News Release

Latter-day Saints Light the World

Mandated by the U.N. General Assembly in 1985, International Volunteer Day is celebrated on December 5 as an opportunity to promote volunteerism. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to follow the example of Jesus Christ by serving others any way they can, wherever they can.

Two Church-sponsored resources give excellent ideas of how to serve others: #LightTheWorld, the Church’s annual Christmas initiative, encourages serving one by one, and allows organizations to post their needs and volunteers to search for service opportunities.

Here are a few examples of Canadian Church members who have taken the initiative to serve abroad and in their communities.

Over the past 16 years, Church members Roberta and Don Harris of Scarborough, Ontario, have devoted many hours to volunteer in India, Kenya and Bangladesh. Roberta, a retired registered nurse, and Don, a retired elementary vice principal, travelled to India many years ago and always wanted to go back to give service. A 2002 article about Rising Star Outreach, a foundation started by Church member Becky Douglas, inspired the Harrises to volunteer, first in an orphanage and then in leper colonies. They have also volunteered with Sleeping Children Around the World, a non-profit organization that provides bed kits for children in 34 countries.

Multiple generations of the Harrises have followed Roberta and Don’s example, serving many in India and in their local communities. Don shares, “We got involved in volunteering in India because of the teachings of the Church and because it became a family affair. It has since become a way of life for us.”

Latter-day Saint Ufuoma Odebala-Fregene, a socio-legal professional who lives in St. Albert, Alberta, has dedicated her life to service. Individual community members are central to her work, inspiring her to found Reez Community Foundation to help those both experiencing and perpetuating racial discrimination. She has worked with school boards, schools, art galleries, municipal governments and churches. Odebala-Fregene has successfully advocated the establishment of an anti-racism advisory council to improve Edmonton City Council’s decision-making. She was recently invited to host one of St. Albert United Church’s “Love Thy Neighbour” discussions to promote a kinder, healthier community and will be hosting a similarly themed event with the Art Gallery of St. Albert and other stakeholders for Black History Month in 2020.

Odebala-Fregene explains her motivation, “I engage in this work because I am trying to be the change I want to see in the world. I am grateful for the peace that comes with doing this work and the example it provides each of my boys. They know that they don’t have to accept the status quo.”

Bishop Jean-Claude Kikongi, an advertising executive who lives in Longueuil, Quebec, dedicates an average of 20 hours a week outside his paid profession to serve the 352 members of his Church “flock.” As bishop, Kikongi is the leader of his local congregation (known as a ward), performing duties similar to those of a pastor, priest or rabbi; however, he is unpaid. He helps each member of his congregation in their efforts to follow Jesus Christ. He also assists members who are struggling temporally to become self-reliant through welfare assistance, and he oversees practical matters such as records, reports, finances and the meetinghouse where members meet.

Kikongi says of his Church volunteer service, “My dad always encouraged me to keep busy doing good things. … I’ve had to learn to trust the Lord and not my ‘own understanding’ as I truly cannot do it on my own. I’m learning to love more unconditionally, to recognize and appreciate everyone’s uniqueness. We all have challenges. Life is filled with difficulties. But our Heavenly Father loves us all and gives us all opportunities to develop our infinite potential.”

President Russell M. Nelson recently encouraged Church members to renew their commitment to follow Jesus Christ: “Latter-day Saints, as with other followers of Jesus Christ, are always looking for ways to help, to lift and to love others. They who are willing to be called the Lord’s people ‘are willing to bear one another’s burdens, … to mourn with those that mourn; … and [to] comfort those that stand in need of comfort’ (Mosiah 18:8–9)” (“The Second Great Commandment,” Oct. 2019 general conference).

We invite all to follow the example of Jesus Christ by seeking ways to help others. Transform Christmas into a season of service by considering the suggestions found at #LightTheWorld.

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