In Mukah, a small fishing village on the South China Sea in Malaysia, some 28 members of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather weekly for instruction, friendship and support. The Relief Society comprises the women of the congregation over age 18 and is dedicated to providing strength, support and service to the women in the branch (congregation), as well as working with the bishopric to attend to the spiritual and temporal needs of the members.
The service is given in many different forms. For Balie, Long anak and her co-worker, Balie, Sumai anak, it includes frequent traveling to visit other members of the Church to invite them to the Sunday meetings and observe their individual needs. In a visit with a newly baptized Relief Society member, Balie, Kidang anak, Sumai expressed her concern for her neighbor: “We have learned to love Sister Kidang by visiting her and helping her to learn all about Relief Society.”
Transportation from house to house requires walking or an occasional bicycle ride, but the ladies willingly maintain personal contact with their “sisters,” as Mormons commonly refer to their female congregants.
In their home visits, the East Malaysian pair assumes the role of visiting teachers, an assignment that provides “watchcare” or personal contact with each woman in the tiny branch of the Church. The visiting teachers respond to personal and family needs with delivery of food, childcare service and simple words of encouragement and inspiration.
At the Sunday meetings, Long and Sumai also prepare lessons to discuss with the others in their group. In addition to doctrinal and scriptural topics, the teachers focus on practical skills of financial planning, nutrition and personal hygiene.
When invited to describe their role in the women’s organization of the Church, the dedicated teachers explained that all the sisters in the group need one another for support and that they love one another. “The Relief Society helps us every day,” the Malaysian sisters conclude.