Sunday, March 25, 2007


We came home today from church and Jeff hit the nail on the head when he said. "I am not physically tired, but emotionally"The beauty of spring is everyone was on the front steps as we walked into church. There is no foyer so everyone greets each other on the steps.

It was our Sunday where members from the congregation share their feelings about the church and it is always so emotional to hear of others trials and struggles. The cute little lady that gave us $1.00 our first week sang a little song from her childhood again. I don't know if she does this every month, but I quite like it.

. I feel like I can't stop hugging anyone I walk by. When I hugged cute little Chad this week, he was as stiff as a board and am sure thinking, "Crazy lady get away from me"

Primary is such a struggle. I am so torn with how you teach reverence to the children. Children yell during the prayers, get up and run around during sharing time, scream the songs and turn them in to rap songs. It is just something I have not learned how to do yet. So after 2 hours of being with the kids, the Primary President up front, on the edge of tears, me in the back being the primary bouncer, a girl raised her hand. She was visiting for her first time and had come with her neighbor. She asked. "If you are telling me Jesus loves me how come some people's lives are so hard and they die and get cancer?" A small silence went over the room and me and the Primary President looked at each other with tears. And that is why we do it!

Jeff and I got in the car and just looked at each other. We both said, you will not believe the stories from today. We both had experienced some real hard stories and struggles of these great pioneers. I feel I am have so much, but so helpless. What can I do. I want to take some of them home with me. Take them to our family reunion this summer and give them a break from their day to day struggles. I feel just like that little girl who raised her hand and I want to say, "Why do I have so much, why does my life seem easier than others?"
15 miles down the road from where we go to church is some of the nicest parts of the city or country for that matter. The extremes I see on Sunday's often make me confused. Where is my part in this. How do I give? How much do I give? How could we stop going to church here in 10 months? That is not enough time to really help. It is a flood of emotions for sure.

After church a young married couple invited us over for dinner. They live in a great place in Chevy Chase, with a doorman and someone calls them up from the front desk to let them know we were there. She was an incredible cook and made our favorite Mexican.
It was great to talk with them as they are ending a 3 year service of attending that ward. (they were asked to do a year too) They are moving and I can see on their faces how how it will be for them to leave.
I told Jessica that I have been crying all day and the reality is almost too much for me. She is the Young Women's president and told some incredible stories. It was great to talk to her and a huge help.

So at the end of this Sunday I realize it feels good to be needed and have a responsibility even though at times it hurts my heart.
Caroline walking into church


Michelle A. said...

In 1996, Craig and I went back to DC and served in the same asian branch he served his mission. It was a beautiful experience I'll never forget. You can't take for granted the struggles that these children will face. They won't compare to your struggles, but your a bright loving woman who can reach out and be their friend. Not everyone will accept your friendship, but there will be a few who's life you will touch.

I learned to listen in that branch. I have lost contact with a lot of the branch members - but there are a few that we visit, invite for chirstmas and summer vacation, and one that calls me her big sister! You can't do it all - but you can be yourself and listen to them. You're an inspiration.

Kristi Brooke said...

michelle. a million thanks you's for your comment.

Jill said...

I talked about you and your DC ward experience yesterday in my primary class as I tried to tell the 11 year olds about the kids in your ward and what life is like for them, and about what would happen if you and Jeff didn't fulfill your callings. They stared at me in disbelief as I tried to explain to them that the kids in your primary don't know what reverence is and that many don't have the gospel in their homes during the week.

I can totally understand how overwhelming and draining each Sunday must be for you guys.
You said...
"The extremes I see on Sunday's often make me confused. Where is my part in this. How do I give? How much do I give?"
I don't have the answers to this, but think you're doing a great deal by serving in the ward, hugging everyone you see and trying to teach them what reverence is and how to feel the love of the Lord.

Shauna said...

