"It is our hope that you will prayerfully determine what you can do—according to your own time and circumstances—to serve the refugees living in your neighborhoods and communities," Linda K. Burton, general Relief Society president, challenged the women of the Church during the first session of general conference Saturday. "This is an opportunity to serve one on one, in families and by organization, to offer friendship, mentoring, and other Christlike service, and is one of many ways sisters can serve."
During the women's session of general conference, two videos were shared, one detailing the story of 5,000 Mormon refugees rescued by a small town of only 1,500, as well as the story of two friends from different faiths and life circumstances, and how their lives have come to transform one another.
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With the beginning of the Syria conflict in 2011, the world descended into the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, according to the European Commission.
As of 2014, there were over 60 million refugees worldwide, according to theUnited Nations High Commissioner for refugees, and that number keeps rising. In order to help with this crisis, the Church has mobilized its resources to aid these displaced families and continues to call for Church members to help where they can.
"As we consider the pressing calls of those who need our help, let's ask ourselves, 'What if their story were my story?' " Sister Burton said. "May we then seek inspiration, act on impressions we receive, and reach out in unity to help those in need as we are able and inspired to do so."
As a special part of the evening, a choir made up of refugees and other women from 50 countries around the world demonstrated love, charity, and unity in action as they brought the Spirit through their touching music.
These videos and Sister Burton's remarks were echoed in the thoughts of the First Presidency when theyissued a letter last year asking members to do their partto help in the refugee crisis.
This Monday, the First Presidency released another letter announcing the new Relief Society initiative "I Was a Stranger" as well as the launch of a new website to help members better recognize the difficulties refugees face and learn how to serve.
"We remind Latter-day Saints throughout the world that one of the fundamental principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is to 'impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, . . . administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants' (Mosiah 4:26)," the letter reads. "'I Was a Stranger' gives sisters a way to serve as individuals, in families, and in organizations and to offer friendship, mentoring, and other Christlike service to refugees in our midst."
The site says: "We each have the invitation as women and young women to open our eyes and our hearts to see those among us who may feel alone, afraid or uncertain so that we are no longer strangers."
On this site, the Church provides a way for members to share their personal experiences as well as information on how and where members can serve:
How you can serve
Five Ways to Get Started:
- Get informed about the needs in your community
- Volunteer with an organization you admire
- Make a new friend
- Do something you enjoy with someone new
- Invite someone to your family night
Seven Challenges Refugees Face:
- Learning a new language
- Building a new support network of friends
- Understanding different cultural customs and practices
- Providing the appropriate academic support for their children
- Accessing basic services, such as medical care
- Finding transportation
- Securing employment
Where you can serve
Local Organizations That Might Need Volunteers:
- Government resettlement agencies
- Religious places of worship
- Interfaith groups
- Low-income health clinics
- Local nonprofits
- Community centers
Five Questions to Ask When Identifying Potential Organizations:
- Whom do you help?
- How are you helping them?
- What needs would you like to address but aren’t able to?
- Beyond financial contributions, how can I help?
- How do the services you offer help people to eventually meet their own needs?