News Story

Devastating Wildfire Provides Opportunity for Service

On May 4, 2016, in an effort to protect the population of Fort McMurray, Alberta from a raging wildfire, 88,000 people were ordered from their homes in the largest mandatory evacuation in Canadian history. The members of the Wood Buffalo congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are included in the tens of thousands of city and area residents who are now being housed in emergency shelters, having fled their homes without food, clothing and the other necessities of life.

In response to the immediate needs of all those in the shelters, Mormon leaders in Alberta have sent hygiene kits from the Church storehouse in Lethbridge Alberta, almost a thousand kilometres to the south. President Andrew Bachelder, First Counselor in the Edmonton Alberta North Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a Mormon leader in the Edmonton area) called the Salvation Army. Within an hour of the call, needed supplies from the storehouse had been loaded onto Salvation Army trucks and were on their way to the emergency shelters near Fort McMurray.  President Bachelder said, “It was just miraculous how the kits were able to be picked up in Lethbridge in just 45 minutes time.”

In 2011, when wildfires destroyed a large part of the town of Slave Lake, Alberta, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  and the Salvation Army also worked together to provide much needed supplies. Humanitarian services are provided by the Church throughout the world when disasters strike.

Members of the Church throughout Alberta, encouraged to help others in times of need, are participating in community efforts to help those affected by the fire, by sorting donations of clothing.  Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “Unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.”

Bishop Tod Beaulne, a Fort McMurray dentist who was newly appointed as Mormon leader for the Wood Buffalo congregation, was able to determine that all the members were safe, although several had lost their homes to the fire. The Church meeting house, located in one of the worst hit areas of the city, has so far escaped the flames. Bishop Beaulne stated, “Our community has great people. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the solutions to most of the problems in the world. I trust that this will help us come out of this [disaster] stronger than ever.”

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