Mormons Donate 1 Million Pounds of Food

May 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Feeding America, a national hunger relief organization, can literally say “thanks a million” to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—for a recent food donation. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ collected and donated more than a million pounds of food to the organization. [1]

“The commitment from our supporting partners helps make Feeding America’s work possible and provides hungry Americans with food, hope and dignity every day,” said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America. “Thanks to the generosity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this most recent donation will provide the equivalent of 625,000 much-needed meals.” [1]

Sheri Dew quote about sharing the gospel through living it.The Church’s donation of canned goods includes fruit, vegetables and legumes that will be distributed to families in need at community pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across the nation. The nonprofit organization, based in Chicago, supports more than 200 food banks. “Feeding America will distribute the food based on three factors: the number of clients served by a network food bank, the level of poverty of its clients and the food bank’s need for a particular food product on the list of donated items.” [1]

The Utah Food Bank is a member of the Feeding America network and will receive 250,000 pounds of the donation. [1]

“This donation from the LDS Church could not have come at a better time for [us],” said Karen Sendelback, CEO of the Utah Food Bank. “The food will help fill a large need over the summer for our fellow Utahans who struggle to put food on the table each day. We are so very grateful.” [1] Read more

Mormon Humanitarian Aid in Liberia

May 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church, recently dedicated several water wells and latrine facilities for those in need in the suburbs of Monrovia, Liberia, according to an allAfrica.com article.

Elder Richard Miles, the director for the Displaced Camp project in Brewerville, said construction took more than 6 months and that the project will improve sanitation for the women and children of the area, according to the article. The dedication took place April 2, 2013.

Elder Miles said that based on a survey conducted last year, The Church of Jesus Christ determined a real need for the project. Elder Miles said the community once hosted Sierra Leonean refugees who were repatriated and reintegrated into Liberian Society, according to the article. But Elder Miles said the community was left vulnerable after aid agencies pulled out of the area. Read more

Mormon Helping Hands Help Clean Up after Flooding in Brazil

April 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Just hours after heavy rains caused landslides and flooding in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on February 22, 2013, volunteers from Mormon Helping Hands were sparing no effort to help victims of the disaster, according to a recent Mormon Newsroom blog post. More than 300 people were forced out of their homes, and roads linking the Santos region to the state capital were blocked, according to the article. Mormon Helping Hands is a charitable organization that brings together members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called Mormons because of their belief in the Book of Mormon as a companion to the Bible) and their neighbors to help out in times of natural disasters and other emergencies.

Mormon Helping Hands BrazilMormon Helping Hands volunteers assessed needs and then collected and sorted donations, according to an article on the Brazil Mormon Newsroom website. They also helped clean mud and other flood debris out of homes and businesses, according to the article. By the end of the day, the volunteers’ trademark yellow vests were brown with mud.

Local Church leaders coordinate the Mormon Helping Hands projects, and the program receives resources from Church of Jesus Christ humanitarian services. The program, which reflects the desire of Church members to follow the example of the Savior and serve others, was established in 1998 in South America and has spread to nearly every corner of the world.

This article was written by Lisa Montague, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Additional Resource:

LDS Philantropies

LDS African Smiles Engaged in Good Works

March 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly called the Mormon Church), was once asked by a member of the legislature how he was able to govern so many people and preserve order. The Prophet Joseph Smith replied, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”1

Through a revelation Joseph Smith received, members of the Church of Jesus Christ were taught the principle of being “anxiously engaged in a good cause” doing “many things of their own free will.” Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly called Mormons, endeavor to find good causes—small and large—because they believe that the “power is in them” to do good. (See Doctrine and Covenants 58:27–28.)

Mormon Dentist in UgandaLatter-day Saint, Dr. Philip Openshaw, of Modesto, California, is “anxiously engaged” in the good cause of providing dental training and care to people in Africa. His group, LDS African Smiles Inc. travels to Africa annually. (LDS African Smiles is not funded by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) The group’s goals are to provide training for African dental providers, to take care of the hundreds of native Latter-day Saint missionaries serving in Africa who have never seen a dentist before, and to help other non-profit organizations.

Dr. Openshaw and his team of dental professionals traveled to Kampala, Uganda, Africa, where they were invited to practice at the Mulago Dental School. The school, described by Dr. Openshaw as “one of the most modern dental schools in East Africa and maybe anywhere in Africa” was created through donations by many groups, including Rotary International and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world and its capital, Kampala, has a population of over 1.6 million. Dr. Openshaw said that dental treatment in Uganda is predominantly tooth extraction. He and his group of dental professionals seek to help move the dental profession in Uganda into prevention, and dental student training was the primary focus of this trip.

