Servie’s Song is the true story of one mother living in Zimbabwe, Africa who encounters a devastating loss leaving her unable to care for six children. In a heart-wrenching sacrifice, she surrenders to a desperate plan to leave her children and find work in the United States. It is a door which feels impossible to walk through, but perhaps, the only door which holds any promise. Servie’s Song takes you on an emotional journey of tragedy and heartbreak to an inspiring path of hope. As we take a glimpse into Servie’s remarkable journey and conversion, there are lessons to be learned from Servie’s incredible strength and faith, but also from a ward who embraced her during incredible struggles and adversity. Told through both Servie’s and the ward’s perspective, the reader will journey on a path of great tragedy, ultimately leading to conversion, hope, and triumph.
As a witness to this incredible story, Heidi Tucker was able to see how the following key leadership perspectives made the all the difference in Servie’s life.
1. Be on the Lookout
Just as a shepherd watches for danger or anything unusual happening within his flock, we too must notice the new person who enters our chapel for the first time or a less-active who wanders back after a long absence. I knew a Relief Society President who used to always sit up front in the chapel, but soon after the calling found a position toward the back. She told me that she needed to watch the sisters. Nobody entered or left quickly without her notice. She was able to quickly minister to or greet the individual in her “alert” position. I’ve also seen wards where a bishop and counselor both walk to the chapel doors during the closing hymn to position themselves to greet everyone who leaves. A small difference can make a big difference.
Servie arrived for the first time at one of our sacrament meetings feeling apprehensive and alone. She quietly took a seat toward the back of the chapel. During the services she felt the spirit and recognized something beautiful and different. But it was what happened at the end of that meeting that brought her into the flock. She hadn’t even gathered up her purse to stand and leave before the bishop was at her side. Introductions were made and soon other leadership and members surrounded them. This woman left feeling welcomed and loved by dozens of people. She had never seen or felt that in the other churches she visited. It was an absolute turning point for her.
2. Encourage Stewardship
As leaders, we have so many to watch and care for in our callings. Home and visiting teachers help us with that responsibility. But in some cases, it may be necessary to also assign someone to connect with the new investigator or newly reactivated member on a regular basis. This broadens the friendship base beyond the home/visiting teacher and allows more people to become involved in serving and loving those who are just gaining a testimony of the gospel. It benefits both the receiver and the giver.
When Servie was investigating the church, there were a number of women who were encouraged to make an extra effort in helping her feel welcome. We knew she was from Zimbabwe, Africa and understood that worship in an all-white congregation may have been a stretch for her. The outreach and tokens of kindness in everything from carpooling to home visits bridged that gap. This group of women made sure that Servie understood that her new friendship base extended beyond one or two leaders. That has continued after baptism as Servie attends Relief Society activities and temple visits with a friend every time. When Servie’s daughter Kimberly arrived in the United States from Zimbabwe she was 17-years-old. The Young Women President understood that the transition from a small village in Africa to the United States was going to be difficult on a number of levels – culture, education, language, social, etc. A Laurel from the class presidency was encouraged to bridge that transition and find ways to help and support Kimberly beyond the Sunday classroom. Those two quickly became the closest of friends. Daily texting demonstrated to this teenager that her new friends were thinking about her and loved her.
3. Customize Activities
As leaders love and serve new investigators and members they soon learn more about the individual’s talents, gifts, strengths. Leadership can focus on those as they encourage activities within their programs. Often the individual will accept a simple assignment to share something with the group during a class on Sunday or at a mid-week activity. It allows the newcomer to feel accepted into the group and also allows the group to gain new insight and knowledge about the new member. A definite win-win.
Both the Relief Society and Young Women leadership created custom mid-week activities which allowed Servie and Kimberly to speak about Zimbabwe and their culture. It provided an opportunity for sharing, knowledge, and acceptance. The Young Women president also made it a priority to host get-togethers outside of traditional mid-week activities to ensure more social opportunities for Kimberly. It didn’t need to be complicated. Sometimes it was a movie night, a pool party or just an ice cream gathering.
With email and social media, there is no reason that ward members cannot be fully informed of events celebrating new members. Ward Facebook pages for the women, men, and youth are becoming more common as well as emailed newsletters. Even specific individual announcements pertaining to their quorums or groups can quickly gain the attention of many members. The better the communication, the better the attendance. A simple announcement at the pulpit on Sunday often lands on deaf ears as parents struggle to get children settled in their pew.
The news of Servie’s baptism went far beyond the Sunday pulpit. The bishop was eager to get the entire ward involved. Emails and Facebook updates were launched at several group levels inviting all to attend and support our soon-to-be member. As a result, there was not a single empty chair. Before Kimberly arrived from Zimbabwe, the youth were pulled together and told about the situation. They fully understood that there was difficulty getting her here because of visa problems and other immigration issues. They knew that the missionaries and many of the leaders were fasting and praying for a miracle on her behalf. It not only allowed them to witness and be a part of the process on a personal level but to feel the miracle when she arrived. Missed communication can mean missed opportunities for growth by members of the ward.
5. Involve ALL Quorums
There are often unique ways that all quorums and programs in the church can support and serve a new investigator or member. As leaders, we must think outside the obvious box. Young Men and priesthood quorums can often provide service to a new household in addition to primary and relief society. Friendship and goodwill coming from a number of directions encourages a wider vision of love and acceptance. It fosters inclusion into the entire congregation, especially if the new or reactivated member is single or attending alone. We are not a congregation of “perfect” families even though it may appear at first glance to be just that. As leaders, we recognize that we are a group of men, women, and children in a variety of family settings. Open arms and service from every quorum can eliminate boundaries and perceived cliques.
When news broke that Kimberly was finally allowed to leave Zimbabwe, the ward immediately communicated with all members. Everything had been on hold for years, but she was on a plane the following morning once approved. The priesthood rushed to the apartment to move furniture and help clear a room so Kimberly would have a bedroom. The women and youth decorated the home with balloons and posters welcoming Kimberly to the United States. It was natural for everyone to want to be involved in this service because they had been a part of both the conversion and the transition into new membership. This was not only a miraculous celebration for Servie and Kimberly but a celebration by the entire ward. We all experienced something we will never forget.
Heidi Tucker was born and raised in the beautiful desert of Arizona. Following her graduation from Arizona State University she raised her family and has found a strong connection with the youth teaching seminary and serving on the ward and stake level in the Young Woman’s program. Heidi Tucker is an author, speaker, and blogger who has won a 2018 Illumination Award for her new release Servie’s Song. She also won the 2017 Illumination Award for her first inspirational book Finding Hope in the Journey. Her passion for writing and speaking about light and hope has inspired thousands. Heidi is known as a great storyteller who believes that every story not only can teach a gospel principle, but can also make you feel it. She has inspired many to rise up, cling to their faith and position their hearts to recognize God’s hand in their life.
Both of her books are available at Deseret Book, Seagull Book, and Amazon. She loves to speak to groups about messages of hope. You can contact her directly on her website ThePickledSunflower.com.