Accepting the Lord’s will: Returned missionaries share unexpected blessings of COVID-19 mission changes

Editor’s note: This is part three in a series sharing the stories of missionaries returning home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Read part one here and part two here.

Working with technology

We weren’t expecting COVID-19. We would hear news about it from the members and our families, but we never thought that it would be a problem for us. Then within a matter of days, the number of cases exploded in Spain and the country was put into quarantine. 

Elder Matthew Roy Felker was assigned to serve in the Spain Madrid Mission.
Elder Matthew Roy Felker was assigned to serve in the Spain Madrid Mission. Credit: Courtesy Matthew Roy Felker

At the start, we wondered how we would possibly continue working and sharing the gospel. We were using technology in our efforts before, but it was a small part of the work, and now it’s all we have. But we adapted! We’re doing everything that we were doing before the quarantine: finding, teaching, working with the members, and (when we’re allowed to) baptizing! In a lot of ways, working with technology is more effective! We’re able to teach more people in a day than we were before.

Even if it looks different now, this is still the Lord’s work, whether we’re talking to people on the streets or on the internet. Gordon B. Hinckley best described it when he said, “This work has consistently moved forward and has never taken a backward step since its inception. … This is the work of the Almighty.” This is His work and He is watching over His children.

— Elder Matthew Roy Felker, Spain Madrid Mission, from the El Segundo Ward, Inglewood California Stake

Accepting the will of the Lord

The day we were told all foreign missionaries would leave Taiwan, my companion and I had seven lessons planned — a record for us individually and for the area. However, because we were given such short notice to leave, we had to cancel our lessons and prepare to return home.

Sister Rachel Daniel was assigned to serve in the Taiwan Taichung Mission.
Sister Rachel Daniel was assigned to serve in the Taiwan Taichung Mission. Credit: Courtesy Rachel Daniel

At the time, Taiwan still had less than 400 cases of COVID-19, and the country wasn’t going on lockdown. We could still proselyte outside and had not been quarantined. Naturally, many people asked why we were leaving. At first, I didn’t really understand either. Why would God want us to leave when we were having more success than ever and we were safer here than we would be traveling home?

Yet through this experience I have learned the importance of choosing to humbly and obediently accept the will of the Lord. If it was God’s will that I return home and continue my mission elsewhere or at a different time, then I could accept that. Following the Lord’s counsel, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36), has helped me overcome my doubts and fears with faith, unabashedly choosing to follow His will instead of my own. 

— Sister Rachel Daniel, Taiwan Taichung Mission, from the Morrisville Ward, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake

God has a plan for all His children

While all the missionaries were leaving the Suva Fiji Mission, we were placed on a plane with the missionaries from Tonga and Kiribati. As we boarded, I saw a familiar face of a man, Joni, who I met in my first few months of my mission. I was able to say hi from a distance, but I didn’t realize until later that he had volunteered to be part of the crew flying us back to America. 

Elder Ethan Lowell Edwards was assigned to serve in the Suva Fiji Mission. He is pictured here with Joni and his family in Suva, Fiji. Joni volunteered as part of the crew that flew the missionaries home.
Elder Ethan Lowell Edwards was assigned to serve in the Suva Fiji Mission. He is pictured here with Joni and his family in Suva, Fiji. Joni volunteered as part of the crew that flew the missionaries home. Credit: Courtesy Ethan Lowell Edwards

Looking back, I realize now more than ever that God has a plan for us and this includes all of God’s children. Joni wasn’t a member of the Church, yet as we descended into Salt Lake City, the crew announced their gratitude and thanks for our service in their home country of Fiji and how grateful they were to be able to serve us in return to show their gratitude. They sacrificed a two-week quarantine away from their families so that we could be with ours. 

