My church has a women’s organization called the Relief Society that was established in 1842 with just a small group of women. Now there are millions who belong to the organization, all around the world, from all kinds of backgrounds and life situations.
I think one facet of the organization I have always appreciated is a program called visiting teaching. The woman who has been assigned to be the president of the Relief Society in each congregation, or “ward,” takes the list of all the women in her group and divvies it up so that two women generally are given maybe four or five other women to watch over and, ideally, to visit every month. I once read about it being “love by assignment,” and I think that’s a great description.
I have enjoyed the program because it has allowed me to get to know many really great women I might not otherwise have had the opportunity to get to know so well. I have become acquainted with women by being assigned to visit them and by being visited by others. What’s been most rewarding is knowing that I have a simple way of being able to help someone else in whatever ways they might need. If someone I visit has a baby, I can take in some food. Or I can send a card and goodies when she celebrates a birthday. Or I can just pray for her especially if she’s facing a problem I can’t do anything else about. And I always hope that each woman I’m assigned to feels comfortable to call me if something comes up in her life she might need help with somehow, without me having to ask all the time if there is something.
This program has also allowed me to make some fast friends. I have a very dear friend now who has been a constant in my life, a source of strength and just fun, whom I met because she was assigned to be my visiting teacher some 16-plus years ago. It’s very possible we would have connected if we hadn’t been put together that way, but maybe we wouldn’t have. I shudder to think what my life would be like without her.
And I’m making new friends all the time. Often, we don’t get the chance to cross paths in our congregations because we might be assigned to teach children’s classes or something and we might end up at opposite ends of our church building during our meetings. And we might not think to sit near each other at a potluck or other activity. So when I get to visit someone new I haven’t gotten to really talk to before, I am often very pleased to find I’m making a new dear friend. Our assigned visits then turn into two- or three-hour “hangouts” where we just chat and bond. What’s not to love?
People outside my church may just consider this a nice program. I, however, see it as one that’s inspired from a God who loves me and his other daughters and wants us to be able to serve and be there for one another. I am always grateful for the great friends I’ve made because of this inspired opportunity.