Echoing the words of General MacArthur’s “I shall return,” 26 missionaries returned to Tacloban on January 28 after they were pulled out when Typhoon Yolanda barreled its way in many parts of Leyte. At exactly 7:40 in the morning, their plane touched down at Tacloban Airport.
Welcoming them with open arms was Mission President Jose Andaya together with his wife, Yolanda. It was both a happy and sentimental meeting as missionaries looked around at the familiar looking airport which had been their home for days as they waited for a flight during those difficult times after the typhoon.
A mixed group of Filipinos and foreign missionaries composed of 12 sisters and 14 elders will be serving in Maasin and Sogod Zones which are parts of Southern Leyte. Another set of 20 missionaries will arrive the first week of February to be assigned in Western Samar.
Philippines Area President Elder Brent H. Nielson, when asked what the missionaries would be doing as they are assigned back to their areas, said, “They will be doing what they have been called to do which is to which is to invite all to come unto Christ. However, they will also be performing service for members of the Church and others in the local communities as they rebuild their homes.”
Tacloban Mission was temporarily closed after the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda. All of its 204 missionaries were sought and accounted for after the typhoon. Many of them were reassigned to missions in different parts of the Philippines.
As lives and communities are slowly being rebuilt, missionaries will return to continue their work and help serve others.
The Church through its social arm, LDS Charities, provided many relief assistance to include food, hygiene, cooking and shelter kits. Water purification equipment was also provided as well as 5 KVA generators. LDS Charities is set to help build 3,500 shelters. To date, more than 200 houses have been built. Completion of the project is expected to be achieved in the next 4 months.
The missionary effort is based on the New Testament pattern of missionaries serving in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus Christ (see, for example, the work of Peter and John in the book of Acts).
More than 80,000 missionaries are serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at any one time. Most are young people under the age of 25, serving in nearly 400 missions throughout the world.