The author lives in New York, USA.
“I’m assigning you a new sister to minister to,” my Relief Society president said over the phone. “Her name is Sandy (name has been changed). She’s been having seizures lately, so she may need some extra help.”
“Sure, sounds good,” I answered, though I said it hesitantly, silently wondering how much I would be able to do. I was several months pregnant, was planning on moving across the country in a few months, and was already feeling overwhelmed by my ever-increasing to-do list. Ministering to someone who needed special attention didn’t seem possible for me, especially because my ministering companion was busy with work and didn’t have a lot of time either. And I didn’t know Sandy at all, even though I had been in the ward for two years already.
“Let me know if you need any help at all,” said my Relief Society president. I thanked her and hung up, then flopped onto the sofa. After a moment sitting there, I slid down to my knees, hindered by my enlarged belly.
“Heavenly Father,” I prayed, “I don’t know if I can be a good minister to this sister. Please help me know how to minister to Sandy.” After my prayer, I texted Sandy and asked if I could visit her soon. She replied within a few minutes, inviting me to come over the next evening.
When I knocked on her door, I was greeted by a woman in her late forties.
“Come on in,” she said. I followed her inside and nervously sat on her couch. Sandy and I seemed to have very little in common. She was a middle-aged single woman without children, and she had been employed at a nearby hospital until her seizures had prevented her from working. As for me, I was a young, recently graduated student who had been married for a few years and was expecting my first child. With that being said, I had no idea what to talk to Sandy about.
We chatted for a bit. I started discussing a spiritual thought that I had prepared before coming, but Sandy seemed detached and reserved.
I decided to cut right to the chase. “I’ve heard you’ve had some seizures lately,” I said.
Sandy nodded somberly and explained her recent medical issues. “The hardest part has been not being able to drive my car. I can’t get anywhere, and the weather is too cold to walk or take the bus.”
This information sparked instant inspiration in me. “I can drive you around if you want,” I blurted out.
Sandy’s face brightened. “Really?” she said, smiling. “It wouldn’t be too much trouble?”
“I would be happy to. Just text me whenever you need a ride,” I said. “If I am available, I’ll be right over to pick you up!” I left wondering if I hadn’t promised more than I could do.
For the next three months, Sandy texted me two or three times a week asking for rides. I took her to the grocery store, to the hospital, to friends’ houses, to church, and even around our town to help her look for a new apartment. It wasn’t always easy, but I felt my heart soften as I prayed for patience and greater love for Sandy to meet her needs. Surprisingly, once I stopped looking at my watch and worrying about the time, I felt like I had more than enough time to do everything I needed to on the days I spent driving her around.
I didn’t share any planned spiritual message with her when we would meet. Instead, Sandy and I would just talk, sometimes about spiritual matters, but mostly just about how she was feeling and how she was doing.
One day as I was picking Sandy up, I noticed her trying to hold back tears as she buckled her seat belt. “I had another seizure yesterday,” she said. “That means I’ll have to wait another few months before I can drive.” She put her face into her hands and wept. “I feel like God is punishing me for something,” she sobbed.
Sitting in the car, I was able to testify of God’s love for her. I felt the Spirit strongly as I shared that trials are not always punishments. Finally, I promised that God cared about her and would comfort her if she prayed to Him. Her tears ceased while we talked, and I saw hope dawn onto her face. When the car ride ended, she thanked me sincerely, smiling as she got out of the car.
My perspective on ministering has shifted completely since my experiences with Sandy. When I committed myself to serving, the Lord made a way for me to be the ministering teacher Sandy needed, even with a busy schedule. Like Christ’s miracle with the loaves and the fishes in the scriptures, my time was multiplied as I ministered to Sandy, and I was fed spiritually as well.
My experience with Sandy helped me realize that I didn’t always have to share a set spiritual thought each time I met with her. As Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, taught, “Ministering can be done in a great variety of individualized ways.”1 As I got to know Sandy and became her friend, ministering to her spiritual needs came naturally. She felt comfortable sharing her doubts and thoughts with me and, in a moment of need, I was able to help her.
Although I’ve now moved to a new state and a new ward, when I am overwhelmed and ministering begins to feel like just another item on a long to-do list, I always think of Sandy. I remind myself that if I ask the Lord for help, He will consecrate and multiply my time. He will help me know how to meet the needs of those I’m ministering to, and we will all be blessed through it.