“The digital X-rays blew their socks off. They had never seen anything that cool before,” said Dr. Openshaw. “Even dentists in the outlying areas came into town for a demonstration.” During their two weeks at the dental school, they had “completed 81 exams, 148 X-rays, 65 deep cleanings, 156 fillings, removed 16 teeth, and performed one root canal.” The students at the dental school assisted with every patient and asked many questions.

Preventive treatment was approximately 95 percent of what LDS African Smiles helped provide. “X-rays and cleaning are the building blocks,” Dr. Openshaw said. “It makes great medical sense as well as financial, since it costs the same amount to remove a tooth as it does to do a filling, if it is done at the right time. Prevention is everything in Africa.”

anxiously-engagedThe group accomplished their other goals on their trip to Uganda. They provided free dental services to many LDS missionaries serving in Uganda from other African countries, such as, Congo, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Madagascar.

The Church of Jesus Christ seeks to improve the lives of all members of the Church and has designated a special fund to improve the lives of its missionaries.2 Although Dr. Openshaw’s efforts are independent of the Church’s efforts, his vision is the same. LDS Africa Smiles has the goal to provide dental work to at least 1,000 African missionaries serving in the continent.

About 30 girls from the non-profit organization “Set Her Free” were also patients of Dr. Openshaw and his team. “Set Her Free” is a safe house in Uganda for young girls who have been rescued from human trafficking. The home provides food, shelter, education, medical care, and resettlement opportunities.

Dr. Openshaw recalled a favorite experience with one of the girls in the “Set Her Free” house. “When we first met her, I couldn’t get her to smile. . . . We spent a good hour or more repairing her front teeth and then when we asked her to smile again, she still wouldn’t—until we handed her a mirror. Then she started to cry and laugh all at the same time! Her friends were so excited to see her new smile! It sounded like a New Year’s Eve party with everyone singing and dancing!” He said that at that moment he realized the full impact of his dental team’s visit to Uganda.

In the past, LDS Africa Smiles provided dental care in South Africa and Rwanda. They plan to return to Africa again next year because of their “life-changing experiences that will never be forgotten.”

Notes:

1. “The Organization of the Church,” Millennial Star, November 15, 1851, 339

2. Perpetual Education Fund

Reference:

Missionary Moment: Smiles in Uganda

This article was written by Paula Hicken, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Paula Hicken MormonPaula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.

Additional Resource:

LDS Humanitarian Aid

Lone Peak Students Humanitarian Effort in Kenya

March 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Maybe it’s something in the water.

Lone Peak High School, located in Highland, Utah, made national news recently because of the quality of their boys’ basketball team: they’re number one in the nation. Now others of the same small student body of about 2,300 students are showing their capacity to reach beyond the borders of the United States.

Lone Peak High School Students MormonIn the summer of 2012, several Lone Peak High School students, who also happen to be Mormon youth—or more accurately stated, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—traveled to the impoverished village of M’bele in Kenya to build classrooms and 100 desks.

The idea was the dream of then-junior Michaela Proctor, who yearned to build a school in Africa. Although new to Lone Peak High School, she “reached way deep inside of her and found courage to start a club at school,” which they called the Africa Club.

Michaela and fellow club members sold books door-to-door and planned a benefit concert, to name a few of their efforts, to make this dream a reality. Their small group of 14, along with help from parents and generous donations, managed to raise about $14,000.

And Mormon youth from Lone Peak High School made up the majority of the expedition to Kenya. In addition to constructing two classrooms and building desks, they were able to teach in the classrooms. “We found it was easy to gather a crowd of kids for any kind of entertainment. We taught them all of our tricks, from [Latter-day Saint Girls’] camp songs to games. They taught us even more.”

The Lone Peak youth discovered that although the children in M’bele live in poverty, they too have dreams. Some hope to become pilots, teachers, or broadcast journalists. “Squelched potential is difficult to bear.”

The experience was more than the youth imagined. “The villagers rushed out to greet us as we arrived—dancing, singing, and hugging us in greeting.”

They found happy children who had nothing, but were generous with what they had. “They would take their only necklace off and press it into our hands,” said Maurine Proctor, Michaela’s mother. Maurine and her husband, Scot, accompanied the students to Kenya.

