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Colombian Congress honors LDS humanitarian service

Almost four decades ago a pair of elders from the Andes Mission arrived in Bogota — marking the formal beginning of missionary work in Colombia.
Elder Claudio R. M. Costa
Courtesy South America North AreaCongressional medal was presented to the Church Dec. 2 as a token of appreciation for the Churchs humanitarian contributions in Colombia.
Since that time tens of thousands of Colombians have been baptized a temple has been built stakes dot the fertile country and the Church continues to make many many friends.
The warm relationship between the Church and the South American nation was highlighted Dec. 2 when the Colombian Congress honored the Church for its humanitarian service that has bettered the lives of Colombians in need.
South America North Area President Claudio R.M. Costa of the Seventy accepted the congressional commendation on the Churchs behalf. The commendation was introduced by Senator Luis Humberto Gomez Gallo and approved by the president of the Colombian Congress Senator Claudia Blum.
Elder Costas first counselor Elder Benjamin de Hoyos of the Seventy and local Church official Noel Alberto Diaz also attended the event.
While presenting the commendation at the Colombian congressional building in Bogota Senator Gomez Gallo said the Churchs arrival in Colombia 39 years ago was accompanied by its message of love brotherhood peace and service.
Since then the Church has played an important role in our society — not only for its spiritual contributions but also for the moral values that the Church both teaches and practices said Senator Gomez Gallo.
The lawmaker expressed his appreciation for the material assistance the Church has provided many Colombians regardless of their religious affiliations. He spoke of the Churchs involvement with the Wheelchair Foundation that has provided wheelchairs to many Colombians with disabilities. The LDS Church added Senator Gomez Gallo has also provided assistance to Oye Colombia a humanitarian program administered by Colombian First Lady Lina Maria Uribe that provides hearing aids to the poor.
We appreciate the Church and its desire to develop a relationship of cooperation with the government by saying Here we are we can help said Senator Gomez Gallo.
The Churchs efforts to find jobs for unemployed or underemployed Colombians was also recognized. I have had the opportunity to see a Church employment center where assistance is offered without obligation Senator Gomez Gallo said.
The commendation ceremony also recognized Colombian members who strengthen their families through family home evening and assist the poor by fasting once a month and sharing their resources via fast offerings.
After accepting the commendation Elder Costa — a Brazil native — spoke of his love for Colombia and its capital city Bogota.
I live in a city with perfect climate and beautiful mountains Elder Costa said. Here we have air conditioning without having to pay a bill.
He then called it an honor to receive such recognition on behalf of the Church.
We feel honored and grateful and we hope we can do more Elder Costa said. He spoke of the unifying tenets of the Church.
The Church believes in eternal families. Believes in being better people. Believes in unity among the nations. Believes in living in a world of peace and harmony. We want to contribute so this society can exist.
Concluding his remarks Elder Costa asked the Lord to bless Colombia.
I invoke the Lords blessings upon the senators politicians and all those who are fighting to make (Colombia) a great land among nations.
The Dec. 2 ceremony marked the last of several historic moments for the Church in Colombia in recent years.
In 2003 First Lady Uribe met with Church leaders in the Alhambra meetinghouse in northern Bogota to accept humanitarian funds used to purchase hearing aids cover the cost of eye surgeries and procure desks for schools.
Last year Elder Costa met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at the presidents residence where they discussed the Church and its efforts in Colombia.
The nations many LDS soccer fans were also thrilled with the news that Colombian soccer hero Freddy Rincon — a World Cup veteran — had been baptized this year in Brazil.
E-mail to: jswensen@desnews.com

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