Kristi- My husband and I have been in your shoes more than once. It does take every ounce of your physical and emotional energy. You will look back and call this time the one of the most choice in your life. You will learn lessons here that you cannot learn any place else and they will be a drivign force for the positive the rest of your life.
I have learned that even though I am frustrated about not being able to do enough, that giving with all my heart with pure intentions is all that is expected and that at many levels, it does make a difference.
Sooo many stories I could tell.

Amanda :-) said...

You are very blessed, Kristi, to have friends like this to support you! They have such great advice and encouragement to give.

The fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit is an INCREDIBLY intricate area to understand. Something would not be right if you were not constantly 'checking your mirrors' as you go along.

Well done. xx

amy m said...

When Adam and I lived downtown we were in a ward much like this, we however were not called to this, it was our ward. It was very difficult and every week I wanted to give up because it felt so hopeless.

Kristi I think what your family is doing is priceless. I can understand how drained you are at the end of the day which mean you are doing all that you can. You have to remember that you may not see all the good you've had on this ward, but I hope you know you have already planted many seeds in their hearts. I'm sure by the time you leave the Primary the children will understand more about reverence. I'm praying for you.

Bek said...

I can relate to much of what you are saying Kristi. I feel that way every time I get off the phone with my son's mom or come back from an orphange that we are sponsoring. I struggle to find the balance between "I just want to make it all better..." and trying not to feel guilty about how easy things seem to be for me and my family and how I get to visit places like that but can do little for those that live it every day. It is especially hard w/ Jacob's family.

I know that for me I just do the best I can. I know that I cannot change everything, but that I can change some things. I know that not everyone will beneifit from what I try to do, but someone will. I know that it is as important for my children to see "the other side" and see us doing what we can as what is being done for the others. I know that I need to try. My obligation as an educated and capable woman is to try.

I think about those things every day and each day I try to find that balance. I don't do as well on some days as others. You are doing the best you can. You may never see the benefit to others, but I know you will and do see it to yourselves. It will make you a more empathetic person. It will shape how your children see their childhood and relate to others.... the list goes on.

I haven't served in a ward like that (just as a missionary) but have attended many inner city wards as a guest and I know the marathon that it is just to make to through Sunday....

Anonymous said...

I read your blog daily, am inspired and encouraged by it! I have left you only one comment before...I was the one that commented last summer that I visited Farmington, NM and shiprock on our long visit out in Santa Fe, NM last summer! Anyway, I am Catholic and teach first grade in a Catholic School. My first 6.5 years of teaching (right out of college) I taught in Georgia and the things I saw and heard coming from my first graders blew me away....I took it all home with me emotionally each and every night and felt like nothing I did all day would sink in, but I grew to learn that they loved coming to school because I was their one stable female in their life and I really think the only one that had taught them any manners! Now, back home here in Tennessee the kids I teach are very very different. They come from very well off families and seem to have every advantage. But, I've come to realize that the lessons I teach them are the same! Both groups of kids, no matter their differences need the same lessons. Now in GA I taught in a public school so of course no mention of Jesus or God is allowed (how sad) and here in TN at our Catholic School of course we teach religion as one of our main subjects. Today each of the K-5 classes made chocolate chip cookie dough (ingredients sent in by the familes) and then the dough was sent to the middle school classes to be formed into 2 inch balls and then baked. They will be sent to the local prison and the project is called the Kairso Kookie Mission Project. We as Catholics do not do Missionary work the same as you in your church do..but we are helping those in need. I told my first graders today that we do not need to know the reasons why the people are in prison but that they need our prayers and love. I left this sentence blank "Jesus wants us to care and love these prisoners and not ______ them" and 3 kids out of 22 six and seven year olds yelled "judge" them! Woo HOo! :) Keep doing what you are doing, you are learning from them and they (even though you think they aren't) are learning from you. Unfortunately remember that they are in their home environment longer each week than you are with them-just keep at it and be that role model that they need. I love everything about your blog, thank you for taking your time to share life's experiences and help us to remember to slow down and do something neat with our time, talent, and treasure! ashley r. Knoxville, TN.

Liz said...

