THE WHAT

frozen mealLast night I attended an informal get-together for a church friend whose family is moving away. We got to chatting about the missionaries and shared how we have been able to feed the missionaries, despite our unique personal circumstances. Her husband is a doctor, with odd hours, on-calls, the works. My husband’s job has odd hours too, with early departures and late, unpredictable evening returns that vary every single day. These comings and goings make it near-impossible for sisters like us  to have the elders over for a meal. Yet, in talking last night, I was delighted to witness how we both came up with a solution that worked for us. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Her idea of preparing frozen meals ahead of time is brilliant. She just calls them up and tells them to come and get it, there is a meal ready. She liked my idea of doing crock-pot tradeoffs, not just for breakfast like our family does, but for other meals too.

box lunchI remember during the time I was divorced and my oldest son wanted to help feed the missionaries. I wanted to be a good example to him. In this good thing, I didn’t want to tell him no to a righteous desire.  Even though these were times when I often had just a few bucks in my bank account, I would still spend the money for little things, little ways, to spend time with my kids. If that meant the $5 take-out cheese pizza, then that was okay. I felt the care of the Lord in my life and knew that somehow things would work out.  So I guess I had the same attitude about feeding the missionaries. It made my kids happy, it made me happy, it fulfilled a duty, and it blessed those who served.  So every month I would prepare a great meal based on the old box-lunch picnic idea of Pioneer days. You know the one: where somebody had to travel a long way by carriage or train, and so they were sent off with a great deal of food in a basket. Fried chicken or whatever.  We packed a brown paper grocery bag or two full of a great meal, usually some really nice sandwiches, fresh dressed and loaded salad, chips, drink and dessert. (I used to work in an upscale coffee and sandwich shop, so this experience served me well.) We left our box lunch in the fridge and/or on the counter at Church on Sunday and with a surge of joy, would scamper off to the rest of our meetings. It’s funny, but I don’t remember how much any of it cost. I remember the glad feelings of anticipating how nice a lunch they would have and I remember that warm sunshine feeling of having earned the approval of God. I repeated this pattern again after I remarried, since I never knew when Jeff would be home for dinner, let alone even take a lunch.  This time the solution was to prepare sack lunches for the elders. The kids and I jokingly told them to swing by our Mormon “drive-thru”, and then one of the kids just handed lunch out the door. 😉

So there are four non-traditional examples of what you can do. I have included breakfast recipes below, and following the recipes, the story of how the idea to feed the missionaries breakfast came about. I would appreciate any other ideas you might have to share with me, and encourage you to contribute them in the comment section.

An explanation for those who are not LDS: Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asked to feed the full-time missionaries who serve in their area. However, the young elders may not share a meal with a single sister, even if she has children. This includes married sisters whose husbands can not be present at the meal. These guidelines are to protect the virtue of both parties, preventing any risk of impropriety or the accusation thereof. I believe the policy for single sisters is that they may host young sister missionaries at a meal. Single sisters may also invite senior missionary couples over for a meal.


THE HOW

crock potThe only catch to the crockpot breakfast routine is REMEMBERING the night before. The elders are pretty forgiving if at first you might forget… and if you’re quick about it, you can usually come up with a substitute to fill up the crock pot. We sometimes like to add homemade almond milk, especially for elders who are allergic to milk. We also try to give them a loaf of bread weekly, along with a 4-stick package of butter, so they can have toast. They didn’t have a toaster, so we bought them one.  Sometimes it is fun to surprise them with a treat… like french toast/eggs and OJ… or cold cereal and milk in grocery bags (especially to give the poor mainstream guys a break.) I usually alternate oat-groats with congee.

  1. Routine 1: Prepare a double recipe and split in half, keeping part for your family and part for the elders. MTWRF
  2. Routine 2: Prepare a double recipe. Elders stop by MWF. We have found this routine much easier. We have also found that the Elders find it simpler  to deal with a 3-quart slow cooker rather than anything larger. We buy two of them and then just trade off full cooker for clean empty cooker at the door.

bears porridgeEasy Overnight Whole-Oat Groats
Recipe originally found here. I have tweaked it just a tiny bit.

Oat groats are the whole oat grain seed. Obviously, that would mean they are the least-processed type of oat cereal. IMHO, they are the healthiest not only for that reason but also because they still contain all three parts of the grain seed: the brain, endosperm and germ. Other types of oat cereals are steel-cut oats (non-hydrated but cut across the groat) rolled oats (steamed and rolled flat), and lesser grades such as quick-cooking, instant or microwave. 

As with any grain, if bought in bulk, they are much, much more affordable than anything in the grocery store. We get what you are eating, our organic oat groats, from Azure Standard, a Christian family farm cooperative that trucks orders to locations all over the Northwest.

