Center Stage: Gratitude prevails among storm victims in Central America

Relief efforts are coordinated at meeting of stake presidents, bishops and Relief Society presidents in Tegucigalpa. A large shipment of food and supplies from Salt Lake City arrived by air later in the day.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — When Hurricane Mitch approached Honduras Oct. 25, Pres. Kim B. Beckstead of the Honduras Tegucigalpa Mission responded by purchasing some 5,000 pounds of food and storing it in the mission home.

This proved to be providential for many families south of Tegucigalpa who were left without provisions in the aftermath of the storm.

Pres. Beckstead also directed missionaries to stay in their homes. However, when the storm failed to materialize, he sent the missionaries back to work. But the following day the storm struck Honduras with fury, and he called as many missionaries as he could to travel to a meetinghouse near the mission home to wait out the storm. He and Sister Beckstead prepared meals in the mission home for the missionaries and carried the food in kettles for them.

However, two missionaries who were not accessible to a telephone and stationed some 50 miles south spent two days and a night on the lower roof of their home, crouching beneath the eaves. As waters rose, they eyed a nearby tree in case they had to climb higher, but the storm abated without more serious threats to them. They were outdoors, but had food — peanut butter sandwiches they carried up from their kitchen. The pair was later brought to Tegucigalpa by Pres. Beckstead for a week of rest and recuperation.

"When the missionaries returned, they found that the members had cleaned the mud out of their house, dug out their belongings and even washed their white shirts. Copies of the Book of Mormon and pamphlets were out drying on the line."

After the storm was over, Pres. Beckstead loaded three mission vehicles with the food he had purchased and traveled to the hard-hit areas of the mission south of Tegucigalpa. He delivered the food to families in need, including the many staying in meetinghouses in Choluteca.

It was in this region, during the storm, that Pres. Armando Lorillo of the Monjaros Branch tried to tie down his belongings during the intense rains. He sent his wife, Rosalina, who was six-months pregnant, two young sons and a daughter scurrying to find safety. As they ran through the torrent and ever-deepening water, they came to a dump truck. The woman and children managed to climb into the truck bed, along with a dozen of their neighbors, where they remained for the next two days. Waves lifted the truck and rocked its bed, but it remained grounded and preserved the lives of those inside. A few days later, the Lorillo family, reunited after the storm, was back in their muddy, roofless home after the storm was over. It was there where Pres. Beckstead found them. He delivered packages of food and offered to help them with housing in the city. The Lorillos declined.

"They wanted to stay and protect their property," Pres. Beckstead said. "They were covered with the bites of mosquitoes that had proliferated after the storm. I left them some repellant and soap that helps repel insects."

He visited all the branches and verified that the members in the mission were accounted for.

Missionaries helped in the clean-up effort, and most homes were shoveled out in a few days.

"The missionaries clean in the morning and do missionary work in the afternoon," said Elder Chad Reynolds of Deltona, Fla., assistant to Pres. Beckstead.

"There are some areas that have a lot of clean-up to do, and there are some areas where all you can do is help people haul water.

"Where some had their houses wiped out, there is nothing much you can do because there is no house left," he said.

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