“Roast Beef for Two,” Ensign, Dec. 1997, 56–57
It was 1985 and Christmas was coming. As companions in the Scotland Edinburgh Mission, Sister Corinne Tonks and I were about to spend our first Christmas away from home. We loved our missions and were grateful to be in the service of the Lord; nonetheless, there was no denying a little ache of loneliness when we thought of rich Christmas traditions and our loving families so far away.
During a zone conference, our mission president’s wife had reminded us of our role as representatives of Jesus Christ and challenged us to look for ways to serve humbly and touch the lives of others over the holiday season. She promised us that if we earnestly prayed for such opportunities, our Christmas in the mission field would be one we would cherish forever.
Sister Tonks and I accepted the challenge and decided we would do our best to set aside thoughts of home. We prayed to have charity for the Scottish people, and we prayed for a chance to serve. As the holiday season progressed, we planned a few delightful surprises for investigators and some members of our little Scottish branch. We also bought each other modest gifts of hats and gloves—it seemed we were always cold. Our greatest indulgence was to purchase a tiny roast. With the high cost of meat it would be a treat, and we anticipated savoring this small feast on Christmas Eve. However, for all our simple preparations, we hadn’t thought of any meaningful service to perform.
On the day before Christmas, despite praying for weeks to find someone to serve, there we were, still homesick and looking for a chance to be of assistance. Heading back to our flat that afternoon, we stopped by a phone box to call our zone leader. The phone was in use, so we continued on home, grabbed a bite to eat, then returned to use the phone some time later.
To our surprise we saw the same woman still in the phone box. Feeling a little indignant that someone would tie up the telephone for so long on such a cold afternoon, I glared at the woman through the glass. As I did so, I realized she was not talking on the phone. In fact, she looked as if she were crying.
Sister Tonks and I looked at each other. Neither one of us felt brave enough to approach the woman. Finally I walked over to the booth and, mustering my courage, opened the door and put my arm around a total stranger. I introduced myself as a servant of Jesus Christ and asked if I could help.
With a thick Scottish accent, she told me her name was Wilma and that she had spent the last of her money to take the bus into town. She had a 22-year-old daughter with epilepsy who was sick at home, and she had no food to eat or any Christmas presents for her. Wilma was desperately trying to get some help, but no one seemed to care.
I helped Wilma call a number of social service agencies, but they either were about to close for the holiday or were too busy to help. Sister Tonks and I quietly consulted. We knew where we could get a little food and some small gifts. We sat Wilma on a park bench and told her we would return in a few minutes. Sister Tonks and I raced to our room and got our little roast, a few potatoes, and some carrots. We quickly grabbed the gifts we had purchased for each other and then threw everything into a bag. Our hearts racing with excitement, we ran back to Wilma. I sat and held her hand while Sister Tonks called a member from our branch to provide transportation.
We accompanied Wilma to her little village home, where she invited Sister Tonks and me in to meet her daughter. After visiting for a few minutes, we prepared to leave. It was then that I handed Wilma a bag with our roast and presents. Tears welled in her eyes at the unexpected kindness, and suddenly we were hugging each other, as if we were best friends.
Later that blessed Christmas Eve, Sister Tonks and I ate tuna fish sandwiches and reminisced on our meeting with a Scottish woman who so desperately needed a little loving-kindness. What joy we felt! That night we learned the true meaning of charity. Just as we had been promised, our Christmas in the mission field became one we would cherish forever.