The Proctors tell this story: “Winnie, a slight wisp of a girl who loved Michaela, was exuberant one day because her family had managed somehow to grow a very tiny watermelon. Such a treat, such a delicacy she could only imagine. Yet, when Michaela was saying goodbyes, Winnie handed her a bag containing that precious watermelon.”

The watermelon was miraculous because the group of Mormon youth discovered a greater need in this village than the classrooms. The people in M’bele have no water.

“Every glass of water, every scrap of laundry is done by water that is carried more than a mile on the women’s heads.”

And with no local water, gardens are impossible. “No water, no gardens. No fresh vegetables or fruit.” And with no water and 95 percent unemployment, mothers must devote their time and energies to figuring out how to feed their children. Usually only one meal is served each day, and that meal usually consists of “ugali”—maize flour cooked with water.

Michaela Proctor and those who traveled with her to this remote village decided that their next project would be to drill a well on the school property.

The people of M’bele are “committed to working hard and solving their problems, but they need a big boost to unlock their promise. They need water and a steady diet.”

“The school has the land. We have already contracted an experienced hydrologist to see if this is possible,” and it is. With the well on the school grounds, everyone will be able to access the water so they can irrigate a garden. “The children can have nutritious food to eat from the school garden and a papaya grove we will plant,” the Proctors said.

The cost to drill a bore hole and put in the gardens and fencing will be more expensive than building the school.

So Michaela, her fellow students, and her parents have planned a second trip to the village in July of 2013. They will be working in conjunction with CHOICE Humanitarian.

Reference:

What a Handful of LDS Students Did in Kenya

This article was written by Paula Hicken, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Paula Hicken MormonPaula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.

Additional Resources:

LDS Church Youth Standards Publication

Service in the LDS Church

Charity Means Service, Supplies, and Love to Mormons

March 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Charitable service to others is an important characteristic of the followers of Jesus Christ. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often mistakenly called the Mormon Church, believe in Jesus Christ and seek to pattern their lives after Him. They believe that one of his most compelling characteristics was His love, which He shared through teaching and healing. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ believe opportunities to serve—small and large—come to them every day. Mormons serve in small, everyday ways, such as bringing in a meal to a sick friend, or lending a hand on a neighbor’s project. Mormon humanitarian service is also large scale.

“During 2012, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided victims of 104 disasters in 52 countries with hundreds of thousands of pounds of food, water, clothing, medical supplies, hygiene kits, and other relief items.” Such items are collected and stored primarily in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is the headquarters of the Church. Latter-day Saints participate worldwide by voluntarily contributing their money or time.

In addition, Church leaders, in communities nearby the affected areas, organized “thousands of member volunteers to distribute aid and assist those affected by these disasters, with over 1.3 million volunteer hours of service donated (worth an estimated $28 million).” Lynn Samsel, director of Church Emergency Response, said that when the Church responds to a disaster, “we provide material resources and volunteers, but response efforts are really a partnership between our members, their neighbors, and communities.

Mormon Helping HandsThe “Mormon Helping Hands” program is one way local Church leaders can organize an optional service opportunity for church members and full-time Mormon missionaries. The volunteers wear yellow shirts that help identify the Church’s role in the effort to help people whose lives have been disrupted by emergencies and natural disasters. It started in 1998 in South America and has spread throughout the world. “Hundreds of thousands of volunteers have donated millions of hours of service in their communities.”1

The Church’s largest disaster responses in 2012 were on the East Coast of the United States due to Hurricane Sandy, in Syria due to civil unrest, in the Philippines due to typhoons, throughout the United States due to tornadoes, and in Japan due to the earthquake and tsunami that struck in 2011.

In its charitable relief response to Hurricane Sandy, “approximately 28,000 Church members donated almost 300,000 hours of service to their communities, working with neighbors to help clean up refuse and debris along the East Coast.” They also helped distribute “food, water, clothing, cleaning supplies, shovels, generators, water pumps, and other items.”

During the civil unrest in Syria, over 300,000 people have fled to Jordan or Turkey to escape the violence. Many more have fled to Lebanon. The Church has distributed food, baby formula, diapers, hygiene items, clothing, boots, and blankets to refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. Refugees in Turkey have received blankets, coats, and pallets of emergency medical supplies.

Severe flooding overwhelmed the Manila area of the Philippines when a tropical storm hit in August 2012. More than 900,000 people were affected. “Church members in the Philippines assembled and distributed food kits, sanitation kits, blankets, clothes, housing materials, and other relief items to those affected by the floods.”

The Church of Jesus Christ provided relief in 12 states, with more than 2,000 volunteers helping cleanup after tornado outbreaks during March 2012 in the Midwestern and Southern United States.

