged for something, anything, that might help encourage his son to want to be at church. This man is a perpetual joker and generally laid back, so and I'll never forget the tenderness of that plea, nor the overwhelming Spirit I felt as I knew this was the right path for our ward and stake. That this choice had marvelous potential to bless the lives of our children.
In our small and rather inactive ward, this brother and his wife were key in helping run many of our programs. They are also our very good friends. Three months later he came across some anti-Mormon literature, for really the first time, unbelievably, and three weeks later he and his wife asked to have their names removed from the church records. It was literally that fast.
As they sat in our home and told us of their decision, I couldn't help but remember that just three months previous he would have given anything to have his son be a believing member. I know their decision to leave was based on many things, but I have sometimes wondered if the family stress alleviation was part of that choice.
Many prayers and soul-searching were given by many upon their leaving. I think some probably followed suit in their own way and time, but I think the Lord is also merciful. Our ward has exploded with families in the intervening time and it is a different place now than it was when they left. Our programs are running well and strong; there are plenty of people to accept and admirably fulfill callings. Our primary has doubled in size in the past 2-3 years. All of our auxiliaries are fully staffed and functioning in a way I've never seen before in this ward. I'm grateful and humbled that the Lord would see fit to bless our ward family in this way, when so many of us were hurting so badly.
Church administration and running the programs can be such a hassle sometimes. It can seem that we are serving the church itself rather than the people. But now and then there are moments of complete clarity when I really get it. I know that the Church is imperfect and run by imperfect people trying, and succeeding on balance, to know the Lord's will for helping to move us forward as a people. The Church is merely a simulacrum for the kingdom of Heaven. It is where we learn to serve strangers, and come to love them. It is where we learn to sit side-by-side and work with people that we might not choose to be friends with. It is a means for us to forget self, sacrifice and serve others. I'm grateful for it. Even when it is messy. I'm sure I'd be a lot messier on my own.