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In humanitarian relief efforts that transcend religious, national and political boundaries, Latter-day Saints continue efforts to help needy families and individuals in many nations.

Following are accounts of efforts undertaken by Church members in Germany and Austria, as well as by the Church and others in Salt Lake City, to bring humanitarian relief to members and citizens in Russia, Estonia, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia and other countries.

`Testifies of deep feelings of goodness and charity'


The Europe Area Public Affairs office in Frankfurt reported that humanitarian relief efforts have been successfully undertaken by Latter-day Saints in Frankfurt, Mannheim, Hamburg, Neumunster and Dresden.

Under the direction of the Europe Area presidency, members from stakes in these cities recently added their donations of goods and services to those from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City to ship tons of food and other supplies to Russia, Estonia and Ukraine.

Michael Obst, public affairs director of the Europe Area, said that in addition to a 40,000-pound shipment in December from Salt Lake City to Russia, other shipments were sent in January and February from Frankfurt and Mannheim, Germany, and shipments were prepared early in February in Hamburg and Neumunster, Germany, as well as in Salt Lake City.

Members of the Church in the Frankfurt and Mannheim stakes donated food and volunteered their services to prepare the latest shipment, some of which went to Latter-day Saints in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Vyborg in Russia, and to Tallinn in Estonia. The remainder of the supplies were distributed to needy non-LDS families in Russia and Estonia.

To be able to help others in need was a great experience for those preparing the packages, noted a Church leader in Germany who said Albert Hilderbrandt's remarks were typical for many of the volunteers: "I come from East Prussia and remember very well the time after the Second World War, when we were virtually starving. The packages from the United States came, and now I would like to help, when others are in need."

Henk Fischer, 16, who helped with packing the shipment in Frankfurt, said, "It was great to pack food for the needy in Russia. I go home with the feeling I've made a difference in someone's life over there."

How right he was. Upon receiving the packages in Vyborg, many people had tears in their eyes, as was reported by a Mr. Sibinia, a non-member in Vyborg who, with the branch president, distributed the packages to the needy.

Church members in Hamburg and Neumunster in the northern part of Germany prepared another 45,000-pound shipment of food to go to the same cities in Russia and Estonia. And Latter-day Saints in Dresden, Germany, prepared a 10,000-pound shipment of food and children's clothing to go to Kiev, Ukraine.

Again, the reactions of those receiving help was tremendous. One non-member in Kiev noted: "The giving to others . . . is a beautiful, sacred idea." One of the local Church leaders in Kiev, a Brother Manzos, stated: "Our family opened the things that you packed with such love and concern. We felt the love of your hearts and there were tears in our eyes. We will overcome the difficulties with which we are being tried in Ukraine. Your help is a great support and testifies of the deep feelings of goodness and charity."

Pres. Howard L. Biddulph of the newly formed Ukraine Kiev Mission said, "The greatest blessing, which this assistance from German saints has given to the saints of Kiev, in my estimation, is a consciousness expressed by one young man in a meeting at Church. He said, `These gifts show that we are not alone, that we belong as givers and receivers to a world brotherhood of Christlike love.' "

More than 200 Latter-day Saints live in Kiev, a city of about 3 million. Each member was contacted by the Church, although most do not have telephones. A Church leader in Germany said that the contacts were made "through the well-organized effort of home teaching and visiting teaching, and a demonstration of genuine love."

In addition to Church members, more than 150 other families in Kiev were given relief parcels. The parcels were distributed within three days of their arrival in the city.

Some 240,000 pounds of clothing also were prepared in Salt Lake City for shipment to Russia. The clothing was donated to Deseret Industries thrift stores and is being distributed to the needy in Russia. Four international relief agencies are helping handle the distribution: Food for the Hungry, Feed the Children, Inner Vision, and International Christian Aid.

`We feel so thankful for the love of our members'


Some 200 Church members from the Austria Vienna Mission gathered in Graz recently to prepare packets of food and clothing to be sent to Croatia along with blankets and medical supplies provided by the Church. Efforts were also undertaken to send similar relief to Serbia.

Austria Vienna Mission Pres. Kenneth Reber said LDS relief efforts were done in such a way as to not show favoritism toward either Croatia or Serbia, which have been in armed conflict since August 1991. Members of the Church reside in both Croatia, which seceded from Yugoslavia, and Serbia, which remains part of Yugoslavia.

"We also received a request to give assistance to a handicapped children's hospital in Sarajevo, which is [the captial ofT Bosnia," Pres. Reber said. (Bosnia, which remained neutral until October when it declared itself sovereign, is flanked on the north and west by Croatia, and on the east by Serbia.)

The Church became involved in humanitarian relief efforts in the region after requests were made through the Department of Religion in Croatia. As needs arose, requests for food, medical supplies and clothing were made to registered churches. The Church, being among those officially registered, received a request for help. That request was made to Ivan Valek, president of the Zagreb District in Croatia, who asked Pres. Reber for assistance. Pres. Reber then contacted the Europe Area presidency, officially asking for assistance. The matter was then referred to the Welfare Services Committee in Salt Lake City.

Lloyd Pendleton of Church Welfare Services went to Austria to assist members in their efforts to provide humanitarian relief to their European neighbors. He also went with the truck delivering the supplies to Zagreb, Croatia.

The supplies included food from the bishop's storehouse in Salt Lake City, which was airlifted by AmeriCares, and food purchased in Austria with LDS humanitarian relief funds, as well as food and clothing donated by members of the Vienna Austria and Stuttgart Germany stakes. The shipment included 100 cases of baby food purchased in Austria. Blankets and medicines were also purchased by the Church in Austria, and members in Stuttgart also donated medicines.

"Most of the materials assembled will meet the needs of non-members," Pres. Reber said. "There are not many [ChurchT members in Croatia, and they are caring for themselves."

Brother Pendleton said that members in Austria met in Graz where they assembled, packed and sealed boxes and loaded a truck with the supplies. He said supplies were assembled in various parts of the meetinghouse in Graz.

"It was one of the more impressive group efforts that I have seen, where brothers and sisters, elderly people and young people, were working together to put together this relief effort for people they did not know in a country next to them," he said. "There was a fair amount of clothing left over that was boxed and given to the Red Cross."

Pres. Reber's wife, Janet Reber, said the items donated by Church members were of high quality. "They gave the best," she said.

Having members assemble from throughout the stake also gave one a feel for the international flavor of the Church, she observed. "We have members from all over. We have Africans who have joined the Church; we have members from Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, China, Japan and Germany. . . . They're all pitching in to help."

Bishop Stefan Tschiesche of the Graz (Austria) Ward, said of the relief effort: "This is an amazing experience for me, to see this number of members work here. I feel the spirit of cooperation. I feel the spirit of help and relief."

Croatia District Pres. Valek met the truck and helped distribute the supplies. "We feel so thankful for the love of our members," Pres. Valek said. "Especially we can feel the Spirit of the Lord with us when we bring the food. But more important for the members is the Spirit of the Lord and love of our members, which we will always remember.

"We are very happy that at this moment we don't need help for the members because we can cover for our needs ourselves. Through the Church we will give the food for the children, for the people who came to the Church and asked us for baby food."