Elder Ballard visits flood victims

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve personally delivered a message from the First Presidency to flood victims in southwest Georgia Sunday, July 17.

Accompanied by Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy and president of the North America Southeast Area, Elder Ballard addressed an evening fireside in the Albany Ward of the Columbus Georgia Stake, and a sacrament meeting of the Bainbridge Branch, which is in the Tallahassee Florida Stake.The two General Authorities visited while area residents, aided by volunteers, were beginning to clean up in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Alberto, the first of the hurricane season, which spawned in the Gulf Coast on July 2 and brought torrential rains to much of the southeastern United States. Flooding was the worst in the area's history. (See Church News, July 16.)

During meetings with Church members and others, Elder Ballard read the First Presidency statement:

"We are deeply moved by the suffering of flood victims in Georgia. Church representatives are in frequent contact with local members and others involved in this crisis. We trust that the aid extended thus far is bringing comfort and relief to those in distress.

"Our Heavenly Father is mindful of His children. Through His help and the efforts of all concerned, this adversity will be surmounted and become a source of strength. Our prayers continue in behalf of the people of Georgia, and we are grateful for the opportunity to extend assistance in this hour of need."

Elder Ballard encouraged Church members in the affected area to remain optimistic. "To withstand these trials, Latter-day Saints have to have the roots of their testimonies anchored deeply in the soil of the gospel," he said. "If you do that, whatever winds and floods come can be withstood."

Elder Morrison told them: "Nothing eternal is washed away by a flood. Eternal covenants are waterproof." He said that these kinds of tragedies often bring people closer to their Father in Heaven, recognizing that He can heal a broken heart, and can "bring joy and peace to those who weep and are anxious."

During a day of visiting flooded members, inspecting their homes and meeting with them in chapels, Elder Ballard and Elder Morrison also visited other community leaders who have been heavily engaged with the Church in joint relief efforts.

In particular, the Church, through Columbus Georgia Stake President Ritchey M. Marbury III, has worked closely with the Rev. Jimmy Cason, leader of the United Methodist Church congregation in Leesburg, where most of the Church's initial relief efforts were concentrated. In a meeting in the Methodist Church, Elder Ballard thanked Mr. Cason for providing the distribution network that helped get LDS relief supplies out to the community at large.

"It's a wonderful thing when all these organizations can come together and forget labels," Elder Ballard said. "We are all our Father's children. We don't have unlimited resources, but what we have we will do our best to get to you." Elder Ballard told the group that the Church undertook Christian service in the community because of the example of Christ's service to others.

The Methodist minister and representatives of the county authorities were warm in their praise of the Church's efforts. Elder Ballard was told that Lee County would have been "in bad trouble" without the Church's prompt help.

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