Ann Porter writes to us from the desolation of the Gulf Coast:
Yesterday, I attended sacrament meeting with the Slidell Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is my home ward. The building we normally meet in, the stake center for the Slidell Stake, took on quite a bit of water, and the power is still off. The carpet has been ripped out and cleaning has begun, but it was not yet ready to host a meeting of the Saints.
Sacrament meeting took place in the food distribution area of the bishop’s storehouse. The storehouse serves a large portion of the Gulf coast, including most of Louisiana, parts of Mississippi and Alabama, and into the Florida panhandle. It’s about five minutes from my house.
We arrived early. My husband didn’t know if he might be needed for anything, and we wanted to be sure to get a seat. A couple of dozen people were already there when we arrived. Sister G., a life-long resident of the area and “older than dirt,” immaculate in her shiny red pumps, her perfectly coiffed hair, and her beautiful smile. A woman in cut-off jeans and a “Mormon Helping Hands” t-shirt was setting up chairs.
The “stand” was set against a background of shelf after shelf of non-perishable foods.
Sister M. was setting up a portable keyboard. I asked Sister M. if she needed someone to conduct the music. She said that she had expected Different Sister M. to be there, but if she didn’t show, would I please? I was glad to!
Sister M. began to play the prelude music on the portable keyboard. More and more people arrived. Chairs rolled in from the LDS Social Services section of the building. More people arrived. A giant warehouse fan rolled out to make room for more chairs to roll in. More people arrived. The entire stake presidency showed up. Prelude music started on the portable keyboard as food orders were being filled.
Brother M., our first counselor in the bishopric, opened the meeting. He welcomed us all and stated that Stake President D. (resplendent in his gray sweats and white polo shirt) would be presiding. Announcements, expected to number in the dozens, were delayed until after the meeting. He added, with his voice cracking, “to those of you who are visiting with us today, we’re glad you’re here.” I did not see the brethren from the Houston Spanish Stake who, with their chain saws and machetes, had cleared our yard of downed trees and brush in about 20 minutes the day before. I believe, though, that these and others like them were the visitors Brother M. referred to.
Sacrament meeting progressed as usual, except that there was no microphone, and we ran out of water. How many cups of water are in a sacrament water tray? We used three trays before we ran out.
After the sacrament was finished, Brother M. closed the meeting. “We don’t have any speakers scheduled today. For those of you who feel the need for some spiritual uplift, just look around. The faith and prayers of the Saints are evident in the work going on all around us.”
We sang “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” People milled around and talked: “I don’t know how much longer I can stand the smell.” “Are you OK?” “Where are you staying?” “What about your job?” The teens were very excited to see each other again. The work crews headed back to work, and the storehouse personnel went back to filling food orders.