Journey into Japan: LDS missionaries don T-shirts, get to work
When the sea overruns the earth and washes away all semblance of normal life, as Japan's tsunami did in March, everything changes — even Mormon missionaries' routines.
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More than 550 members and friends of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lent a helping hand in June to aid victims of the flooding along the Richelieu River in Quebec in the first ever Disaster Relief Mormon Helping Hands Project in Eastern Canada.
More than 2,650 homes and 330 cottages in Quebec were flooded, due to more than 90 inches of rain that fell in the region since mid-April. Close to 1,500 people had been evacuated from their homes, many for several weeks.
The Mormon Helping Hands program participated in conjunction with S.O.S. Richelieu, a local disaster relief group.
President Pierre-Paul Morin of the Longueuil Quebec Stake initially asked the 14 congregations under his direction to commit to helping with the clean up of the flooded homes. They were looking for 150 volunteers.
When news of the project spread throughout eastern Canada, members from congregations in Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces offered to participate.
Laurent M. Leclerc, director of public affairs for the Longueuil Quebec Stake and Omer Pirlet, a member of the stake high council, coordinated the Helping Hands efforts in partnership with local authorities. S.O.S Richelieu recruited several thousand volunteers to assist with clean-up efforts over two weekends in June.
The Premier of Quebec Jean Charest met with President Morin to inspect the cleaning and hygiene kits donated by the LDS Church to assist local residents. Stake leaders had an opportunity to teach municipal and provincial authorities about the church’s disaster relief program.
Several volunteers traveled from as far away as Toronto, which is a six-hour drive.
In Venise-en-Quebec, a Bishop’s Storehouse truck delivered the cleaning kits in the morning just before the volunteers arrived. One resident was overwhelmed when she realized that the help was not only material but human as well.
“Oh, you are not only providing the products, but the labor force that comes with it,” she said as she began to cry.
A few days after the project in Venise-en-Quebec local residents were still talking about “the angels who came Saturday.”
“They were talking of the members as angels," Brother Leclerc said. "When we understand what it really means to be an angel, they could not describe us better than that. Angels are servants of God. When we serve our neighbor we are only serving God.”