Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Leaving on a Jet Plane.....August 12, 2014

 (Written by Elder Ray's mom)

Hmmmm I'm not really sure where to start because so much had happened since Aug. 1.
We were told to just keep everything quiet but now that all missionaries are out of Sierra Leone and Liberia and in their new missions it is safe to talk about how it all happened and how in the world the Church relocated 274 missionaries!!
As you have read in Elder Ray's letters Ebola has been happening for a few months and thanks to our leaders who recognized the seriousness of the virus.  The mission had placed restrictions and rules on the missionaries for the last 3-4 months (no shaking hands, no blessing of sick, no entering homes w/sick people, only eating food they had prepared,having a month of food,etc).  I believe the Church was ahead of everyone including medical personnel. 
On Thursday, July 31 all missionaries got a call telling them they needed to remain in their apartments - they could not leave their apartments at all.  Then on Sunday, Aug 3 all missionaries from the entire mission gathered at the mission home in Freetown.  While they gathered they were all given their new mission assignments and were told they could take 1 carry-on and only 1 large suitcase.  The missionaries were then sent in groups.  Elder Ray was in the 1st group of about 60 missionaries.  In order to get to the airport a ferry must be ridden to Lungi.  It is about a 30 minute boat ride and of course there was a nice storm on the sea:
Relaxing on the ferry ride

Ridin' out the storm

After reaching the airport the flight was not ready for the missionaries so they waited at the airport hotel for 2 days while the Church found a flight they could charter to get the missionaries out.  They were finally able to board the chartered flight (a company that specializes in getting people out of "hot spots") and there they flew to Lisbon, Portugal.  Elder Ray and his group stayed overnight in Portugal and then flew to Paris, France where he then flew non-stop to Salt Lake City!!!! Yes, he was in SLC and we didn't even know except for the random pictures that kept appearing in our email (E.Ray has a wi-fi camera and so when he has wi-fi he can send pictures so every so often a pic would pop into our email) - from SLC he flew to Irvine, California!!! He arrived on Wednesday evening and the mission president was gracious enough to let him use his cell phone and all the elders that arrived called from the airport :)  After 5 days of traveling and thousands of miles Elder Ray, along with 2 other missionaries, had arrived to finish his mission in the California, Irvine Mission.  Somewhere along the way his luggage was missing and he literally only had the clothes on his back but he was SAFE!!!
We were able to speak to him on Thursday night after he had a day to recover.  He was in good spirits. the mission president had taken him to get a few slacks, shirts, socks, garments, etc until his luggage could be found.  The only thing that had upset him was in the chaos of everyone at the Sierra Leone mission home his scriptures had been taken/lost - he didn't care about his luggage so much as his scriptures - they had made it with him throughout all his travels and mission changes -through all the ups and downs of a mission.
He is now with another missionary who had been evacuated from Ukraine in May and a brand new missionary just out of the MTC - so he is training again!!!  They are in Newport Beach and to say it is quite a change from West Africa is an understatement!!!  He is sad to leave the African people and has come to love them so much but is excited for the new challenges that this new mission brings.
This is really just a small part of the adventure of Elder Ray and I am sure there is much that has not been told.  We ask that you continue to pray for the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, that a cure can be found and that Ebola will be eliminated.  The West African people are humble and love the Lord - the members of the Church depend on the missionaries and this removal of the missionaries will be very hard but they will persevere and become stronger.

Elder Ray loving American cars!  Also the church helped him get a new suit and shoes and a member of the stake graciously donated a new scripture quad for him!!  I love how generous members can be for the missionaries and others!!

Companion planning at their apartment.  Elder Ray says he is cold even though everyone else is saying it is really HOT!  I think Utah is going to be downright arctic when he gets home!

While they waited for their clothes to finish washing and drying Sis. Orgil made the new missionaries a delicious American dinner of roast beef and all the trimmings.  Elder Ray is wearing Pres. Orgil's track suit since he had nothing else to wear while his clothes washed :)

After a shower and clean clothes!

This is the missionaries just after they had arrived from the airport to the mission home.

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