BYU Program Helps Guatemalans Reap Self-Reliance
Nearly two hundred Guatemalan families are improving their health, as well as their economic and educational levels, through a program supported in part by the Church.
The Family Self-Reliance program, developed by the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute at Brigham Young University, helps families with only a small plot of land grow the food they need to improve their health. The program’s goal, says institute director James B. Jensen, is the kind of human development that takes place when someone learns, “I can do this with my own hands.”
The Family Self-Reliance program is designed to teach families about modern agricultural techniques, personal hygiene, and home management, as well as to produce a cash flow. Though the amount of cash earned by families may be small, it often allows the children of those families to take advantage of educational opportunities instead of toiling in the fields, he explains.
The Guatemalans involved in the program are part of several “associations of friends” organized in different areas of the country. There were seven such groups in April, and more are currently being organized. Membership in the groups is usually kept to no more than twenty-one families to make democratic government of the group easier.
Each of the associations is in effect loaned a sum of money donated through the Benson Institute by the Church’s Humanitarian Services Committee or by private donors. The money is put in a bank, and families in the association apply for a loan from the association to buy seed, animal stock, fertilizer, and other materials. The needed materials usually cost about $1,000 per family. The family’s loan must be paid back in three years at prevailing interest rates. The association keeps the interest that accrues during the three-year period.
Along with the money, the families get an education in what to do with it. Typically, they are using low-quality seed and animals and farming less than one hectare (2.4 acres) of land, which has probably been depleted by poor farming practices. They are taught the right kind of seed and animal stock to buy, correct use of fertilizers, proper management of the land—in short, they are taught how to apply the newest technology on a small scale.
When that is done, Brother Jensen says, “We can triple the cash flow in the family.” The amounts of money involved would be small to most North Americans, he explains, but the effect on Guatemalan families is enormous.
In San Esteban, for example, three generations of one family had lived in the same mud hut. But recently, since their participation in the program, the family built a cinder-block house and sent a daughter to study food science and nutrition on scholarship at a school in Mexico. That the family felt secure enough to let one of its laborers go away is significant, Brother Jensen says.
In Patzicía, where the first association was started, almost all of the loan money was paid back early, and families have sent young children to school for the first time, bought clothing and supplies, and sent sons and daughters on missions.
Brother Jensen emphasizes that “our program is based not on agribusiness but on nutrition.” Its primary objective is not to contribute to the national economy—though that will happen—but to improve the health of people. Volunteer doctors and nurses travel to Guatemala to assess the health of families involved, then return later to track their progress. They offer what treatment they can, sometimes paying for medicine and supplies out of their own pockets.
The institute’s goal is to involve more than four hundred families in the program in three years. The program is designed to make the families self-reliant, Brother Jensen says, but it should also make their associations self-reliant as well. Three years after they are organized, the associations should be left with new expertise in farming, perhaps a little money, and a record that will help them register for and qualify for government agricultural assistance.
The long-range benefit of the program will build confidence in people, Brother Jensen says. “True development is when you develop the individual.”
Flooding in Hawaii
Things in Laie, Hawaii, are “returning to normal” after severe flooding isolated the small community and caused extensive damage.
“People are handling it well; we’re grateful it wasn’t worse than it was,” reported Alton L. Wade, president of BYU—Hawaii and spokesman for the Hawaii Church Coordinating Council. The university is located in Laie, where both students and university facilities were tested during the flooding.
According to Sister Napua Baker, director of university relations, the storm began the weekend of March 17, and by midweek, water was several feet deep. The community received almost twenty inches of rain in one twenty-four hour period. “Rain was coming down in sheets,” recalled President Wade. “The water came down the mountains, across the campus, through the community, and into the ocean. I remember on Wednesday morning [March 20] walking down one of the main roads in water up to my pants pockets.”
Damage was reported in about twenty faculty homes, forty-five married-student apartment units, one multipurpose chapel and meetinghouse, and a large building that houses computer science classrooms and laboratories.