4 cups filtered or distilled water  (otherwise your oats, though safe to eat, may appear green when cooked)

1 cup organic whole oat groats (We like RealSalt by Redmonds, an LDS family company)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

IMPORTANT: Because of the slower-to-cook nature of oat groats, this recipe MUST be made the night before. I like to prepare it between 8 and 11pm. For this recipe you MUST also have a crock-pot that has a warm setting. Anything higher will burn.

  1. Put the water in a medium saucepan, soup pan or stock pot and bring to a rapid boil.
  2. When the water comes to a full boil, pour in the oats groats and salt.
  3. Give a quick stir and let the oats cook for 1 minute. Using a timer here is important.  If your oats start bubbling and rising up, just give them a quick stir to take care of it.
  4. After one minute, turn off the heat.
  5. Pour boiling hot water and oat groats into your crock-pot’s crock. Cover. Set crock pot on warm. This ensures that the groats do not totally cool off and lose the amount of heat needed to finish off.
  6. Go to sleep.
  7. Wake up happy: I smell something yummy. Oh, yippee! Breakfast is ready already!

asian congeeEasy Overnight Whole-Grain Congee

Many people in Asia eat a breakfast food called congee. It can be made from almost any grain, but works especially well with rice, millet or a combination. I have also made pretty good congees from wheat, rye and larger grains, although some do not like the texture. If this is the case, I sometimes run the large grains through my Vitamix with some fruit, and it makes a nice smooth porridge somewhat like cream-of-wheat. We also learned from one elder that they would also eat the congee as a snack or as a side-dish for at-home meals when they weren’t invited anywhere for dinner. It pleased me that he had discovered that. We do the same at our house. With proper spicing, sauces, added veggies or meats, any congee can be transformed into dinner “slumgullion”, as my husband calls it.

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup grain

This recipe is even easier than the oat groats. Before going to bed, put all the ingredients together in the crockpot and turn on low. We usually triple the recipe for a full crock-pot.

homemade almond milkHomemade Almond Milk

Recipe by Tracy J. Sellers, author of Traci’s Transformational Kitchen Recipe Collection. We also buy our raw almonds in bulk from Azure Standard. While almonds can get a little pricey, it is spendier still – and less healthy – to buy the overpriced junk-filled gunk in a bottle from the grocery store.

  • 1/2 cup sprouted almonds (measure after sprouting)
  • 1 T natural sweetener. We’ve found that pure maple syrup works best. yummy!
  • 2 cups water
  • (optional) 1/16th to 1/8th tsp sea salt

1. In a Vitamix or other blender, combine nuts, sweetener, and half of the water. Blend on low until it is thick and smooth, adding more water if necessary to grind to a thick paste. This ensures no large chunks of almond remain

2. Add remaining water while blender is running and blend to emulsify for up to 4 minutes. (1 minute with Vitamix).

3. (Optional) Strain milk through wire mesh strainer lined with porous cloth, like that used for thermal underwear.

4. Store in an airtight or tightly sealed container in the fridge for 3-5 days. We use a glass jar. Shake before using.

Nut and Seed Sprouting Instructions

Recipe by Tracy J. Sellers, author of Traci’s Transformational Kitchen Recipe Collection, a cookbook I highly recommend.

  • Place nuts or seeds in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. (I use a glass bowl with no lid. I don’t like digging the swollen almonds out of the bottom of the jar.)
  • Fill with water
  • Allow nuts/seeds to soak for about 8 hours, in or out of the fridge. They will swell to approximately twice their normal size
  • Rinse off before use
  • if not using immediately, keep nuts covered with water in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, changing water occasionally.

THE WHY

The study of doctrine and the teaching of doctrine will change behavior more than the study of behavior will change behavior. – Elder Boyd K. Packer

"We're busy, busy, dreadfully busy!"

“We’re busy, busy, dreadfully busy!”

One of the big life lessons I have learned is that, in the end, people do what they really want to do… and they don’t do what they really don’t want to do. That’s where we got the saying,”Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

I have heard a lot of reasons, explanations, excuses, justifications, arguments, etc for why Person X doesn’t want to do Action Y. I have said or used many of them myself. When it comes to ala carte discipleship, we all have our hang-ups. Maybe it’s visit-teaching, maybe it’s family home evening, maybe it’s couple prayer or family scripture reading.  President Ezra Taft Benson’s brilliant remedy for this problem was given when I was a youth:

The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.

Take note that the next thing President Benson did was quote another prophet, David O. McKay. Thus, the law of two witnesses is fulfilled. This means we should pay close attention. McKay cited British author, Beverly Nichols. So what was it that TWO prophets of the Lord Jesus Christ thought so important as to bring to our attention?

“You can change human nature. No man who has felt in him the Spirit of Christ even for half a minute can deny this truth. … You do change human nature, your own human nature, if you surrender it to Christ. Human nature has been changed in the past. Human nature must be changed on an enormous scale in the future, unless the world is to be drowned in its own blood. And only Christ can change it.”