— Elder Ethan Lowell Edwards, Suva Fiji Mission, from the High Desert Ward, Bend Oregon Stake

Trust in the Lord

Sister Ximei Marion Rachel Morales was assigned to serve in the El Salvador Santa Ana Mission.
Sister Ximei Marion Rachel Morales was assigned to serve in the El Salvador Santa Ana Mission. Credit: Courtesy Ximei Marion Rachel Morales

During this time of quarantine, I have felt much closer to my Heavenly Father. I have been able to have spiritual experiences that help me to be stronger, I am learning to develop more patience and trust more in God.

I am very grateful to be a missionary at this time and to be part of this wonderful work which allows me to see miracles in the lives of the people I teach and in my life too. I feel the love of my Savior more when reading the scriptures and thinking about what things I need. I am praying to develop the attributes of Jesus Christ and be similar to Him. I know that this is the true gospel and that even in these difficult times we can feel peace, tranquility and comfort when we trust in Him. 

— Sister Ximei Marion Rachel Morales, El Salvador Santa Ana Mission, from the San Luis Ward, Chimbote Peru South Stake 

I will serve wherever

I had been in Madagascar for three weeks before getting the evacuation call. When I heard the news I sat down at the kitchen table and just wept. So much had happened to me those three weeks that seemed unfair, but this was by far the hardest thing yet. After a lot of introspection I’ve come to realize that discipleship is not easy. It never was! Christ’s Apostles and so many other prophets have suffered persecution of all kinds and eventually were killed because of their discipleship. Why then would everything on my mission go smoothly and according to my expectations?

I don’t know what the future has in store for me. I don’t even know if I’ll return to the country. But I do know that a loving God will not forsake me. He never has and never will. How can I then forsake Him during my trials, when I need Him the most? There is no way. I will serve wherever I get called with trust that my Heavenly Father is with me and is guiding my paths.

— Elder Jacob Strathearn, Madagascar Antananarivo Mission, from the Iowa City 2nd Ward, Iowa City Stake

The temple is the ultimate connection

Sister Chloe Stiles was assigned to serve in the Utah St. George Mission.
Sister Chloe Stiles was assigned to serve in the Utah St. George Mission. Credit: Courtesy Chloe Stiles

Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a missionary. With all the moments which have brought me here, I know it is no coincidence I get to spend this pandemic as a missionary with a view of the Manti Utah Temple out my window. This view has blessed me during my time in quarantine. It brings me hope, an eternal perspective, and a great destination for walks. It reminds me of my connection with Heavenly Father, which is something I want everyone to be reminded of.

It is really hard to be confined and miss out on so much human connection. I believe the temple is the ultimate representation of connection. It connects everyone with divinity. I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to look out the window and see a representation of God’s love and presence here on the earth today. He is here and He is in control. We see miracles every day, and missionary work continues as we diligently press forward, looking heavenward. I know that in doing so we are reminded of our connection with Him.

— Sister Chloe Stiles, Utah St. George Mission, from the Kitchener YSA ward, Kitchener Ontario Stake

A renewed commitment of faith

I had been in Brazil for less than five months when I got the call: “You’re going home.” As I lay crying in my bed, I thought of the years I’d spent longing to be a missionary, of my promise to myself and the Lord to serve faithfully until the end of my mission, and of the promises in my setting apart and patriarchal blessings. As I went through those promises in my head, I couldn’t see that they’d all been fulfilled, which didn’t make sense. I knew that God keeps all His promises, but with the call to go home, I also didn’t see how He could. I decided to put my trust in Him, even when I couldn’t see, and renewed my commitment to be faithful.

Sister Lauren Johansen was assigned to serve in the Brazil Londrina Mission.
Sister Lauren Johansen was assigned to serve in the Brazil Londrina Mission. Credit: Courtesy Lauren Johansen

Now I’ve been assigned to serve in New Mexico. Sometimes our situation doesn’t make sense with our understanding of God’s plan for us, but I know that He really does have a perfect plan for each of us, and He will keep all His promises, in His own time, and in His own way.

— Sister Lauren Johansen, Brazil Londrina Mission, from the Bethania Ward, Winston-Salem North Carolina Stake