Saturday, June 20, 2015

Michael the Mentor helps Nepal

This is a story which has to be told:

When you are in the Service of your Fellow Beings: Helping Nepal Recover

Valerie Steimle

Michael with the people of Nepal
Michael Shiffler used to play football as a running back for Brigham Young University. A native of California, he graduated in Zoology and Russian, (after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia) set out in life to do some good.  Little did he realize how much good it would be. Now eighteen years later he finds himself a volunteer in Nepal, helping the people recover from an earthquake which hit on April 25th, 2015. Volunteering with the Salvation Army and using his own non-profit organization, Red Lightening to help the people of Nepal with medical attention and food, he has accomplished some amazing feats.

Documenting all they have done, Shiffler tells the story of a people now mostly without shelter and food trying to recover from not only one earthquake but two and several aftershocks.  

May 4, 2015
“Made it back to Kathmandu tonight. We walked like crazy, assessed and GPS tagged 8 villages, with about 2500-3000 people. Found a handful of people among them who needed medical attention and luckily had just the right contacts to get 2 of them evacuated by helicopter. It was an epic adventure in service. I've never done anything like it and feel a little surprised the plan actually worked and we are all in one piece
Man and wife digging through destroyed house
The vast majority of the homes we saw in these mountains were either completely destroyed or damaged to the point of being unsafe to live in. The problem is         compounded by the fact that a series of landslides have cut off all road access, so the only way in is walking. One village we walked to would take nearly 8 hours from the starting point. The situation is even more worrisome in that while many have huge amounts of crops, those crops won't be ready for another 2-3 months, which means anything they want to eat they have to either already have or carry in. In this picture, a man and his wife dig through the ruins of their destroyed home looking for their food. The situation in these mountain villages presents some exceptional challenges, and we look forward to figuring it all out together. So thankful for all the thoughts, prayers and support.”

May 8, 2015
“Occasionally there is a maze of paperwork (which I hate doing) that has to be filled out before any aid can actually be delivered. We had to drive 4 hours each way today, find the right people with the right forms, etc just to have the right permission to operate in a particular area. Stuff like this drives me crazy because we have tremendous other challenges (like figuring out how to deliver 30,000 kg of aid to remote villages), but the good thing is we now have official permission and it also helps prevent redundancy of other aid groups working in the same area (or at least that is the idea). If everything goes as planned, we should have our first large distribution tomorrow afternoon, and it should get easier to move things now. We need more prayers for Nepal.

May 6th
“We saw several villagers carrying 30kg (66lbs) bags of rice up. We are talking about anything from 4-8 hours of hiking and almost all uphill one way. We are still working on a helicopter for delivery to some of the deeper villages.

Solar Panels
I call this the The Widows Mite in action- even though I volunteer for the Salvation Army which is a tremendous organization, with a lot of firepower- I have my own small aid group and have received a few small donations. It's interesting to me that most of the donations came from women who don't have a lot to give, but give what they can. I used about 3-4 of such donations to purchase 2 large USB solar charging panels, and brought them with me to Nepal, "just in case". On our hike, we ran into two villages that had cell coverage but lost their electricity, and were a few hours away hiking. This makes gathering information and coordinating for deliveries with them almost impossible, as we would need to hike up 3-5 hours to simply talk to them. I called my friends who were picking us up from Kathmandu and told them to bring the solar panels. One of our contacts from a far away village came down the hill with us, and my little charity gave him the panels, one for him and another for a second village on the way. And just like that, less than $100 of donations from these kind women restored communications with 2 villages and over 1100 people. We have already called both of them, and because of it, the man I'm presenting them to here is now coordinating the information with all 15 villages in his area, about 4000-5000 people for which we can now coordinate a series of deliveries, without needing to hike up. I knew those small donations are powerful, but it awesome to see the result like this.”

May 9, 2015
“When we hiked up into the mountains last week there was a man sleeping right by the path that literally everyone travels on. He was crippled from birth, his legs twisted thin and stiff, almost like a pretzel, a random bad-card fate dealt him when he entered this world. He was laying in his own filth and no longer eating or drinking because he didn't want to continue to create more of an inescapable mess. And there he lay, day after day, with literally everyone who lived on the mountain walking past and ignoring him. He hadn't moved an inch in the time we went up until the time we returned a couple days later. In the same position, filthy and starving and unable to move, properly, care for himself and embarrassed out of eating or drinking despite his hunger.