I would like to change my nature. One thing that had been pricking at my heart was that our family was not feeding the local missionaries. We were struggling financially at the end of last year, as we have struggled for four long years now.  I felt bad as the calendar was passed around in Relief Society, especially as they beseeched us to do more than once a month: weekly would be more like it.  We have been so blessed in our area with the hastening of the work. When our family moved into this area in 2012, our branch shared one set of elders with another congregation 30 miles away.  Now we’ve had our own set of elders and a set of senior missionaries serving in our little branch for over two years now. I knew that the Book of Mormon has a verse for people like me, who want to help but can’t and I would remind myself of it, sometimes, to comfort myself as my family’s name remained unwritten on the list of the willing.

And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.  And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received. – Mosiah 4:24-25

Elder ManufekaiHowever, this verse began to be of smaller and smaller comfort, especially as I started to realize that as hard as things have been for us, things are starkly more difficult for many people in our area. Our little town borders the edge of an Indian reservation. I did not know struggling could be like this.  I began to hear of how our local elders were having such difficulty in finding meals that they were troubled with food insecurity. Whether or not it has anything to do with what I think is a too-small amount allowed for groceries by their mission guidelines, I don’t know, but in any case, such things should not be! I have dealt with food insecurity myself, but why should servants of God ever have to deal with this?! I know they do… think Elijah and the ravens, and the widow of Zarephath… BUT, such things should not be HERE and NOW.  What of all the promises in the scriptures about the Lord taking care of his own? Consider the lilies of the field, the birds in the sky

I remembered that oftentimes, God does his work through his willing servants, and recalled the lyrics to an old song from my youth:  I once saw as statue of Jesus without any arms. I thought to myself, what a crime, how can this be? The answer was carved in the marble at his feet for all to see : He has no hands but yours.

I wondered to myself, So where are the people to feed these boys, that their mothers believed would be there, when they sent them forth for two years to serve? Where are the people to feed their sons as they have fed the sons of others?

I recalled the missionaries of prior days who were commanded to go forth without purse or scrip. They went door-to-door for everything: food, lodging, preaching… the first converts of the Restored Gospel often BOUGHT their copy of the Book of Mormon. We do not see any of those things today. I don’t know that we could, when members themselves struggle.

Two questions kept returning to my mind:

  • Why should our missionaries of today be starving servants, going forth to share a message to feed the world spiritually while themselves are hungry temporally?
  • What can I do?

Together in the rainAll this soul-searching was happening at a time of massive personal change. My teenage son decided he was unhappy with us and wanted to go live with my ex-husband. So in addition to the grief of losing him was the ripple effect of losing the child support. We were having employment concerns from low wages in the current job and small pickings in our rural job market. There were mounting medical bills from my problems. I quit midwifery school to try and save the relationship with my increasingly alienated son, but not soon enough to avoid educational bills. There were housing concerns, since our area has jacked up prices in rents AND in real estate, and we are stuck between a rock and hard place paying too-high rent and foiled in our first attempt to buy a reasonably priced home.  Because of the high rents, we couldn’t afford to save up any money to buy a home or even finance a move. There were car troubles and increasingly. There was my husband’s weird work schedule which never fits into the traditional 5:00 dinner hour. There were children who wanted so much, materially, to whom I could give so little. We’d all agreed in easier times that having Mother in the home and TIME was better than a second wage-earner and baubles. It didn’t help that there was mixed support at church with many, even some leaders, giving the equivalent of  “go get a job like my wife and most everyone else in Relief Society” i.e. what makes you so special? Your problem is your lifestyle. Stop this homeschooling nonsense. Some suggested the quick fix of going on public welfare, yet few understand the real curse that goes with taking those funds. Maybe some are not as sensitive as my husband and I, but accepting this money is like agreeing to have a dark cloud constantly overshadowing your life. We feel a real curse for accepting legally stolen funds. Church welfare doesn’t feel that way, and also isn’t the permanent and disabling crutch the public system is, for thousands and across multiple generations. So, amid ALL this, how could God expect any more of me? Why was I feeling so badly about something I could not do, namely, buying food for missionaries when we could barely keep it on the table ourselves?

I pondered about it. Seems like it was on my mind several times a day, and I turned it over and over in my head, like I’m wont to do sometimes with stones in my pocket. We can’t afford it. We can’t afford it. But I keep feeling like we should be doing more. I want to do more.  A quote kept coming to mind, I think it’s Charles Dickens… something about if your charities do not hurt your budget, you are not giving enough. When I retired to my bed, I would think about it, and oftentimes fell asleep thinking about it. One day, while walking through the local grocery store, I noticed how expensive the prices were breakfast cereals, even hot cereal. I thought about that the rest of the day. When I got done with my prayers, and laid down, still thinking, to go to sleep, the answer dawned on me: Breakfast! You can feed them breakfast! 

