Mormon Newsroom
News Release

Missionaries of the Church in Europe report higher success in times of COVID-19 pandemic

In the most recent letter of The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding additional adjustments of the Church’s missionary work, it is mentioned that “where possible, in some areas of the world, missionaries will remain and complete their regular term of service”.

This applies to the Europe Area, as most countries are now under strict measures to counter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictions affect the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a whole, and that includes missionaries, perhaps the most visible side of the Church to the outside world.  Missionaries in higher risk groups have been sent home or reallocated to other missions around the world, but the large majority of missionaries across the European continent remain in their teaching areas, and are isolated and ‘sheltering in place’ in their apartments  – as directed by the health authorities in each country. This, however, has not stopped the work. In fact, in many ways it has become much more effective and successful.

 

In the first of a series of articles regarding the impact of COVID-19 to the Church in Europe, we will report how young missionaries that serve volunteer missions of 18 to 24 months are enduring quarantine and how they have found ways to be more inspired and make the best out a difficult situation. Read the second article here, and the third here.

Missionary Work in Times of Quarantine

SisterLaurenMoss
Sister Lauren Moss, who is from Midway, Utah, is serving a 18-month mission in the Italy Rome Mission.2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
          

As the COVID-19 pandemic is now reaching the four corners of the earth, causing quarantines and lockdowns almost everywhere, the decision to keep missionaries serving in Europe, in their respective countries and teaching areas, has proved to be an inspired one. Anxiety levels are slowly back to normal and the parents of these young missionary who are doing their work from their apartments wholeheartedly agree with the decision.  Jim Moss, the father of Sister Lauren Moss, currently serving in the Italy Rome Mission, emphatically shares that “it’s great to hear they’re staying put for now.  We love you all and all you are doing for our anziani (elders) and sorelle (sisters)”.

ElderBrendonShupe
Elder Brendon Shupe is currently serving as a missionary in the Italy Rome Mission2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
              

Brian and Lisa Shupe, from North Ogden, Utah, are the parents of Elder Brendon Shupe, who is also serving in the Italy. They expressed their gratitude to Donald E. Smith, the President of the Italy Rome Mission, for his care and love for the missionaries. “Thank you so much for your continued love and concern for the Rome Italy missionaries. Your prayerful care and concern is greatly appreciated. We as parents are so very blessed to have you in the position you are. We know and feel it is by Divine Design”.  They continue by saying they “do pray for all the missionaries in the Italy Rome mission and throughout the world as this pandemic continues to unfold”. They conclude by saying they support the decision to keep the missionaries isolated and not to send them home, “as we feel it would just increase the risk of exposure and we strongly feel the Lord still has a great work to do in Italy”.

ElderLucasKoford
Elder Lucas Koford is serving in the Italy Rome Mission as volunteer missionary2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
            

Other parents know their sons and daughters are doing what is right by remaining on their mission and thus help in any way they can to lift the spirits of the good people of Italy and be a beacon of hope and faith. “Thank you for the update”, say Adam and Amy Koford, from Farmington, Utah. As parents of Elder Lucas Koford, who is serving in the city of Rome, they thanked the timely communication and affirmed that ‘we definitely want Lucas Koford to stay and we’re grateful that he can. Thanks so much for all you are doing for our son and all the missionaries there”. Notwithstanding the difficult conditions, they know the work must go forward, and conclude that these missionaries are “doing such a great job and making the best of the circumstances”.

Sister Claire Vellinga and Sister Alissa Dorman, are serving in together in the city of Modena, in the Italy Milan Mission, one of the hardest hit areas in Italy. From Milan, they share what they’ve learned, now that they cannot be out in the streets doing their normal missionary routine. This is what they told their Mission president, Bart. D. Browning. “Upon first hearing the news, we were confused and quite discouraged. We asked ourselves - how were we going to see success when our work was going to be so different than what we were used to? Then came the goal setting, planning, and lots and lots of praying. We decided that despite our circumstances we were going to continue to see the hand of the Lord in our work”.

ClaireVelinga
Sister Claire Velinga serves as a missionary in the Italy Milan Mission2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
                  

Soon ideas started to come their way. “One of the first ideas that came to our head was to make a short video. We figured that we could reach a lot of people and spread a lot of hope this way. So that's exactly what we did. In fact, we made a series called #diffonderelasperanza, or #spreadhope, which consists of short, uplifting videos about things such as inspiring scriptures, comforting hymns, family history work, and simple service ideas. We then sent these videos to our congregation leadership and asked them to invite others to spread hope in different ways, giving them an opportunity to minister and serve the members of the ward”. Before long, they started to see results.  By sending these videos and other forms of contacting, they ended up getting contact with about 15 returning Church members as well as many potential new friends that are now willing to know more about God and his plan of happiness, even in times of extreme uncertainty.

SisterAlissaDorman_IMM.jpg
Sister Alissa Dorman, from Rexburg, Idaho, is a full time missionary currently serving in the Italy Milan Mission© 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
                

On top of that, Sister Velinga and Sister Dorman saw that other members of the Church started using this approach as an opportunity to set up short video call lessons with everyone. “These video call lessons have allowed us to set up weekly calls with a handful returning Church members to whom we teach the Come Follow Me program, bringing gospel study back into their homes”.

SisterSabrinaCeraso
Sister Sabrina Ceraso, from Cedar Hills, Utah, is serving as a missionary in the Italy Milan Mission2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
                    

Sister Sabrina Ceraso, from Cedar Hills, Utah, witnessed a similar experience about feeling inspired in what to do different. Her ancestors are from Italy, and she is serving in in the city of Vicenza, in northeastern Italy, almost 200 kilometers east way of Milan. “In my nightly prayers, I have learned to listen for revelation and write it down on a sticky note right after I pray, acting on promptings because I know they're from God. My capacity to receive and act on revelation has grown exponentially. I have also been stretched mentally because during this self-isolation I have recognized and begun to truly change”. She continues, explaining that “I have come to see in a clearer way the infinite and individual power of the Savior's Atonement, and how repentance means to change, one step at a time. I am now physically, spiritually, and mentally much more capable, flexible, and prepared for the future than I imagined was possible a month ago. This has been a beautiful training experience for my mind, body, and spirit given to me by my Heavenly Father, and I wouldn't trade it for anything!”.

Quarantine and social distancing might be difficult to endure, but the religious texts can bring hope and perspective to these hardships. President Paul J. Sorensen, of the France Paris Mission sent a letter to all the missionaries serving in that mission, where he invited them to endure--and even thrive--during the quarantine by studying a few examples from the scriptures that show isolation is not so uncommon, and can, with the right attitude, help sharpen one’s priorities and grow Christlike attributes.

Mentioned in that letter were the examples of Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, that left Jerusalem with his family and crossed the oceans to reach the American continent, 600 years before Christ, and a similar journey the people known as the Jaredites experienced many years before. It took them 344 days to cross the waters until they reached the shores of the promised land.

SisterJulianaKessler
Sister Juliana Kessler, who serves as a volunteer missionary in the France Paris Mission2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
                      

President Sorensen’s letter generated many replies, one of them a beautiful drawing from Sister Juliana Kessler, who is from St. George, Utah and is serving an 18-month mission in France. The drawing includes a quote from the scriptures that says that the Jaredites “did not cease to praise the Lord”, as they crossed the waters and ventured into the unknown. Something that the missionaries across Europe are now doing, and with that inspiration they receive from God, they can help succor those around them and bring a much needed hope.

Click here to read the second article in the series.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.