My wife and I had the opportunity to live in Holland and England for a couple years. While working in Europe, I was invited to attend a trade show in Germany where many representatives from the company would attend. My English and French language was needed and my expertise on our line of cables was also required. (Yes, there are people in the world who possess an incredible amount of boring knowledge about cables). During the show one day, I was having lunch with a co-worker from Greece. We staggered our lunch breaks so that we had enough coverage at the booth. We were in Germany at a trade show where they served the most amazing bratwurst I’ve ever eaten. Yes. At the trade show. They were so good…. They were perfectly cooked with the perfect freshest bun, which was almost more like a baguette with just the right amount of crunch… but I digress.
As I mentioned, the multi-national company that I was working for had sent representatives from all over Europe so that we would have many languages available at our booth for customer meetings and questions. The amazing thing was that they all spoke English fairly well and so we communicated in English mostly, except for a French man who was there and was very relieved when he found out that I spoke French. “Oh quel bonheur de trouver quelqu’un qui parle français!”
This particular co-worker from Greece had noticed that I did not drink alcohol in the evenings when the company would go out to dinner. I even passed on the coffee that was brought at the end of dinner. She wanted to know why I didn’t drink. I explained that it was a religions belief which surprised her and sparked a ton of questions. She told me that it was a very unique practice in her eyes, one of which she had never heard of before.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the belief in the Word of Wisdom always seems to surprise people when I decline free alcohol at business functions. Now living in the Pacific Northwest, capital of Starbucks, people are surprised when I say that I do not drink coffee. I’m putting that pretty mildly when I say that they are surprised by me not drinking coffee… but that will have to wait for another blog post. As I explained to her that for me it was simply a matter of obedience, and that I felt that I would be blessed if I followed the Lord’s prophet by keeping clear of coffee, tea, tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. She said that she could understand that living a clean life was a good thing, but she doubted that she could do it.
She kept asking questions, and I kept answering to the best of my ability. She said that I was the first member of our Church she had ever met. She wanted to know more about other beliefs and practices in the Church. Fasting came up. I explained that faithful members of the Church, when health and age allows, fast for two meals, usually the first Sunday of the month. This means no food or drink for those two meals. They then would give the money that they would have spent on those meals, (or often more money to be generous), to the Church for its Fast Offering and Welfare program. The money is then used first for local needs of the poor and needy, and then anything leftover is sent to the headquarters in Salt Lake for other national and international needs. She was blown away by the program. I didn’t think much of what I had just explained to her because it was such an every-day occurrence to me. She then said, “Do you understand how incredible this program is?” She sat there amazed reflecting on it. I was wondering what I had said. She then said, “If everyone in the world did this, it would end world hunger.” Those words have stuck with me for over 20 years. She then reached into her purse and gave me some money. She said, please give this to your bishop for my contribution. I was so surprised. I thanked her and said that I would give it to the bishop for her fast offering the next Sunday.
She then asked if we had churches in Greece where she could continue to donate. I told her that I was almost sure that there were, but that I didn’t know exactly where. (No, google didn’t exist back then, or at least I didn’t know about it if it did.)
All too often critics of the Church do not like its policies. Every day the headlines are of what they don’t seem to like about the Church. Yet, all the while in the background, the Church as an organization and as its individual members are loving our neighbors, no matter their religion nor their location in the world.
I watched this video today and it reminded me of this conversation back in Germany. It is a great look into the Church’s welfare program. I feel happy whenever I donate my fast offering and other donations to humanitarian needs because I know that while my little individual contribution isn’t that much, when combined with millions of others around the world, it adds up and helps countless lives. It might just end world hunger one day.
I found the picture below from that trade show in Germany where I had the discussion with the co-worker.