Latter-day Saint leaders recently traveled to Puerto Rico to offer hope and comfort residents of the island following two recent hurricanes that struck the Caribbean. Elder Walter F. González, Caribbean Area President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife, as well as Elder Julio C. Acosta, an Area Seventy, visited Puerto Rico September 29 through October 2, 2017, to see the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
“Seeing the island from the air for the first time was a very emotional experience,” said Elder González. “It appeared as if the very life of the island had been violently swept away.”
Elder González and other Church leaders met with government officers to establish a procedure to ship relief supplies to the Caribbean island. They also counseled with local Church bishops and Relief Society presidents about providing spiritual and temporal relief to members and other residents.
Much of Puerto Rico remains without power. The distribution of food, water, and other supplies is challenging due to damaged roads and long lines for fuel and food.
Despite severe communication challenges, the Church Welfare Department reports more than 40 containers of ocean shipments have been sent so far to various islands in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. MartIn and other locations.
The shipments contain food, water, building materials, hygiene kits and cleaning supplies. In addition, one plane loaded with 80,000 pounds of food and water has been delivered to Puerto Rico.
Elder González and other Mormon leaders also attended local worship services in chapels where members had gathered to watch general conference and assemble food kits. The Mormon Helping Hands volunteers, including youth, wore yellow T-shirts and vests to organize the food and water for distribution.
During a general conference address last weekend, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency said some people are now calling Mormon Helping Hands volunteers “The Yellow Angels” for their service in Florida following Hurricane Irma. President Eyring visited Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma hit the island.
There are more than 23,000 Latter-day Saints in Puerto Rico.