The Church is very active worldwide in its humanitarian efforts. Modern day humanitarian service is not without precedent; it was also performed in the primitive Church.
In Acts 11:27-28, we learn of one such humanitarian effort. "Certain prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch, among them Agabus, who 'signified by the Spirit' that there would be a great famine throughout the world. The disciples in Antioch, each according to his means, determined to send relief to the Saints in Jerusalem, for the famine did break out as predicted, and the people of Judea seem to have been heavy-hit." Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were sent from Antioch with that relief, whether cash or commodities or both. They delivered it to the "Elders" in Jerusalem and they saw to its distribution. (See Acts 11:30.)
My husband, Robert, and I were traveling in Laos and Cambodia in November 2009 on a humanitarian assignment to teach neonatal resuscitation in the countries of Laos and Cambodia, when I happened to read of this scriptural account. I considered the discovery another tender mercy, a timely teaching from the Spirit. The parallels to what was occurring simultaneously in these two countries and the account in Acts were exciting to me. As we met with the senior couple in Laos, Elder Gary and Sister Joy Fountaine from Veyo, Utah, we learned that in early November they had organized and carried out a project to take 25 tons of rice to the flooded area near the southern city of Pakse, Laos. That district was hard hit twice this year by serious floods, making it impossible for residents to plant their rice crops.
Meanwhile, in Cambodia, Elder Lowell and Sister Cheryl Curtis from Riverton, Utah, organized a similar project, transporting 40 tons of rice to the Sandan District in northern Cambodia, providing almost 800 families with a 100-pound bag of rice. The Sandan District was hit by the same storm system that devastated Laos, destroying its residents' ability to plant crops of rice for the year.
I marvel at the good accomplished by these two couples in the early months of their humanitarian missionary service. The photos they shared of the events were sobering and touching as each recipient sat next to the bag of rice they were to receive. Loading their gifts onto their bicycles, they carried home the only rice they were likely to have for the coming year. Certainly for them this was a time of thanksgiving.
So, like Saul and Barnabas, the Church's senior missionary couples are delivering relief to the needy people of the world. They purchase with Church humanitarian donations the necessary commodities and then faithfully see to their distribution, blessing the lives of many people.