Man on path

Even with all the stressful stuff we had going on with assessments, paperwork, food etc. the thought of this man would not leave my mind. I found myself imagining those I love most, thrust into his cruel prison of a body, and realized that such a scenario was not acceptable if he was someone I loved deeply. I absolutely would not tolerate it.

Strangely, I then came to the conclusion that just because I didn't know and love him personally, his position was still equally unacceptable and my unfamiliarity with him shouldn't change how I felt about the need for action because someone out there, alive or dead, at least at some point loved him that much, and if not, then he was even more worthy of it. I think it was after all these kinds of thoughts, I found myself full of compassion for this man.
Upon returning back to Kathmandu, I started thinking about what could be done for this guy. I've never cared for or washed a grown man like this, and it felt beyond my skill set and comfort level, but I also felt like that shouldn't matter, and it was time to rise to the occasion.

I get some smaller donations from women, I call them "Widows mites" like $25 here and there and I try to use all these little donations in the most powerful way possible because they are all these donors can give, which so deep and meaningful to me.

We used one of these little donations, went out and bought a bucket, some soap, a new mat, bed pan and new clothes. The man was a quick hike away from the distribution, about 15 minutes or so. Once the distribution got rolling, I started heading up with 2 other team members and we learned that there was someone who was supposed to take care of him. We tracked the caretaker down and let him know it was not ok to leave this poor man like this.

Long story short, the caretaker, who turned out to be his brother, and I washed this guy right there on the side of the path. I think it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life because I learned something that has changed my heart, and I grew in becoming able to do something I never would have considered. Compassion, it seems, is an incredible tool for good. I feel like if I can tap into that same deep feeling again, I'd be more motivated to serve and make stuff happen. I have lots of room to grow in understanding true compassion. It's an exciting thought to me. I want to improve compassion wise, if that makes any sense.

I'm worried that the man might fall into the same state of neglect, so we are working on something a more long term. Not really sure what the right answer is there. I'll update you when I can when we have a solution in place. I feel deeply grateful for this experience, and hope that my sharing it with you has given you something positive and meaningful to think about. It was a great day today.”

May 16th
“You might be reading in the news about aid moving slowly here, and this is why: There are literally hundreds of villages just like this, on the edge of a mountain, thousands of feet up, scattered all over Nepal. They are only accessible by helicopter or hiking for days. You can't really carry tons of aid in. This is why aid work in Nepal is nearly impossible in some regions without some villagers are moving to new locations, most seem to staying.”

May 17th
“I'm happy to report that our Salvation Army team has delivered food aid to nearly all of the villages I hiked to in my first days here and we have even helped several additional villages. I was originally supposed to return to the U.S. tomorrow afternoon, but given the upcoming schedule of shelter aid we are planning to deliver, I've decide to extend an additional 7-10 days, all depending on how well my health holds up. Three weeks is usually my max, but I feel pretty good and also feel that it is really important to get these supplies out to our villages before monsoon season hits, which is coming up. We have a great team here in Nepal and we are going to keep it going as long as we can. I'm very proud to see and be part of the reports our team leader Damaris is turning in, and know we are making a difference.
Food delivery
USB solar panel chargers are a huge success with our remote village deliveries. Many of them oddly still have cell network coverage, just no way to charge their phones. Once we deliver these, they can charge their phones and they can update us with their needs in real time or we can call to get certain info. This village has a developing water and medical issue. The restored communications will allow us to plan right up to the time we might make a return flight, which is important because needs are constantly evolving. We hope to get a medical team and some filters out to them soon, and my friend Amanda is bringing more chargers this week. She couldn't have arrived at a better time, as the chargers are getting very hard to find in Kathmandu.”
One of the last tasks Mike did was visit the man he helped on the path:

Saved man on path
“We were able to locate and transport the man by the path from his remote village to a care facility in Kathmandu. He had been moved 3 hours up the mountain and will now have the proper medical attention, food, and care he needs. So very grateful to be part of this experience, and especially thankful to everyone who came together to make it happen. It's been over a month for me in Nepal - so many great new friends, experiences and memories I will treasure for the rest of my life. That said, time to come home and rest up.”

