Friday, June 14, 2024
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Thoughts on Responding to Disasters & Changing the World

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This past week, I’ve received numerous invites to fundraising events to benefit those affected by Hurricane Harvey. It has truly been inspiring to see people around the world band together to help those in need.

It has also made me think about my own “selective caring” habits when it comes to helping others. As a journalist, I was not only able to report this week on the Church’s efforts in Texas but on the relief sent to Sierra Leona where at least 1,000 people have died in a tragic mudslide that left thousands more homeless. Not to mention, there are multiple reports now coming in of Hurricane Irma quickly closing in on the Carribean and Atlantic coast of the United States.

Now, I don’t think it’s right to compare tragedies or suffering. It’s not right to say one deserves more attention than the other or that a homeless person in Sierra Leone is somehow in more need of our attention that a homeless person in Texas. My awareness of multiple disasters around the world just made me feel overwhelmed.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the state of our world and how little you can actually do about it? I know I do.

I want to go to the blood drive for victims of Hurricane Harvey. I also want to donate back-to-school kits for refugees in my neighborhood, become a foster parent, fly to Sierra Leone personally, make meals for the homeless, and bake casseroles for people in my ward.

As predicted by prophets both ancient and modern, our latter-day world is in turmoil and so many of us want to respond to the call to go to the poor and needy. However, most of us can’t do all the things we want to do. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can balance our desires to do everything with our actual limitations. Here are a few things that have personally been helpful.

Lift Where You Stand…

For most of us, the greatest area we have influence over is right where we are. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf once gave the counsel to “lift where you stand.” When feeling overwhelmed about the state of the world, divert your attentions to opportunities in your own community and area. Who in your church family or community needs your help? What can you do to help make your own family a powerful force for good? What service projects and organizations are in your area?

The vision of this principle is to lift where you stand and then encourage others to do the same. When people around the world lift where they stand, all are benefited.

…But Pray for the World

It isn’t always easy (or practical) to lift where we stand. Major disasters require attention from multiple communities. Our hearts may be tender for different struggles people are facing around the world. While you would never stop praying if you included everyone, prayer is a powerful tool to draw your heart and attention to things you can’t really affect or control. Pray specifically for those people and places that have been weighing on your heart and mind.

Pray for How to Act

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of praying for those in need. What does it really do? It’s a waste of time, they say. It’s an important to find a balance in offering up prayers and following through with inspired actions. The best way to achieve this balance for many is to ask for inspiration on how to act. Prayer is effective and God hears them. We can also use our prayers as a stepping stone to service and confidence.

Watch for Opportunities

We never know when an opportunity for service will come. We don’t know the chances God is placing around us to change someone’s life for the better. If we will keep our hearts and eyes open, God will reveal so many chances to bless the lives of his children. He wants to utilize us and will provide us with opportunities if we will simply look for them. Many of these moments may seem small and inconsequential; however, we should never pass them up or dismiss them. If you suddenly think of something kind to do, do it. Without hesitation! We never know what a small act of kindness or service will do.

Follow Your Passion

You will be most effective by serving in a field you feel passionate about. Our passion will drive us when things get tough. It will give us the courage to face detractors. It will help us spread the desire to serve to others. Find a cause you are passionate about. It can be related to something that has touched your life or a cause that needs your specific skill sets or talents. Don’t know what sorts of service or causes you are passionate about? Begin doing research on what is available in your community. Also, spend some time thinking about what talents you have that could be used to help others.

Understand Your Tithing Donation Slip

Monetary donations are always needed in times of disaster and peace. Contributions make a huge difference and often allow those in charge of service give exactly what you need. One of the most common ways Latter-day Saints donate to humanitarian organizations. It’s important that you understand exactly where your money is going on when you fill out your tithing slip. Below is a quick and easy guide. Talk to your ecclesiastical leader for more in-depth information!

  • TITHING. Tithing funds are generally used for the general needs of the church, including funding chapels, seminary buildings, education programs, the missionary program and LDS temples. Some funds are allocated to welfare programs.
  • FAST OFFERINGS. Your fast offerings go to local LDS congregations and families in need. Your bishop and Relief Society president use the funds to help families in your ward and stake. Each ward, based on needs, is allocated a certain budget from collected fast offerings in the stake.
  • HUMANITARIAN AID. When disaster strike, humanitarian aid funds are used to purchase supplies and food based on government feedback and local leaders. It is then shipped from LDS storehouses around the world. The Church is also involved in numerous humanitarian efforts around the world, including newborn care, clean water efforts, and wheelchairs.
  • PERPETUAL EDUCATION FUND. Donations to the Perpetual Education Fund are given to organizations outside of the United States that support people acquiring professional, technical, or vocational education. Loans are given at minimal interest and participants learn how to pay back the loan quickly and effectively.

Many times, you can write on a physical tithing slip where you’d like the money to go and your ward clerks can help direct the money to the proper place.


We may not always feel confident in serving others . We may not believe we make much of an impact on societies and nations. Figuring out how to best serve those in need can seem overwhelming and daunting. However, with a little bit of faith and diligence, we can do much to change the world.

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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