The effort of the Church in Japan continued in 2012 after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. “More than 250 tons of supplies were distributed during the first few months following the disaster. Over 31,000 Church-sponsored volunteers have provided more than 608,000 hours of service to date.” In addition, the Church has committed $13 million to support relief and recovery efforts and an “LDS employment resource center is operating in the Sendai area to assist members and others who lost jobs due to the disaster.”

Mormons believe that “charity is the pure love of Christ,” and that as “true followers of . . . Jesus Christ,” they are commanded to pray that they may be “filled with this love” that they may “be like him” (Moroni 7:47–48).

Reference:

Church Responds to Over 100 Disasters in 2012

Note:

  1. Mormon Helping Hands
  2. Mormons Continue Aid for Neighbors of Sandy Disaster Into New Year

This article was written by Paula Hicken, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Paula Hicken MormonPaula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.

Mormon Humanitarian Services

Mormons Assist in Typhoon Pablo

On December 3, Typhoon Pablo touched ground at Mindanao in the Philippines. More than 1000 people died and some 2000 homes were damaged. Unfortunately, due to low international publicity, the United Nations struggled to obtain the funds needed to step in and help. Despite the fact that the storm was a category five and Hurricane Sandy, which warranted a great deal of attention and donation, was only a one, the international community seemed less interested in this storm and the desperate needs of the people there.

Typhoon Pablo Mormon Helping HandsThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, are headquartered in the United States but are an international church. They go wherever they are needed in the world. The Mormons immediately went to work, providing much needed funds, supplies, and volunteer manpower to help ease the suffering. They provided 4,000 bags of relief goods, 400 volunteers from local Mormon congregations, nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer service, and 300 toilet bowls. They also brought in medical supplies, and kitchen supplies. They donated their meetinghouses as shelters. Volunteers went to work performing clean-up assistance in schools and other local facilities. To increase their efficiency, they partnered with non-government organizations that already had programs in place and understood the local needs.

Mormon volunteers gathered to repackage rice, canned foods, and essential supplies so that other volunteers could distribute them to people who received claim stubs in hard-hit areas.

Many government buildings were destroyed or rendered unusuable, making it hard for local areas to even get started. 50 Mormon volunteers, ages twelve and older, traveled 67 kilometers to reach Compostela Valley, one of the hardest hit areas. They were delayed by a bus engine failure, but received training on arrival and then camped out. At six the next morning, they were ready to start work. They spent the morning cleaning the gym and high school inside and out. They removed trees and collected debris. When they finished their work, they donated their tools to the municipality so they would be available for other projects. They then spent days distributing much needed supplies—food, hygiene kits, medicine, tents, and toilets. Other volunteers joined them and in some activities, they partnered with Catholic Relief Services, with whom they had worked in the past.

Services were given to anyone in need, not just the Mormons. No missionary work took place in conjunction with the humanitarian project.

Read about another rescue effort during flooding in the Philippines.

AriseandShineQuoteThe project was a function of Mormon Helping Hands, which began as a grass roots effort to help local areas in times of need or to provide civic and charitable improvements in a local area. The program gained in popularity and is now mobilized world-wide when help is needed. The volunteers, members of Mormon congregations and those who wish to assist them, wear bright yellow vests, which allow local citizens to approach them when they have needs. They are seen in force after weather emergencies, usually long after most volunteers have moved on to the next news-worthy project.

LDS Charities is in charge of the donations of supplies and the coordination of services in these emergencies. In 2012, the Mormons stepped in to assist with 104 disasters in 52 countries. They provided 8 million dollars in aid and 1.1 million hours of volunteer labor was provided by church members for these projects. The services relieved suffering in weather-related disasters, areas of famine, and in cases of civil unrest causing refugee suffering.

LDS Charities exists to carry out the Savior’s command to love and serve one another. Although the Mormons have been involved in humanitarian efforts since its earliest days, LDS Charities was formed in 1996 to enhance the church’s ability to reach out.

“Sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Charities is an application of the admonition of Jesus Christ to help others in need. Jesus Christ taught His followers to give meat to the hungry and drink to those who thirst. His is a gospel that includes taking in the stranger, loving neighbors as self, and visiting those who are sick or imprisoned. He taught that we are to love and care for each other, visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, and lift up those whose hands hang down and whose knees are feeble” (LDS Charities website).

The program is funded by donations from Church members and even from those outside the church, often people who have received assistance or simply want to participate in the program’s initiatives. All donations go directly to aid and overhead is covered by other church funds.

