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Church issues update on missionaries, Church members in New Zealand following Cyclone Gabrielle

All the missionaries from the Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington missions have been confirmed as safe

Editor’s note: This was updated late Thursday, Feb. 16, as all missionaries are confirmed safe and accounted for.

Members and missionaries in New Zealand are working with neighbors, community and government groups to help in clean-up efforts in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.

The Category 3 tropical cyclone bombarded the Pacific nation earlier this week causing widespread flooding, road closures and landslides.

“We are praying for those who have suffered loss of family members and of property,” Elder K. Brett Nattress, president of the Pacific Area, told the Church’s Pacific Newsroom on Feb. 16. “We add to these prayers our helping hands, alongside the relief work of many others, to bring assistance and hope to those impacted by this cyclone.”

Roughly 225,000 homes and businesses remained without power on Monday, Feb. 13. The storm also knocked out telecommunications for many communities, the AP reported.

Missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Auckland, New Zealand. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New Zealand Auckland Mission President Garrick Parr and New Zealand Hamilton Mission Presdient Jeffery Nikoia reported that all missionaries from their two missions are safe and accounted for. That includes two missionaries in the Hamilton mission that had been out of contact in an area where communications were finally restored.

New Zealand Wellington Mission President David Thomson also reported to Pacific Newsroom that that mission’s missionaries are safe.

Four missionaries from Napier in the Hawke’s Bay area — on the east side of the north island — were evacuated and sheltered in the home of a local Latter-day Saint family, President Thomson said. “We expect that … the four elders will be back in their area and communications will begin to return to normal over the next few days.”

A senior missionary couple have been making regular visits to make sure missionaries have food and other supplies, President Thomson said. “We are also receiving excellent support from local Latter-day Saint leaders.”

Cyclone Gabrielle bombarded New Zealand the week of Feb. 12, 2023, causing widespread flooding, road closures and landslides. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Several meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially in the north of the country and Hawke’s Bay, have suffered flooding and other damage.

The cyclone began to lash the north island on Sunday, Feb. 12, but conditions continued to worsen prompting the nation to declare a national state of emergency on Tuesday, Feb. 14, — only the third time in its history. 

The cyclone came just weeks after record-breaking rain hit northern New Zealand, causing flash floods and at least four deaths.

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On Monday, Feb. 13, Elder Nattress issued a statement encouraging Church members to heed the advice of government and other authorities and to have a plan, be prepared and stay safe.

He also promised the Church would work with government and other organizations to help neighbors and communities after the storm. 

“Our members are wonderful,” Elder Nattress said. “We’ve seen time and again how they go out and lend a hand to neighbors after floods and other challenging circumstances. As followers of Jesus Christ, we do what we can to relieve suffering and to bring peace and hope.”

In November, the Pacific Area noted on its social media accounts that December to April is cyclone season in the South Pacific and encouraged members to prepare by offering “7 Ways to Prepare for a Cyclone.”

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