I stank. Everyone around me stank too. In fact the whole area stank. But each of us, including sweet Paula and Juliette whose homes were destroyed by hurricane Harvey, were feeling the joy that being served and serving brings.
I’d like to share with you the experience I had this past weekend as my husband and I traveled down with 30 others from our Ward in the Dallas area down to south Texas to assist in the mucking out of homes, thousands of them, that have been damaged or destroyed by the terrible flooding that accompanied this storm. I don’t do so to draw attention to myself, but I want to share the beautiful experience it was. I also recognize that thousands of wonderful people— not of our faith and of no faith at all— have rallied to the aid of all those affected. I cannot speak to their experiences, but I can tell you how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are responding. And it’s beautiful for all involved.
Our ward volunteers for that weekend headed down to the Beaumont area, southeast of Houston at about 3:30 am Saturday morning. The work orders had been pulled the night before and we went directly to our assigned houses for that day. Several pulled trailers and filled pickup beds with all sorts of needed tools, wheelbarrows, and ladders. Donned with boots, masks, gloves, and glasses, we began work at 8:00 am.
The crew my husband and I were with met Paula, the owner of a small home in a humble neighborhood that she shared with her aged mother, in her front yard. Our job was to gut her home. It was all but a total loss. Everything needed pulled up and taken out; sheet rock, insulation, doors and casings, moldings, all the flooring, and the entire kitchen. When we finished all that was left on the interior was a neatly shop-vac’ed foundation and the framed walls.
While Paula and I pulled nails from the exposed 2 x 4’s we talked about what experiencing this amount of loss is like and how she sees the rebuilding of her home and life going forward. I asked her to share with me the plans she had for the rebuilding of her home. We talked about the layout, the colors, and had fun together envisioning the huge change in store. She admitted she would have never been able to consider even a small remodel before, but now she would have a lovely new home that would be fresh and clean and in need of no repair for years to come. She was beginning to choose to see the blessings that would come on the other side of her tragedy. She was grateful.
She, along with her two aunts (also there helping), expressed over and over again that they simply could not believe that people they didn’t know would come on their own time and at their own expense to help anyone that needed the help. Especially when the work was so very hard, smelly, and hot. They marveled at the cheerfulness of the volunteers – especially the hard working youth – and mentioned how their encouragement and optimism helped to lift their heavy hearts.
We left that home nine hours later with her burden lighter from allowing us to help lift it. She felt joy. We felt joy.
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’er flow,
For I will be with the, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee they deepest distress.” 
The next morning Sacrament meeting was held for all those volunteering in our area in the Ford Arena, an ice hockey venue. Just before 8:00 a.m. streams of folks, age twelve and over, entered the make-shift chapel, hundreds and hundreds of which had camped overnight inside the facility.
The ‘Sunday best’ that morning was work pants, t-shirts, and work or rubber boots. Looking over the crowd it was a sea of yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” shirts or vests. Ladies wore ponytails and no makeup, and most men had whisker stubble. Not your typical LDS worship service, but the Spirit was present and easily felt. We were there to remember and express gratitude for the Savior’s atonement – his unselfish service to us – through partaking of the sacred emblems of the sacrament.
After the hymn was sung 17 holders of both the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods stood behind a long line of tables, while one knelt down on the cement floor in front of us. Now, usually we don’t get to see the Priest kneeling during the sacrament due to the table he stands behind. He just kind of disappears from view. But here in the arena we were seated above him looking down at him. It was beautiful to see him kneel. I closed my eyes and listened to him say:
“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his spirit to be with them. Amen. ” 
At that point approximately 37 additional priesthood holders stood, were handed a tray of broken bread, then climbed the stairs into the seats and began passing the bread down the rows.
During those quiet moments I thought more intently on the three promises I had just renewed expressed in the blessing of the bread:
- That I would take upon myself the name of the Savior. I would live my life so others would recognize me as one belonging to Him, and I would recommit to do my best to honor that name through my thoughts, words, and deeds.
- I would always remember Him. I would consider how He would act, react, and respond before I acted, reacted, and responded. His commitment to me would be foremost in my mind and reflected in my life.
- I would keep His commandments. Believing and professing is one thing, obedience is quite another. I need to put my money where my mouth is and choose to live my life within the parameters he has given me for my best chance at happiness in this life, and the only chance to become like Him and to return to Him.
As I considered what I was experiencing there in Beaumont those commitments I had just renewed seemed more real and present in my life.
All of us were in that place doing what He would do if He were there. We were being his hands and his heart. We were giving of ourselves and serving them as He would. We were trying to lift their burden and do for them what they simply could not do for themselves alone. It was one of the most poignant sacrament services I have experienced. I felt such gratitude to the Savior for what He had done for me because He loves me. And I felt such joy in helping Him by serving others He loves equally as much.
“…be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” ~1 Timothy 4: 12
A son in law of ours was there working the weekend before us. He shared something that others in his group had heard a FEMA worker say, “FEMA should stand for F- ind E- very M- ormon A- round!”. I laughed at that, but was so touched that so many of our members were exhibiting their love of the Savoir through service. It was making a wonderful impact.
After the meeting concluded we continued our worship of the Savoir by mucking out more homes
This time a large home belonging to the mother of a former NBA player was our assignment. (Harvey was no respecter of persons.) Nothing had been removed from the house prior to our other Ward crew arriving there on Saturday. She was simply overwhelmed.
I tried to encourage Juliette, the home owner, as we emptied the clothes from her closet. What should she try to salvage? What should she just throw away? It was hard for these folks to see their belongings carted out of the house to be thrown atop the growing piles now stretched along the curb. I could only imagine.
As we finished we asked if we could close our service to her with a prayer. She agreed, and the 30+ of us bowed our heads in her driveway. Afterwards Juliette expressed the same feelings Paula had the day before. She felt peace. She felt the Lord knew her plight. She was sad this had happened to her, and to the others whom Harvey had touched, but she felt joy. She felt loved and hope. Her burden had been made a little lighter. She felt the Lord was aware of her, and she recognized that we loved the Lord because we had come to help her.
“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” 
On the long drive home my husband and I were just pooped. Our hands and backs ached. We stank! But we were filled with joy. As we hungrily ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches we talked and shared our thoughts, and committed to return to help again.
*Learn more about the humanitarian service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints here.
 “How Firm a Foundation”, LDS Hymnal #85
 Doctrine & Covenants 20:77
 Helaman 5:12