Mormons Providing Humanitarian Aid around the Globe

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints give considerable amounts of their time, talents, and abilities to provide humanitarian aid to people throughout the world, as well as in their own communities. They provide service to those in need without any expectation of monetary reward, but rather their reward is knowing that they are able to bless the lives of others. They are taught and understand that when they are in the service of their fellow-man, they are in the service of their God. Therefore, not only does the service that they provide bless the lives of those in need, but their own lives are richly blessed.

Tongan Latter-day Saints Render Aid to Cyclone Pam Victims

Latter-days Saints understand that because they have been given much, they must also give. Tongan Saints in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, for example, helped to meet the needs of victims of Cyclone Pam which struck the island of Vanuatu (an island nation roughly 1,000 miles northeast of Australia) on 13 March 2015 by shipping a plastic container of urgently needed items such as cassava and breadfruit to that island.  President ‘Inoke Kupu coordinated packing and loading the food into the container, and His Royal Highness, Prince Ata, attended a ceremony marking the closing of the first container being sent from Tonga to Vanuatu.

Just ten short days after the devastating storm which uprooted many trees and destroyed roughly 90 percent of all buildings in hardest-hit areas, local Latter-day Saints had already rebuilt more than 20 indigenous-style homes in their community. Church Pacific Area welfare manager, Hans Sorensen, commented, “Amidst all of this gloom arise a people, not broken like the trees or homes about them, but who gather whatever materials the cyclone left behind and start to rebuild their homes with optimism.” According to the Mormon Newsroom article dated 27 March 2015, in addition to helping to rebuild homes, the Church provided the following items to those in need:

  • 5,000 personal care kits (which include toothpaste, soap and other items).
  • 3,000 liters of water and 1,000 refillable water containers with purification filters.
  • 2,000 emergency food boxes, assembled by Mormon volunteers in New Zealand.
  • 570 six-person tents.
  • 200 cartons of milk powder.
  • Machetes, axes, hammers and corrugated iron roofing nails to help people rebuild their homes.
  • Seeds, so families can replant their home gardens. Many people in Vanuatu rely on such gardens for food and income.

Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy, who serves as the Church’s Pacific Area president, commented, “It is deeply reassuring to hear reports that people are calm, working to recover and rebuild, and are helping their neighbors. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are absolutely committed to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Vanuatu as they grieve, recover and rebuild. We are here for the long haul.”

Tongan Latter-day Saints give aid after Cyclone Pam

LDS Charities Continues Relief to Flooded Areas in Malaysia

Flooding began in northwestern Malaysia in mid-December 2014 and continued into 2015 displacing up to 240,000 people. In a humanitarian effort to help the victims of the flooding, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is currently working with the country’s Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.

LDS Charities (a world-wide humanitarian organization focusing on self-reliance) has arranged for refrigerators, rice cookers, gas cook tops and electric kettles to be distributed by volunteers to families whose homes have been cleaned from flood debris and are now ready to be occupied.

LDS Charities deliver refrigerators to Malaysia

The Malaysia Mormon Newsroom website reported the following:

On January 3, 2015 over one hundred volunteers, under the direction of LDS Charities assembled 1,000 hygiene kits and 1,000 food kits which served a family of four for 72 hours. The kits were transported to a collection center near Subang Jaya and distributed to families in the affected states of Perak and Kelantan through Malaysia’s Red Crescent. As flood waters receded, the daunting task of helping families rebuild was foremost for The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development as reported by Dato’ Sabariah Hassan, Ministry Secretary General. A task force organized by the Ministry allowed LDS Charities to provide relief by supplying much needed kitchen appliances to families whose homes were flooded “up to the roof”.

Village Leader “Mizi”, En Ahmad Tarmizi Bin Ismail – Headman of JKKKP Batu Papan, Gua Musang Kelantan expressed appreciation for the donations and stated, “families are beginning to return home and this contribution will allow them to resume their lives.”

Teaching Self-Reliance Skills in Malaysia

LDS Charities along with the Association of Social Services and Community Development of Gombak District (PSPK) has been helping women in western Malaysia to learn the valuable skills of how to cook using an electric mixer and an oven. The skills that the women are being taught will not only help their communities, but will be of great value to their own families as well.

