I Want to Go Out and Hug the World

I Want to Go Out and Hug the World

Every March, women in wards and branches worldwide commemorate the anniversary of Relief Society, founded on March 17th, 1842. These celebrations take many different forms, but for the last two years, the Calgary Alberta Fish Creek Stake Relief Society has organized evenings of service to honour the purpose for which Relief Society was first organized – to provide relief.

“The 2016 event was based on the Saviour’s words “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you,” (John 15:11-12), explained Val Schmidt, a counsellor in the Stake Relief Society Presidency, “We loved how this scripture shows the connection between joy and loving (or serving) others. We wanted to show the sisters that connection, and for them to feel joy as they served together.”

That goal was accomplished as sisters came to the events, rolled up their sleeves and went to work at the many different service stations available. The atmosphere was joyful, busy, electric – and loud – as sisters visited while accomplishing the extraordinary volume of work that only a large group can achieve in a few hours. Though the combined influence of the projects will literally bless tens of thousands of lives, the stories recorded after this year’s event were personal experiences of the Spirit guiding individual efforts, and strengthening testimonies one by one.
Hug the World Photo

Jacqueline Baines was asked to help tie baby quilts at the event. She and a friend had already independently been making baby quilts to donate to charity throughout the previous year but had encountered difficulty finding a charity who would accept them because they were homemade. They decided to look into the group the Relief Society planned to donate through, and stopped by one day to meet them. They were surprised to see Val Schmidt there, prepping the quilts to be tied at the service night, and in need of extra hands. “Val had not asked us to help, and we didn't know she would be there, but I know she appreciated our help and I felt we were led to be there to help her,” Jacqueline said. The visit was fruitful in another way. As soon as Jacqueline met the charity group she knew they were the people to get her quilts into the right hands. Between the quilts, she and her friend had made, and the ones tied at the service night, 52 baby quilts were donated to charity. Jacqueline concluded, “I got a surge of joy when Val sent me photos of the quilts being donated. The Holy Ghost helped me know the right place to donate them. I know there are ‘quilting angels’ that helped this project along.”

In January, one of the new wards in the stake called a new Relief Society Presidency. Rebecca Gates, a counsellor in the new presidency, said, “We decided on a project we felt good about, making toques and scarves at the event for the homeless and those in need. I nervously made an unannounced visit to a local store to ask for a product donation. They readily and gladly agreed and the support they provided was above and beyond what I had dreamed of. I was elated and wondered why it had gone so well. An impression came to me that the Saviour wanted it to go well! I had forgotten whose errand I was on and that I had access to a strength and power beyond my own. I felt deep gratitude, and from then on kept my eyes open for tender mercies, and there were many. I have a testimony of the truth President Eyring taught, ‘When you go to comfort and serve anyone for the Saviour, He prepares the way before you.’ (Henry B. Eyring, “Trust in That Spirit Which Leadeth to Do Good”, Ensign, May 2016, 17.)”
Hug the World Photo
Jody Davidson was asked to create a video presentation on the evening’s theme. Jody recalled, “I was happy to help but concerned that I wouldn't create what was wanted or needed to touch hearts. I pondered and prayed for help and guidance. One evening I searched online for hours trying to find images I wanted to use in a portion of the video, to no avail. I was feeling tired and a bit discouraged, so I decided to pray for extra guidance and reassurance. I finished my prayer and within minutes I was able to find exactly what I had been searching for. I know this wasn't a coincidence. Henry B. Eyring said, ‘…when you do your part, the Lord adds His power to your efforts’. (Henry B. Eyring, “You Are Not Alone in the Work”, Ensign, November 2015, 80.) The Lord will not let us fail when we are doing His work.”
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The Fish Creek Stake has been a supporter of the Calgary Drop In Centre for over 20 years. One station at the evening of service was making 5,000 sandwiches for the shelter. Debbie Newman, Executive Director of the Calgary Drop In Centre, attended the event, and asked for the opportunity to speak to the women in attendance and personally thank them for their service. The sisters listened attentively and respectfully – but their hands didn’t stop flying as they spread sandwich fillings! Brian Pratt, a Fish Creek Stake High Councillor who helped with the event, accompanied Debbie as she stayed to tour all the service stations. He noted, “She was overwhelmed by the dedication and sacrifice that she witnessed during the evening, and said she was particularly touched by the video shown to all the sisters at the beginning of the evening which featured clips of various acts of service performed by Jesus Christ during his ministry on Earth.”

This was another positive outcome of the events – the opportunity to have conversations about the Church and spread the message of service. Costco workers inquired about the large order of 500 loaves of bread as sisters loaded them into their vans. The sisters told them about Relief Society and the event. Similar brief but impactful conversations were held with other vendors and charities as sisters took the time to explain their cause.
Hug the World Photo

Non-members and less-active members of the church attended the evening and loved the chance to take part in something meaningful and lasting. Lendy Perez had a friend who expressed a desire for spirituality and opportunities to help others. Lendy invited her to the evening of service and she came, bringing another friend with her. “They had a great time going to different stations and trying out new skills,” Lendy remembered. “They met many sisters and the conversations helped relieve the anxiety my friend felt about being inside a ‘church’. When the night ended they both asked me when the next activity would be and if they could come. What my friend loved the most was seeing the power of women working together to accomplish something good for the community.”

Kerry Smith, the Fish Creek Stake Relief Society President said, “In Relief society what do we DO? We serve one another. When we serve with the Spirit we are uplifted and edified. During the event, I loved feeling God’s love, and our sisterhood. As one sister left that evening I heard her comment, ‘I feel like I want to go out and hug the world.’ These words have stayed in my mind as a summation of the evening.”
Hug the World Photo

2016 “Love One Another” Evening of Service; what was accomplished:

  • Made 5,000 sandwiches for a local homeless shelter

  • Sorted over 5,000 pairs of eyeglasses to be shipped overseas

  • Wrote over 300 letters of appreciation

  • Helped 66 patrons with their Family History

  • Tied and donated 52 baby quilts

  • 30 women had their blood typed, 30 made appointments to donate, 30 registered with a stem cell donation program

  • Sewed 300 cloth diapers for still born babies

  • Sewed 90 shields and 50 bags as sanitary kits for girls overseas

  • Collected over 500 towels: new for the homeless shelter, and used for the SPCA

  • Sewed more than 200 winter hats and knit or crocheted scarves for refugees, the homeless, and others in need