News Story

Despite Changes of Assignment, Mission Leaders Stay Focused and Cheerful 

Missionary work continues in spite of pandemic

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being a global church, sends missionaries all over the world. But what happens when a worldwide pandemic comes along? How is COVID-19 impacting tens of thousands of volunteer missionaries, and their mission leaders? 

A 16 March Church Newsroom article, titled, “Update on how COVID-19 is impacting missionary service,” states that “mission calls will continue to be made worldwide as temporary adjustments are implemented.” 

Some missionaries have continued to serve in their original mission, some have been reassigned, and some have been released and gone home. 


Regardless, missionary service continues, and, as stated in the March article, “Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ remains a sacred priority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even in the current circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to monitor the spread of this condition and its impact on missionaries worldwide. We take very seriously the health and safety of our missionaries and of those they teach. We are adapting to constantly changing conditions.” 

And what about the couples who are called to serve as mission leaders to missionaries around the world? 

New leaders, who oversee missionaries in missions worldwide for three years, were told in January where they would be serving. They were to start in July, but by March, amid the coronavirus pandemic, everything changed. 

New Zealand Auckland Mission President, Alan Walker, and his wife, Harumi, completed their service on 1 July, but Spencer and Kristine Eccles, from the United States, who were called to replace them, couldn’t get into New Zealand because the borders were closed. 

New Zealanders Garrick and Susan Parr were called to lead the Fiji Suva Mission, but the pandemic led to the decision being made for them to lead the Church’s New Zealand Auckland Mission. 

“When we received our mission call to Fiji, we were grateful and excited,” President Parr says. “However, when we received our reassignment to Auckland, we just felt that it was right, that the Lord was in the details of our lives.” Sister Parr calls this a “divine reset.” 

The Parrs’ reassignment to Auckland left an opening in the Fiji Mission, which was filled by Brad and Susan Markus from Utah, who were originally called to the North Carolina Raleigh USA mission. 

“You can only imagine our shock and surprise when we got a phone call when we’re only eleven days from flying to North Carolina,” Sister Markus said. 

“We were so surprised we actually asked the caller to repeat what he had told us. Since then, we have felt peace from Heavenly Father. The more we learn about Fiji and the amazing people who live there, we rejoice in this reassignment opportunity to serve with them.” 

Dale and Leanne Maurer, from Brisbane, Australia, were reassigned to North Carolina, which left an opening in the mission they were called to, Colorado Springs, USA, where Spencer Eccles and his family are now serving.  

Robert Dudfield was working in Melbourne when he and his wife Darice received some surprising news—a call to serve as mission leaders of a new mission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

Like many others, their departure to their mission has been delayed by the pandemic. In the meantime, they are trying to learn Amharic, one of two principal languages spoken in Ethiopia, which is a mix of Hebrew, Syrian and Arabic. 

“It’s certainly not a language we were familiar with or accustomed to hearing,” President Dudfield says. “Fortunately, the saints in Ethiopia led us to Brother Beyene, a young returned missionary who teaches Amharic at the Ghana Missionary Training Centre.” 

They are having regular classes online with him and learning greetings, how to pray, and how to share their faith with others. 

President Newman N. Soloai and Luisa Kava Kavea ‘Etuate, from Auckland, recently completed three years’ service in the New Zealand Wellington Mission. Fellow New Zealanders, David and Sue Thomson, from Hamilton, are the new mission leaders in Wellington. 

Alan and Harumi Walker had a remarkable experience while serving in the New Zealand Auckland Mission. The situation started changing rapidly in early March as COVID-19 caused the complete government mandated Level 4 lockdown of New Zealand, and mission presidents were asked to send non-native missionaries home. 

“In the end,” he says, “we sent home 106 of our 165 young missionaries. Many of our best leaders returned home. Interestingly, during the chaos, we were inspired with precisely the right ideas, solutions, and steps to effectively return home all these missionaries even during the most pressing periods of this experience.” 

According to President Markus, “We can honestly say we know how some of today’s missionaries feel who have been reassigned to different missions. But, like each of them, we follow the lyrics of the hymn: ‘I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, over mountain or plain or sea; I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord; I’ll be what you want me to be.’”

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