Pres. Hinckley sees evidence of care, concern

While visiting Church members in Central America Nov. 19-21 in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, President Gordon B. Hinckley saw for himself the sorrows and despair of mass destruction. He saw also the results of an overwhelming outpouring of care and concern, and evidence of faithful people working to pull themselves out of the storm's devastation.

President Hinckley traveled to Nicaragua and Honduras, offering words of consolation, hope, faith, reassurance and even cheer. (Please see article on page 3.)While in Central America, President Hinckley toured some of the storm-damaged areas. From the hotel where he stayed overnight, he and Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder William R. Bradford of the Seventy and president of the Central America Area and Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy and a counselor in the area presidency traveled Friday morning, Nov. 20, by 4-wheel-drive vehicles in the vicinity of San Pedro Sula.

One of the most remarkable things President Hinckley saw was a warehouse, which had been transformed into a bishops storehouse. As large metal doors were rolled back, the magnitude of the operation at the storehouse was evident. Dozens of bales of clothing were neatly stacked in the center of the concrete floor. Faithful members were moving quickly to sort the clothing as they prepared to distribute it to those in need.

At one side of the large building were stacked hundreds of dark plastic sacks into which had been placed enough basic foods to feed a family of six for one week. The amount of food had been determined by local Relief Society leaders in consultation with bishops. Initial needs of victims of the storm had already been met; what President Hinckley saw in the storehouse was to provide subsequent assistance.

President Hinckley greeted and thanked those who were working in the storehouse. They were obviously pleased to have him in their midst.

Returning to their vehicles, President Hinckley and the others traveled over roads that had been covered in mud just days earlier. Much had been done to clean up the area, but the evidence of severe damage was still everywhere. In several locations, tent cities were erected to provide shelter for those left homeless. Just about everywhere clean-up crews were busy with shovels and wheelbarrows.

Arriving at La Lima, a suburb about 20 minutes from San Pedro Sula, President Hinckley found that people still had a long way to go in cleaning up after the storm, although they had already made considerable progress. Mud still filled most of the streets. This was not just a film of mud, but mud 6 to 8 inches thick. In some homes, one person was shoveling mud out of the house while another was moving the mud from the yard to the street where it could be pushed away by a bulldozer. On every house was a line marking the level to which water had risen. In La Lima, that was at least 4 feet above the ground.

President Hinckley and those traveling with him arrived at the La Lima Honduras Stake Center, where they found many members furtively working to clean the meetinghouse in order to have it prepared for meetings on Sunday, Nov. 22. They had cleared out mud by using shovels. When President Hinckley arrived, shovels had given way to mops.

At one point, President Hinckley asked one of the workers to turn over to him a mop. He gave the floor several swabs, lending manual labor to encouraging words. As he handed the mop back, he joked that he had just cleaned the floor and didn't want to see anyone walking across it with muddy shoes.

As President Hinckley left the meetinghouse, the members had smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. They were obviously touched by his concern for them and appreciated the few moments they had in such a personal visit.

Continuing his tour of the devastated area, President Hinckley saw that while the situation of the people was improving it was still desperate for many.

He visited the home of a bishop in the Satelite Honduras Stake in the community of 6 de Mayo. The water mark on the bishop's home was about 8 feet high. In his yard were the damaged remains of a dozen treadle sewing machines, equipment essential to his family's livelihood. He and his wife are proprietors of a sewing school.

Everywhere that President Hinckley went, he was greeted by members whose emotions were close to the surface. Many had lost everything, their homes and all their belongings. However, the joy of having him in their midst seemed to outweigh any sorrow they felt over their losses.

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