Following the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ Michael taught on his mission, he has been the instrument in helping the people of Nepal start the recover back to normal life. He is only one person but look at all he has accomplished to help those disaster stricken people. What an example of compassion and love for a people he has never met. Organizing funds and using those funds to organize not only food and medical supplies but something most people would not have thought to send: USB solar panel chargers so rescue communications can continue.
This is a story for the world to hear and know there are people like Michael Shiffler helping Nepal get back on their feet. It is inspiring and emotionally moving.  We need more people like him to do more good in the world.  Count me in.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Staying together is important

Do you know you are loved?

I have a few questions to ask you and I want you to think about them for a minute:

Do you know you are loved?  Do you really know?  How do you know you are loved?

These are questions that many people face in their life and I would like to answer them.
It is hard to know you are loved if you live alone.   It is hard to know you are loved when you move to a new area.  It is hard to know you are loved when you have trials and tribulations in your life.

1. Living alone:  It is difficult to have the feedback of another human being when you live by yourself.  I sometimes think about  Moroni (from The Book of Mormon) after he took the plates and hid from the Lamanites.  He knew his mission in life and continued to write on the plates.  Moroni chapter 1: 1-4 -- chapter 7: 1-2
 He could write these things because he knew he was loved by his Heavenly Father and his Savior Jesus Christ otherwise I don’t’ think he would have been able to write.
   I found a story that illustrates this idea in the Ensign this month under the question and answer section.

   I know if we know that we are loved then our actions turn to others to serve them.  We feel good about what we are doing in our life and we can be happy.

2. Moving to a new area:  This is a difficult situation for those who have to move to an area where you are unknown to others.  No one knows your dislikes or your likes.  No one knows what your past history was and what your strengths are now.  True---many people who move have their families with them and that does help but finding extended friends and family in a new place is difficult.  I think of Nephi and his family who had to leave everything they knew and live in the wilderness.  Of course they didn’t have any new neighbors to meet and all they had were themselves but it was a difficult situation to be in.  Nephi knew he was loved by his parents and His Savior. From 2 Nephi 9:40-41:

 40 O, my beloved brethren, give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.

 41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

   Nephi could testify of the truthfulness to his family because he had that strength of knowing he was loved by his Heavenly Father.  He could teach with power and the Spirit because he had the confidence of knowing he was loved.

President Ezra Taft Benson’s Talk give great guidance:   Seek the Spirit of theLord April 1988 Ensign

And I believe that we will also feel the love from our Heavenly Father.  When we feel the Spirit-- when we know that the Holy Ghost is speaking to us ----we are loved.

3.  Tribulations in your life:   This situation is the most difficult of all to know that you are really loved--  Not only by your family here but by a loving Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ.  When everything is not going well in your life and you are feeling the burden of tribulations it is especially hard to remember that you are loved.   You have to face tough decisions and having that knowledge that you are loved by those around you helps immensely.   These trials are actually for your benefit and help you to be a better person.   If it helps to know that it’s not what happens to you but its how you handle what happens to you that give you a different perspective.  If you know that you are loved then those trials are not so difficult

We have all heard the many great examples in the scriptures of those having tribulations in their lives; who acted accordingly because they knew they were loved: Job, Nephi, Joseph Smith and even Jesus Christ.  Along with scripture examples--- we can all think of those people we know personally who go on in life when life gets tough.

            Butch (my deceased husband)  has the most amazing cousin ever. Her name is Darthel Pike—She raised 9 children and now has about 100 grandchildren---her husband’s on dialysis and for a while taught the gospel to people in prison.  She is the busiest woman in the world and she still finds the time to write to me.  She is a great example to me on someone who knows she is loved and helps everyone else around her.   Not only does she write me but she includes copies of little words of wisdom and inspirational messages in her letters.  During one of my times of discouragement, I read one of those inspirational messages and I would like to read it to you now:

    The troubles that beset you, along life’s winding road. Are sent to make you stronger, to share another load.  We cannot share a sorrow, if we haven’t grieved a while, nor can we feel another joy until we’ve learned to smile.  Sweet mystery of music, great masters and their art, how well we understand them, when we’ve known a broken heart!  Let tyrants lust for power, Sophisticates be wise, Just let me see the world, dear God, through understanding eyes.  By Nick Kenny

As a single woman in the Gospel for the past two years---I have noticed one overwhelming attribute of many singles over 30 in the church----and that is that they do not know that they are loved.  They do not know that they are loved by a Heavenly Father. This has a profound affect on how they live their lives.  You are all loved and if you don’t know it or feel it then you need to pray to feel that love in your life.  It will have a profound affect on you and the decisions you make.

