Elder Renlund’s visit to the Dominican Republic February 9–13 coincided with the beginning of the observance of the 40th anniversary of the Church in that country. Over 130,000 Church members live there.
An unusual kind of celebration, the observance will include service projects, increasing of spiritual growth, and promoting interfaith relationships, said Elder Renlund.
“It was wonderful to be in Santo Domingo to meet priesthood leaders in a leadership conference, members at a special stake conference, Church employees, missionaries, and Relief Society sisters at a special devotional,” he said.
“These faithful Saints are mature and strong in the gospel. As a result, they are not only establishing the Church on a firm foundation but are building a stronger country.”
Sister Renlund contributed to the celebration by lecturing at the law school of Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM). She and Sister Denise Lindberg, a member of the Young Women general board and a retired trial court judge, spoke to an overflow audience in the school’s auditorium about the need to protect religious freedom.
The lecture was part of a partnership formed with the university last year at the first Caribbean Religious Freedom Symposium in which Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles participated.
In Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, Elder and Sister Renlund and Elder Walter and Sister Zulma Gonzales attended an evening meeting for youth. An overflow congregation came to hear the Apostle speak.
Elder Renlund reminded the young men of the priesthood responsibility they have to serve missions and promised them that a mission would change their lives for the better in every way.
He told the youth that as a seer, he could see that their lives would be happy and prosperous if they stayed on the covenant path that they had begun with baptism.
“I love meeting with the youth,” Elder Renlund said. “For me, the best part of the meeting was shaking the hands of nearly 900 members who stayed after the meeting. These youth are the future of the Church and the hope of the nation of Haiti. They are wonderful.”
In St. Marc, a 2½-hour drive from the Haitian capital, Elder and Sister Renlund visited a tutoring center where children of Church members can go to receive help with their school work. The center is called Foyer Coin Des Cieux (Corner of Heaven). It helps 60 students by providing adult supervision, a snack, and assistance with various school subjects, including English.
Elder and Sister Renlund and Elder and Sister Gonzalez met with members and friends of the Church in St. Marc, where the Church has a district with four branches and a strong missionary effort. During the meeting, Elder Renlund taught the Church members about Lehi’s vision of the tree of life and urged them to “hold to the iron rod, the word of God,” which will lead them to the Savior. They were accompanied in Haiti by Elder Hubermann Bien-Aimé, an Area Seventy, and his wife, Sister Maggy Bien-Aimé.
The visit to Haiti was capped off by a meeting with all missionaries serving in that land.
Elder Renlund and Sister Renlund were accompanied on the trip to the Caribbean by Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Jennifer Kearon, and Bishop Dean M. Davies, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and his wife, Sister Darla Davies. After working together in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Elder and Sister Kearon traveled to Trinidad and Tobago, and Cuba. They were accompanied by the First Counselor in the Caribbean Area Presidency, Elder Cluadio D. Zivic of the Seventy, and his wife, Sister Dina Zivic. Bishop and Sister Davies traveled to Puerto Rico, where they had served as mission president and companion 15 years ago. They were accompanied by the Second Counselor in the Caribbean Area Presidency, Elder José L. Alonso, and his wife, Sister Rebecca Alonso.