Amid armed conflict in Europe, leaders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continue to actively participate in humanitarian and relief efforts.
Coordinated efforts by area and local leaders and Church members are occurring in all European countries, from Austria to the Czech Republic, from Germany to Poland and even within Ukraine itself, reported the Church’s United Kingdom Newsroom.
Pre-positioned before the start of the armed conflict and providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the Church of Jesus Christ is continuing its help not only through member and congregational efforts but partnering with other relief organizations.
Such service, the Church’s Europe Area leaders say, allows Latter-day Saints to follow the example of the Savior Jesus Christ, who invites all to go out and help the poor and needy. The Church also teaches its members to be self-reliant and to be prepared to respond to crisis situations and humanitarian-aid opportunities.
Elder Massimo De Feo, a General Authority Seventy and Europe Area president, said in helping others, all can find added strength and purpose. “As people turn to serve their neighbor, they are on the Lord’s errand and will get to know the Savior better,” he said. “By giving to others, we find personal renewal and strength.”
Many Latter-day Saints in Europe themselves have a refugee heritage, with helping those in similar situations being close to their hearts.
Read more: The Church and Latter-day Saint Charities were ready to help refugees in Europe, Sister Eubank explains
From day one, congregations across Europe have been organized in emergency committees, starting from the onset to provide much-needed help. Area Seventies and Area Organization Advisers from the Europe Area are coordinating local efforts, assuring that help is adapted to meet the local on-site needs throughout the continent.
Julia Wondra of Austria, an Area Organization Adviser for eastern countries of Europe, tells how Church members and others have been willing to help.
“The love and desire to help is overwhelming to see. People’s hearts are drawn towards each other,” she said. “Children and families in the U.K. [United Kingdom] seek to send uplifting messages of hope via social media to families who are going through rough times. Sisters from the Relief Society in Poland and in Romania are constantly in action — bringing blankets, diapers, medicines, and other items to the people in need. They are truly a relief society”.
Examples of aid and assistance
The examples of aid and assistance by the Church and its members are many and varied across Europe.
Full-time missionaries serving in the Germany Berlin Mission offered immediate help at the beginning of the refugee crisis. The missionaries were assigned to train stations throughout Berlin with large signs showing the various languages they speak, either native or mission-assigned. They have helped those arriving from the areas of conflict in getting orientation, finding additional transportation, understanding what kind of assistance is available for refugees and receiving other information and services.
Stakes throughout Germany already have organized up to 1,200 beds ready for those displaced by the conflict, regardless if the refugees are Latter-day Saints or not. The beds and housing arrangements in the homes of Church members — offered at no charge — remain available for short or long stays.
• From Germany to Hungary and Romania
Within a couple of days after the armed conflict began, two trucks loaded with supplies from Frankfurt am Maim, Germany, were bound for Hungary and Romania. Supplies included 1,000 sleeping bags, 500 cots and 10 tents to be distributed to refugees having arrived in those countries.
With coordination from Latter-day Saint Charities, the aid supplies were distributed through several non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, already on the ground — particularly the Order of Malta and the Red Cross in Hungary and the Jesuit Refugee Service in Romania.
• Poland and supporting nations
In Poland, about 200 members of five branches in that country have reached out to each other and to nonmembers and friends, resulting in the offering of 140 beds for people in need — 86 alone in the city of Krakow.
One of the occupants of those beds is a woman who is not a member of the Church and is eight months pregnant. Her husband, a member of the Church, is still in his country of origin.
Poland is expected to be the European nation that will see the larger influx of refugees coming from impacted areas.
President David Chandler of the Poland Warsaw Mission said: “Perhaps more than any other nation on earth, the people of Poland understand the tragedy that is taking place. Their unconquerable spirit and unwavering devotion in helping each other during times of conflict and trials has positioned and prepared them to assist their Ukrainian brothers and sisters who have sought refuge in Poland. With unparalleled empathy they have answered the call to bring emotional, physical, and spiritual relief to those seeking refuge. Their joint efforts have fostered a deep feeling of unity which is both palpable and inspiring as they follow the Savior’s example who ‘went about doing good … for God was with Him’” (Acts 10:38).
Many Church congregations in Austria, Germany and Switzerland are getting ready to directly support the congregations of the Church in Poland that are closer to that nation’s eastern border, so people there can be as prepared as possible for the expected spike in the number of refugees arriving at those areas.
• Czech Republic
In Prague, Czech Republic, the staff and students of Cumorah Academy — a non-profit foundation designated as Community Outreach Center of the Church — is hosting refugees and providing a temporary place to live. More than a dozen have started staying there, with plans to accommodate another 20 in coming days.
The academy is also providing financial means — which come from its sponsors — for many other refugees arriving in the Czech Republic. Most of the academy’s teachers are professionals in their own fields of expertise and are offering time and knowledge to connect refugees with other international organizations that can provide a long-term solution for their needs. They are also offering mental health support, organizing volunteers who live in the United States and are planning to come to Europe to help in the refugee crisis.
• Ukraine, with support from Austria
And in Ukraine, members of the Kyiv Ukraine Stake presidency are striving to support Latter-day Saints living within stake boundaries, with communication between members and leaders said to be well organized there. Stake leaders drive around the stake all day to deliver much-needed supplies to individuals and families.
Similar to the cooperation of Church members across European borders, the support to the Kyiv stake is coming directly from the Vienna Austria Stake. The collection and organization of goods and supplies is being coordinated by members of the Vienna stake, and those items are then sent to the leaders of the Church in Kiev to then be broadly distributed to members there.
How members and congregations can help with aid
Christian Ottiker, the area welfare manager who heads welfare and self-reliance efforts in the Europe Area, has been actively involved with humanitarian efforts with partners and larger NGOs in Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, assisting their efforts to bring humanitarian assistance to those who are suffering.
“Members throughout the world are invited as church and neighborhood communities to independently engage in activities that they feel would assist in this effort,” Ottiker said, assuring that the Church is highly committed to assist those in need and that Latter-day Charities is actively engaged in that effort.
Peter Huber, from the Pratteln Ward in the Bern Switzerland Stake, is a member of the Europe Area’s Emergency Response Council. Composed by different local committees, the council helps coordinate Church relief efforts in the area.
Huber explained how each member in each congregation and location can provide assistance.
“The Church does not have to nor can solve all the issues we are facing. But there are still many gaps where local members can provide quick help. Therefore, it is crucial to engage and coordinate the efforts with local charities, help neighbors collect items and supplies that can be later sent, and then we must identify other possible areas to provide help”.
Returned missionaries also assisting
Former missionaries throughout Europe are reconnecting with mission colleagues, looking to find ways to relocate refugees in Germany and other countries in Europe. Fluent in languages spoken in affected countries, the returned missionaries have been helpful in identifying additional pressing needs and emergencies.
“As the situation keeps evolving by the hour, members of the Church in the Europe are invited to donate and work with the organizations in their own countries, and to avoid, as much as possible, going directly to the areas that are closer to the conflict,” stated information posted on the Church’s various country Newsroom sites across Europe.
Read more: Europe Area presidency invites Latter-day Saints in Europe to join in day of prayer, fasting
The Saturday, March 5, online post reminded that Latter-day Saints in Europe had been invited to pray and fast on Sunday, March 6, 2022, and that Church members throughout the world desiring to help could do so through their respective congregations or donate to the Church’s Humanitarian Air Fund, which will be used for this and other crises.