Monday, June 1, 2009

Operation Ethan

About four miles north of my home is the tiny city of Cross Plains, Tennessee (pop 1,381). This small historic city has worked hard to build a sense of community. Saturday, I attended a fundraiser for the Ethan Bibb and family. Ethan's father was laid off from work and they subsequently lost their home. In the midst of this young Ethan was diagnosed with brain cancer. Among the massive hosptial bills, not having health insurance, finding a new place to live and looking for work, their local church (Baptist) has stepped up to help them. And in a show of support, the people of Cross Plains rallied too.

The fundraiser included a barbeque lunch, a silent auction with several hundred items donated, pony rides, several inflated bouncy things, face painting, a "cow" train pulled by an ATV (don't ask), a dunking booth, craft projects by both Home Depot and Lowes, jewelry making, an Army Humvee to climb in, helicopters, live music and much much more. At night was a "Christian rock" concert. The husband/wife team who organized this are friends of my family. I was impressed with how much they put together.

Our ward leaders encouraged us to participate in the fundraiser. Several did. Ward member Jessica Frech performed and about a dozen others donated money and time. But as a Ward we had no presence.

I bring this up because I want to know if this kind of activity has a place in a Mormon Ward. I have seen and read about LDS communities pulling together like this when the need arose. But our Ward here in Tennessee is not a single community. We are spread out over two large counties.

So what role does a Mormon Ward have in this kind of service? Do we fill our members time with so much they don't have a chance to serve outside the Ward? Are these kind of service opportunities beyond the resources our unpaid clergy? Are we better to stick with projects we know how to do like Mormon Helping Hands?


Anonymous said...

I have to be anonymous this time.

When my soon-to-be missionary nephew broke his neck and became a quadraplegic, we made plans to send him to a rehab center as soon as he was released from the critical care hospital, which was supposed to be done on a certain date. We had to arrange a huge amount of private financing before the rehab center would take him.

Then we got word that he would be released from critical care far earlier than expected, before our private financing was in place. He had to go straight to the rehab center -- if there was a break in service, if he came home even for the night, much of his insurance would no longer be accessible; rehab would be considered an extra luxury, not a required part of treatment. We had only a few hours to find the money.

That's when the church kicked in. The stake president started calling bishops, who called members of their wards, and people started bringing checks. Hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars at a time. It was a real-life scene from "It's a Wonderful Life." The deadline was met, he went to rehab, and he came home walking, after a fashion.

The church can't take care of everybody like that. I don't pretend to know why they did in this case. It was an unusual case in an unusual area (how many people in your stake could contribute thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes? I couldn't, although I could come up with hundreds in an emergency.) It may happen more often than we know, without fanfare.

My current ward has taken special collections, twice, completely voluntary and outside the scope of, say, a formal church-sponsored service project, just something to meet a special need that we became aware of.

There is no reason why an activity like yours for Ethan couldn't be done by a ward. It would take an extraordinary leader, an appealing cause, and the timing would have to be right. You couldn't expect this to be done routinely; people burn out. But with the right combination in place, it could be done by a ward. There is no doctrinal or organizational reason why it couldn't.

Blessings on Ethan and his friends.

BruceCrow said...

That is wonderful! But it does take the right combination of circumstances; the right people to lead, the right cause to inspire, and more. But that is one of the reasons we are here. How can we encourage it to happen more?