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Colombia’s First Lady is guest of Church

The burgeoning friendship between the Church and the Colombian government took another step forward when Colombia’s First Lady spent several days at Church headquarters in Utah, touring LDS operations and attending general conference.
Photo by Jason SwensenFirst Lady Lina Maria Uribe discusses the benefits of Church-produced atmit with Welfare Square quality assurance manager Dean Eliason.
Photo by Jason SwensenWelfare Square group manager James Goodrich discusses items stocked at the Bishop’s Storehouse in Salt Lake City with Colombian First Lady, Lina Maria Uribe, center, who is accompanied by two of her staff members.
Lina Maria Uribe, wife of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, spent the days leading up to the April general conference in Salt Lake City learning about family history, taste-testing cheese and bread produced at Welfare Square and meeting with the First Presidency and other Church leaders. She also visited Brigham Young University and the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
Mrs. Uribe’s tour came five months after the Colombian Congress honored the Church for its humanitarian service improving the lives of Colombians in need. (See Dec. 10, 2005, Church News)
The First Lady told the Church News that she was eager to visit Church headquarters.
“It’s one thing to hear about the Church’s programs and facilities from others — but it’s a different experience to see the operations with your own eyes and witness how things work here,” she said. Among several other humanitarian projects in Colombia, the Church has been active in Mrs. Uribe’s “Oye Colombia,” a program the provides hearing aids to the poor.
The First Lady’s visit to Church headquarters began March 29 with a tour of the LDS Humanitarian Center where she learned more about Church’s ongoing efforts to improve lives of people worldwide from all religious backgrounds. She and her small traveling entourage were then offered a glimpse of genealogy research at the Family History Library. Mrs. Uribe was escorted at each of her stops in her tour by Elder Ben B. Banks — an emeritus General Authority now representing Church Hosting — along with his wife, Sister Susan Banks.
Mrs. Uribe was complimentary of the Church efforts to help others — not only in Colombia “but for people of all nations,” Elder Banks said.
The next day, the First Lady enjoyed a tour of Welfare Square hosted by the facility’s group manager, James Goodrich.
After a brief orientation, Mrs. Uribe and her entourage toured Welfare Square’s Bishops Storehouse where she walked up and down the aisles, looking at the many shelves of canned goods, produce and dairy products ready to be distributed to local folks in need.
She also visited a laboratory where atmit — a Church-produced, grain-based foodstuff distributed to the malnourished in developing countries — is tested and developed. Mrs. Uribe tried atmit and spent several minutes asking questions about ways the product can be used. Later she visited Welfare Square’s bakery, dry pack facility and dairy plant.
After sampling many of the food items prepared at Welfare Square, Mrs. Uribe spoke of the unity that exists between her country and the Church.
“There is true solidarity,” Mrs. Uribe said. “The Church is not only there to help during times of earthquake and flood, but also helps people with their daily lives.”
Later that day, the First Lady dined with, among others, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Claudio R.M. Costa of the Seventy and president of the South America North Area.
On March 31, Mrs. Uribe visited the Office of the First Presidency in Salt Lake City. Elder Banks said the First Lady was impressed by the warmth of President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust.
She then traveled to Provo for a luncheon at BYU before taking a tour of the Missionary Training Center. During her visit to the MTC, Mrs. Uribe participated in one of the small language classes where young missionaries were learning Spanish.
Colombia’s First Lady concluded her visit in Utah by attending the Saturday morning session of general conference before returning to her country.
E-mail to: jswensen@desnews.com

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