“We were fortunate that the water reached only about a foot high” in the campus buildings, Sister Baker explained. “Almost all of the damage was confined to carpet and flooring, tile, and a few cabinets and walls. We were able to salvage most of the equipment and personal belongings.”
Others in the community were not so fortunate. The university campus is located on higher ground than many residential areas, where people were forced out of their homes. Initial estimates of damage to the community are in the millions.
“Besides the loss of personal property and belongings, the big story was the way the community pulled together,” President Wade pointed out. School was cancelled for two days, and approximately eight hundred BYU—Hawaii students scoured the community looking for ways to help. “They went from door to door doing all they possibly could,” he explained.
In addition, the Cannon Activities Center on campus opened its doors and served as a shelter for those who were temporarily homeless. “At one point, we had 180 people in the center,” President Wade said. Cots, blankets, and meals were provided.
Because all roads into Laie were flooded, it was almost two days before any outside help could reach the community. “We relied on the resources we had right here,” President Wade said. “It gave us a chance to put into practice what we so often preach—serving our fellowman.”
The Hawaii Temple was not damaged in the flooding, reported Donald L. Hallstrom, regional representative for the Oahu Hawaii North Region. However, two of the theaters in the visitors’ center and one meetinghouse sustained minor damage.
Light at West Point
If you were to visit the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, during the winter, you would notice that everything is gray. Known by cadets as the “Gloom Period” or the “Gray Period,” the long winters at West Point can become depressing. The granite walls of the buildings, the overcast sky, the dirty, late-season snow, and the murky waters of the Hudson River are nearly monochromatic. Cadets wear a uniform that is almost entirely gray to attend classes. For official formations, they wear the more formal Dress Gray.
But if you took a closer look amid all this gray, you would discover a flood of light. Its source is the Lord Jesus Christ—and that light is reflected in abundance from the Latter-day Saints of the West Point Branch. For more than a century, this light has provided strength to cadets struggling with the challenges and rigors of a not-so-usual everyday life.
The first Latter-day Saint to graduate from West Point was Willard Young, a son of Brigham Young. Willard arrived at the academy in the summer of 1871 and, along with Henry O. Flipper, the first black to attend West Point, he soon became a center of attention. New York City newspapers published articles with captions like “Come to West Point and See Them—The First Negro and the First Mormon.” Most of the articles were favorable, and journalists were impressed with Willard’s integrity. He graduated in 1875 and served in the U.S. Army, eventually reaching the rank of colonel. He also made great contributions to the territory and state of Utah as a civil engineer.
Church members at West Point continue to succeed and to strive to build God’s kingdom on earth. The academy’s strict discipline and intense demands are designed to strengthen and develop cadets physically, academically, and militarily. The Church provides opportunities for cadets to grow spiritually, making their personal development complete. During tough times, the support and comfort gained from fellow Latter-day Saints becomes a sustaining force for many cadets.
During his first week at the academy, Curt Keller of North Bend, Washington, felt overwhelmed. “That week was the hardest of my life. I didn’t know anybody—not even my roommates yet—and I missed my family so much. I looked forward to that first sacrament meeting all week, praying constantly for strength. Even though the meeting lasted only fifteen minutes, I knew those around me had the same love for Jesus Christ that I did. I received a blessing from the branch president after the meeting, and I felt inner peace immediately. I knew I was supposed to be at West Point.”
The branch, organized in 1968, includes not only cadets, but also officers, enlisted soldiers and their families, and local residents. The average length of an officer’s tour at West Point is three to four years. The standard cadet curriculum is a four-year education resulting in a bachelor’s degree.
The high “exchange rate” of members in and out of the community provides abundant opportunities for service. Virtually everyone in the branch holds a calling. Every priesthood holder is a home teacher, and every female cadet is a visiting teacher. These programs are key elements in bonding West Point cadets together. The monthly visits help bring peace to a cadet’s barracks room and fill it with the warmth of the Spirit.