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

I envisioned those two young elders, out in the freezing cold winds of our area, tracting door to door, as the day ripened into noontime. I wondered what they were having for breakfast. Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold… I remembered my childhood, how my mother had INSISTED we have breakfast before going to school, and I remembered what she usually fed us: oatmeal and toast. I remembered how badly I felt in school, by 11 or so, when I had skipped breakfast. While I couldn’t afford all the fixings and side dishes for meal featuring a crockpot of lasagna or a pot roast, at like, $35-40 a pop, and especially not every week, I could afford cooked grain cereal. I buy my grain in bulk, and had just purchased a 50 lb bag of oat groats for my own family for our breakfast, at 88 cents per pound. I knew that bag could last both my family and the elders at least a month. The system that I use now then opened to my mind. I could get two crockpots, and alternate them between our household and the elders. That way, they would always get a hot breakfast every morning as well as leave me with a way to prepare their next meal for the next day, since oat groats cook overnight. I also realized I could cook any hot cereal. Or even put treats in the crockpot, like french toast and eggs, or whatever.

How was I going to be able to afford TWO crockpots? A few days before, our own beat-up, cracked crockpot had finally gasped it’s last breath, splitting in the sink while being washed after the church potluck. (I had prayed it would not break, just one more time.) How was I going to justify buying THREE crockpots to my husband? How would he even respond to this idea of mine, amid all the struggles we already had? When I looked in the local ads, I almost cried. The large-sized crockpot that I had in mind for the missionaries usually run about $45 dollars each, but they were on sale. I was able to buy two crockpots for $17 each that day, and it was the last day of the sale. Everything opened up, like a cleared pathway, for the plan the Lord had sent to my mind to be fully accomplished, in very deed. I was afraid the elders would be uninterested. They weren’t. They were enthused and thankful. I was afraid somebody at church would prohibit us, or scold. They didn’t. I was afraid we might not be able to afford it for long, and yet somehow we do, and we have felt no harm.

Uchtdorf rainIn fact, the only thing that has happened is a raining down of blessings upon our heads. Our financial disaster was diverted by a personal miracle – my husband is trained in a specific industry, but could find no jobs. Even if we moved out of state, they did not pay well enough for the new area we’d have to live in, nor for the expense of the move. But the local person who had the job decided to retire. Our son’s departure and our daughter’s coming of age means that the child support ends this year. That was one reason I was going to school – I saw this change coming. My husband’s new job makes up for that income loss and still provides the amount he was earning before. Unlike the last attempt, our current effort to buy a home is running smoothly and well, as if Someone has greased the skids before us.

The other blessing was unexpected and reached to the core of my broken heart: my son. The loss of my son. One of the ways he had distanced himself and rejected us, by degrees, was refusing the food we fixed and/or refusing to eat with us. Feeding the elders has comforted the hurt. Every morning, when I see them come with their smiling faces, and the empty crock pot… every morning when I receive acceptance of the food I have prepared, no matter what it is, …  I think of some mother somewhere wondering if anyone is taking care of her boy on his mission, and in my mind, I say, Yes. Yes, I am. And this gives me hope that there are good mothers down where my son is, taking care of him for me.

There is also a nameless blessing upon our home, which we know is directly related to the presence of the elders, even if only for a few minutes in the morning. I don’t know what it is, but it is real, and I know that it comes from the Lord. We feed them during the week, and have begun to notice that this specific blessing or presence that is special and specific to the full-time servants of the Lord, does not abide here with us on the weekend (D&C 6:32-36). It is a pure presence and a strengthening one, and I miss it when it is not here.

I am so thankful to my God for teaching me, yet again, how good and kind and loving he is. How wise he is for asking us to obey what he does, and how he must wait – in hope and patience and love – to reward us with every good thing that he can for every little step we make to obey him – with sincerity of heart and righteous desire. I am thankful that He loved me enough to cause the divine discontent that led to a solution that not only met a need for his full-time servants, but offered the healing, soothing Balm in Gilead He knew my heart needed, in exactly the way he knew I needed it.

I'll take the rain“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace…Try as you may, you cannot put the Lord in your debt. For every time you try to do His will, He simply pours out more blessings…” – Ezra Taft Benson (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” Ensign, Dec 1988)

“Part of our challenge is, I think, that we imagine that God has all of His blessings locked in a huge cloud up in heaven, refusing to give them to us unless we comply with some strict, paternalistic requirements He has set up. But the commandments aren’t like that at all. In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.His commandments are the loving instructions and the divine help for us to close the umbrella so we can receive the shower of heavenly blessings.”. – Dieter F. Uchtdorf (“Living the Gospel Joyful”, Ensign, Nov 2014).

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