Thousands of reassigned missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are heading out to new assignments in their home countries following disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Young missionaries across the world returned home from their international assignments in waves this spring, when Church leaders became concerned for their health and safety when the pandemic hit.
“We have moved about 26,000 missionaries, all of them to their home countries,” said Elder Brent Nielson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department.
Church travel employees around the globe spent sleepless nights in their offices booking flights and chartering planes to bring the elders and sisters home. Many missionaries were not given much notice before having to pack their belongings and head to the nearest airport. Some left their missions without their luggage.
“This involved many weeks of very little sleep as we coordinated flights, whether those be commercial or charter flights, wherever the missionaries needed to go,” said Nanette Sorensen, Global Travel Services manager for the Church’s Materials Management Department (MMD). “Between our staff here and the staff in the area offices, we saw miracles happen as borders opened up and we all worked together for this common good.”
“In addition to the sacrifice and the dedication, it was amazing how unified we were as a team,” said Russell Harrington, missionary travel manager for Global Travel Services, who slept by his desk some nights while working to help bring all of the missionaries home. “And if that took staying up for 36 hours and working at our desk the entire time, we did it. And everyone did it. The unity that played into that was pretty phenomenal.”
Thank-you notes from the families of missionaries and others hang in the Travel office in the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
In Utah, where many neighborhoods are predominantly Latter-day Saint, congregations organized drive-by parades to welcome home the missionaries whose missions were cut short. “I was so happy. That made me feel so loved. That was so sweet,” expressed Sister Katie Telford, who returned to her South Jordan home following 15 months of service in the Philippines.
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