Char writes:

I just got my spouse out of the hospital where he had been for ten days. On November 18, he was rushed to the emergency room. We found a tumor the size of a soccer ball hooked to his only kidney. So on November 20th, the doctors removed it.

I'm very much stressed about our finances since he was the only breadwinner in our home. Now he's on unpaid medical leave indefinitely. We have two girls and no income to pay regular bills with. Yes, he has insurance with his job as welder but it won't cover the personal bills. Since he has been welding and has just become minus his only kidney you know that means dialysis for at least two years. Will he return to work, but probably not until February and probably not full time. I need your advice!

Tracy says:

My goodness, Char. First, please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you. That's a lot to worry and stress about for sure. When it rains, it pours! But you know what? When it rains, it can pour blessings as well!

One of my more recent callings was compassionate service leader. I learned a great deal while serving in that capacity. According to the church, this is the “line of defense” so to speak that we should go to for help.

  1. Self
  2. Family and friends
  3. Visiting Teachers and Home Teachers
  4. The Church
  5. Outside sources (government/community)

You!

Use your food storage! This is what food storage is all about!

Winter isn't the best time for a yard sale but depending on the climate where you live, it's certainly possible. Do everything you can to be as self-sufficient as possible.

I was once a little disheartened to learn that a family that I knew had been on Church welfare for a very short time, when I knew that they had five working televisions in the house, hundreds of dollars worth of video equipment and DVD's, a couple DVD players, different works of art that, combined, totaled into the thousands of dollars, etc.

The breadwinner had lost his/her job. Both adults had college degrees, so while the one was collecting unemployment, the other could have gotten some temporary work, even if it was flipping burgers or waiting on tables to bring in the necessary money. But instead, they were both home, all day, and collecting Church welfare.

What made it particularly disturbing to me, was that at the exact same time, I had a friend who was in much more serious financial straits, and didn't have the outside financial resources that the previously mentioned family did. Her husband had been injured on the job, couldn't work, and she was six months pregnant. So she was loading up her car with her three children and driving all around town delivering phone books, newspapers, doing secret shopping, teaching Spanish at an afterschool program and to homeschool students, and doing everything she could to provide for her family, and never asked for Church assistance, even though she really could have, and would have been justified in doing so.

Does the Lord expect us to get rid of everything we own before we turn to the Church? Sell the house, live in a tent, work our fingers to the bone for pithy amounts of money before we ask for help? Of course not. But if we could provide two months of groceries for ourselves by simply having a big garage sale, and selling the four extra televisions, the extra nintendo system, cancelling the cable subscription, the call waiting, caller ID, the cell phone service, etc., I think the Lord would greatly appreciate our determination to be self-sufficient and our respect for the Lord's storehouse. Then, “after all we can do” we reach out to other sources. And remember, all these things can be happening at the same time; sources one, two, and three don't have to be mutally exclusive.

Should you need to work, and if your children are school age, it would be best to work during the day, while they're gone anyway, and try to find a job that would allow you to get them off to school in the morning, and be home before they get off the bus. If your children are still at home, however, it would be best if you could find part-time work in the evenings, so that you could still be home with them during the day. It would also lessen the physical work your husband would have to take on with the children, since they would be in bed anyway. If your husband is unable to really care for them while you work, extended family and close friends can help.

Family and Friends

This is the appropriate time for family to pitch in. My single mother-in-law was in a similar situation. She'd been sick and lost her job and was unable to support herself. Three of her five children subsidized her needs until she was able to take care of herself again.

If you and your husband have brothers/sisters/surviving parents, grandparents, etc. ask them for help. Between all of them, they should be able to help substantially, even if some of them are in tight financial spots themselves. My brother was trying to raise funds to adopt a child. We were already as tight as we could be, between our own bills and the money we were giving to my mother-in-law. But I wanted to help my brother too, especially for such a worthy cause. So I had a yard sale and was able to send him $300. Not a whole heck of a lot, but it was the best I could do and I know he really appreciated it. So, even if someone can give only $50 a month until your husband is well, that will add up with whatever other help you receive. $50 will cover a phone bill, a medical co-pay, or another small item. Every little bit counts. And don't forget close friends. The ones who almost feel like family they may be willing to help as well with household and childcare.

