The Church is recognized worldwide for its quick and generous responses in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and other natural disasters. When catastrophe strikes, the Church's welfare department is prepared to provide food, water, hygiene supplies and other provisions to help those of all backgrounds and faiths in need.
But perhaps the Church's most valuable resources are the local priesthood leaders and members living in the countries and communities impacted by disaster. Such "donations of self" are again being witnessed during the Church's ongoing humanitarian relief response in the Philippines in the aftermath of large-scale flooding in the capital city of Manila and in surrounding areas in early August.
Hundreds of Church volunteers in the Philippines have donned the familiar yellow "Mormon Helping Hands" vests to provide relief. Scores of members recently gathered at the Angeles Philippines Stake Center to assemble packets of rice, corned beef, noodles and sardines. The 100-pound packets were then delivered to flood victims in Laguan and other outlying provinces, according to Church public affairs in the Philippines.
Ariel Dylan Robina, a young man from the city of Cubao, said joy was found in the service of people in need.
"I came here to help my fellow Filipinos," he said. "I am fortunate to not have been flooded and can now help those who were. As I do this I feel the Spirit of my Heavenly Father letting me know I am doing what He would want me to."
Another youth, Marie L. Lucero, added, "Jesus said that when we serve others we serve Him, and I feel happy when I serve."
The Church has provided service in the Philippines in a variety of ways. Several meetinghouses in Manila and in neighboring areas have been utilized as shelters for people of all backgrounds who were forced to flee their homes by the flood waters. Counted among the thousands of people who sought shelter in the meetinghouses were many Latter-day Saints.
Some 100 people were lost to the floods, including two Church members. No missionaries were harmed.
Local Church leaders continue to play a pivotal role in the relief efforts. Marikina Philippines Stake President Jose Manarin presides over a congregation in Manila that was hit especially hard by the recent deluge. Four meetinghouses within his stake were severely flooded while those Church buildings on higher ground were used as evacuation centers.
In all, some 800 members of the Marikina stake were impacted by the disaster. President Manarin cared for his flock by utilizing meetinghouses in the stake as shelters, using sacred fast offering funds to purchase food and other supplies and by responding to the individual needs of those he has been called to serve.
Local Church public affairs reported that President Manarin spent one dark night rescuing a pair of families from their roofs by boat. The families were then moved to one of the evacuation meetinghouses.
Amidst the disaster, the local leader recognized moments of joy. "There have been no deaths [in the stake], but there has been one addition to our membership — a baby was born in the Lamauan chapel."
Members in Manila and other areas have made lifelong friends as they continue to serve those in need.
"I do not have the means to provide food to many of our people, but I am physically healthy to pack the food bags and hygiene kits," said one volunteer. "This is what I can offer and I would gladly do this anytime as I follow the example of Jesus Christ to love others."