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All Missionaries Accounted for in New Zealand After Devastating Cyclone

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UPDATE 2/7/23 @ 9:00 AM EST – Family members of Logan Williams as well as Church officials have confirmed all unaccounted-for missionaries in New Zealand have been found.

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Amy Williams posted the following on social media:

What did I say? Today IS my lucky number. MY SWEET SON IS ALIVE AND SAFE!!!! It feels so good to say that out loud!

Although no one has spoken to him directly, I feel that this witness account is enough. Having faith in my Heavenly Father and my Savior has never been a problem for me, but having faith in mankind has been another story altogether. An hour ago my amazing best friend and sister Diane Bonilla from Tampa received a Facebook message with information. I wanted to believe the information but couldn’t trust it until I proved it for myself. So I picked up the phone and made a phone call to the other side of the world.

I talked with Kaylene Scotson-Tairua, who lives in Sydney, Australia. She is the sister to the Bishop of Wairoa. With communications down, and service spotty, she finally received a message with a picture. A picture of my son, not just smiling, but beaming from ear to ear! He and Elder Park have been working side by side with the Bishop all week at the Evacuation center they set up at the Wairoa chapel. He has been doing as I imagined…. busy helping others. His home was not flooded. The Church building was not flooded. Too good to be true, but true! I said to Kayleen, “This is almost too much. They are calling off the rescue mission to Wairoa based on this report. I am being asked to have faith in something I just can’t trust, and it’s just too much to ask of me. Without physical proof, I’m terrified a mistake will be made. So Kaylene, may I ask you something? Are you a mom? She says yes. Okay, then you absolutely understand the anguish I have been in now for 4 days. Yes, she says. Then I will take the leap, and stand on the shoulders of your faith if you tell me to. Kaylene, do you absolutely, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt trust this message from your brother…. do you KNOW my son is alive? YES, HE’S ALIVE.

Faith is believing in things you cannot see but feel. Although I cannot see him or hear his voice, I do now know that my son is safe in the arms of his Wairoa family. Although I am relieved this difficult week is finally over, the weight of this trial will stay with me for a while. And I am grateful. It will be another reminder to not take life for granted. To hold my children close. To count my many blessings. To be mindful yet again of how fragile life can be. We will probably not get to speak to Logan for a week, but I have received the 2 words I must desperately want to hear, “He’s alive!” 

UPDATE 2/16/23 @ 10:45 AM EST – In a news release from the Church Newsroom, it states four unnamed missionaries who were sheltering with members were evacuated from Napier recently. All missionaries in the Wellington and Auckland missions have been accounted for. Two missionaries from the Hamilton mission are still trying to be located. The family of Logan Williams state they have not yet received any confirmation about Elder Williams and Elder Park.

A senior missionary couple in the Napier Hawe’s Bay area has been making regular visits to other missionaries to ensure they have supplies. Reports indicate that several meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially in the north of the country and Hawke’s Bay, have suffered flooding and other damage.

New Zealand declared a state of emergency this week as Cyclone Gabrielle caused severe flooding, power outages, and landslides. The storm has made it difficult for Latter-day Saint missionaries in the area to contact their mission president to confirm their safety. Late Tuesday evening Sam Penrod, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the Church was aware of 12 missionaries from the North Island region who have not yet been able to make contact.

“The missionaries were aware of the incoming storm,” Penrod said in a statement. “They had enough supplies and are in a community where there is a Latter-day Saint ward with Church members to provide support. As soon as the communication is restored to this area, we are hopeful to get an update to share. I do know the mission president is providing regular updates to parents and family members.”

One Utah family has shared both the anxiety and hope on social media and with local news outlets. Logan Williams, an 18-year-old missionary from Ogden, Utah, was not evacuated from Wairoa, a town ravaged by the cyclone.

Elder Logan Williams and his companion, Elder Park, serve in New Zealand. Courtesy of Facebook.

“Logan was not evacuated before the flooding hit Wairoa, and no one has heard from his companionship in over 30 hours,” his mother Amy Williams shared online on Tuesday evening. “The area is still decimated by water, and with bridges and roads washed out, the only rescue support has been by helicopter. We are holding onto hope that he and his companion made it to high ground. Thank you all for your support, your prayers, calls, texts and visits. He is in the Lord’s hands, and there is no better place he can be.”

She also told news media that Logan “is an intelligent young man and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s been prepared for situations like this throughout his life.” Missionaries in the area were instructed to shelter in place as the cyclone hit this week. Wairoa is currently only accessible by helicopter after waves reported to be close to 36 feet high battered the area. The mayor of Wairoa, Craig Little, said, “We have received very little help because we are so cut off and everywhere around us is in emergency mode.”

 

The identities of the other missionaries unaccounted for have not been released, or if some have been able to make contact since the Church’s official statement. None of the missionaries are classified as missing at this time. The Williams family requests prayers for their son and the other missionaries in the area.

“We’re just hoping for the best and waiting,” Amy shared. “That’s all we can do is wait.”

New Zealand is the home of just over 100,000 members of the Church, comprising 211 congregations across 30 stakes. There are 3 missions across the islands.

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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