Visiting and Home Teachers

Obviously, these wouldn't be a financial support to lean on. However, they can lend help in caring for the children should you need to go to work, visit hubby in the hospital, need priesthood blessings, help fixing the brakes, lawncare, etc. Remember though, our first source for these things is family. But visiting and home teachers can help as well.

The Church

The main way the Church can help is through the Bishop's Storehouse. This is exactly for what the storehouse was and is intended for. The Church can provide you with food, toiletries, etc., so that what money you do have and any financial support you get from family, can go towards the bills. Talk to your bishop, let him help you. He'll sit down with you and help you figure out how the Church can best help your family.

Community and Government Assistance

Every community has assistance programs for those who are unable to pay their rent, utilities, etc. Your local city government should be able to give you contact information to any of the non-profit organizations in your area that may be able to help you. Also, your husband may qualify for SSI (Supplemental Security Income). This is a federal income supplement program for the elderly, disabled, etc., funded by general tax revenues. They provide a monthly check depending on the size of your family, assets, etc.

This may seem like the easier route to take, but I encourage you to follow the counsel of the Church and seek help in the proper order. Just think how much less taxes we'd all pay if everyone took care of their own aging parents, disabled family members, etc. And think about all the money that would be freed up to help those who really don't have family to which they can turn.

As a nation, we should care for those who are less fortunate, but that really is the first obligation of family members. If it turns out that this is a life long dilemma (or one that may last several years), and may cause financial problems for giving and gracious family members, then government assistance may be necessary no matter what. Besides, part of the money that would be helping you, is money that your husband earned and paid in taxes!!

Remember, you're accountable to the government, just as you're accountable to the Lord. They will need to know if you're receiving financial help from other sources, and will make you pay money back to them, if they discover that you had money you didn't report to them innocent oversight or not. And the government isn't very forgiving.

Whatever you do, please consult your bishop. Let him know what you're doing, from whom you're receiving help, and what your additional needs are. He'll counsel you and help you to “organize every needful thing.”

This will also be a trying time for your husband as well. It's his solemn and sacred duty to provide for his family, and being unable to do that will try his spirit and vex his feelings of self-worth. Sometimes, it's difficult for a man to see his wife being required (and being able!) to take care of everything herself. His feelings of being “needed” can be damaged. So be aware of his feelings, consult with him about all these things. Be sure to include him in everything.

Keep yourself strong as well. Stay close to the Lord, lean on the Spirit for the decisions you make. Study the scriptures, pray often. You'll be led in the things you need to do to best help yourself, your husband, and your family. And remember, the Lord never gives us a trial we can't overcome. So if He knows you can do this, trust Him. He knows more than you.

Chin up, sister! All my best.

Alison says:

Tracy gives such an important insight. The steps are carefully laid out for you.

My only problem with these situations, or perhaps my caveat, is that while the Lord won't give us trials we cannot bear, he often gives us those we can't overcome at least in this lifetime.

Even the most faithful will have trials and for some, even the most faithful, those trials will sometimes persist.

A dear friend died about five years ago of a brain tumor. He was also my bishop. And I can't count how many times his soon-to-be widow was told that she just needed to have “more faith.” As if, somehow, that would ensure his cure. I kept wondering why they didn't realize that that implied that Elder Oaks must not have been “faithful enough” to cure his wife, either.

God doesn't always intervene and solve our problems. Even if they are major and even if we are doing our best to serve him.

But he has promised us that he will be with us always and that he will bear our burdens even if he doesn't remove them. And that he can give us peace even amidst the worst earthly messes. Thank heavens, literally, for that.