Members and Church Assist Following Disasters
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“Members and Church Assist Following Disasters,” Ensign, Oct. 1997, 79–80

Members and Church Assist Following Disasters

Natural disasters have affected members around the world and given many the opportunity to serve within their communities. In most instances, members assisted those in their stake, ward, or branch boundaries and then offered assistance through relief organizations already organized in the area.

Storms in the Midwestern United States

Thunderstorms and tornadoes struck parts of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio on 3 July. At least 19 people were killed, and property damage was estimated in the millions, with the heaviest damage in the Detroit area.

“Members were relatively unaffected,” said John P. Livingstone, president of the Detroit Michigan Mission. “There were perhaps 4 areas with major storm damage, Detroit being the worst. There were around 20 families that helped with the cleanup efforts, but mostly it was the missionaries. In Detroit’s inner city, when the people saw the missionaries coming to help, they got so excited. It seemed like the whole area became invigorated.”

Earthquake and Flooding in Venezuela

An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck Venezuela on 9 July. At least 67 people were killed, most of whom were children in two schools that collapsed during the earthquake. Damage was the heaviest near Cariaco, on the Caribbean coast.

“Two member children were killed in Cumaná,” said Timothy Nicolaysen, president of the Venezuela Caracas Mission. “The little twin girls were in their apartment building when the earthquake caused the building to collapse.

“Rafael Piño, president of the Caracas stake, coordinated relief efforts with several stakes under the direction of the Area Presidency. Food and clothing was collected for those in need. The relief effort started out for the earthquake victims, but then, two days later, we had major flooding in Caracas, so food and clothes also went to those affected by flooding.”

Flooding in Europe

Recent flooding in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany is perhaps the most extensive in recorded history. More than 100 people were reported killed and several thousand affected by the damage. Crops were ruined, houses were inundated, and roads, bridges, and utilities were out. The flooding began towards the end of July.

At the Europe East Area Presidency’s request, the Presiding Bishopric approved Church humanitarian relief for Poland and the Czech Republic to acquire disinfectants and emergency drugs to prevent flood-related sickness.

“We had members who were flooded out of their homes, but the homes were not destroyed. Most were able to move back within a week,” said Edwin B. Morrell, president of the Czech Prague Mission.

“Members are helping the cleanup efforts through community programs. Missionaries are spending many hours serving those in need. They help the Red Cross. They clean up basements, anything to assist others.”

Fort Collins, Colorado

On Monday, 28 July, extensive flooding killed at least four people and caused damages estimated in the millions. Minor water damage was reported in two Church meetinghouses.

“Around 20 basements of members’ homes were damaged,” said Richard Dee Park, first counselor in the Fort Collins Colorado Stake. “We had two families whose trailers were completely destroyed. One of those families had to wait on top of their trailer for rescue workers.

“The members are helping out in a twofold process. They are assisting members of the stake and also working with community agencies to offer service on a long-term basis.”

Church Aid to North Korea

“We were asked by the First Presidency to assess the current situation in order to determine the nature of further assistance in the northern provinces of [North Korea], where food is in short supply, rationing has been instituted, and there is a potential for famine,” said Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy. Elder Sorensen was accompanied on a recent tour of North Korea by Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the Seventy.

From 1995 to the present, the Church has contributed humanitarian aid to the needy people of North Korea through the Red Cross and other agencies. This aid has included 2,600 tons of flour, powdered milk, cooking oil, blankets, and first-aid supplies.

“The country has been mobilized to combat the food shortages, with military personnel, office workers, schoolchildren, and the general populace assisting the farmers in planting needed crops,” Elder Sorensen said. He also noted that Brent Chugg of Latter-day Saint Charities presented and helped plant 500 apple trees donated by the Church. Technical assistance to assess and prevent further soil erosion was provided by Church representative Garry Flake.

“It appeared to us during our tour that relief agencies were distributing aid in an efficient, satisfactory manner,” Elder Sorensen said. “These humanitarian efforts will bless the lives of those suffering in North Korea.”

Members and missionaries help clean up after storms in the Detroit area. (Photo by Greg Baker.)