“Worldwide Day of Service,” Ensign, Oct. 1997, 77–79
As part of the celebration of the pioneer sesquicentennial, the First Presidency declared 19 July 1997 as Worldwide Pioneer Heritage Service Day. Following are some representative reports from among thousands of Latter-day Saint service projects around the world.
More than 80 families from the Baulkham Hills Stake in New South Wales turned up to help plant 2,000 trees in a community reserve. Members of English, Tongan, Samoan, and Vietnamese units in the Sydney Parramatta stake gathered for a hymn and a prayer and then separated to various projects that included planting trees, clearing vegetation, and assisting with land regeneration. Elsewhere in Parramatta, members of other units cleaned up the historic All Saints Church of England Cemetery.
Armed with shovels, brooms, rakes, and refuse containers, members of several Stuttgart wards and branches pulled on their gloves and cleaned up city parks, marketplaces, parking lots, and other public areas. “It’s not too often something is done like this nowadays,” said the mayor of Weilemdorf. Stake high councilor Sigfried Bartel commented, “I could feel the spirit of service of the millions of other members that are working together today.”
When members of the Érd Branch gathered to refurbish and paint the interior of a local elementary school, they didn’t anticipate the project would take more than a day—but they unanimously agreed to return and finish the job, more than doubling their original goal of 150 service hours.
On the evening of 19 July, the branch held an open house with displays about the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, the 1847 pioneer trek, and the recent history of the Church in eastern Europe. Members wearing name tags bearing the sesquicentennial logo greeted visitors, and during a two-hour program members presented musical numbers and showed a video about the 1847 pioneer journey.
“I’ve seen many religious presentations before, but this was by far the best,” said a local television reporter to branch president Andrew Byrne. “The commitment of your members is amazing.”
Members of the Sardinia district donated a total of 613 service hours. In the Cagliari Branch, members helped nuns of the Order of Mother Teresa of Calcutta fix and serve food to needy people. “We felt in high cooperation with members of other faiths who were working with us in preparing the hall for receiving the needy people and cleaning it up at the end,” said branch president Piero Espis.
In the Milan mission’s Como district, about 80 members cleaned a public garden near Como Lake, the land around two famous monuments, and the garden and park of a large villa used for meetings and conferences. Elsewhere in the Milan area, members picked up garbage, removed weeds, and planted trees in one of Milan’s largest parks, and members also weeded and cleaned a cemetery.
In the Trieste Branch, Padova mission, about 50 members spent the day cleaning rooms and beautifying gardens at a museum located on the site of an old Nazi extermination camp, where some 5,000 Italian Jews, soldiers, political prisoners, and others died between 1943 and 1945. Members in Verona cleaned up an abandoned park adjacent to an ancient gate through which people used to enter the fortified city, and later that afternoon other members worked on the house of a disabled woman.
An estimated 4,000 members throughout Korea contributed more than 12,000 hours of service. In harmony with Korea’s proclaimed year of cultural heritage, many of the service projects revolved around cleaning up cultural relics. Members of the Pusan Korea Stake cleaned up litter on the climb to the Dong Rae mountain fortress. Seoul Korea Stake members labored at the famous Kyoung Bok Palace, and Seoul West Korea Stake members worked at the Tombs of Sa-Yook-Shin, which honor six martyrs.
“While I was participating in community service, I was able to greet many neighbors,” said Brother Kim Sang-Hyun of the Tae Gu Korea Stake. “I found out that there are many people who need our helping hands. Each of us, in spite of hot weather, found joy through unselfish service to our community and neighbors.”
About 3,000 members from 10 stakes in Monterrey cut grass, pruned trees and shrubs, swept streets, gathered garbage, and painted benches and curbs in a 35-acre park. Families began arriving for the project before 8:00 A.M. Many were wearing blue, white, or grey T-shirts emblazoned with the “Faith in Every Footstep” emblem.
Members of the Zoetermeer Ward, The Hague stake, participated in three service activities. At a farm where city children visit to learn about cows, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, donkeys, and other animals, members fixed fences, raked fields, and laid tiles underneath a chicken run to keep out rats in wintertime. At a nursing home, members visited with residents, played games with them, and took them for walks. Members also cleaned up a public area near some shops.
“We were very much aware of being part of a wave of charity, service, and sacrifice that swept the world that day,” said Marieke Moolenburgh, a ward public affairs representative. “When we started the day with a short meeting at the chapel, we realized that members in Japan were just about to round up their day’s work. When we assembled to end the day at a stake barbecue, we were aware that members in Brazil were just starting their day of service.”
Brethren of the Campanha Branch gave service at the International Medical Association, where they separated X-ray plates and bundled them for recycling. The association director invited them to return every month, if possible, to keep up with the X-ray plates, and the brethren agreed. “It was an opportunity for my testimony to grow and at the same time a stimulus for me to work in favor of others,” said Manuel Carvalho, a branch member. Sisters of the branch spent the day helping care for women at a home for the aged. “It was a wonderful experience to serve the Lord and help the kind ladies of this home,” said branch Relief Society president Maria Augusta. After their service, the brethren and sisters met back at the branch to share testimonies.
Members of the Madrid stake’s Alcala de Henares Ward picked up trash on the trails and hillsides of a nature park near the historic 16th-century town of Alcala de Henares. Elsewhere in the stake, the Madrid Second Ward and Madrid Fourth Branch cleaned graffiti from park benches.
On a bare, rolling hillside overlooking a small salt lake, 80 members of the Zaragoza district planted 1,000 pine trees and other plants provided by the government. When the project was completed, they released balloons that carried cards bearing information about the project.
In northeast Moscow, members of the Pokrovsky Branch gathered at a nearby orphanage to paint a playground that had not been painted in years. Using donated blue, orange, yellow, green, and red paint, members painted swings, slides, jungle gyms, and make-believe animals.
At the Park of Friendship, nestled between the Moscow River and a subway line, members of the Severo-Zamoskvoretsky Branch joined groundskeepers in raking brush, moving and burying concrete blocks, and loosening soil around a large stand of trees.
“They were very surprised,” said branch Relief Society president Svetlana Babkina. “They’ve never had anyone come to them wanting to help before. I don’t think they quite understood what we wanted until we came—and that was part of the surprise, that we actually came and worked.”
Members of the New Orleans Louisiana Stake donated quilts to a battered-women’s shelter and washed more than 1,000 headstones in the Chalmette National Cemetery. Children from the stake visited a nursing home, where they presented a program and then videotaped interviews with residents about what their childhoods were like. “We hope the project will help the children feel a connection to and reverence for the past,” said stake Primary president Marie Wallis.
In the Charlotte North Carolina Central Stake, members of the Lake Norman Ward restored the Rosenwald School in Huntersville. They cleared brush, shrubs, and trash and then bleached, caulked, and painted the four-room schoolhouse. At one point a beekeeper had to be brought in to relocate bees that had made their home inside a wall of the building. “The feeling of community and of service was incredible,” said Bishop Rick Walker. “This is one of the highlights of my life.”
Members in Fremont, California, donated about 1,500 hours working in the Ohlones Indian Cemetery. Their efforts included removing weeds, cutting down dead trees, redoing signs, and planting trees. The ancient graveyard was used for centuries before Spaniards and Anglo-Americans came in contact with the California Indians.