Called to serve in a pandemic: ‘I asked if there was anything I could do to stay’

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Editor’s note: Thousands of missionaries across the world are returning home before completing their missions at the direction of top Church leaders. Upon arrival, they must quarantine themselves for 14 days to prevent any spread of COVID-19. Church leaders have directed that those with a significant time left to serve be temporarily released as missionaries while they await reassignment. Each must choose by April 30, 2020, whether to opt for immediate reassignment once the Church announces it is ready to send them out again, or to wait between 12 and 18 months before returning to the field. The Daily Universe is looking at the impact of the pandemic on missionary service in a series of stories.

First in a series

Sister Kali Crawford was serving in the California San Jose mission and had just a few weeks left before she would have completed her 18-month mission. On March 17, she had a phone interview with her mission president where she addressed the concern of possibly having to go home early because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“He basically said to plan on staying for the duration of my mission, even if I was stuck in the apartment,” Crawford said. “I prayed about it that night and I felt very content staying out on my mission.”

The next day, Crawford received another call from her mission president and, thinking it was a routine check-up call, was excited to talk to him.

“He then proceeded to tell me — very emotionally — that he had received a list of missionaries whom the missionary department was sending home, and my name was on the list,” Crawford said.

She said she was in complete shock because just the day before she was told she would be staying for the completion of her mission, and that was what she was prepared to do.

“I asked if there was anything I could do to stay, and my mission president said it was out of his hands,” she said.

Her mission president told Crawford to plan on staying three to seven days while the missionary department worked to get her a plane ticket, but instead, she was put on a plane back to Idaho on March 20, just two days after she was told she’d be going home.

Kali Crawford, middle, returned from her mission in San Jose and was reunited with her family on March 20. (Kali Crawford)

Crawford said she was required to self-isolate for 14 days since the California San Jose mission had among the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the United States at that point.

Self-isolating means Crawford’s interactions with anyone, including family, must be limited, and she can’t go to any public places. “Sometimes I feel like I am treated like a disease because my own dad keeps his distance from me,” Crawford said.

It was hard to come home to a different world, she said, and having to self-isolate made it even worse.

“Missionaries returning home under normal circumstances already have to adjust and it’s super difficult,” Crawford said. “Throwing in a global pandemic and self-isolation make it impossibly hard for me to adjust.”

She said she would much rather be isolated as a missionary in California than at home.

Even though the adjustment has been tough for Crawford, she has been relying on the Savior through this dark time. She said even though life is constantly changing, her love for the Savior will never change. Though her mission ended a month early, she has fond memories of her service.

“He knows what I am going through, no matter how rare this situation is,” Crawford said. “I have absolutely loved being his representative for the best 17 months.”

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