In addition to disaster relief, LDS Charities carries out a number of initiatives, including neonatal resuscitation, clean water, immunizations, vision care, food production and health concerns. They often partner with other organizations, including Islamic Relief Worldwide and L V Prasad Eye Institute in India.

LDS Church Leader and Baptist Pastor Discuss Interfaith Relations

Socioeconomic problems such as being able to build strong families and communities in the midst of difficult economic and social conditions cannot be resolved by one particular faith group alone, but rather it requires interfaith discussions that are based on finding the common good for all concerned. Such discussions recently took place between Elder M. Russel Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr., pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, as well as other church and community leaders.

Rev. Clemons is a respected leader in Houston for his decades of devoted service in revitalizing Houston’s historic 5th Ward community. (The word “Ward” in this instance refers to an administrative division of the city of Houston.) He began his work more than 15 years ago when he spearheaded the project to replace aging buildings in the 5th Ward with the first substantial new multifamily and commercial development in more than 30 years. It is a continual work in progress.

Most recently, the work included a massive service project in which 5,000 Starbucks volunteers helped to transform the community by building a park and renovating numerous aging structures. Missionaries from the Houston Texas North Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mistakenly referred to as the Mormon Church by people of other faiths) also supported the effort.

Elder M. Russell Ballard and Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr. Interfaith MormonIt was that service that led to a meeting between Elder Ballard and Rev. Clemons on Sunday, 13 January 2013. In the course of that meeting they discussed their mutual desires to build bridges between the Church of Jesus Christ and Pleasant Hill to lift communities through strengthening families.

Elder Ballard emphasized the importance of interfaith coalitions for protecting religious freedom—particularly the rights of churches to have a continued voice in the public square. He said,

We commend the Christian efforts of Rev. Clemons and like-minded community and church leaders. We look forward to further cooperation in strengthening families and faith. [1]

Rev. Clemons made the following comments:

I found Elder Ballard to be refreshing and our time together illuminating. I saw him to be a man of passion and of the utmost concern for suffering humanity with an eye on reinforcing the family institution around the world and particularly here in the United States. That concern found a place in my heart and in the heart of this ministry here at Pleasant Hill, in the 5th Ward community, and in Houston. We think it is consistent with our vision to work towards meeting the needs of suffering humanity.

What was most exciting about speaking with Elder Ballard and his delegation was the understanding that our faith traditions bring us to different doctrinal places, but there is consistency in believing that Jesus Christ would have us to work towards alleviating the needs of suffering humanity and strengthening the family institution. It is our prayer that our unified effort will have a significant impact upon alleviating these social concerns. We look forward to the opportunity to do so and cherish the relationship that has begun. Our faith garners us the assurance that the world will be a better place as a result of our efforts. [1]

The two leaders found that they shared much in common – in particular their love for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and their willingness to love and to serve those in need.

Additional Resources:

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

The Lord Jesus Christ in Mormonism

Worship with Mormons

Mormon Utah Couple’s Mission to Jordan – In the Service of God

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) possess an innate nature to want to serve their fellowman. They are always ready and willing to answer the call to serve wherever and whenever needed.

CharityHappinessQuoteJoseph Smith, the first Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ, taught the Saints, “[A member of the Church] is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all, wherever he finds them.” (1) That is a lesson that was meant not only for the Saints of Joseph Smith’s day, but even today for every member of The Church of Jesus Christ to take to heart and follow.

In the Holy Bible, in the New Testament book of James are recorded the words, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27.) Visiting and ministering to the fatherless and widows in their affliction is exactly what LDS humanitarian missionaries, Jim and Karyn Anderson, did on a daily basis as they rendered unselfish service to Jordan’s surging population of Syrian refugees. Their mission exemplified the teachings of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), when in his timeless sermon he exhorted the people, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17.)

Jordan is certainly worlds away from the bucolic and tranquil life in Farmington, Utah where Jim was a bank president and Karyn was a nurse who often traveled with Operation Smile – a children’s charity dedicated to treating facial deformities across the globe. The couple, now in their 60’s, could have scarcely imagined when they accepted the call to serve The Church of Jesus Christ in any capacity, that they would be supervising gravel work in a windy, dusty, teeming refugee camp or comforting escapees from a brutal conflict in which more than 34,000 Syrians had been killed according to the Syrian Observer. Jordan’s open-border policy grants refuge to all those escaping the warfare. They hail from both sides of the conflict causing heightening tensions in the camps.

