12 years ago our youngest child had a medical emergency that extended for four long months. Rob and I were living far away from our families and had to handle this on our own. Thankfully our ward relief Society stepped in and brought meals for the entire four months. To say Rob and I were exhausted, puts it mildly. No only were we taking care of our injured child, but we had two other kids who needed us, I was the ward Young Women President, Rob the Elder’s Quorum President. We both worked full-time and our normal lives were already hectic. This situation pushed us to the edge.

Because our son was in the hospital for a month and then in full-care recovery mode at home for three more months, I couldn’t do my job the way we needed and our finances quickly derailed. By the third month, we asked the Bishop for help.

Our Bishop kindly explained that before he could assist us, our stake had recently instituted a policy of financial review that had to be completed first. Within a week, a retired financial advisor from another ward in our stake arrived on our doorstep. In my phone conversation with him, he requested that our bank statements, checkbooks and a list of our debts be available to him when he came to our house. I agreed, thinking this could be an opportunity to get professional financial guidance for free.

As I shook the elderly man’s hand at our front door, he asked to see our house. It was an unusual request but I didn’t think anything of it other than I was glad I cleaned up earlier in the day. The brother looked at my office and asked what I did. It was quickly apparent he had no knowledge of Complimentary Health Care and I moved him into our family room. When he saw our tv, he walked right up to it and bent down to read the brand name on it. He ran his hand along the fabric on our couch and in the dining room, where I had spread out our paperwork; he bent down to appraise the legs of our table.

I was annoyed, thinking he was an awfully snooty person to be blatantly checking the quality of our furnishings. I thought,” He obviously has no clue how hard it is to raise a family nowadays. Everything we have I bought at garage sales and second hand stores.” As we sat down to begin working, he apologized for looking around. He explained that it was part of his responsibilities as a steward of the Lord’s money to make sure that no one requesting church assistance owned things of value that could be sold, before turning to the church. He informed me that we passed his test. We owned nothing of value to sell. I was stunned, burning with humiliation. I struggled through the rest of our meeting and tried to decipher if my feelings were an errant form of pride or if I had a right to be offended by this whole process.

When our meeting ended, the brother declared that we qualified for help from the Bishop. Our long-term debt was minimal and as soon as our son was healed, I would be able to work again. He also gave me the advice to close my office and get a job at the local K-mart because whatever I was doing in my Homeopathic Practice wasn’t going to be a long-term career. I didn’t bother trying to educate him on the forecast for increases in all forms of health care.

We did get help from the Bishop for one month. After that Rob took on a second job at night, cleaning the very hospital where we now owed thousands of dollars in medical bills. He kept that nighttime custodial position until we were back on our feet. Instead of closing my office, I did the opposite and opened a second office in a larger nearby town. We were both now working two jobs. It was not easy and our family definitely suffered from the chronic stress of the situation. Call it pride or lack of understanding, but we decided we would rather kill ourselves from overwork than ask the church for help again.

We survived, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone do what we did. I hope what happened to us with that financial advisor was just a weird anomaly, not how the church really does its business when it is attempting to reach out and help those in need.

PS. A year later I ran into the elderly brother at Stake Conference. He remembered me and asked if the sign he saw on a busy street in front of a medical practice, was mine. I replied “Yes. I have joined a practice in your town.” He nodded and said, “Well, that’s worked out good, didn’t it?” – like his suggestion was a success. I smiled and moved on.