Several women leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traveled to four states in the Midwest in August to meet with community leaders and local members. The region of the United States, known as “America’s Heartland,” is also part of the historic Mormon Trail that took pioneers west to Utah from 1846 to 1868.
Sister Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, and first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, joined local Latter-day Saint leaders in Omaha, Nebraska, for a meeting with Mayor Jean Stothert, Thursday, August 9, 2018.
The Church, in partnership with Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, provides relief for Omaha’s large refugee population.
Local Latter-day Saint women are volunteering in the community to help these new residents become self-sufficient. They shared their experiences during a meeting with Stacy Martin, president and CEO of Lutheran Family Services, Friday, August 10.
“I’m delighted that you’re here, and on behalf of all of Lutheran Family Services, just a warm welcome and a sincere word of thanks to the many ways you’ve impacted lives and impacted the larger shared mission of making sure that no one goes without an invitation to contribute to the community, and no one can contribute without access to shelter and food and education,” Martin told the volunteers.
“We’re going to run our welfare facilities at full capacity,” said Sister Eubank, who explored additional ways to partner with Lutheran Family Services. “It will make more goods than our system needs, but we will then continue to donate more to programs like Family Services.”
In 2016, the Relief Society called on members to support refugees through the “I Was a Stranger” initiative. Much like today’s new residents, hundreds of Mormon pioneers found themselves refugees in Iowa and Nebraska from 1846 to 1851 while awaiting word from early Church leaders to travel west.
“We have small, simple ways that we can minister, and we can show them the love of Christ whether we’re directly talking about the gospel or we’re just working shoulder to shoulder to help those in our community,” said Erin Evans, an Omaha physician and a regional Relief Society leader.
“It was amazing to have [Sister Eubank] come and be a part of that and for us as women in the local area to sit alongside her and to say this is who we are, we are Latter-day Saint women who love Jesus Christ and love our families and love this community that we live in,” expressed Carrie Derrick, a member of the Relief Society in Omaha.
“I found it enlightening and encouraging and very hopeful that there are other people out there in our communities who want to love and to express God’s love to other people of all faiths,” said Nicole Sweeney, an Omaha regional Relief Society leader.
Friday night, Sister Eubank spoke with Omaha youth about missionary work and temple service at a meetinghouse in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“You are the next leaders of the Church,” she told the youth. “You have a lot of pressure on you, but the Lord will help you overcome your weaknesses.”
Sister Becky Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, spoke in Wichita, Kansas. Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, was in Iowa City, Iowa.
The women leaders hosted a training broadcast from several different locations on Saturday morning. Sister Eubank was with Relief Society sisters in the Omaha area at a meetinghouse in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She was joined by Sister Harkness in Iowa City, Iowa. Sister Craven was in Wichita, Kansas, for the broadcast.
Sister Harkness told the audience that singing hymns is one of the best ways to learn the gospel.
In the evening, the sisters also held evening devotional meetings for single adults and youth. Sister Eubank stayed in the Omaha area while Sister Harkness moved to St. Louis, Missouri.
Sister Harkness encouraged members not to blend into their environment. “We are designed to stand out,” she said. “If we stay on the covenant path, the fear of standing out goes away.”
Sister Craven traveled to a meetinghouse next to the Kansas City Missouri Temple and close to Liberty Jail, where the Prophet Joseph Smith was once imprisoned.
“I love the humidity,” said Sister Craven, who grew up in the Kansas City area. “I have reflected back on the times in the past when I was a young woman and the things that happened to me during that time. … So to me this is sacred ground.”
Sister Craven expressed her appreciation for the Church’s missionary program during a Sunday morning sacrament meeting in Kansas City. “I’m a product of missionary work,” she said. When she was a girl living in Texas, Latter-day Saint missionaries knocked on her family’s door and her father let them in.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.