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Missionaries were reassigned from across the globe
Some of the missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in the northwest Florida and south Georgia area had a major detour before arriving in the South.
The Church has 67,000 missionaries serving worldwide. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many of those missionaries were sent home and reassigned to stateside missions.
Sixteen missionaries currently serving in the Florida and Georgia region (Tallahassee, Thomasville, Cairo, Perry, Madison, Crawfordville, and Quincy) were previously assigned to international missions.
- Elder Ethan Eliason from Gilbert, Arizona (Tallahassee) was originally assigned to Honduras. He was sent home and then received a new call to come to the Jacksonville Florida Mission, which covers parts of north Florida and southern Georgia. “I’m grateful to be able to come back out. I love the opportunity to serve. This mission is like a new world with how we are using technology now,” he said.
- Sister Rebekah Wilson (Tallahassee) spent six months in Seoul, Korea before going home to Palo Alto, California then being reassigned to the Jacksonville mission. “One cool thing about the transition is that I have been given an opportunity to serve in ways here that I wasn’t given in Korea,” she said. “It has also helped being more articulate. Also being home for a while influenced me by having to redirect and refocus what I was like before the mission, then what it felt like to be a missionary again.”
- Sister Anna Elkins (Tallahassee) from South Jordan, Utah spent two weeks in the Philippines before being sent home and reassigned to the Jacksonville mission. “I might not know all the reasons I needed to experience what I did. But I have already seen so many blessings from it. I am so grateful for the challenges God has given me and the person I have become because of them,” she said.
- Elder Benjamin Bloom (Perry) from Surprise, Arizona was preparing to go to Peru when the pandemic struck. He arrived in Jacksonville in mid-August. “I am where I need to be now,” he said.
- Elder Benton Locey (Tallahassee) from Sandy, Utah spent six months in Brazil before being sent home in March. He arrived in Jacksonville in mid-May. “I was happy to see my family but bummed about leaving Brazil… When the stake president called, I questioned the assignment, so I prayed and felt good about it.”
- Elder Dylan Glider (Madison) from Rexburg, Idaho, spent five months in Botswana/Namibia. He was sent home in March and arrived in Jacksonville in June. “I have a testimony that God has a plan for each and every one of His children,” he said.
- Sister Emma Blake, (Tallahassee) from Kaysville, Utah, spent four months in Korea before going home in March. She arrived in Jacksonville in May. ““It has been very cool to see how the Lord calls us to be missionaries and serve people; all are children of God. I had to see how the Lord called me specifically to this mission.”
- Sister Josephina Lealaitafea (Tallahassee) from West Jordan, Utah was preparing to serve in New Zealand when the pandemic struck. She arrived in Jacksonville in June. “Throughout the year preparing for my mission, it was incredible to see how the Lord prepared us all for this time… I hit many stumbling blocks during the time, and I learned how He molds and adjusts me. I am seeing choice blessings by aligning my will to His,” she said.
- Sister Jessica Allen (Thomasville/Cairo) from Monument, Colorado served two months in Zimbabwe before being sent home in March. She arrived in the Jacksonville mission in June. “This transition has been very impactful on me. I have always understood the concept of trusting in our Heavenly Father, but never has it become so real, important, and relevant in my life. As I have done my best to trust in God, I have seen His hand in my life, and I know that I have never been alone through this process.”
- Elder Jake Svedin (Crawfordville) from Melba, Idaho spent four months in New Zealand before being sent home in March. He arrived in Jacksonville in May. ““For me, the transition was honestly very difficult going home for over a month then going back out on a mission. Along with that going to a new mission, though I definitely knew that I wanted to be reassigned and continue to serve.”
- Elder Connor Fausett (Tallahassee) from Price, Utah spent six months in Argentina before being sent home in March. “It’s been a process. I learned it doesn’t matter where you are, just that you are sharing the gospel. One thing I really learned is being teachable and going wherever He wants.”
- Sister Ella Pope (Tallahassee) from Provo, Utah spent three weeks in Ecuador before being sent home in March. She arrived in the Jacksonville mission in June. “I was so sad to be sent home from Ecuador because the short time I was there felt really right. Returning home was hard; coming back out was hard because the mission’s a big commitment anyway,” she said.
- Elder Dallin Jackson (Quincy and Tallahassee) from Longmont, Colorado was preparing to serve in Chile when the pandemic hit. He arrived in the Jacksonville mission in August. “I came to a lot of cool realizations. I realized that I don’t understand all things,” he said. He said the experience taught him how to be humble.
- Elder Carson Smith (Tallahassee) from Meridian, Idaho was preparing to go to Peru when he was reassigned to the Jacksonville mission. “Wherever your feet are is where you are assigned to go,” he said.
- Elder Carter Ulrich (Tallahassee) from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, spent 16 months in Chile before coming home and being reassigned. Shortly after leaving, the Chilean military shut down the city where he was serving. “It is interesting and inspiring to see how blessed and guided church leaders were with having the missionaries come home.”
- Sister Evie Smith (Tallahassee) from Seattle, Washington, was preparing to serve in Argentina when the reassignment came. She arrived in the Jacksonville mission in August. ““I love it here so much; I would be fine with spending my entire mission here. I am excited to be here with Spanish speaking members.”
Left to right: Elder Eliason, Sister Wilson, Sister Elkins, Elder Bloom, Elder Locey, Elder Glider, Sister Blake, Sister Lealaitafea, Sister Allen, Elder Svedin, Elder Fausett, Sister Pope, Elder Jackson, Elder Smith, Elder Ulrlich, and Sister Smith.