Called to serve in a pandemic: ‘I wasn’t ready to leave it behind’

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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.

Elder Hagan Majors left to serve in the Zimbabwe Bulawayo Mission in August 2018. He came home to Salt Lake City on March 25, 2020, ending his missionary service after 19 months. Majors and his fellow missionaries received the news they would be returning home on March 20, three days before they were expected to fly out. 

“My heart sank. I’ve never felt so humbled and defeated. All my hard work in Zimbabwe had come to an end. I was broken, honestly,” Majors said. “I love missionary work, and I loved the area I was serving in. I was hoping to spend the rest of my mission there.”

Majors’ mother Katy Fleischer also expressed sadness for her son, knowing his heart would be broken having to leave Zimbabwe. She described Majors as someone who was dedicated to the work, especially in establishing a new branch in an area that has never had a church organization before. 

Hagan Majors
Elder Hagan Majors is seenat church with the Mhandu family in Zvishavane, Zimbabwe. The first baptisms that took place in Zvishavane were the three children of Brother and Sister Mhandu. The couple has lived in Zvishavane without a church for over 10 years. (Hagan Majors)

“They had instituted the very first sacrament meetings ever in that area to those people and were on the cusp of being recognized as a formal branch,” Fleischer said. 

Majors’ last area was Zvishavane, a mining town in Midlands Province, Zimbabwe. The day after receiving the news that they would be going home, Majors and his companion were able to see the baptism of four individuals. 

“I loved the people, the gospel, the small family group we were working on turning into a branch. I wasn’t ready to leave it behind,” Majors said. 

The news of going home was not what Majors expected. 

“I was expecting maybe we would be required to stay inside or something like that,” Major said. “Not in a million years would I have placed a bet that a week later I’d be home and finished with my mission.”

Elder Hagan Majors embraces his mother, Katy Fleischer, at the Salt Lake Airport after returning home from serving in the Zimbabwe Bulawayo Mission. (Hagan Majors)

Along with several missionaries around the world, Majors is adjusting to suddenly being home. He said it was difficult at first as he dealt with feelings of confusion and loss. The family was immediately thrust into a 14-day quarantine upon Majors’ arrival. They couldn’t have any contact with friends and family members outside the home and had to have groceries delivered to them.

“To stay busy, I’ve been playing the guitar, singing, reading my scriptures and spending time with my mom and my sister — my quarantine pals.” Majors said.

Majors’ family has been very supportive and encouraging about his early return. They were sad he had to leave his mission but were happy to know he was safe. 

“He has brought a tremendous spiritual strength to our home,” Fleischer said. “He has been a great comfort and blessing to the household. I am so very grateful for his example.”

Majors is now looking forward to his future plans with work and attending school at BYU-Idaho.  

“Since I was supposed to come home on September 1, I originally had plans to go straight to school,” Majors said. “Now I have five months before school, so a few of my mission companions and I are planning on living and working together until the fall.”

Elder Hagan Majors performs “I’ve Served Everywhere” on the guitar. (YouTube)

Majors expressed gratitude in his last missionary email for what he called the “best 19 months of my life.”

“I’ve grown more in the last 19 months than in the previous 19 years of my life. … I’ve had struggles and challenges, but I’ve grown. I’ve gained so much in spirit, wisdom and knowledge. All of that was because of the Lord,” Majors wrote. “There isn’t a second of my mission I would take back, no matter how difficult it is. Although I am sad to be home, I’m excited to be in such a difficult time with such a strong testimony of this gospel.”

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