Each Sunday, the West Point Branch meets in one of the academy’s academic buildings, Thayer Hall. Five days out of the week Thayer Hall is the setting for professors and tests that push the cadets to their limits, but on the Sabbath, it becomes a house of worship.
“On the weekdays we go to Thayer to study worldly subjects,” says Jan Clark, a senior from Rigby, Idaho. “On the Sabbath, we go to feel the Spirit and to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ. The difference is in the way you prepare. On Sundays your state of mind is entirely different.”
Despite hectic schedules and the demands placed upon them, the cadets also make time to gather for an hour each week in institute class. Craig Manscill drives forty minutes each Tuesday night to teach the group.
“For me, Tuesday night kindles the spiritual fire that sparks me through the rest of the week,” explains Anthony Garcia, a senior from Burlington, Washington. “When I was a plebe (first-year cadet), institute prepared me for my mission better than anything else. Because of it, I was used to loving and serving others even before I entered the Missionary Training Center.”
One of the toughest decisions for some cadets is whether or not to serve a mission. If they decide to go, they must resign the appointments they have worked so hard to gain, with no guarantee that they will be readmitted to the academy. After a mission, a young man or woman must again obtain a nomination from his or her state congressman or senator and an offer of admittance from West Point.
Vincent Barnhart, a senior from Edenville, Pennsylvania, served a mission in England between his sophomore and junior years. “I cried when I signed my letter of resignation,” he remembers. “That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I love this place, and I wasn’t sure I’d get back in.”
Members of the West Point Branch also grow closer as they participate in activities together. Twice a year, institute officers plan a trip to the Washington Temple. Despite strict regulations limiting the number of times a cadet may leave West Point for a weekend (plebes can only be away for two weekends), cadets manage to attend as many stake dances and activities as possible. Twice a year, they are also permitted to travel to stake conference as an academy-recognized club.
Since many Church history sites are located nearby, branch members often take time to visit these places to learn more about their heritage. Last year the institute sponsored a Church history weekend; members visited the Sacred Grove, the Hill Cumorah, the Fayette chapel, the Martin Harris farm, the Joseph Smith home, the Grandin Press, and the Peter Whitmer home.
“The inner peace I felt in the Sacred Grove was such a contrast with the fast-paced life of West Point,” recalls Troy Baker, a sophomore from Houston, Texas. “I was a plebe at the time and was under extreme pressure from the upper classes at the academy. As I sat there thinking and praying on that special day, an incredible feeling of peace came over me. I knew I was a son of God. That visit gave me the strength I needed to finish the year.”
Another branch activity is helping to turn cadets’ hearts toward their predecessors at the academy. John Lemperle, who served as West Point Branch president from 1979 to 1985, has worked at the academy for the past twenty-three years. He has done the necessary research to do temple ordinances for every cadet who graduated between 1802 and 1880. He has submitted these records to the Church’s Family History Department for approval, and the names have now been cleared and sent to the Washington Temple. Present-day cadets will perform the temple ordinances on the institute’s next temple trip.
Whether performing temple work for cadets of a hundred years ago or befriending those they see every day, West Point Saints continue to serve as messengers of truth. And as long as the United States Military Academy’s Gray Line continues to grow, the gospel’s light will shine on the granite walls of West Point.
The Church Aids Middle East Refugees
Refugees fleeing war-torn Iraq are receiving help from the Church.
According to officials of the Humanitarian Service Division, in the Welfare Services Department, some thirteen thousand blankets and eighty thousand pounds of used clothing provided by the Church were sent to Kurdish refugees in Turkey.
The Church also made funds available to the United Nations, World Vision, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the purchase of medical supplies.
The supplies provided to the ICRC were turned over to Red Crescent societies in Turkey and Iran, who planned to distribute them to refugees on the Turkish, Iranian, and Saudi Arabian borders of Iraq, as well as to Iraqi hospitals and medical clinics.
Stakes and Districts in the Church
As of 31 December 1990, there were 1,784 stakes and 479 districts in the Church. Over a five-year period, the number of stakes has increased by 181 and the number of districts has increased by 135.
