"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Buildings of faith

The South is full of religiously based communities.  For all those who work with children and youth to develop faith, regardless of denomination ... you make a difference.

There's a picture, somewhere, of a handful of primary children crammed on those concrete steps with the iron railing.  Most of them are personal siblings.  They say this was a step above the court house basement in the days before my family arrived.  No matter.  The words are the same, the songs are the same, the feelings felt within are familiar and comforting.

If the main meeting dragged in our childlike minds, we'd amuse ourselves watching lizards crawl across the inside of the fluorescent fixtures.  Primary classes were combined to save space and separated off to corners or out of doors in good weather.  The basement held a nursery where my mother stands firm that a scurrying fur ball from the corner of her eye, resulted in a nearly three year old with his arm, shoulder deep up a pipe eagerly engaged in retrieving a new pet.

The announcement of a new building was exciting and we gathered to clear land, haul rocks, remove debris and aid, wherever possible, in the general construction.  I can't help but remember that new paint smell.

Walking back into this world of the past is a little like re-adjusting eyes to bright light.  As I opened the doors, I found myself forcing my vision to focus.  My heart melted with identification of each face changed a little by time.  The smiles were the same, the embraces unchanged, like reuniting with family distanced long ago.

Holding hands through the meeting's entirety with my mother's dearest friend, Sue McCall, I look at that piano on the stand and recall vividly the uneasiness of a fourteen year old's duty to play for the congregation to sing.  Following the meeting, I walked around the building seeing in my mind, visions of yesterday.  Parties held in the gym.  Spook alleys in classrooms.  Potluck dinners with women washing dishes in the kitchen and men clearing tables and chairs.  Talent shows, road shows, scouts playing ball.  The tiny library is still the hub of conversation.  There are fewer chairs in primary.  Suddenly, I'm a pre-teen giggling in the back row of one room.  A youth putting on makeup in the bathroom to the irritation of a Branch President/Seminary Teacher/Father as he awaits the start of his class.  A young woman sitting by her mother in Relief Society for the first time.

Jim Burch hugs me large and says, "Do you remember me?'

How could I forget?  How could I forget any of them?

There are those who are now missing, passed on from this life.

Francis Collins, who gathered young girls together before the wide spread of Activity Days.  To learn to cook, to crochet, to dance.  She held in her possession a photo album of each newspaper clipping and accomplishment of every branch man, woman, and child.

Brother and Sister Moe.  Their Patriarchal knowledge and care of youth in fireside discussion.

Fred Strong, with his handlebar mustache and infectious laughter.  A man larger than life, with his contagious humor and love of all things scouting.

I looked around at those who remain.   This building had become a second home to all of us as most residences weren't especially close.  Some had served second and third, maybe even fourth, terms in leadership callings.  For years, they'd been giving their time and sharing their talents.  They'd left their families to care for youth on weeknights.  They'd driven to camps.  They'd planned faith promoting activities.  They'd carted teens the 2 1/2 hour drive to stake youth activities and patiently made the same return journey.  

I think of my parents, doing all they knew to do in our own home to teach correct principles.  I'm a mother myself, doing the same, and thanking heaven constantly for leaders whose examples strengthen my own youth.  When I watch one excitedly sharing details of a day that I could hardly pry out, I'm forever grateful for those who spiritually fill in the gaps.

I'd bet there were times when these people wondered what it was all for and in the end, would it be worth it.  Did they have moments of exhaustion?  Did they want to say no?  Did they feel overwhelmed?  And how could I not stand there, overwhelmed with love for each.  They magnified callings and lay a foundation.  They carried a youth until she could carry herself.  

Before I could leave, I hugged each one close.  Remembering them as they are.  Trying to express my inadequate gratitude for the strength of the buildings and builders of my life. For the construction of the testimony of youth.  


  1. Your post pulled some heart strings and brought back many of my memories from the Franklin Branch! My memories are also fond of this humble congregation. Thank you for posting this.

  2. We had a small NC get together out here with a few of the "adults" from Hendersonville. I, too, sat and thought about their sacrifices to get us to where we are. The phrase kept going through my mind "we now stand where they once stood. We are now asked to sacrifice as they once sacrificed." Thanks for the reminder. I will have to dig out those pictures and write it down. It had already begun to fade.