1987
Rachel, My Sister
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“Rachel, My Sister,” Ensign, June 1987, 52–53

Rachel, My Sister

“The bishop called to ask if he could come over tonight,” said my husband, Wayne, in his “I-know-something-you-don’t-know” voice.

“Do you know why?” I asked.

“Yes, a new calling for you,” he said.

My mind raced from the nursery to the Relief Society, then bounced back to the Primary and through the library, wondering what the new calling would be. Then panic struck as I remembered. Sister Coke had been released as a counselor in our special Relief Society. “Oh, no,” I thought.

Within our ward boundaries is a large rest home. The wards in the stake take turns being responsible for the Church services there—including sacrament meeting and Relief Society. The rest home is a dependent branch, and it was our ward’s turn to provide the branch presidency and Relief Society presidency.

I had been in the rest home once before on a substitute visiting teaching assignment. That visit had depressed me so much that I had told the Relief Society president I could not go again.

That evening, as I met with the bishop, my fears were realized. “Sister Chappell,” he said, “Sister Marlene Recksiek, as president of the rest home Relief Society, has asked for you as her second counselor. Sister Clara Harrison will continue as the first counselor. We feel this is a special calling. Will you accept this call from the Lord?”

The bishop had the nicest way of saying the worst things.

“I’ll try,” I muttered.

As I met with the other two sisters in the presidency on Thursday for an orientation, I could scarcely believe what I heard.

“Oh, just wait, Leah,” said Marlene. “After you’ve been with us a week or two, you’ll love it.”

“The sisters are so special,” Clara said.

Marlene added, “I was called for one year. But when the year was up, I begged the bishop to let me keep this job longer. It’s been almost two years now.”

Sunday came. I arrived at the rest home an hour early, as we had planned in our presidency meeting. We had a prayer, and then each of us took a list of sisters we were to help get to the meeting. A few of the women, I learned, were able to come by themselves, but the majority needed help to get from their rooms to the recreation room where sacrament meeting was held. Since this was my first week, Marlene had given me a list of only five sisters to help.

I got the first four to the recreation room with remarkable ease. Each was eager to attend the meeting. Two of them were already in their wheelchairs waiting for me when I arrived. They directed me to the elevators and down the right halls to the recreation room. “I’m being blessed,” I thought. “Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.”

The fifth name on my list was Rachel—room 207. I knocked softly on her door. She immediately opened it. “Oh, good,” I thought. “She can walk.”

“I’ve come to take you to church,” I said.

“I can’t go,” Rachel replied. “My sister is coming to visit me.”

“Oh, that will be nice,” I said. “Well, I’ll come for you again next week. I hope you can come then.”

During the next few weeks, I watched Rachel. I learned that in the ten years she had been in the rest home she had never had a visit from her family. She had never attended church while she had been in the rest home, though her records said that she was LDS. I learned that she often went outside on the sidewalk to watch for the sister who never came.

Each week I went to Rachel’s room to ask her to come. I prayed for her. I felt that we could take away at least a little of her loneliness if she would just come to the meetings.

On the sixth Sunday, I knocked on her door.

“I’ve come to take you to church,” I said.

“I can’t,” she replied as usual. “My sister is coming to see me.”

Then the inspiration I had been praying for came.

“Rachel,” I said, “My name is Leah. In the Bible, Leah and Rachel are sisters. I will be your sister.”

Confusion filled Rachel’s eyes. I repeated, “I am Leah. The Bible says Leah and Rachel are sisters.”

After a moment, Rachel looked up at me with a light I had never seen in her eyes before. She put her hand in my outstretched one. As we walked toward the recreation room, I gave her hand a little squeeze. “Sisters,” I said.

  • Leah Chappell lives in Salt Lake City’s East Mill Creek Eleventh Ward.

  • Marilynne Linford, a free-lance writer, serves as a counselor in the Primary presidency of the same ward.