The Bishop’s Barrel – A Lesson in Preparedness

storage jars
Community Contributed Article

Thinking about my walk along the preparedness road has brought me some realizations I didn’t see at first. One notion that jumps forward from all the rest of these hindsights is about true motivation. So… I’ve been thinking about how my motivations, which undergird my preparedness activities, have come to change. I’ve been repenting of my immature motivations in preparing all needful things.

That the WHY in preparing for disasters, crisis, set-backs, change, and so on is possibly more important than the things, the skills, the plans, and so on, was not readily apparent to me. On the surface this was a thing of compliance and desire to please Heavenly Father and that was all I needed! Under the conscious surface was a willingness to benefit myself out of fear of consequences. But then, I changed.

I had been called to be Ward and then a Stake Preparedness Leader. In addition I was also involved in civic preparedness venues. And so it was, because of those callings, that I found myself developing homemade meals ready-to-eat (MRE’s). In my mind’s closets, I was thinking about starting a little side business, getting the attention of some people, and so on…nothing noble to be sure. Something didn’t feel right.

And then, I began to pray in earnest about helping others as well. I didn’t even consider that it was my motivation to prepare all needful things that needed refinement….that is some real fire under the hood…and not so much the enjoyment felt from the creative process in these MRE projects, etc.

Inspiration flowed! I knew from whence this came. I had no doubt. I used Bishop Storehouse mylar bags to package some pretty wonderful meals from recipes I gathered at 5 star restaurants, Bon Appetite’, Epicurious, etc.. These were constructed from food I dehydrated, food I had freeze-dried through contract or had purchased (now I have my own home freezedryer).

I borrowed pictures from Church downloadables and worked these into labels within graphics software, printed out an ingredients list, tossed in some scriptures and General Conference talk highlights and punched ‘print’.

But something STILL didn’t feel right. “What?” “What am I missing??” YOU are missing.

That was correct. All of this was a mechanical process used to reach a conclusion.

I dropped to my knees and prayed in earnest. It happened that special feelings came for people I did not know. The thought came to create an entire month’s worth of meals for a family of four with lactose intolerance and gluten allergies, preservative free with optimal nutrient content. And I felt it important to take content from missionary guideline materials. This food would be available for anyone if my Bishop needed some help in feeding people. drying tomatoes I went and did as the Lord commanded and was filled with joy in this task!

Months later, when taking my cellulite for a jog around our small country town in upstate NY, I came upon a young man, 28 or so, who was obviously distraught, raking a lawn in front of a small in-need-of-repair home.

I jogged right on by and then felt an overwhelming urge and a great peace in returning to help him. I did so. And, after some serious coaxing and imploring I found he was terribly upset over the illness of his young pregnant wife, who was confined to recline, thereby taking leave from her job as teacher at a nearby school. Their 2-year-old daughter had some stomach problems as he described it, requiring special expensive food.

They were behind in house payments, about to lose their little home. He needed to quit graduate school a couple of months before finishing so he could get a full- time job. I asked him about help from family, friends, school, church, etc….no help available, not enough collateral to back a loan, etc.

So it came to pass, that I rolled the Bishop’s Barrel’s up a ramp into the back of my pickup and delivered to that family special food for a month. They were to try it out and make an assessment of what they did and did not like. I also handed him an envelope with some cash.

Truthfully I wanted to know if they liked those special allergy-free meals more than I wanted to help them. But that changed the next morning when his wife called me with an emotional thank you and described how this gave them hope and how much she enjoyed the ease of preparing these meals and how great they tasted.

Somewhere in that conversation I felt a real sense of feeling for their welfare. Two weeks later, I received a phone call from them, and they asked me to teach them how to dehydrate, and prepare meals like these. And they expressed how much they liked the religious inserts (General Conference talks about hope, courage, the power of prayer, and so on) and package labels. It gave them a peaceful feeling. Also, their doctor, who was also my doctor, asked if they could buy more of  those meals, as there was a change happening for the better in both their daughter and her mother, and the assumption was that it was the allergy-free meals that were helping.

That started a series of allergy tests for mother and daughter. And then the last question, “Say…what religion do you follow, I mean, that is, if you don’t mind me asking?” I explained they would do no such pay me thing and then I added, “I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And if you don’t mind, I’ll roll that barrel over in a couple of days if, that’s OK?”

After a few weeks, this good woman was able to return to work. It is thought her pregnancy issues stemmed from allergies of specific preservatives found in many food items. What was thought to be IBS in her daughter also turned out to be severe food allergies. The dad was able to finish his graduate degree. They moved away and I lost touch with them.

Then a short time ago, I received an invitation to their baptism at a Ward in Ohio. They explained that the inserts I put in the MRE’s were like a message in a bottle found on a beach somewhere, and they were no more the castaways on a deserted island!

I cried and cried and cried in joy and in sorrow, as I felt genuine sorrow that my motivation had not been about saving souls. Yet, Heavenly Father allowed me to change….to experience this joy via His great Mercy and Kindness.

In preparing all needful things my motivation is now different, and this process is one of joy and thanksgiving. I don’t think we realize, when we work on our own food storage and preparedness, that we will be expected to share what we have and allow the Lord to multiply our store of goods.

Nor do I think we often prepare with a prayer in our hearts for unknown others in need who might need the specific help only we can give. I encourage all to sequester some fast-grab, fast-fix meals for those as-yet-unknown others, and seek out opportunities to give service to those in need of some repair.

Kathleen O'Meal is a preparedness specialist and life-long member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is a nurse and the Chairwoman of EPAC (a family preparedness organization with over 700,000 families).