Called to serve in a pandemic: ‘We bawled our eyes out’


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.

Sister Allissa Brimley had no idea her time in the Chiclayo Peru Mission would be so short-lived.

After only having been in the country for just under three months, Sister Brimley and her companion were told by their mission president that they could no longer step foot outdoors. Shortly thereafter, Sister Brimley was informed that her time in Peru was up.

“My companion and I looked at each other, and we both just lost it,” Sister Brimley said. “We bawled our eyes out. All we knew that we probably wouldn’t ever see each other again, since my companion at the time was from Ecuador, and that our missions were ending.”

Sister Brimley had heard very little about COVID-19 by the time she and her companion were told to quarantine in their basement apartment. The few updates she had received were from a couple of members in her area and from family emails that she only had access to once a week. She had no idea how much the situation was about to escalate.

Even after being told she could no longer leave her apartment, Sister Brimley never thought she would soon be returning back home.

“I was mostly just worried about our investigators and the work,” Sister Brimley said. “I don’t think it crossed my mind once that I’d be sent home.”

Sister Brimley described her days spent in quarantine as long, dark and boring. Since the only technology she and her companion had was a tiny non-smart phone, they passed most of their time by reading old Ensign magazines and studying the scriptures. They would go days on end without seeing the sunlight.

Sister Allissa Brimley poses for a photo with some of the other missionaries from the Chiclayo Peru Mission shortly before they were all told to quarantine in their apartments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy of Allissa Brimley)

Sister Brimley admits the scariest part of being stuck in quarantine was not being able to contact her family. The encouragement she had received and relied on from her family’s emails throughout her time in Peru was suddenly gone.

After several days of extremely limited contact with anyone besides her companion, Sister Brimley was finally told they could send a five-minute email to her family from a member’s phone. While sending the email gave her a small sense of relief, she still had no idea what the next few weeks would hold.

A few weeks into her quarantine, Sister Brimley and her companion were told they would be returning home as soon as the arrangements could be made. Soon after, Sister Brimley was sent to be with another companionship of sister missionaries near the airport to wait until they could fly home.

Two weeks later, arrangements were finally set, and Sister Brimley met up with the only other American sister missionary from her mission to start their journey home.

“Our mission president pulled us aside in the mission office right before we were about to leave and gave us one last heartfelt message,” Sister Brimley said. “It was surreal.”

Sister Brimley then flew from Chiclayo to Lima, and from Lima to Los Angeles before spending a night in a hotel there. The next morning, she got up and made the final leg of her trip from LA to Arizona.

Sister Allissa Brimley’s welcome her home to Arizona. She had been in Peru for just under three months when she received the news she would be returning home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Allissa Brimley)

“When I was on that last flight about to see my parents I kept saying, ‘Are we going to turn this plane back around? Because I’m not ready for this.’ I was super nervous.”

Sister Brimley described an emotional reunion with her parents at the airport, who were there waiting with masks on and signs in their hands.

Sister Brimley has since been reassigned to the Saint George Utah Mission and will start serving there on August 10. She hopes to find a job and spend as much time with her family as possible in the meantime.

Although Sister Brimley’s time in Peru was much shorter than she ever anticipated, she remains grateful for the time she did have there, even if the last several weeks were spent stuck in quarantine.

“Not really knowing what was going on was definitely hard and scary,” Sister Brimley said. “But overall, it was a really good time of growth. I’m super thankful for the time I had there.”

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