SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not unusual for Mormon missionaries to come down the escalators of the Salt Lake International Airport on weekday afternoons.
But the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who arrived on the ground Wednesday from Puerto Rico weren’t coming home.
Twenty-three missionaries of the church arrived in Utah and were welcomed by their new mission presidents at the airport. They have been reassigned to eight missions in Utah and are among the 155 missionaries evacuated from the United States territory that was devastated by Hurricane Maria last week. The storm left most of the island without power and 60 percent of the island without water.
The other 132 missionaries have been reassigned to missions across the United States, as detailed in the Deseret News.
Vanesa Soto's brother had been serving as a missionary in Puerto Rico for nine months. Elder Benjamin Soto's mission isn't over, but the two were briefly reunited Wednesday when Soto, who is now living in Salt Lake City, stopped by the airport to see her brother.
Twenty-three missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission have been relocated to eight LDS missions in Utah. The missionaries have been evacuated due to the affects of Hurricane Maria, which has left the area without power, phone, internet and running water. The LDS Church is currently distributing food and building materials to the area and missionaries are eventually expected to return and continue serving the people there.Posted by Deseret News on Wednesday, September 27, 2017
The siblings, who are originally from Argentina, expressed their love to each other as the missionary left the airport in preparation to enter a new mission with a new mission president.
"It actually feels great to know that he's safe after all he's been through, and to have him close to me because I live here now," Soto said.
The missionaries were invited to pose for a photo and to hold up their fists while saying "Hurrah For Israel," a reference to Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball's cheer to their wives and children as they left to serve missions.
This is the second time in the past five years that the LDS Church has chosen to evacuate an entire mission. In 2013, 204 missionaries were evacuated from the Philippines Tacloban Mission following Typhoon Haiyan, returning four months later.