New Slippers

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Neil K. Newell

The little grandmother, old beyond her years, stood defiantly in front of a crumbling shack that served as her home. She seemed sick and weighted down with unspoken and perhaps unfathomable cares. Nine barefoot and poorly dressed grandchildren stood by her side. The oldest, a 19-year-old girl, cradled an infant on her hip.

"Who are you and what do you want?" she asked.

Elder Doug Hansen and Sister Karen Hansen of Iona, Idaho, Humanitarian Service missionaries for the Church, approached her. They had been visiting needy families in Voronezh, Russia, all day, accompanying Mataska Svetlana, the wife of a Russian Orthodox priest — a woman who worked tirelessly helping needy families in her area.

"These people are here to help," Mrs. Svetlana told her.

Mataska Svetlana is known as the Mother Teresa of Voronezh. As economic conditions deteriorated and many Russians suffered from hunger and cold, she organized groups to help. She feeds and clothes thousands of people in Voronezh each year.

The Hansens were so impressed with the work she was doing, they submitted a request for a grant for $7,500 through Latter-day Saint Charities that would help her organization. It was approved.

With that money, they purchases school supplies for children who had none, and blankets, sheets, pillows and mattress pads for those who were cold at night. They bought soap and towels and light bulbs and shoes. They bought sacks of food and 500 pairs of socks and tights, and still had money left.

Their final visit was to this family who lived in this little shack. The mother had died leaving nine children. The father was working away from home, trying to provide an income for his children. So the children and grandmother were left to survive as best they could.

As the Hansens brought out sacks of food and placed shoes on the feet of all the children the grandmother began to weep. Finally, the old, worn slippers were pulled away from the grandmother's feet and replaced with new ones.

"It was one of those times," Sister Hansen later wrote, "when you truly feel that the Lord is well-pleased — even when it involves something as insignificant as a new pair of slippers."