  So back to my original question---How do you know that you are loved?  You feel at peace.  You are motivated to do the Lord’s work. You do service for others and are happy about it.  You can write about the truthfulness of the Gospel and bare a true testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.  You don’t feel self-pity but are confident that you are doing what is right in your life.  You feel the Spirit and the Holy Ghost can teach you.

   When I first received the invitation to speak on love---I thought this was a very broad subject but the Spirit told me very specifically what to talk about and I hope the words I have spoken this morning will help you in some way.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our light unto the World

Sunday is Easter which gives all humans the hope that we will one day join our Creator without the cares or sorrows of the world...

Many people have no hope.... but He is the one great hope for our world.

Forgiveness helps us to become whole when we are the recipient of unkind actions.

See what others have said about our Easter...

  • Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there. - Clarence W. Hall 
  • Easter is a time to rejoice, be thankful, be assured that all is forgiven so life extends beyond the soil of earth.
  •  - Byron Pulsifer 
  • The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake. 
  • - Basil C. Hume 
  • Prejudices subsist in people's imagination long after they have been destroyed by their experience. - Ernest Dimnet
  • Easter is the demonstration of God that life is essentially spiritual and timeless. - Charles M. Crowe
  • On Easter Day, the veil between time and eternity thins to gossamer. - Douglas Horton
  • But from this earth, this grave, this dust, My God shall raise me up, I trust. - Walter Raleigh
  • You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. -
  •  Kahlil Gibran
  • We live and die; Christ died and lived! - John Stott 
  • The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances. - Robert Flatt 
  • Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. - Danny Kaye
  • Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought. 
  • - Henri Louis Bergson 
  • God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages. - Jacques Deval 
  • True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. 
  • - William Penn 
  • Earth's saddest day and gladdest day were just three days apart! - Susan Coolidge
  • The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice. - Henry Knox Sherrill
  • Those have a short Lent, who owe money to be paid at Easter. - Benjamin Franklin

Monday, March 11, 2013

Outer Beauty Matterth Not....

Valerie J. Steimle
            The world looks upon the outer shell of a person and judges success. Outer beauty doesn't matter, it's what is on the inside that counts.
            This is what I taught my children when they were teenagers. Meaning when you want to find a boy friend or girl friend, it doesn’t matter what you look like from what God gave you as a body, it’s what is inside that matters.  The same goes for what you see in others. Let’s face it, teenagers are shallow.  What they see in beauty magazines is what they want no matter what you sacrifice to get that way.  The world shows us what is beautiful and teenagers want it.
            I don’t capitalize on beauty.  It’s what’s inside that matters.  I’ve even been complimented on my looks but I don’t obsess with outside appearances.  I look the best I can but I’m not one to follow myself around in mirrors.
            I can see that someone’s countenance will tell a bit about a person. It is amazing how our thinking can be the window of our faces.  It can either help us or hurt us in what we feel to be important. How our ideals and our priorities tell us what is really important in our life and this will show up in our countenance.
            For example, what is more important is how you place family, career and money in your life.  It is much more important to spend time with your family than spend more time at the office over all.
            If only the world would be more interested in how a person helped others instead of how beautiful their appearance.  This would set the example for the younger generation and we would have more good deeds done instead of those waiting for their “15 minutes” of fame.
            Everyone knows and likes to be with someone happy; someone who is excited and motivated to do good things in their life.  This person makes us feel good about ourselves.  The whole world seems to be a better place when we spend time with people who are happy and content with who they are and what their mission is in life.
            This next part is from an email that was passed around for a while and it touches exactly what I have been writing about here:
“May there be peace within you today. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”
            So as I said in the beginning, inner beauty is the most important and what you do with the time you have been given on earth and how you treat the people you have been close to in your life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Life on Earth: Is it Worth It?

It’s difficult in our modern times to listen to the nightly news without getting totally disgusted.  There are so many negative reports of all the crime, corruption and destruction of our great nation, it can really weigh you down.

