Outpouring of love for missionary

A lot of love, hope, prayers and yellow ribbons greeted Elder Orin A. Voorheis upon returning home from his mission.

The 20-year-old Argentina Buenos Aires South missionary remains in a coma after being shot in the head during a robbery April 9. He was serving in a community about 20 miles south of Buenos Aires. Doctors in Argentina expected the young man to die within 36 hours. But he didn't.When his parents, Wayne and Florence Voorheis of the Timpanogos 1st Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Timpanogos Stake, traveled to Buenos Aires to see their son April 11, they expected final goodbyes and to see the release of their son from mortality.

Instead, he clung to life and is showing signs of recovery, albeit in excruciatingly tiny ways. His progress allowed him to be returned, still comatose, from Argentina to Utah.

Before the incident, Elder Voorheis had served about a year of his mission. He was in his third area, assigned to the Kilometre 26 Branch of the Florencio Varela Argentina Stake. He was busy teaching.

Police said the shooting occurred on a rainy evening when most people were indoors. Three bandits wielding knives and a gun accosted Elder Voorheis and his companion, Elder Armondo J. Barry, and demanded their money. The elders' little money angered the bandits, so one pointed a gun at Elder Voorheis and demanded his backpack. The missionary evidently pushed the gun away twice in the process of taking off his pack, and it was then that the gun was fired.

Elder Barry ran for help, but quickly returned and cradled his companion in his arms and gave him a blessing.

That evening Wayne and Florence Voorheis received a call from their stake president with bad news. Soon he and their bishop came to their home.

"We expected the worst," said Brother Voorheis. They were told that their son had been in an accident. Later, more information came by phone: There had been a shooting. It was life-threatening.

Tears fell in the Voorheis household. The parents, children, and priesthood leaders knelt in family prayer. "We cried all night," said a family member. Members of the Timpanogos Ward held a fast and also prayed.

"This has affected our whole ward," said Bishop Dean A. Davis. "We all feel that loss."

Sadness was felt in Argentina as well. Branch members came to the hospital by bus and waited hours for a 10-minute visit to see their branch's missionary. The missionaries began a fast.

"He continues to be in everyone's prayers," said Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy and president of the South American South Area. "He was a very good missionary; the other missionaries are aware of what kind of missionary he was and they want to do more than normal to do what he might have done if he were here."

Elder Voorheis held on. On April 11, his parents flew to Argentina. An older brother who speaks Spanish, Lyle, followed on April 15.

Seeing him hooked up to tubes and wires "was the most difficult time for us," said Brother Voorheis. "We were so far from home. It hadn't seemed real until we saw our son in bed in a deep coma."

The parents stayed from April 12 to April 30. They stayed at the home of mission Pres. Stephen B. Oveson, who with his wife, Dixie, attended and helped them with transportation.

On April 30, thanks to LDS industrialist and philanthropist Jon Huntsman and his wife, Karen, a private jet and medical team brought the injured missionary back to Utah, with other members of the family.

At the Salt Lake airport to meet the returning Elder Voorheis was a crowd that included all his brothers and sisters - even three who had been in Germany.

Emotions ran high as attendants lifted the young man from the aircraft. Among the crowd was Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department, the Huntsmans and many friends.

Elder Voorheis was taken to the hospital where a further complication arose, pneumonia.

"We're very hopeful," his younger sister Jacynthia said. "If anybody deserves a miracle, he does."

Residents of Pleasant Grove tied yellow ribbons to the trees lining Main Street and a giant bow at the Voorheis home. Bishop Davis expressed appreciation to the members of the Church in Argentina and Utah and other areas for their prayers and support.

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