Island Nation Mourns Leader, an LDS Pioneer
He was a humble man who joined the Church late in life and served as the first branch president in Kingstown, Saint Vincent. But his fellow citizens knew him as the first chief minister of their young country, and they lined the streets for his funeral cortege.
Ebeneezer Theodore Joshua, who died March 14, was an influential leader in helping his country seek independence from Great Britain. When Saint Vincent was granted an advanced constitution in 1960, he became its first chief minister. Full independence for the Caribbean island nation came in 1979.
Brother Joshua joined the Church in 1980. He and his wife, Ivy, were later sealed in the temple. He was eighty-two at the time of his death.
His funeral, held in the Kingstown meetinghouse, was televised in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Elder G. Jay Hughes, who is serving in the West Indies Mission with his wife, Arva, spoke of the plan of salvation and other gospel principles. Selected government officials also spoke.
An estimated thirty thousand to forty thousand people watched the funeral procession afterward. Many of them followed along, singing songs associated with Brother Joshua’s independence movement of past decades.
Church Audiovisual Facilities Consolidated
Several Church-owned audiovisual facilities were consolidated into a new Church Audiovisual Department on March 1.
The change affected the Church Curriculum Department’s Audiovisual Division, the Brigham Young University Motion Picture Studio, and other Church department audiovisual operations.
In announcing the consolidation, the First Presidency said, “It is our hope that this action will optimize the use of Church-owned audiovisual facilities and personnel and eliminate duplication of services, equipment, manpower, and production costs.”
Elder James M. Paramore of the Presidency of the Seventy will serve as Executive Director of the new Audiovisual Department, with Lyle E. Shamo as managing director.
“In Prison, and Ye Came unto Me”
I am currently an inmate in a Washington state prison, so I read the article about the Church-sponsored programs in the Utah State Prison (March 1991) with great interest. I am writing to share with you the things that are provided to the “members” of the Church here at Clallam Bay Corrections Center.
Our support comes from the Forks Branch of the Silverdale Washington Stake. Though they are a small branch, the branch president has assigned four priesthood holders the responsibility of holding weekly meetings here in the prison. There are six to eight “members” in the group, plus one or two others who attend. In our meetings we learn more about the Church by studying the scriptures and the priesthood lessons.
From time to time the branch priesthood meets here in the prison so we can meet the brethren and they can meet us. In those meetings we are able to share our feelings through testimony bearing.
I am truly grateful to these good brethren who sacrifice their time so we can have this important contact with the Church. Without that, life would be much harder for me.
G. S. Williams Clallam Bay, Washington
Friends Make the World Better
I cannot tell you how delighted I was with “Do I Know My Neighbor?” in the March Ensign. I love the members of the Church, but I also love many who belong to various other churches. Roger R. Keller has given a fine explanation of the great value of all Christian churches in making the world a better place and helping to prepare others to receive the fulness of the gospel.
There is much we can learn from the dedication and contributions of those of other faiths. We only hurt our own image and purpose when we dismiss their feelings and efforts.
Nancy Menlove Sandy, Utah
Hooray for Humanitarian Efforts
Thanks for the article in the September 1990 Ensign regarding Church aid to Iranian earthquake victims. I believe that when we help others in times of need, we are doing what our Heavenly Father would want us to do. And by helping others, we sanctify ourselves.
I am thankful to be a member of the Church, and I am thankful that we can participate in humanitarian efforts when tragedies strike.
Bill Taylor Chino, California
An Honest Look at Unemployment
I enjoyed the article “Surviving Unemployment” in the February 1991 issue. Although we are not unemployed now, there have been times in our married life when we have been. Reading the article brought back memories, and I cried as I remembered our pain as well as our gratitude to Heavenly Father for helping us get through it.
The article is helpful because it deals honestly with the feelings of doubt and hopelessness, the ups and downs that one experiences during such an ordeal. Sister Young’s story will help those who are experiencing unemployment and help the rest of us to become prepared, as we have been counseled, in case such an event does arise.
Carrie L. Bell Woodland, California