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Work of rebuilding continues in Peru

Almost five months have passed since a deadly magnitude-8 earthquake left several communities in southwest Peru in ruins.
Photo by Jason SwensenPhoto shot days after the magnitude-8 earthquake in southwest Peru captures the devastation found in Pisco and neighboring communities. Local Church leaders now concentrate on meeting the long-term needs of member victims.
Photo by Jason SwensenSince the Aug. 15 quake Peruvian members such as this Relief Society sister have offered precious service.
Entire city blocks in places such as Pisco Ica and Chincha were reduced to rubble and dust on Aug. 15 2007. Hundreds lost their lives. Thousands their homes. Members who were counted among the victims mourned the loss of loved ones even as they sought food and shelter. Many nursed emotional wounds after witnessing horrific moments of death and destruction.
Communities in ruins can disappear — or rise up and rebuild. Church members are rebuilding.
Its inspiring to see whats happening said Elder Marcus B. Nash a member of the Seventy who presides over the South America West Area. From this tragedy will come tremendous blessings and miracles.
Elder Nash said the quake brought long-term devastation. A new year has arrived and the tragedys pain continues to ache. But members have come together enlisted welfare principles and are working hard to bring brighter days to those members victimized by the historic temblor.
Church assistance following the quake was immediate. Priesthood leaders from the area office in Lima worked closely with local leaders in damaged areas drawing upon fast offerings and other resources to provide food water tarps portable toilets and other essential items. Meetinghouses doubled as physical and spiritual sanctuaries for many who lost their homes.
Help also arrived from outside Perus borders. A Church-sponsored 747 jet filled with 80 tons of humanitarian provisions in Salt Lake City was flown to Pisco. Subsequent assistance from Church headquarters would arrive later.
Once the immediate needs of the members were met priesthood leaders began focusing on the long-term issues: the process of rebuilding.
Elder Nash said area meetings with the local priesthood leadership were grounded in welfare principles. We wanted to help the members help themselves he said.
Four welfare principles framed the reconstruction plan: gratitude; integrity; work; and service which produces self-sufficiency.
The Church will assist member families who lost their homes by providing construction materials and building expertise. The donated material will be used to construct home essentials — including a roof plumbing electricity and walls. The rebuilt homes will also be seismologically designed to better withstand future earthquakes said Elder Nash.
Meanwhile the homeowners will contribute sweat equity laboring on their own houses and providing muscle and service to others. A successful LDS builder from the United States also recently moved to Peru to help oversee the home construction efforts.
People are thrilled that these resources have been made available Elder Nash said.
The rebuilding effort will also benefit many involved in the Churchs Perpetual Education Fund program in Peru. Young men participating in local PEF construction programs will be enlisted to put their new skills to use by working directly with the homeowners. Many will be blessed. The homeowners will be the beneficiaries of the PEF participants know-how and the PEF participant will gain invaluable professional experience.
The Churchs recovery process in southwest Peru stretches beyond brick and mortar. Damaged souls said Elder Nash also need to be recovered and rebuilt.
The same Peruvian members who stepped forward to donate and distribute provisions in the stark days following the quake are now offering emotional and spiritual sustenance. Stakes and units in Lima have adopted sister units from the disaster areas. Members from Lima have chartered buses and traveled to quake-weary units in the south to stage talent shows. Other Lima-area units have helped their sister units host ward dinners and parties. Such activities provide fun and fellowship amid the stress of rebuilding.
Local priesthood leader have also helped victims deal with the emotional trauma following the disaster.
Its been a wonderful thing to see people come together to serve one another added Elder Nash.
For many members the recovery and rebuilding effort in southwest Peru wont end soon. The process is aptly called long-term. The economies in quake-affected areas have been called rugged. Jobs are scarce.
Still hope can be found. Homes and souls are being rebuilt.
E-mail to: jswensen@desnews.com

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