Monday, January 19, 2015

Humanitarian Donations in Action

This is a devotional message that Elder Coffey gave on January 12, 2014 for the Asia Area Office staff and missionaries.

In the 1800s many early converts to the Church traveled to Zion using money from the Perpetual Emigration Fund. The PEF fund used both church assets and private contributions to aid impoverished converts to the LDS faith when they moved to the Utah valleys.  Many of my ancestors were poor and were blessed to use this money because of the sacrifice of others.  As they came to Zion their testimonies were strengthened and they were able to receive their endowments in the temple - thus being blessed physically and spiritually.

Today we have the Perpetual Education Fund which gives qualified people an opportunity to gain an education in a skill which will help them qualify for a better job. We also have the Temple Patron’s Fund, which assists needy temple-worthy members to travel to the temple to receive their endowments and be sealed as families.  By financially contributing, we not only help people physically, but also spiritually.  And, contributing in these ways, even if our donation is small, helps significantly to building the kingdom of God.

Elder Greg Coffey, age 7-1/2 years old, Oregon
When I was about 8 years old my parents asked us children if we would like to contribute to the building fund for the Oakland Temple.  With a monthly allowance of 25 cents per month I had to pay tithing and mission savings.  That did not leave much for my personal spending, and most of my spending money went to birthday presents for my family members.  I do remember paying 10 cents, several times, to the Oakland Temple building fund.  My contribution didn't buy but a few nails for that multi-million dollar building, but it helped.  Especially it helped me.  I felt a part of the temple – like a little bit of me was there.

Now, here in Asia, Sister Coffey and I are Humanitarian missionaries in the Welfare Department, serving with Elder and Sister Johnson, Jaymi Wong, and Patrick Cheuk. Between us we coordinate humanitarian work in 14 Asian countries.  We work with about 19 in-country senior couples.  This is all made possible because of your donations, even the donations of 10 cents at a time.

Disciples of Jesus Christ follow His example and do what He would do.  The apostle John recorded: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

King and prophet Mosiah told the people in his day: “I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” (Mosiah 4:26)

In 2003 the Church began four major humanitarian initiatives: neonatal resuscitation training, clean water, wheelchair distribution, and vision treatment.  Today we also do Asthma training in China, immunizations in India, and food production in Mongolia.  In addition, we do many local special needs projects.  Here are some examples:

Bags of emergency items for Pakistan and India flood victims
The heavy Monsoon across Pakistan and India during the first week of September overflowed the major rivers in the country which caused floods in Kashmir and Punjab, killing more than 500 people and affecting more than two million people. The floods devastated homes, schools, hospitals and roads in the villages and towns.  The flooding also submerged 14 million acres of Pakistan’s most fertile crop land and killed 198,000 head of livestock.  A major concern was that farmers would be unable to meet the fall deadline for planting new wheat seeds.

LDS Charities, a local partner Aim4Faith, and the Lahore District of the Church in Pakistan combined together to package and distribute 700 family packs of food and hygiene.  This project was led by the district president and the local Branch President.  The process was long and tiring but the group was full of joy and gratitude knowing that they were doing what the Master would have done Himself.

We have a covenant responsibility and charge to care for the poor and needy and to relieve suffering. In D&C 38:35 it reads:  “And they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer.”

Inspecting the water filters for earthquake victims in China.  Notice the LDSC logo.
A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck Yunnan, China, killing 600 people and injuring 2,500 others. More than 40,000 residences were destroyed or damaged.  LDS Charities responded with a disaster relief donation that provided 1,200 blankets, 1,200 raincoats, 500 emergency lights, and 55 water purification units marked with the LDS Charities logo. Months later when Elder and Sister Miner went to Yunnan for a wheelchair project, people in Yunnan recognized, because of the LDSC logo, both the earthquake relief materials and the wheelchairs came from the same organization – LDS Charities.  We have heard comments from LDSC’s partners that they like LDS Charities because we are transparent and inclusive.  We are willing to work with people from all walks of life to help make people’s lives better than when we found them.