Here are a few of my thoughts on this post. Maybe each Sunday (or each month), you could work on a different area that needs work. Such as starting with prayer, teach a simple lesson on how we say prayers and how we should behave during prayers. In the primary manual 2 Choose the Right A, lessons 10 and 21 are some great visuals that you can use to show what our different body parts should be doing during a prayer. I made this into an FHE lesson for my family, and it has really helped. I can email a copy to you.

In one ward we were in, we would choose a child or two each week to be our reverant child, they would hold a picture of Christ and sit reverently on a special stool at the front to help remind the children to be reverent.

I don't know if these ideas are even helpful to you at all. But, I just thought of them while reading your post. What you are doing is so wonderful and so hard too. I am sure that somehow you are reaching some of those children and making an impact!

Kristi Brooke said...

thank you to everyone who has commented. i feel recharged for sure.

ashley r. thanks for taking the time to write. i really appreciate you taking the time to share that story.

Ben and Laura said...

I feel the same emotions as I go and visit many of the wards in the Bronx. At first I was shocked/appalled and felt so out of place. Now a year later there is no place I would rather be.
Working with the Young Women has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Growing up in lily white suburbia I had no idea of the struggles that youth in the inner city face.
But what I know for sure is that every ounce of me that I give to the Young Women, I get back 100 fold.
By serving these youth, who's family life is less than ideal, we have opportunities to change lives and be examples. For me that's the greatest part.

michelle said...

Kristi this post just tugged at my heart. No wonder you guys are so emotionally drained after going to church! I am totally amazed that you are doing this, and although I don't have any great advice for you, I do think that your very presence and example will do more than you know.

Faith and Chad & the boys said...

I am a newcomer, new to blogs and the like and was sent your super cute and creative blog from a friend. Anyways, I never comment .. but her 'a goes!

Your story really touched me. My husband did a fellowship in Toronto for two years (finished 6 months ago). It was a HUGE transition to go to a different country, move from our beautiful home where our kids were born and a neighborhood and friends and family we loved to a downtown, small, dirty high rise apartment for triple the cost, anyways ... you get the picture.

The ward was a downtown, transient ward, people from every walk of life, nationality, age and background. My husband and I both had three callings. One of mine was being in the primary presidency and we also struggled with the children; those precious children, who had been put into their life circumstances and were subject to a life shaped by choices they did not make. It makes me weepy even now. Nevertheless, it was HARD and I began to understand why we ended up there and what the Lord had in store for us and how we needed to help them, yes, but also how we needed to learn.

Now we are in a ward of affluence with wonderful families and children who don't make a peep during primary, I can hardly believe it. But I can definately see looking back that those two years, though very difficult, will be a watershed for the rest of my life and I learned so much more from them than they ever did from me.

Not that we were any help at all, but I did grow to realize, in that ward at least, that what those kids needed the most was someone to love and care about them. Once I stopped worrying about what they were learning and if I got all my lesson in and learned the songs and memorized the articles of faith, etc, and just started loving them and talking about the basics, a loving Heavenly Father, their Savior, the plan of salvation that could take away all their problems, that is when we all started growing together and the spirit was so strong and everything else fell into place.

Bless you for being a willing and loving partner with the Lord to love and help his little souls who cannot help themselves. No matter how crazy they are acting, they are still absorbing everything and they will feel your love.

On a side note, had to smile when you shared the story of the woman who sang in her testimony. We had one of those and another who would always hold up the same pictures every month, telling her conversion story. Variety is the spice of life baby! Those are real roots :).

PAM said...

I shed tears with you as I read your post today. I have felt those same feelings and cried for the stories that I know and for the men, women and children involved in those stories. You will never completely know the positive impact you and your family will have on that ward and its members. What a blessing.

When I was released from our ward's Young Women's Presidency, it was a mixture of relief and supreme sadness. I don't think that I had ever worked that hard, been that drained (physically, mentally and spiritually) and yet been so sustained in my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father.

Your tenderness and infectious smile is just what those kids need. You'll do great!