One woman, Noor Hana Hamid, who is disabled with considerable deafness and a partially paralyzed hand as the result of a brain tumor, has learned how to cook and now has a contract to bake 36 banana muffins each day for a local school cantina. She has a small electric oven which allows her to bake 6 muffins at a time, and she has developed a production schedule which allows her to provide service to the community and to provide for her own family.

The Malaysia Mormon Newsroom website reports:

Women are also trained in the use of sewing machines and button-hole machines. With the recent addition of cutting equipment provided by LDS Charities, school uniforms, t-shirts and drapery fabric are cut, and assembled at the sewing center. The women at the sewing center work daily to produce school uniforms and t-shirts to fill contracts obtained by PSPK. They currently are working to obtain drapery contracts for local hotels.

Malaysia self-reliance class

Solomon Islands Community Receives Fresh Water

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is donating thirty 5,000-liter poly water tanks designed to catch runoff from rain water. The tanks will be installed in several communities on the Solomon Islands. The community of Leo Creek, East Honiara, Solomon Islands has already received one of the tanks which will provide a fresh water supply to approximately 2,000 people or approximately eight families per tank.

Solomon Islands receives fresh water

Spring Cleanup Time in Russia

On Saturday, 28 March 2015, Russian Latter-day Saints in Moscow participated in an Easter weekend community cleanup project known as “Falcon” that not only made their area look a little nicer, but also became an opportunity to teach their children about giving service.

The Saints were happy to be a part of the project, for as one Latter-day Saint commented, “Service brings joy to the soul.” About 40 people helped to clean a courtyard for two and a half hours, collecting garbage that had accumulated over the winter, and placing it in trash bags to be disposed of. When asked why they were participating in the cleanup their answers varied: “I want to help the city in which I live, to be nice and cozy”, “You can meet friends and do useful work”, “Explain to children that it is necessary to serve – is necessary, but more important to be an example for them in this”, and “Easter in this year early, so will the city Saturday after it, and it is necessary to bring order to get around was clean, and your soul with joy.”

The following Saturday, 4 April 2015, was dedicated to the 120th anniversary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia.

Russian Latter-day Saints Spring Cleanup

Interfaith Choir in Turkey Performs Easter Program

On Saturday, 28 March 2015, an interfaith choir comprised of 20 community musicians representing Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Mormons performed Handel’s Messiah for the Easter season in the Vatican Embassy of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara. The concert was open to the public and the admission was free. Six members from the Ankara Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including two soloists, participated in the performance. The choir was accompanied by 7 members of Turkey’s State Orchestra which was supported by a string orchestra.

The Turkish Mormon Newsroom website reports:

Six rehearsals were held in preparation for the concert, including 2 with the orchestra. The solo parts for the concert were as follows: Suzi Hansen, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Soprano), Abigail Hansen, “He was cut out of the Land of the Living” (Alto), Martin Raiser, “But Thou Didst Not Leave His Soul in Hell” (Tenor) ; Hannah Eha, alto, “He was Despised” and James Turner, “The Trumpet Shall Sound” (Bass). There were a total of eight selections accompanied by the orchestra.

A reception with food and refreshments was held after the performance.

Turkey Easter Concert 2015

Papua New Guinean Ambassador Speaks at Brigham Young University

The Papua New Guinean Ambassador to the United States, Canada, and Mexico, His Excellency Rupa Abraham Mulina, spoke to students at Brigham Young University in Provo recently. He was accompanied by his wife, Numa. He spoke about the many challenges facing Papua New Guinea and its 7.3 million people.

During the course of his remarks, Mulina stated:

Developing countries like Papua New Guinea struggle because of poor infrastructure and services, like adequate health care and access to education. You have a country where about 80 percent of the population does not have access to power and running water. Less than 50 percent of women who give birth give birth in hospitals. With poor infrastructure, even the roads that have been built have not been properly maintained. Because the education system is not well developed, we are not able to have enough skilled workers.

He also spoke about the importance of learning leadership, and cited Brigham Young University (BYU) as an example Papua New Guinea can look to when it comes to developing leaders.

As part of my brief assignment to the United States, I’ve been trying to develop some concept, some program where we could train future leaders. Good leadership. Strong leadership. Leaders who have good, ethical, Christian upbringing.

You have something at BYU that not many other universities have: you aren’t only taught economics, you aren’t only taught engineering, and you aren’t only taught law. At BYU you are taught how to lead. You are taught how to relate to people… and how to be a good leader.

His Excellency Rupa Abraham Mulina

 

 

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

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