SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church's Welfare Department is working with its Philippine Area leaders to establish a relief-operations center and distribute supplies, a church spokesman said Wednesday.
Church leaders are encouraging members around the world to pray for suffering Filipinos and consider making donations.
Meanwhile, the 204 missionaries evacuated from the Tacloban Mission on storm-ravaged Leyte island will all be in Manila by Friday to await reassignment. Missionaries in other areas are preparing to join relief efforts.
"Many Latter-day Saints and others who have seen the devastation in the Philippines have contacted the church wanting to know how they can help," church spokesman Cody Craynor said. "They are encouraged to pray for those affected by this disaster. They may also consider increasing their fast-offering donations and/or donating to the church humanitarian fund at http://give.lds.org/humanitarian-fund. The church draws upon these funds to sustain its humanitarian work around the world. There are many opportunities to support other reputable agencies that also respond to disasters."
"Last year, LDS Charities responded to 111 requests in 50 countries," according to the LDS Philanthropies website. "They included response to earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan, relief to 55,000 refugees in Libya, and emergency aid to mudslide victims in El Salvador."
Craynor said the church has enough Filipino volunteers and is not looking for volunteers to travel to the Philippines to help. In fact, earlier this week, volunteers in Cebu City had to be turned away when too many showed up to help pack survival kits. Hundreds of LDS Filipinos have been pitching in through the Mormon Helping Hands efforts and other church programs since an Oct. 15 earthquake.
"In addition, the Church has learned that the most effective way to respond to disasters is to work locally, purchasing needed supplies in country as near to the disaster as possible," Craynor said. "This not only ensures that the goods are appropriate for the area, but it helps build up impaired, local economies."
All of the church's few thousand missionaries in the Philippines are safe, but seven of its 21 missions in the country were impacted by the typhoon. Evacuated missionaries, Craynor said, are staying in church housing near the Manila Temple and Missionary Training Center.
The missionaries are undergoing "stress debriefings" by a trained therapist, according to a story on an official LDS Filipino website. They will meet with mission and area leaders for reassignment to the nine other missions in the Luzon area.
Some who are close to the end of their missions, Craynor said, may choose to return home.
Many of the missionaries walked as many as 30 miles to reach the Tacloban airport and reunite with the mission president.