PROVO — They speak the language, know the people and want to serve.
And if they've got a passport and a shovel, Stephen Studdert wants them on a plane.
Studdert, a former LDS Church mission president, twice-former stake president and former White House adviser to three U.S. presidents, is using his extensive national and international contacts to charter a plane, fill it with former LDS missionaries to Haiti and get to work rebuilding a country.
"These returned missionaries have such a deep love for the Haitian people," said Studdert, who lives in Alpine. "They just feel this deep sense of compelling personal, moral urgency to be there and help those people they so dearly love who are hurting so badly."
Studdert started spreading the news of his mission Wednesday morning, and by that night he had heard from dozens of former missionaries.
By Friday, Studdert wants 153 of the 162 commercial plane seats filled so they can leave next Wednesday or Thursday for the crippled island nation, where they will stay for three weeks.
The remaining nine seats will be for medical personnel who Studdert hopes can watch over the 153 orphans they want to bring back to the United States.
"We haven't got that piece worked out yet, but I'm optimistic we will have it worked out by the time we land," he said. "There's no reason to have that plane go down loaded and come back empty."
Former missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the perfect service group because they know the island and its people, and they speak the languages, French and Haitian Creole — a huge selling point for the U.S. government, Studdert said.
Thanks to Studdert's ties with the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. government is sanctioning their trip, which will facilitate logistics in the country, he said.
Once the team arrives, the first task is to get "Healing Hands For Haiti," the medical clinic started by Utah native Dr. Jeff Randle, functioning again, Studdert said.
Having known the Randle family for 40 years, Studdert said he's always been impressed with Randle's dedication to the people he came to love after serving an LDS mission in Haiti.
Former missionaries to Haiti interested in joining the rescue mission should be in good health and have either construction, medical or language skills.
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