LDS Colombians Celebrate 50 Years with Service
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
- Colombian members are known to be faithful, friendly, and fun-loving.
- It was 50 years ago that the first two Mormon missionaries arrived in Bogota.
- In addition to the anniversary, this year has been marked by countrywide service.
Colombian Latter-day Saints are renowned for three distinct “personality” traits:
1. They are people of faith who love the Lord and His restored gospel.
2. They are said to be among the world’s friendliest—eager to help their neighbor, a fellow member, or a stranger in need.
3. And they love to celebrate—especially birthdays, anniversaries, and historic occasions. (This is, after all, a country with almost 20 national holidays.)
So it’s little surprise that 2016 has been a special year for Colombian members.
It was 50 years ago (1966) that the first two Mormon missionaries—Elder Randall Harmsen and Elder Jerry Broome of the Andes Mission—arrived in the capital city of Bogota and began sharing the gospel to all who would listen. Later that year the Colombian government officially recognized the Church.
The rest, as Colombians would say, “es nuestra historia.”
Over the past half-century, Colombia has been one of the Church’s remarkable success stories. There are some 200,000 members in Colombia, serving and worshiping in 264 congregations. There are five missions in the country, a temple in Bogota, and a second temple being built in the coastal city of Barranquilla.
Much of this growth was realized amidst a terrible backdrop of civil strife and violence. There were many years, for example, when missionaries from North America were not assigned to Colombia. Still, the faithful here have worked together, lived the gospel, and thrived.
“The credit goes to the [Colombian] members—and also to the missionaries who have labored year after year to do good,” said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles following a visit to Colombia in August. “They have done things in just the right way.”
The Colombian Latter-day Saints, added Elder L. Whitney Clayton, Senior President of the Presidency of the Seventy, “have a hunger and thirst for the message of the gospel.”
To best observe the Church’s 50th birthday here, the Colombian members chose to do more than simply celebrate. The past year has been marked by service across the country.
According to the Church’s local home page in Colombia, Latter-day Saints have volunteered at hospitals and schools. They have donated blood, organized community cleanup projects, set up family history exhibitions, and befriended folks in other religious organizations and community groups. Meanwhile, the distinctive yellow “Manos que Ayudan” (Helping Hands) vests have become familiar across the country at a variety of service projects.
The Church’s humanitarian outreach is well established in Colombia. Since 2000, it has invested some $13 million in projects for clean water, emergency relief, hunger relief, neonatal resuscitation training and equipment, vision care, wheelchair donations, and several other community efforts.