On March 29, 2020, all North American missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were being sent out of Argentina to go back to their home countries. I had been serving as a missionary for 10 months and going home certainly wasn't a part of my mission plan. Nevertheless, it was happening. The COVID-19 pandemic had dramatically changed all of our hopes and expectations. I was leaving the country and the people I loved so much.
Protected by the Lord
As scary as it was, I know that God was playing an active role in getting us all home safely. My companion and I were serving in a small town called Colón in the Argentina Rosario Mission, and we needed to get to a city called Pergamino in order to catch a bus to Buenos Aires. On the morning of the 29th, a less active member, whom we had been working with, came by our house to pick us up and drive us to our bus. On the way, we picked up a hitchhiker, and I gave him a Book of Mormon. It was a special moment for me—my last act to serve the Argentinian people before I had to go.
Once we arrived in the city of Pergamino, we met with the rest of the missionaries in our zone at the stake centre to wait for our bus. It arrived two hours late because some police officers had pulled it over to ask where it was going, and a news station even got involved. The driver, though, was able to answer all their concerns, and all was well. Once the bus arrived, we quickly and quietly loaded our bags one at a time, so that people wouldn't know that we were one large group. We then took off to Buenos Aires. I was able to sit next to one of my previous companions. Because we had worked very closely together, this was a special blessing among the “tender mercies of the Lord” (1 Nephi 1:20).
On the way, we were stopped by some police officers. We were all ready to answer their questions, showing them our papers issued by the Church and the government verifying that we were allowed to leave the country. After a long bus ride, we arrived at the temple in Buenos Aires to wait for a few hours until our planes arrived. Some of us slept in the rooms they had on the temple grounds.
Comforted by Being Reunited with Family
We were all stressed and clueless as to the drastic changes that were circulating the earth. Lots of prayers helped calm our fears. During times of stress, the Lord has counselled, “Let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church” (Doctrine and Covenants 100:15).
After someone woke us up, we got back on a bus to head to the airport. At the terminal, we saw a huge line of missionaries waiting to get their bags checked. It was a sad time as we all boarded the plane. Many of us never had the chance to say goodbye to anyone.
On the 12-hour plane ride to Salt Lake, I initially tried to do some studying. I slept for four hours, and then I talked to other missionaries around me. The plane was full of missionaries. At one point, we all sang “Called to Serve” (Hymns, no. 249) on the plane—that was a glorious time!
When we landed in Salt Lake, we stayed at a normal hotel. Compared to how we were living in Argentina, it was the best ever: queen-sized beds, duvet covers, carpet, a TV, and a shower with lots and lots of hot water. They also had pepperoni pizza with real, pepperoni. It was simply the best.
After a good night's rest with my district leader, who was in the same room as me, I along with two other Canadians were bussed back to the airport. We flew together: first to Boston, then to Calgary. It was such a nerve-racking time because we were about to see our families. We could not believe that this was happening!
Our immediate family members were all at the airport to greet us after we were cleared through security. It was truly a wonderful time. I was so happy to see them. They kept going on about how different I looked!
Then we drove out of the airport to a parking lot where all of my extended family was. They cheered and welcomed me home with big signs and lots of yelling. I just stuck my head out of the sunroof and yelled back at them. The weather was so cold, but I felt so warm inside because of the love I felt from all of them.
When Tested Let Us Ever Trust in Christ
It's hard to believe that every single missionary made it home safely. There were absolutely no plan-wrecking complications during that whole evacuation process. God was bringing His servants home, so that they could go back out and keep serving Him later. I am grateful for that experience, and for the time I served God in Argentina.
I continue to serve Christ: I was reassigned to the Canada Toronto Mission. I will be leaving in a month as I complete my service as a fulltime missionary. As I return home, I know and testify that the promise made in Mosiah 23:21-22 is true: 'Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless — whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day.'