It is curious how certain moments in time become locked in our brains. I remember the cream walls, faint beeping noises of the nursing home, and an unfamiliar and not entirely pleasant fragrance as well.
Offer comfort and help in times of spiritual and temporal need
I was walking next to Brother Robert (Bob) Charmbury. He would have been well over 80 years old at the time and he was my first and forever-favorite home teaching companion (sincere apologies to my current stellar companion). It was my first official home teaching visit and we were on the Lord’s errand, off to see a certain sister who was confined to her bed and who received few visitors.
I remember that Bob spoke softly and gently as he stroked her frail hand. It was apparent that he was very fond of her. There was little indication that she knew we were there and I felt very inadequate and found myself with nothing to say.
As we left, I asked where we were headed next and as Bob told me the name, I felt very hesitant. I don’t remember why I knew but I did know that the sister we were about to visit had recently lost her Church membership. Once again, I wondered what kind of service I could offer to such a lady who was in my estimation likely struggling with some major life challenges.
That visit was pleasant, likely because Bob was a man who was one hundred percent without guile. He oozed love and it was apparent that this suffering sister trusted him and was glad to have him in her home. He provided wise words of counsel and comfort and I remember that he asked me to leave a blessing and a prayer before we left. I’m sure my effort was less than awesome and he would have done a much better job, but I think Bob understood that part of his role was to train me.
It may sound unbelievable, but our next stop was to see another family with an active sister and her non-member husband. It was a well-known fact that the husband was not friendly to the Church or our teachings. However, he was a “car guy” and so was Bob. Much of our time there revolved around chatting about cars. Bob was welcome in the home, but the husband did leave the room as we shared our spiritual thought and a prayer.
It was amazing to see how well Bob knew his families in our Saskatoon ward, and how good he was at taking care of their spiritual and physical needs.
Wonderful Brother Charmbury was not a rich man. I remember the little, old hatchback he picked me up in. By his own admission his vision was failing and this may be an exaggeration, but I think that angels held the wheel as that saint of a man likely had no business driving, but nothing could prevent him from carrying out his duty as a devoted minister.
As I tearfully reviewed his obituary, I pondered his impact on my life. He was an absolute giant who taught me so much about how to love others and serve them, without judgement or reservation. He taught me about my sacred responsibility as a home teacher and I have spent my life trying to emulate this man now as a I minister to my families.
Strengthen faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
Elder Holland was tasked with expounding the new ministering program in the April 2018 general conference of the Church. He declared:
“Brothers and sisters, we have a heaven-sent opportunity as an entire Church to demonstrate ‘pure religion . . . undefiled before God’—'to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light’ and to ‘comfort those that stand in need of comfort”’ (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be With and Strengthen Them,” Ensign, May 2018).
Ministering has richly blessed my life. I have built life-long friendships and enjoyed getting to know my fellow Saints. Frankly, it has always puzzled me why many struggle to be anxiously engaged in ministering. One thing I have noticed as a former Elder’s Quorum President, is that some fall into the dangerous belief that the families they are assigned to visit are “just fine” and don’t need visits. In my experience in the Church and life in general, no one is completely “fine.” The need and requirement to minister transcends wealth and notions of “all is well in Zion.” The families to whom you are assigned to minister need to know they can trust you about the challenges they are facing now or in the future.
I fear some have misunderstood that just because we no longer have a monthly message to deliver, we have no responsibility to bring the Spirit into the homes. Perhaps review Section 21 of the General Handbook to help better understand our role.
It would be difficult to accomplish our responsibilities if we are not in the homes of our families, where we can develop friendships and authentic relationships of trust. Elder Holland and the handbook remind us that the ideal is still to visit in the homes of the families when possible. There will always be exceptions to consider and there are ways to accommodate the needs of our members but hopefully we will seek out opportunities to minister the way Heavenly Father expects us to minister.
Ministering blesses the ministering brother and ministering sister
I remember Bob standing and talking with that struggling sister as I mowed her lawn; I can remember telling that sweet sister in the nursing home about my week at school; and laughing with Bob as he wondered aloud when he might need a bed in the same place.
I choose to believe that in the spirit world Bob is driving around and ministering his heart out. I feel a deep obligation to honor what he taught me by humble word and deed. He acted with love, and did what was required of a steward by being faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
May we all be a little more like Bob and be the ministers Heavenly Father expects us to be.