United Nations Refugee Agency Liaison Officer, Ali Bibi, said more than 215,000 Syrians had taken shelter in Jordan. He further stated that this wave strained Jordan, the fourth-poorest country in the world in terms of water, which had to house and feed tens of thousands of newcomers.

“Major infrastructure developments are occurring on a daily basis,” Bibi says, “in addition to the support of food and nonfood items.”

The camps also are moving to dry-food rations, which the refugees can cook themselves.

“Jordan is doing its best,” he says. “We need the international support to move forward in supporting Jordan in assisting with transition commodities.” [1]

LDS Charities Mormon

That is where faithful, humble servants like the Andersons and other aid workers come in. When the LDS couple arrived in Jordan in April 2012, they went to several cities in the north, where refugees — hungry, hurting, disoriented and with only the clothes on their back — cross the border.

“We spent a little time visiting some of the wounded who had come across, those that were in prison, tortured,” Karyn Anderson says. “We saw one young man, 18 years old, who had fled when the attacks came in his area. When he [went] back, his mother, father, two sisters and brother all had their throats slit.” [1]

The Andersons focused their time and efforts on Jordan’s largest Syrian refugee camp, Zaatari, a sprawling tent city about two hours from Amman, Jordan that houses more than 35,000 people. Located near the northern border city of Mafraq, the camp is essentially in a desert, where hot, dusty gales uproot tents and send families scrambling.

“We saw it before the first tent went up, and our impression was, ‘They can’t move people out here,’ ” says Jim Anderson. “There wasn’t water. There wasn’t a town nearby. There wasn’t a way to allow them to be mobile.” [1]

In representing LDS Charities, a humanitarian outreach agency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Andersons worked with many aid organizations, especially the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization (JHCO), which oversees all Syrian relief efforts and partners with the United Nations to run the camps. The Andersons say they assessed needs and “fill in the gaps,” providing help where they can — more in the form of “hand-ups,” not “handouts.”

Before the Zaatari camp opened, Jordan attempted to absorb the refugees into society, but the effort overwhelmed an already-weak economy, so the government launched a large-scale camp. By the time Zaatari came online, it had 8,000 refugees waiting. Now camps are mandatory for all Syrian refugees with guards and police helping to keep the peace.

On a chaotic first day, the camp didn’t have restroom facilities, washing areas, or even water. Now it has restrooms, operational kitchens and some semblance of order. UNICEF and Save the Children organizations provide schools and were expected to be able to handle 5,000 kids by December 2012 which was still a mere fraction of the almost 14,000 children in the camp.

The United Nations strives to erect hundreds of new tents every 24 hours to accommodate the tide of refugees, which rises and falls depending on the bloodshed in Syria and has been as high as 2,500 tents in one day. While the strain is great and conditions dismal, Jim Anderson said that he saw improvement.

“There are so many dedicated charitable people working,” he says. “I have a great admiration for what Jordan is doing for these refugees.” [1]

LDS Charities partnered with its Jordanian counterpart to haul in 20 trucks full of gravel to tamp down the dust which continuously plagues the camp, not only invading the food and the tents, but the swirling dust also makes everything look the same, disorienting children and families who can’t find their new homes. Women use their headscarves to cover their babies while men frantically tie down loose ends and possessions. Refugees took buckets of the gravel to spread outside their tents.

Another challenge comes when distributing donations among the refugees. The sheer number of refugees makes it hard to have enough for everyone.

“A series of riots over living conditions caused thousands of dollars of extensive damage,” The Jordan Times reported. Refugees torched warehouses and tents and injured guards.

“Just when you think you’ve solved one problem, the camp expands [dramatically],” says Karyn Anderson, “so you go to Plan B tomorrow. It’s just a continual challenge.” [1]

This is not exactly how the Mormon couple expected to spend their “golden years.” LDS couples, usually after retirement, can apply for volunteer, full-time missions. In the Andersons’ case, the Church called them.  As soon as Jim announced he would be ending his career as president of the Bank of Utah in June 2010, an LDS Church official asked if he and his wife would like to go on a mission. When later told it would be in the Middle East, they didn’t hesitate. Jim retired 31 December 2010, and a month later they were on their way.

The couple spent two weeks commuting to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah and attended orientation sessions at the LDS Church Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

They were assigned to Beirut, where they spent 14 months distributing hygiene kits, providing beds to a women’s prison and performing other tasks. Then they were transferred to Jordan.

