Because of two little "helpers" that I have as my almost-constant companions, I don't usually get to hear much of the Sacrament Meeting talks. But, for some reason (most likely because we had grandparents with us to entertain the troops) this week things were unusually calm and I subsequently came away very much uplifted and humbled by what I heard.
One of the speakers taught about how he had seen the direct blessings of tithing, fast offerings, and other donations. In our church, we are taught that 10% of our increase should be given as tithing and that once a month as we fast we should give the money that would have gone to food as fast a offering. When possible, we are encouraged to give more that the basic amount because of the need for fast offerings to assist those that need help. Other donations can be made to various programs the church offers.
The brother that spoke told of how fast offerings of the members of his congregations had once helped their family get food in their cupboards during a time when money was scarce. Seeing this sacrifice from his neighbors made him profoundly appreciate the Lord's system to care for those that are in need.
However, the story that made me feel even more grateful for the things that I have been given and the ways that I can help others was one from his mission in Russia. During his time in Siberia he had the opportunity to translate for two senior humanitarian missionaries. One day they visited an orphanage and what he saw was truly appalling: children who didn't have beds, clothes, or enough food. Twenty to thirty babies in a room who were silent because they knew that their cries could not be answered because of extremely limited staff (the orphanage director tearfully explained that new babies would cry straight for almost 3 days until they realized that no regular help would be coming). The young missionary was overwhelmed, but the seasoned missionaries calmly made a list and left for the day. Because of the humanitarian funds of the church, all three missionaries were able to return to that orphanage with the desperately needed supplies. He described how this sweet couple were treated as celebrities because of their generous help, and this was all possible because faithful people from all over the world donate funds to church programs.
I know that Heavenly Father has given us a way that we can help others with the resources that we have. Through paying our tithing, fast offerings, and donating to other programs when possible, we can not only learn to appreciate how everything comes from the Lord, but we can demonstrate that we are willing to strengthen our neighbors - even if that neighbor might be thousands of miles away.