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My dear friend and next-door neighbor, Ellen Burt, died after a brutal 6-month battle with cancer. The day after her funeral, her husband, Jerry, brought me Ellen’s two wheelchairs, saying he figured I could use them in India. I was thrilled to get them and thanked him profusely.

On my next trip to India I tried to check the two wheelchairs to India. The ticket agent said he was willing to do it but warned me that India would charge me $200 each to bring the chairs into the country. I couldn’t believe my ears! I also didn’t have $400 with me. Not willing to give up, I sat my bottom in one of the chairs and said casually, “I need this chair—check it through to India for me.” The agent looked at me, comprehended immediately, smiled and said, “Yes Ma’am!”

What that meant was that the airline had to meet me at every port with a wheelchair and wheel me to my next destination. On that particular trip I was meeting my daughter, Dianna, (who was coming from BYU), in Chicago and we were to fly to India together from there. When Dianna saw me being wheeled through the Chicago airport she rolled her eyes and said, “Oh for the love! Mom, what in the world are you doing?!” I tried to hush her. Quietly I explained what was happening. She thought this was the stupidest thing in the world and made no bones about making fun of my idea all the way to India—as only a teenage daughter can!

When we got to India we finally went to visit the leprosy colony that I was saving the wheelchair for—the Mulgavadi Colony. This colony is in the middle of nowhere. It is eighteen miles from the nearest leprosy hospital. Leprosy patients are not welcomed in regular hospitals—only in leprosy hospitals. This was a huge problem for these colonists.   Since they have very limited ability to use their feet, due to terrible ulcers, the members of this colony weren’t able to get to the hospital when they needed help.

When we arrived at the colony, the first couple that recognized our car, Krishna and Saroja, excitedly came running to greet us. The only problem is that both of them had lost limbs to the disease and were unable to walk. They were running on all fours—like animals. Their gait was unusual because their surviving limbs were of different lengths. The husband, Krishna, had recently had an amputation on one of his leg stumps. It had not healed up yet and he was leaving a bloody trail in the dirt.   Krishna and Saroja were trying to call welcome to us, and also call to the other members of the colony, “They’re here! They’re here!” I have to admit, it was a gut-wrenching sight.

Dianna was completely unprepared for this and nearly came undone. She was standing next to me. She grabbed my arm, squeezed it and said, “Oh Mom, I’m so glad you brought that wheelchair!”

The colony was actually very grateful to get the wheelchair. We had been told that previously when they needed an amputation, they had a critical life-threatening problem, being unable to get to the leprosy hospital. But now that they had this chair, they could push the patient to the leprosy hospital, get the amputation and then push the patient back again. The whole colony rejoiced at the sight of the wheelchair.

I have thought about this a number of times. It was only one wheelchair. One thing. Yet this one thing changed the quality of life for an entire colony of leprosy-affected people!

We have since this time brought many wheelchairs into India (Yes, all registered properly!) Each chair has brought with it, improved lives. Each chair has made a remarkable difference.

Through our work in India we have learned that there is a great power in “one”. One volunteer can change a patient’s life. One medical treatment at a critical time can save a person’s life. We have even witnessed one packet of the multi-drug leprosy therapy save a child from the ravages of leprosy. The pack cost a little over one dollar!

The greatest power of one is manifested when one person decides to stand up and make a difference. Mother Teresa impacted tens of thousands of lives in the slums of India. Gandhi, through practicing the principles of non-violent protest gained independence for all of India without a war. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela stood against inequality and gained equal rights for native South Africans.

Overseeing a mission in the Dominican Republic, my husband and I saw numerous times when the diligence and faith of one missionary could completely turn around a Ward or Branch missionary program.   We have seen times in our children’s lives when the love and example of one friend has helped them to chart their own lives in righteous paths.

When we stand for what is right, we bring the power of God into the equation. He is able to multiply our own meager efforts. Each of us has the power within us to make a difference in this world. When we see an injustice and rise to correct it; when we stand for a principle of righteousness even when it’s unpopular; when we use our time and means to help lift others we are living examples of the power of one, and I believe we unleash a great power into the world.

At Rising Star Outreach we like to tell our volunteers that each one of them has come for a reason, that each one of them will write a page in the Rising Star Outreach history. We challenge them to find the one student or the one patient, or the one family that they can impact in a meaningful way. It never seems to fail! Each volunteer leaves an indelible mark in at least one life of those we serve in India.

Opportunities exist all around us! In every ward there is an overwhelmed mother who can use some help and encouragement, or a lonely widow, or a struggling teen. We can’t solve all the problems, but we can bring the power of love and encouragement to one person. Each of us can write a page in the spiritual history of our wards and in the lives of our ward members. The Spirit of God will direct us to the one who we can help lift. Even if it’s for one day! And in the end, we will be surprised to discover that we, ourselves, have been lifted most of all.

To find out how you can help the efforts of Rising Star Outreach, click here

To see the Latter-Day Profile that BYUtv did on Rising Star, click here.