Called to serve in a pandemic: Missionary enrolls in BYU classes while waiting for reassignment

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Editor’s note: Thousands of missionaries across the world are facing upended plans during the pandemic. Some are returning home before completing their missions, others are serving in quarantine, and many are receiving new calls. The Daily Universe is looking at how these missionaries are grappling with challenges in a series of stories.

Elder Braden Terry and the rest of the missionaries in the Tokyo North Mission were at the end of their mandatory two-week quarantine after the COVID-19 outbreak when they received some heartbreaking news.

They had been looking forward to a mission-wide Zoom call with a member of the Area Presidency where they would receive an update on the situation.

However, right before the zoom call, the member of the Area Presidency was called into an unexpected meeting with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the missionaries instead had a two-hour conference with their mission president.

“The entire time he was telling us, ‘No you’re not going home. Everything’s fine. Just focus on what you need to do,'” Terry said.

Elder Braden Terry stands in the airport after returning home early from the Tokyo North Mission because of COVID-19. (Braden Terry)

Before the missionaries left the call, the mission president told them he had just received a text from the Area Presidency. The message said all non-Japanese missionaries would be going home as soon as possible. “The mission president started to cry,” Terry said.

Initially the missionaries were told to pack their bags immediately because they would be leaving that day, but Terry didn’t end up boarding a plane until four days later on Wednesday, March 25. “The Church cannot coordinate to get 800 missionaries out of Japan in one day,” he said.

Elder Braden Terry returned home from the Tokyo North Mission at the end of March. He is now enrolled in Spring Term at BYU. (Braden Terry)

When Terry got home, he, along with the other missionaries in his stake, were released over a group email rather than being released individually and in person. “(My stake president) said this is a very weird time, so we do weird things during weird times,” he said.

Terry said he knew he wouldn’t be able to go back out into the field anytime soon based on his understanding of COVID-19 and its spread. His stake president encouraged him to do something productive with his time while he waited, and Terry agreed.

He decided to enroll in a religion class and ECON 110 at BYU during Spring Term. “The most productive thing I can do is continue my schooling,” Terry said. “If I were finished with my mission, that’s exactly what I would do. I would go back to school.”

When his stake president asked him what his official plans are for returning to the mission, Terry said he hopes to return to the field as soon as possible. “But I also made it known that I am attending Spring Term, so as soon as possible for me is after Spring Term.”

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