Church Humanitarian Service

Last Monday evening, I had the opportunity to join a small group in a neighbor’s house to hear from Garry Flake, the former head of humanitarian services for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had heard him at least once or twice before in similar settings, but what he had to say the other night was just as exciting and inspiring as ever.

He’s been retired for a while now, but is currently serving a kind of humanitarian mission, and he and his wife were leaving early the next morning for Zambia and then Morocco.  I was impressed that they were nonetheless willing to come and spend time with us.  (They must be far more organized than I typically am when heading out of the country for a lengthy period.)

Brother Flake outlined Church efforts in such areas as the elimination of measles, neonatal resuscitation, combatting diarrhea among children less than a year old (a major cause of infant death in many areas, and anything but a joke), the distribution of wheelchairs to people who were previously immobile, cataract surgery and vision treatment, clean water initiatives, and, of course, emergency response to catastrophes (in which, as he says, the Church has a “comparative advantage” for a number of reasons).

He shared a number of remarkable stories, and told of marvelous instances of cooperation between the Church and both Catholic Relief Services and Islamic Relief.  He discussed how, using its brilliant organization and its members, the Church is able to deliver immunizations and similar things much more effectively than small, professional aid groups usually can.

I asked if he had written his stories down, and he promised that he would do so.  But getting a written record of these things is imperative.  If nothing else, somebody needs to sit him down and do an oral history interview — or, rather, a set of such interviews, probably an hour or two each.  There are wonderful things that should not be forgotten.

It was an inspiring evening.  I’m so happy to hear of the things the Church is doing, and to know that I can help.  I wish the membership of the Church as a whole were more aware of these matters than I think they are.  They would be thrilled and (in a good sense) very proud.  And they would want to join in.

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