I love the term a stake president used during a recent conversation about ministering — he used the word “accompany” often as he described the ministering activity in his stake. I asked him what he meant when he used that word. He explained, “accompany” means:
• To compassionately be there for someone
• To show respect and understanding for someone going through a difficult period
• To love people and see the value of an individual even if there are marked differences
• To be happy to spend time with someone
“The invitation to minister to others is an opportunity to build caring relationships with them — the kind of relationship that would make them comfortable asking for or accepting our help. When we have made the effort to develop that kind of relationship, God is able to change lives on both sides of the relationship” (“Building Meaningful Relationships,” Ensign, Aug. 2018, www.churchofjesuschrist.org/Ministering Principles).
President Russell M. Nelson added the following helpful comments on building a strong relationship: “Ministering brethren and sisters will do the best they can to build strong and loving relationships with the members under their care. This can be done in many ways: through helpful and inspiring visits in their homes; via social media, video chats, phone calls, notes, or messages; and by participating in activities with them as possible. In these and other ways, the Lord will work through His servants to bless the lives of Church members” (“Adjustments in Ministering to Members and in Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums,” General Conference Leadership Meeting, Thursday, March 29, 2018).
The following report from a priesthood leader added to my understanding of the importance of building relationships:
“Our leader had just announced the topic of our discussion — eternal marriage — when I noticed John’s head went down. John was divorced, with adult children. He did not say a word during the entire discussion that Sunday, keeping his eyes fixed to the ground or the wall. I remember feeling for him and telling myself, ‘If one day I lead a discussion on any principle of the gospel, I will need to think of everyone’s own circumstances and try hard to include all in the discussion.’
A few months later, our elders quorum president surprised me with the information that John was going to be one of the two families he would like my companion and me to minister to. Immediately upon hearing this, I said to myself, ‘But I don’t know him!’ (Some of the elders quorum presidency and Relief Society presidency members may have heard this initial response before!) So, to start, whenever I could, to break the ice, I decided to sit with him at church.
John’s sense of humour was excellent, and it helped us engage on many subjects. We quickly found common experiences to share and talk about. I immediately liked him when he related his experience on the operation table. My own experience was, in fact, traumatic, I told him. Here I was on this cold table wondering if I was going to make it, and these doctors did not seem to capture my state of mind as they were cracking jokes. John, referring to this cold table, asked them if they were paying their heating bill! After his surgery and the necessary recuperation time, John said he took a cab to return home, as he had no one to pick him up. I know what a shock surgery can be to someone, and here he was with no one to speak with about what he must have felt.
John and I spoke frequently and regularly on Sundays. Each time, I would extend my offer to be his driver, if he needed, reminding him that it was not a problem and I had a flexible schedule. I felt for him when he told me of the eye examination he just had the week before. The specialist examined his retina. The drops they put in the eyes will not allow you to see clearly for many hours after. John told me he had to wait for two hours in his car to be able to see enough to drive home. Even after two hours, driving your car in such a condition is very hazardous. That’s when I told John, ‘Next time you have a doctor’s appointment, let me know, and I will accompany you.’ I just thought it wasn’t fair to go through these experiences alone!
John eventually called me on my offer one day. He said he would be having a minor surgery and that he would be able to return home on the same day. He asked if I would take him to the hospital. I gladly accompanied him and stayed with him that day. It turned out he had some complications and needed to spend a few days longer in the hospital. A few days later, I picked him up and took him to his home. We became good friends, having lunch together at least once a week, and we periodically do family history work together.”
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf relates this marvelous teaching: “We build [ministering] relationship[s] one person at a time — by being sensitive to the needs of others, serving them and giving of our time and talents” (“Of Things That Matter Most,” Ensign, Nov. 2010).
An important ministering principle to remember is that “meaningful relationships aren’t tactics. They are built on compassion, sincere efforts and ‘love unfeigned’ (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41)” “Building Meaningful Relationships,” Ensign, Aug. 2018).
We continue to hear uplifting reports from members of their efforts to minister to others. May the Lord bless all of us in our worthy efforts to minister to one another.