The Caribbean islands are known for their great beauty. The waters of the Caribbean Sea host diverse marine life and coral formations. Warm, moist trade winds fuel lush rainforests. Much of the region enjoys year-round sunshine. Yet despite the area’s seemingly idyllic trappings, its residents face many hardships, noted Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, traveled to the “tropical paradises” of Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic on March 11-19. In the short week that he was there, Elder Andersen participated in missionary, stake and priesthood leadership conferences, held a mission presidents’ seminar, spoke at special devotionals for youth and young adults and conducted an area review.
Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy, who accompanied Elder Andersen to the Caribbean, said one of the key messages they shared with the members was that the Lord needs people of faith in every corner of the earth. “In the last days the Lord is establishing His Church throughout the world and He needs good, faithful, dedicated, covenant-keeping people in every country to help move His work forward,” he said.
That’s what the Saints in the Caribbean are doing, Elder Andersen added. Even with the challenges faced by the people and the Church in the area, the Church in the Caribbean is growing.
“The Lord is blessing these people,” he told the Church News in an interview following his return. “And He’s giving them His peace and His Spirit.”
Elder Hugo E. Martinez, a General Authority Seventy and member of the Caribbean Area presidency, explained some of the challenges faced by members in the region. Haitians, for example, are confronted with a high poverty rate, high unemployment and the high cost of education that yields weak results leading to gainful employment.
In his messages to members, missionaries and priesthood leaders, Elder Andersen addressed topics of self-reliance, education and preparing to receive the blessings of the temple. The Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple was announced during general conference on April 5, 2015. During his recent trip, Elder Andersen visited the future temple site “which will be an outstanding location,” he said.
Bishop Bernard Zouti of the Martissant Ward, Port-au-Prince Haiti Stake, said as he listened to Elder Andersen teach, “I felt comfort for myself and my family just by knowing that the Lord decided to put His holy house in the country of Haiti.”
When he thinks about the gift of a temple in his country, Bishop Zouti said he can feel the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for the people of Haiti. “I feel They know [the] hard and difficult situations in which we live. I also know that They will always support us to carry on as we keep Their commandments,” he said.
Berthony Theodor of the Petion-Ville 1st Ward, Port-au-Prince Haiti Stake, said that the apostle’s visit blessed him so that, like Enos, his fear “was swept away.”
“This experience provided me the motivation I needed to become a better husband and father and better serve the members,” Brother Theodor said.
Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory, also struggles with high unemployment. Many members — especially young adults with families — have considered moving to the U.S. mainland for better employment opportunities, Elder Martinez said.
“Elder Andersen had a message of hope in the future of Puerto Rico that resonated with many members,” he said.
Instead of telling individuals whether they should stay in Puerto Rico or go to the mainland, Elder Andersen counseled them to ponder and pray about the decision and to ask, “Where is it that the Lord would want me to help build the Kingdom of God? Where will my talents be of most value?”
President John Hernandez, president of the Cagaus Puerto Rico Stake, said he felt personally uplifted by the Spirit during the meetings and knows many other members did as well. “[Elder Andersen] gave us hope, letting us know that things in Puerto Rico will get better as a whole, for the people and the Church overall.”
Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, General Authority Seventy and president of the Caribbean Area, said as members throughout the area learn and apply the principles taught “we will continue to see miracles take place.”
The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.