Resilience of Latter-day Saints in Central America fueled by faith, hope, charity

Elder José Bernardo Hernández, an Area Seventy, left, and San Pedro Mayor Armando Calidonio Alvarado are surrounded by over 171,000 pound of found donated by the Church to assist hurricane victims in the region. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
A table laden with items included in Church food donation to hurricane survivors in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Feb. 1, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
A resident walking through a flooded street looks back at storm damage caused by Hurricane Eta in Planeta, Honduras, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. As the remnants of Eta moved back over Caribbean waters, governments in Central America worked to tally the displaced and dead, and recover bodies from landslides and flooding that claimed dozens of lives from Guatemala to Panama. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez) Credit: Delmer Martinez, Associated Press

The word “resilient” has found its way into innumerable news stories over the past year headlined by pandemics, civil unrest and natural disasters.

Resilient aptly describes how many have absorbed the day’s heavy blows — then picked themselves up, looked after their neighbors and somehow moved forward. 

Latter-day Saints in Central America have surely been resilient in the aftermath of a pair of devastating hurricanes — Eta and Iota — and, of course, an ongoing pandemic. But the president of the Central America Area believes the spiritual stoutness of the members he serves with goes deeper than mere grit.

“They have faced these trials and challenges with great perseverance and great faith —  and they continue to be as humble as can be,” Elder Brian K. Taylor, a General Authority Seventy, told the Church News.

Elder Brian K. Taylor, a General Authority Seventy and President of the Central America Area.
Elder Brian K. Taylor, a General Authority Seventy and President of the Central America Area. | Credit: Cody M Bell

Since arriving in Central America almost a year ago, COVID-19 has become both a health and humanitarian crisis. Many have lost lives. Many more have seen their businesses. Jobs have been upended. 

Then last November, a pair of powerful storms battered several Central American nations.

“There were areas of Central America devastated by the hurricanes. In some areas, the flooding was 20 to 30 feet high,” added Elder Taylor. 

The Church leader fights emotion recalling visits to storm-affected communities where the destruction was, at once, dramatic and sobering. 

Just days before the Nov. 14, 2020, groundbreaking of the future Cobán Guatemala Temple, “people were navigating boats up a flooded road,” he said, “about 200 yards away from where we had the groundbreaking ceremony.”

Counted among the many Latter-day Saints who continue to feel the effects of last year’s hurricanes are local priesthood and Relief Society leaders called to care for others. 

Elder Taylor will likely never delete a text he received from a stake president in Honduras who was living temporarily in a shelter with his family after flood waters forced them from their home. 

The stake president, his family and many in his stake were enduring a life-defining trial. But their trust in God was allowing them to be resilient. Even amid the pain, they were looking ahead to better days.

“We continue with the same faith and hope,” the text read, “that we will emerge stronger from this experience: more humble, more helpful — and willing to submit to whatever the Lord deems prudent.”

Meanwhile, the Church continues to help deliver temporal aid. 

Late last year, the Church and local members delivered a large shipment of emergency supplies and over 120 tons of food to help the many affected by the disasters across several Central American nations.

And on Monday, Feb. 1, the Church presented a large donation to city leaders in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, that is expected to benefit more than 20,000 people affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

The donation included five containers with 37,500 pounds of clothing and 171,168 pounds of food worth more than $210,000, Newsroom reported.

“In our effort to follow the Savior’s example to help those in need, we give this abundant donation of food and clothes to help our brothers and sisters from the northern area of this city,” said Elder José Bernardo Hernández, an Area Seventy and San Pedro Sula resident.

San Pedro Sula Mayor Armando Calidonio Alvarado expressed gratitude for the Church’s assistance.

“This great gift for the people that are in most need is very important for our city,” said Alvarado. “We know of the Church’s great spirit to help their neighbor. Thank you for thinking of San Pedro Sula and for heeding our call.”

As he continues to witness the many Latter-day Saints in Central America devoted to lifting and serving one another during pandemics and natural disasters, Elder Taylor is reminded of a verse of latter-day scripture: “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:16)

Despite the very real challenges of the day, Elder Taylor is certain “the Lord is accelerating His work during this time. He is working on hearts. In Central America, we are seeing miracles occurring in individual lives and all across the Area.”

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