A massive earthquake rattled much of southwestern Peru in the summer of 2007, claiming hundreds of lives and leaving thousands homeless.
A visitor to the quake zone was staggered by the destruction. Entire blocks in some towns were reduced to ruins. Streets were blanketed with pulverized rubble and resembled a nightmarish, lunar landscape. Folks left destitute by the disaster were seen flagging down passing motorists, begging for help. Some raised rough-edged cardboard signs that read, "Ayudanos — Tenemos hambre. Tenemos sed." "Help us — we are hungry. We are thirsty."
As the visitor toured one devastated community he noticed a group of women gathered together off the side of a buckled street. The women were cutting up fresh chickens and vegetables to be added to a communal soup that was being cooked over an open fire. The soup would soon fill the hungry bellies of all those who passed by their makeshift kitchen.
It was obvious that the women were Latter-day Saints because of their familiar yellow "Helping Hands" vests. The visitor guessed the sisters were from a distant stake or district who had traveled to the quake zone to help out fellow Peruvians in their time of distress and need.
When he asked the women where they were from his query was met with weary smiles. "We are from here," they answered, "this is our town."
One Relief Society sister then pointed across the street to a small adobe dwelling with a collapsed roof. "That's my home," she said.
Another woman lifted her pant leg so the visitor could see a bandaged leg that had been injured by falling debris when the rumbling damaged her own home.
These were not simply good-hearted women who answered a call to serve victims of a horrific catastrophe. These women were the victims. Still, they found unity and joy amidst their own struggles to care for those around them. This faithful collection of sisters — desperately in need of service themselves — followed a divine urge to be the benefactors of service.
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This story is provided by the LDS Church News, an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is produced weekly by the Deseret News.