Thursday, November 26, 2015

Deseret News: MTC missionaries spend Thanksgiving preparing 350,000 meal packs

Between 1200-1500 missionaries learn about a service project they will partake in on Thanksgiving Day
at the Missionary Training Center.

Over 350,000 meals were assembled
that will be shipped to the Utah Food Bank.

PROVO — While spending Thanksgiving nearly 3,000 miles from his home in Oahu, Hawaii, Elder Kivalu Ramanlal knew his family misses him for a special reason.
"I'm usually the one who cooks our Thanksgiving," Elder Ramanlal said with a knowing smile.
But Elder Ramanlal, who in a few weeks will leave the Missionary Training Center to serve a Mandarin-speaking mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York City, said Thursday that he couldn't see himself doing anything other than taking part in what has been called one of the largest humanitarian efforts in the church not related to a natural disaster.
"This is one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had," Elder Ramanlal said. "Nothing really gives you the feeling that service does."
Elder Ramanlal and about 1,200 other missionaries, who will soon leave to 38 different countries, spent much of their Thanksgiving afternoon preparing and packaging apporximately 350,000 meal packs for Utah children in need.
The meals are instant, only requiring water to prepare for eating, are comprised of rice, lentil beans, dried vegetables and himalayan salt. All 60,000 pounds of the pre-made casseroles will be given to students throughout Utah at Title 1 elementary schools, which have a high percentage of students from low income families.
"It's humbling to serve in a variety of ways," said Elder Cameron Joly of Draper, who is preparing to serve in the Taiwain Taipei Mission. "A year ago I wouldn't have even thought of doing something like this on Thanksgiving. But now I know I'm doing something more important. It's very nice to fill (even) one bag and know it's helping."
Far removed from the typical comforts of Thanksgiving with family and loved ones, missionaries were in high spirits as they poured the food into bags and packaged into boxes, talked with each other and listened to upbeat gospel-centered music.
"It's a fun opportunity to know I'm helping," said Sister Cecily Roberts, from Marietta, Georgia, who will also be serving in the Taiwain Taipei mission. "I think it's a good way ... to get away from yourself."
The large undertaking, just one part of a much-looked-forward-to day at the MTC, was coordinated by LDS Humanitarian Services with the help of Florida-based non-profit Feeding Children Everywhere.
Rick Foster, the manager of LDS Humanitarian Services for North America, spoke to the missionaries before they went to work, telling them he was grateful they were about to be "doers of the word," rather than hearers or proclaimers only, referring to the New Testament teaching in James 1:22. He told them that service to others on their missions would create connections and cause people's prejudices to "melt away."
"(God) is so mindful of us," Foster said, and blesses those who serve His children.
Dan Campbell, founder and CEO of Feeding Children Everywhere, also spoke to the missionaries before they went to work preparing, bagging and then boxing lentil casseroles. Campbell, who is not LDS, called the missionaries "world changers" and said they were directly answering the prayers of hungry children who pray for food.
"You're opening their eyes to more than just a meal, you're opening their eyes to faith," Campbell said. "(The meals) don't just fill a belly, they fill a heart. ... We couldn't have done it without you."
Campbell said the project, which has been done on Thanksgiving at the MTC for the past three years, is one of the largest that his organization has ever coordinated. He expected that by the end of the day, more than one million meals would have been prepared for children in need as a result of the past three projects combined.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorom of the Twelve Apostles, spoke to the missionaries earlier Thursday. He spoke about the necessity of gratitude – not just for individuals, but for societies too.
Sister Amber Hughes of Bountiful, who will also be serving in the Taiwain Taipei mission, said she was grateful for the opportunity to go to work doing good for others while spending Thanksgiving in the MTC.
"Our purpose as missionaries is to follow Jesus Christ and one of the greatest aspects of His life was services," Sister Hughes said. "It's definitely hard being away from family for the holiday, but honestly, I can't imagine doing anything else right now."

Written by Ben Lockhart, Deseret News

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