Though they were Mormon missionaries, the Andersons did not proselytize. Their aim was to foster good will and create relationships with people, communities and countries. Similarities between Mormonism and Islam helped them bond with many in the Middle East.

It was hard for them to be so far away from family, the Andersons concede. Between them, they have 16 children and 35 grandchildren — four of whom were been born while they served their mission. “Did we ever think we’d come on a mission like this?” Karyn asks. “No.” But, “We have backgrounds that are conducive to being volunteers,” she says. “We [were] raised in that culture of giving service.” [1] .

Sources:

1. Editor’s reply to a letter from Richard Savary, Times and Seasons, Mar. 15, 1842, p. 732; Joseph Smith was the editor of the periodical.

Additional Resources:

Mormon Giving

LDS Charities

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

The Lord Jesus Christ in Mormonism

Mormons Serving Those in Need – One Of the Least of These

January 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormons Giving Aid Globally

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) have an innate nature for always wanting to help those in need. From the days of their youth, they are taught that life is not solely about self, but rather serving others, and that they should always be willing to help lift another.

Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ taught the Saints,”[A member of the Church] is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all, wherever he finds them.” (Editor’s reply to a letter from Richard Savary, Times and Seasons, Mar. 15, 1842, p. 732; Joseph Smith was the editor of the periodical.) He further exhorted the Saints:

It is a duty which every Saint ought to render to his brethren freely—to always love them, and ever succor them. To be justified before God we must love one another: we must overcome evil; we must visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and we must keep ourselves unspotted from the world; for such virtues flow from the great fountain of pure religion [see James 1:27, online Bible]. (History of the Church, 2:229, footnote; from “To the Saints Scattered Abroad,” Messenger and Advocate, June 1835, p. 137.)

LDS Man Helps Homeless Youth in EthiopiaAs faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints strive to live their lives according to the pattern set by their Great Exemplar who Himself taught, “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44,45, online Bible.) And so, following the admonition of the Master, they put their shoulder to the wheel, and press forward rendering aid to those in need whenever and wherever they may find them.

One such faithful Latter-day Saint is Jason Burton. Before embarking in the service of the Lord on a planned LDS mission in 2003, he left his home in Oregon to perform service work in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Today, he cares for 20 former homeless youths as young as 6 and as old as 20, though most can only guess at their age, showing them a better life beyond the life that they had been living on the streets. Like most boys anywhere in the world, they push and scrap, argue and pout.

HappinessCircumstanceQuoteBurton has done his best to piece together the difficult — and sometimes horrifying — facts of the lives once lived by these boys, who have come to him off the sordid and often violent streets of one of the world’s poorest cities. Some of the boys were abandoned by parents who could not feed them. Others came to the city from their rural villages intending to support the families they had left behind. While on the street they sometimes slept against the walls of churches, under bridges or in trash-strewn alleys. By the time they met Burton, many of these boys were addicted to tchat, a mild narcotic that is cheap and popular in Ethiopia. Others were struggling to overcome alcoholism.

Now they are part of Burton’s family, and like any family, there are struggles and challenges to face and deal with. He aims to provide a home, a shelter and a place where they are wanted. Even though he recognizes that he’s put many aspects of his own life on hold to answer this call, after five years of ardent service, Burton has found that he cannot just walk away and abandon the work.

He rents an apartment with three of the oldest boys. Every morning he rouses them from bed and prods them to begin their chores. He does his best to keep the boys busy with study and reading, and household chores such as cooking dinner and washing clothes. When they have free time, they kick around an old soccer ball in the yard or weave multicolored bracelets they hope to sell. This new lifestyle is much different than the life that they lived on the streets.

Burton grew up in Portland, Oregon. He first came to Ethiopia in 2007 intending to volunteer for eight months at the Mother Teresa Hospital for the poor. Then he met two young street boys, Masha and Berhanu. The boys were about 14 years old when they met Burton, who was at that time only five years their elder. He was helping with outpatient care at the hospital, where Berhanu had come to seek treatment for an infected wound. Not wanting to be a burden to his mother, the boy had left his home in Lalibella, north of Addis, after the death of his father, in hopes of finding work to support his three younger brothers, but things had not worked out well in his behalf.

When he met Burton, Berhanu was sleeping with other homeless youths by a church. At night he would pull his oversized T-shirt over his knees and curl up against a wall. One night, as he drifted to sleep, he fell forward and sliced his eye on the corner of a step. By the time Burton befriended him at the hospital, Berhanu’s eye was swollen shut and the infected area had ballooned to the size of grapefruit.

