Called to serve in a pandemic: Quarantining as a missionary


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 Kawika Akina couldn’t have ever imagined the turn his mission to Raleigh North Carolina would take after serving for only nine months.

Elder Akina went from being outside knocking on doors and seeing and talking to several people every day to being stuck inside.

“They kind of just told us one day that we ‘should’ stay inside and should only leave for essential appointments and then about a week later they said no more visits with anyone,” Elder Akina said.

Elder Akina and his companion now spend a large portion of their time on their zones’ Facebook pages and teaching people who are still available to be taught. There are some missionaries who are administrators of a Facebook page the mission uses and decide what to post. The posts consist of scriptures or short messages about Christ.

“It’s frustrating right now because we’re still not seeing the most success from it, but this is something that should benefit the missionaries in these areas for years. So that kind of keeps us going,” Elder Akina said.

Elder Kawika Akina, left, and his zone leader, Elder Grant Williams, serve in the Raleigh North Carolina Mission. They have been serving their mission in quarantine for almost two months. (Elder Kawika Akina)

Even though it’s been a rough adjustment, he said he is still seeing some miracles.

“We were working on Facebook posts and out of the blue, I had the impression to call these two people who haven’t answered in a while. They both happened to be free and very willing to listen to our message and read the Book of Mormon,” he said.

Elder Akina said when quarantine first started, the mission president forwarded a new schedule sent from the First Presidency. The new schedule for Elder Akina’s mission consists of waking up at 6:30 a.m. and from 7–8 a.m. they work out, from 8–9 a.m. they eat breakfast and get ready for the day, from 9–10 a.m. they do language study to continue learning and practicing Spanish, from 10–11 a.m. they have companionship study and then they eat lunch.

After lunch, Elder Akina said they usually have a virtual lesson planned, and then for the rest of the day they post on Facebook and call people. “We try to have the members post stuff and share their posts to their friends,” Elder Akina said.

There haven’t been many specifications on whether or not the missionaries in Elder Akina’s mission should be required to wear their missionary clothes in the apartment, so he and his companion will throw on white shirts and ties with basketball shorts when they have lessons.

Although they are fortunate to have some virtual lessons, Elder Akina said a lot of people aren’t willing to have virtual lessons. “It kinda sucks because before if people didn’t answer, we would kind of just show up and they would have to let us in.”

Elder Akina said he and his companion just keep working, and it often seems like right when they’re about to give up, something good happens.

The hardest part of the whole situation has been doing missionary work in a way that Elder Akina said he didn’t expect he would ever do. “But the best part is figuring out how to do a new way of missionary work that hasn’t really been tapped out before,” he said.

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