I received an email from an old friend, from where I grew up in New Jersey, last week telling me that her father passed away at the age of 78.  A rush of memories had filled my head.  I loved her father.  He was a very giving person.  He used to drive us around to church activities, singing songs and telling stories and we all had such a great time together.  No generation gap there.  My friend and I were teenagers during the 70’s too. I “googled” his name to find the obituary because he had accomplished so much when I knew him, I wanted to see what else he had done after I went off to college and their family moved away.

It was amazing to see. He already had a PhD in nuclear chemistry and helped Bell Labs in New Jersey get a satellite up in orbit. After moving away, he then became the head of the department of physics at the State University of New York in Albany. He did Research in X-ray optics and then eventually did research on the effects of metal in the human brain helping to find how to cure Alzheimer’s disease.  Besides all the work he accomplished in his career, he was very active in his church and spent a lot of time with his family making his life very full right up until the end.

Another friend of mine wrote this week about a speech she heard Sunday night at a church fireside of a woman who spent time in a concentration camp as a child in Indonesia during WWII.  Her name is Kitty De Ruyer Bon and she wrote all about her experiences in a book called “As I Have Loved You”. The amazing thing about this woman is that in the face of the most humiliating of circumstances and inhumane physical treatment, she kept faith, courage, strength and dignity.  With no hope of any earthly reward or return for the good she gave, she still gave even to her captors.

The lives of these two people have touched my life and gave me such a great example to never give up when life seems so overwhelming.  At times life does get overwhelming and discouraging and the temptation to throw it all away is sometimes very great. Even to give up on mankind, but that would accomplish nothing. The wisdom to give to others is much better than always thinking: What’s in it for me?   Raising children, filling a calling at church, finishing a college degree, building a house; all have their moments when we stop and think--Is this really worth it?  A resounding: yes. This is most definitely worth our time on earth.  A great lesson for us to learn while we are here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Importance of Family Time Together

As the holidays approach us, our thoughts turn to home and how happy we are when we are experience positive ideals of home and our families.
Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we are given words of wisdom from our leaders in Salt Lake City every six months.  It’s usually the first weekend in April and October but this time the April meeting was schedule March 31, 2012 to April 1st, 2012 and I had the opportunity to watch most of it.
As I previewed all the different speeches of these leaders this week, I saw a reoccurring theme through out the entire weekend: the importance of family and parenthood. One particular speech stayed with me and that is of Boyd K. Packer’s remarks on Saturday morning (March 31, 2012).
His talk is called “And A Little Child Shall Lead Them” (see Ensign Magazine, May 2012, page 6-9) and it is great reminder of keeping our families in the front of our minds. President Packer who is the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, related several heart wrenching stories of poor and orphaned children he met or heard of during his travels and the difficult conditions they experienced.  The anguish we feel from reading or seeing children in such dire straights is distressing but yet in our own country of milk and honey, we find ourselves unable to cope with the children we have brought into the world. 
We are parents with great responsibility from the time we conceive or bring a child into our home.  Enduring to the end takes patience, love and time and President Packer has reminded us with his words why parents should be devoted to their children. Devotion meaning choosing wisely in decisions for our children and then letting them experience what has been taught as they grow older.  Not to be confused with thinking that many material possessions are important for each child, we should teach correct principles and let them learn and govern themselves.
As President Packer has reminded us with his words of wisdom, we need to remember “the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ” in our homes and not just busying ourselves with too many commitments. Our time is very precious in the course of a child’s life and we can remind ourselves of what priorities.
President Packer tells us: “One of the great discoveries of parenthood is that we learn far mare about what really matters from our children than we ever did from our parents.  We come to recognize the truth in Isaiah’s prophesy that “a little child shall lead them”.
As parents raising the small spiritual beings, we are to humble ourselves as we are encouraged by President Packer and do all we can do within our own life to make sure our children are taught gospel principles at home.  It’s not going to be perfect but we can continue to try to do the best we can.
We should always include Family Home Evening time every week and pray every day as well as read and study scriptures together as much as possible.  These are golden opportunities to really instill the gospel in our children’s life.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints said it well: “You mothers are the real builders of the nation wherever you live, for you have created homes of strength and peace and security. These become the very sinew of any nation.”
As we continue on in this life, we can be comforted to know we spent well invested time and did what we could for our children. What ever the outcome of our children’s choices, we can remember and put our hope in Jesus Christ our Savior and teach them the same. We can remind ourselves of the importance of this season. Let’s hope the message stays with us for a long time.