Missionary Evacuations:1939 and 2020

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On the last day of my mission, in front of the Mission Home at Tzar Boris III No, 94; September 17, 1996 — Sofia, Bulgaria. I am on the far left. We did not wear name tags during the time I served, for safety reasons.

In the last few weeks we’ve been witness to world history as well as Church history with the Covid-19 pandemic. I hope you’re writing things down as they happen, so you can look back in a few months and evaluate how you did in this crisis and make changes for the next crisis (because that will come one day).

In the last few days we’ve begun to see the return of missionaries from overseas missions to the United States and Canada. For most of us this is an unprecedented experience, but it is not the first time missionaries have been recalled from the work. In my own mission we were evacuated from our city on December 22, 1995 due to legal troubles by the police in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. We were only gone a week, and were not allowed to openly proselyte for a month while we worked things out. But it was a stressful time nonetheless for us and our families. I want to say to these young missionaries to look for the compensatory blessings — they will be many!

I’ve had many friends with missionary kids out express their frustration, their fear of the unknown, and bitter-sweetness of these homecomings. Sweet to have their kids home, bitter because it was not under ideal circumstances.

In 1939, on the eve of WW2 missionaries were evacuated from Europe. This evacuation was before cell phones, the internet, and even regular telephone communication. Missionaries received telegrams telling them to leave, and began their exodus westward. In many cases they left without knowing how to find each other, how to communicate with their leadership, how to get thru closed borders, and how they would actually leave the European continent. Many miracles happened during this evacuation to get everyone safely out. Similar miracles are happening and will be happening to get everyone home during this evacuation.

Here are two articles that you might find interesting about the 1939 evacuation effort.

European evacuation was ‘a miracle’

The Evacuation of the Czechoslovak and German Missions at the Outbreak of World War II

Let us keep all of these missionaries and their families in our prayers.

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About Joyce Anderson

Joyce is a mother, wife, sister, school teacher, Bulgarian speaker, conservative, lover of good music, social media junky and a two time culinary arts Grand Champion bread baker. She and the family reside in a remote mountain community where great discoveries have been made. When not changing the world, she enjoys the occasional bowl of chips and salsa. She can be found at: http://pinterest.com/TheAtomicMom

1 thought on “Missionary Evacuations:1939 and 2020

  1. The young man who lives across from me went to Latvia on his mission. He was due for release at the end of May but events caught up to him. He left the mission field two days before the border closed and arrived home just before the earthquake that closed the airport. His homecoming talk was published as an audio file and we listened to it after my son blessed the sacrament in our home. As I returned from some necessary banking, done at the drive-thu with hand sanitizer handy to dose my hands between each time I handled the equipment of the drivethru, I was grateful that the cash I received was in an envelope. I plan to iron it before doing anything further. It is a true joy to me that none of my children has been seriously affected by this adventure. Four of them or their spouses currently telecommute. Two work at hospitals and take the risk of being exposed to contagion. A son-in-law works at a small factory which thanks, to the currently moderate policies in our state, is still employed. Most of my grandchildren were already being home schooled so there was no difficulty carrying on as usual. The majority of my children are doing relatively well because they have been prudent. They had emergency funds in place and were not living ‘hand to mouth’. Most had a surplus of food and other items that meant they didn’t have to haunt the limited resources of the stores. Utah led the list of panicked grocery buying. I believe this may be tied to the sudden realization by many who are members of the Church that they had procrastinated following the advice of prophets for several generations and were trying to make up at the last minute. I was able to alleviate the immediate needs of the least prepared of my progeny by taking a load of food and sanitary equipment to their home, giving ‘air hugs’ to my grandchildren from behind the closed window of my car. I am grateful for leadership that felt inspired to make ‘home church’ and carrying out ministering duties via text and phone calls a relatively easy transition. Several very precious things have happened but the cutest was a four year old great-granddaughter who became indignant as her father ate the remaining pieces of the fry bread her mother had prepared for the sacrament. “You shouldn’t eat Jesus’s snack.” she reproved her father.

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