Your missionaries are the most incredibly resilient men and women with whom Siostra Chandler and I have ever worked! They have been fearless and courageous as we navigate this unprecedented event with COVID-19. Their strength is a testament to the families and homes in which they were raised. Thank you for sharing them with us and for trusting them to the Lord at this time!
The Church uses the following website to track live data of the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak:
You will note that of the many western/central European countries, Poland has relatively few cases per million people (Tot Cases/1M pop). This number is important because it is used to guide decisions to pull missionaries out of specific missions. The higher the number, the more likely the missionaries from that country will return home. At the time of this email, Poland has a low ratio of only 9 cases/million people.
As you have likely heard, almost all senior missionaries and many younger missionaries with chronic health problems or on chronic medications have already gone home from Europe. Last weekend approximately 1000 missionaries (senior and younger) went home. We are extremely fortunate and grateful to currently be one of only four missions out of the 26 in Europe which have not had to send any missionaries home yet. This is due to the low number of cases/million as noted above. However, as that ratio increases, the Area Presidency carefully weighs whether or not to send missionaries home. Should the spread of the virus continue, there exists a very real possibility that our mission will send missionaries home as well. We pray that it will never come to that point. But, we must also maintain a realistic and honest view of the current situation. I have already talked with a couple of you and will continue to update any of you if your missionary is at risk to return home.
Regarding younger missionaries scheduled to depart soon, all missionaries departing on April 7th to the US still have valid flights as of today. Flights are sporadic. However, unless the flight is cancelled/rescheduled we still anticipate your son or daughter leaving on that day. For those parents of our European missionaries, local restrictions regarding travel and border crossings complicate things and we are working with the Church travel department to see what possibilities exist for their return. Siostra Chandler and I will continue to reach out to each of you individually regarding your specific situation. As a reminder, all returning missionaries will be subject to a mandatory screening and the 14-day self-isolation.
Today, we had a mission-wide Zoom conference call with the purpose to unite our missionaries, to encourage them, to uplift and strengthen them, and to provide additional instruction and guidance. In our email last Saturday we shared with you some adjustments in their schedules and activity. As we transition to an on-line "Apartment-Centered" Missionary Work approach, we provided additional guidance today to keep them excited, engaged, happy, and safe (see attachment).
We reminded them that the work will continue, that we have the same responsibility to preach the gospel as we did before the virus, and that the Lord will open effectual doors that we don't even know about through this shift in how we do the work. We are continually amazed at how the Lord prepared us for this time, for example with our focus over the past four months of learning to use Facebook to find and teach.
We know that the Lord is indeed hastening His work in its time (see D&C 88:73) and that He will continue to hasten it even during this trial. We do not view this as a step backwards but rather as a giant leap forward to gather out the elect at a time when hearts are softened and when our message is coming though all of the turmoil and commotion with a clarity which is pure and beckoning. We are confident that we will see the work hasten in Poland in the coming weeks and months as we invite others to come unto Christ through technology.
Regarding safety, emerging data is strengthening the idea that social distancing (which we have been practicing since our very first email to you three weeks ago) is the best and maybe only way to prevent spread of the virus. Consequently, the missionaries have been reminded of effective social distancing practices and are expected to follow them. This can be thought of as “self-isolation” which is much different from “quarantining” and does not require being confined to their apartments only. The following article published on March 14th in the Washington Post helps to explain this concept. The simulations are particularly instructive:
We are pleased to report that all missionaries are healthy (with just one resolving sinus infection 😊).
Finally, during this temporary period of adjustments and with the need for frequent reprieves, we are permitting your missionary to call home each Friday for a short 15 minute call. This is just one phone call to mom and dad (and, of course, any siblings in the home at the time of the call). Calls to other individuals will continue normally as they do only on preparation days.
We pray that all is well with each of you and your families, that you stay healthy and protected against the virus, and that the Lord continues to bless you for your support, love, and sacrifice on behalf of your missionary.