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For week ended October 31, 1999 Posted 31 Oct 1999

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LDS Returned Missionary commits to help rebuild after Mitch (Rebuilding after Mitch)

Summarized by Eric Bunker

LDS Returned Missionary commits to help rebuild after Mitch (Rebuilding after Mitch)
Birmingham AL News 25Oct99 P2
By Roy Hoffman: Writer in Residence

A year ago, Terry Johnson, 65, a biochemist from Grants Pass, Ore., found himself at a crossroads in his life. His marriage had just broken up and he had just retired from a career of college teaching. He like many Americans began to see the pictures unfolding on his television screen of disaster in Central America from Hurricane Mitch. Horrified by the havoc he saw, Bro. Johnson decided to help out. "I can build houses," he told himself.

As a former Mormon missionary in that area, he found his way to Partnership of the Americas, a "help agency" in the capital of Honduras, who could use his volunteer services. Paying his own way, he traveled to the south of Honduras to help reconstruct villages.

"I made a commitment," he says, "to do this for a year."

Johnson eventually joined up with Global Village - Aldea Global - a Honduran agency founded by Chet Thomas, an American who came to Honduras in 1974 to do church-related relief work after Hurricane Fifi, but never left.

Inside the walls of Global Villages' offices, agricultural specialists make plans to help farmers better thrive on hillside terrain, ecologists assist with soil and water conservation, and health-care specialists work toward setting up low-cost pharmacies in remote places.

Principally Mercy Corps International, a faith-based group whose main offices are in Portland, Ore, funds Global Village. Other religious groups such as Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic, also fund the group, as well as the United States government.

Los Anises, where Bro. Johnson is stationed, is one of the communities that Global Village had been working with in the practice of good farming and medical care, in helping plant orange trees and opening a low-cost pharmacy.

On a plateau about a mile from Los Anises, down the hill and protected from falling rocks, Terry Johnson and Carlos Dubon, a Honduran employed with Global Village, arrive to show a visitor the progress of the new Los Anises. It is being rebuilt and relocated to safe terrain because the old village was in a path of a land slide area.

Bro. Johnson walks on a road he has helped bulldoze, touches walls whose construction he has supervised. "My children, all grown (I've got 14, seven natural, seven adopted) - tell me, 'Daddy, why don't you come on back to Oregon?'"

He shakes his head.

"The commitment I made to myself, and to the Hondurans, is not yet done," he says.



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