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Compassion love follow hurricane

The victims of Hurricane Stan were reminded that little can be done to stop the rains from falling gales from blowing and the saturated mud from tumbling. But amid the tragic news of devastating loss many in Mexico Guatemala and El Salvador also learned that the strongest of storms cant topple compassion charity and love.
Folks who were on the front lines of the Churchs ongoing effort to deliver relief to storm-weary people in northern Latin America say they witnessed daily acts of love and courage among local Church leaders and rank-and-file members.
Even as students at the Church-owned school Benemerito in Mexico City were assembling thousands of food boxes to be transported to flood victims in the southern tip of their country Church members in Guatemala were packing provisions bound for the saturated towns of northern Guatemala.
Meanwhile universal welfare principles were enlisted at the most local of levels — in the homes and meetinghouses of caring bishops and ward Relief Society president.
The local leaders responded said Garry R. Flake the Churchs director of humanitarian emergency response.
As priesthood and Relief Society leaders in Mexico looked after their flocks (see accompanying story on p. 4) their counterparts in Guatemala were mobilizing to prepare pack and distribute some 170000 pounds of food and provisions.
Flood waters had destroyed many bridges in the Central American nation disabling countless transportation routes. So welfare and local leaders enlisted equal parts faith and enterprise to deliver goods to desperate hungry people.
Welfare supplies often followed a winding circuitous route Brother Flake said. When roads became impassable for the hefty trucks delivering supplies we had to shift provisions from the large trucks to something smaller and finally carry them by hand to remote meetinghouses.
In some cases the goods reached hungry Church members and others taking shelter inside meetinghouses who were down to their last cups of beans or rice Brother Flake said.
As the waters recede and officials begin dealing with the long-term impacts of Hurricane Stan the Church continues to care for the immediate needs of many. At press time some 1200 people were being housed at 18 LDS buildings — 12 in Guatemala and four in El Salvador.
The Church buildings and relief supplies are not limited to members. We helped many more non-members than members of our Church.
In Guatemala for example 60 percent of the provisions airlifted into Guatemala were given directly to the governments emergency response agency.
In this critical situation I saw how the fundamental gospel principles of service to others came to the fore in the lives of Church members and those of all faiths in areas devastated by the storm said Mexico South Area President Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Seventy.
E-mail: jswensen@desnews.com

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