President Heber J. Grant said: “The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves.”  This principle also applies to our humanitarian work, which is mostly directed to those who are not members of our Church.  At a wheelchair distribution in Butwal, Nepal, Elder and Sister Valentine
met a Muslim holy man.  He came to Butwal using wooden barbell-looking objects to protect his hands as he dragged himself to the site, hoping he could qualify for a wheelchair.
Using wooden bar-bell objects on his hands to scoot
 to the wheelchair chair distribution

He received a tricycle wheelchair. There is something ennobling about restoring human dignity through a wheelchair.  He thanked Elder and Sister Valentine over and over and over, because now he could get to the mosque where he could perform his duties as a holy man. Spiritual sustenance for the human soul is also a basic need.

Everyday newborn babies die in the first minute of life because medical personnel are untrained in how to help the new born babies breathe.  The first minute, called the ‘Golden Moment’ is critical to their life.  LDS Charities provides a neonatal resuscitation training program to doctors, nurses, and mid-wives in many counties in Asia.  Elder Jeffery R. Holland said, “ I was traveling in a distant part of the world and one of the nurses told me the story of having had just in recent months that very
Neo-Natal Resucitation Training in Nepal
training,… and she told me about a baby that had been born and had instantly been pronounced dead , the doctor walked into the room … and went to the baby - and on the training of the neonatal experience that our people had just provided, but for that there would have been one more baby that was just another statistic, and the difference was 6 months earlier they wouldn't have known anything to do, but …  Some mother was made happy that day.”

 In Nepal, a recent 6-month monitoring report identified that the 100 plus people trained in March 2014 have now trained another 2000 medical professionals at their facilities.  According to a government report 10,000 newborn babies’ lives have been saved because of this training in that one country alone.

President J. Reuben Clark Jr. said: “The real long term objective of the welfare plan is the building of character in the members of the Church, givers and receivers, rescuing all that is finest down deep inside of them, and bringing to flower and fruitage the latent richness of the spirit, which after all is the mission and purpose and reason for being of this Church.” (President J. Reuben Clark Jr. (1871–1961), First Counselor in the First Presidency, in Glen L. Rudd, Pure Religion: The Story of Church Welfare Since 1930 (1995), 301.)

The welfare plan operates on basic principles - such as becoming self-reliant, caring for the poor and needy, and serving others.  A recent vision training project in Vietnam these principles.  LDS
LDSC specialists demonstrate eye surgery techniques in Vietnam
Charities short-term specialists Dr. Branson Call and his wife Kathy traveled from the US to work with doctors and nurses in Vinh Long, Vietnam.  They worked for three days performing ocular plastic surgery to correct vision problems.  During the surgeries they demonstrated surgical techniques – training the Vietnamese doctors so they can perform the same surgeries after the Calls returned to the United States.  They also trained hospital staff on advances in ocular plastics and provided technical information, while reviewing corrective surgical techniques.  Five local eye physicians were trained along with about 15 surgical nurses and operating staff.  Approximately 30 patients were operated on during the week and countless more will benefit from the diagnostic equipment donated and the surgical knowledge that was shared.  This training helped the medical people in Vietnam to be more self-reliant, as Dr. and Sister Call demonstrated their caring for the poor and needy as they served.

Mr. and Mrs. Du live in Gansu Province, China.  Mrs. Du is 48 years old, and was injured in an accident and paralyzed from the waist down.  Mrs. Du lays on her bed all day and crochets small hats, and sells them for 1 RMB, or about 16 US cents.  Mr. Du is a farmer, growing wheat, corn and
Mrs. Du in China, happy to have her first wheelchair
potatoes. They also have a few chickens and 1 cow, which they sell, and buy a new calf to raise.  Doing this they earn between 1,000 to 2,000 RMB, which is between $163 to $327 USD.

When Elder and Sister Orvin presented her with her very 1st wheelchair she simply lit up with joy, happiness, and gratitude.   Mr. Du then tenderly picked her up and put her in her new wheelchair, which was a cherished moment Elder and Sister Orvin will always remember.

Jesus said: “ 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
(Matthew 25:34-40)

We all know the overwhelming feeling of goodness that comes to us as we help the poor and needy.  My hope is that we will have the opportunity, every day, to reach out to help a needy soul. By so doing, we will save our own souls.

I testify that Jesus is the Messiah.  He is the perfect example of serving the poor and needy - both of the body and of the spirit.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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