Not long after, Masha was brought to the hospital. The teenager was suffering from chronic stomach ulcers that made it difficult for him to eat anything but injera, a traditional Ethiopian food made of teff. A glucose IV at the hospital kept him alive. But the problems that Masha faced were more than sickness. After the deaths of his parents he had moved in with his grandmother and uncle who feared that his sickness was a curse, and put him out, causing him to fend for himself. “I knew immediately that I had to do something that lessened that sort of pain, even if just for a few people,” Burton said.” [1] When his eight-month visa expired, Burton returned to the United States, but Masha and Berhanu constantly weighed heavily on his mind.

Before making the trip to Ethiopia, the 18-year-old Burton spent four months in Ecuador working in an orphanage owned by Paul Morrell, a businessman and philanthropist from Utah. It was that experience that sparked Burton’s initial interest in helping street children. Even with so little, the children in the orphanage were the lucky ones: They had a place to go. [1]

When Burton met Morrell on a chance encounter while in Ethiopia, the two discovered their connection and Morrell took an interest in what the young humanitarian had done to help a few street boys. It was then that Morrell offered to help Burton, if he wanted to do more, by helping him launch an organization dedicated to helping street boys who number in the hundreds of thousands in Addis.

Ted Burton, Jason’s father, said his son spent hours on the Internet poring over United Nations reports on homeless youth populations and “printed reams and reams” of studies detailing the challenges non-government organizations faced in developing countries. He said that Jason was seriously considering the offer made by Morrell.

“As a parent I kept saying, ‘No. There’s just too much war, too much famine, too much danger; no, no, no,’” recalls Ted Burton, who tried to dissuade his son from the daunting venture. “I said, ‘Pick a different place, there’s street kids all over, pick somewhere beside Ethiopia.’ But, the Lord had other plans.” [1]

Ted Burton realized that he could not persuade his son otherwise, so he conceded and helped him draw up a business plan for a home for street children. Then they went to see Morrell.

“Usually how it worked was they had medical needs. One had fallen off a bridge and broken his leg, Taye had his tumor, one had a tooth abscess that was really, really serious to the point where we took him to the emergency and he was unconscious for a while,” Burton says. “That’s how things started happening, when boys who we’d known before started having little emergencies and saying, ‘Can you help?’ And then you realize, ‘Huh, they can’t get better on the streets.’” [1]

Today, 20 boys live in the home called Yehiwot Reay — which means “Vision of Life.” Most of them have been with Burton for four years or longer. “It’s more like a family rather than an organization, to be honest,” he says. [1] It is a big family, but Burton who grew up in a family that now numbers 15, is used to large families. He says that is where he learned the patience to do this sort of work.

“I didn’t expect it to be easy; I knew there would be challenges,” he says. “But I guess I didn’t expect so many challenges.”

“Jason’s remarkable,” Morrell said. “What kind of 20-year-old kid does that kind of thing? He’s had a lot of really, really hard times. He’s taken in kids that are addicted and have no discipline, and with all these challenges it’s remarkable he takes them on and does as well as he does with them.” [1]

The latest obstacle is funding. For the moment, Burton is supporting the boys largely on his own savings. He says he will be able to keep the program going for the next year but fears he won’t be able to meet the demands of the government, which expects him to take in new street boys every year in order to keep his license. The four oldest boys have offered to get jobs to help pay the expenses of the home, which costs about $2,000 a month to operate. [1]

Barton wonders, sometimes, what would have become of him if he had not been drawn back to Addis.

“I would have probably gone on to study sociology and worked as a social worker in a non-profit in the States if Ethiopia hadn’t sidetracked me so completely,” he said.

“I do feel like God moved me to help that first boy, but sometimes I feel like I’m just a spectator watching things go where they’ll go in spite of me,” he says. “But I’m sensing that I’ll always stay involved with our kids, but that the way could change.” [1]

For now, this is where he feels he needs to be, doing the work that the Lord has called him to do.

His father, who has just celebrated his 50th birthday without his oldest son being at home to celebrate with him stated:

“Wanting a future back home for him, it’s not quite like that. I can see where he’s happiest and he definitely belongs there,” he said. “There’s real joy and inner meaning to his life in Ethiopia, and that’s not something I know how to replace for him here. Once you’ve had kids who would have died if you weren’t there, it’s not something you can replace.” [1]

Jason Burton is on an errand for the Lord, and through his humble efforts he exemplifies and magnifies the teachings of the Savior who taught, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40. online Bible.)

Additional Resources:

Mormon Giving

Next Page »