LONE TREE, Colo. (KDVR) — A substantial number of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries are still trying to get home after closed airports and limited public transportation in rural areas have left possibly hundreds stranded.
The church told FOX31’s Problem Solvers that they are chartering planes to move thousands of young people from around-the-world missions back to their native countries.
Billy Lyons, a 19-year-old from Lone Tree, had his two-year mission commitment cut short. He was gone for only 10 months and two weeks.
After attending language school in Guatemala, he went on to mission in El Salvador and Belize.
Lyons said, “I loved Belize. I loved everything about Belize. It was amazing.”
The short experience is already paying off.
“I had a high school education in Spanish. I wasn’t really able to speak it, but when I was immersed in El Salvador and Belize, it took a couple of months, but after a couple of months, I felt pretty comfortable, pretty fluent,” Lyons said, “I could totally have a conversation with somebody.”
Lyons is glad to be home but is missing his fellow church brothers and sisters.
“It was pretty hard. It was heart-breaking,” Lyons said.
Elder Thomas Priday said, “The church had to charter three different aircraft to get into Manila and bring them back on charter airlines because of the border issues. Similar issues have been going on in South America as well as other parts of Asia.”
Church leaders had to shut down and move members from nearly 400 missions in mid-March.
“It’s really been going on for the last two weeks and that continues to this day,” Priday said, “I have a friend who has a son in Ecuador and that airport is closed and it’s seven hours to Quito. It will probably be another week or so before the church can get charter aircraft to that location and fly those missionaries home.”
The church averages 69,000 missionaries and says the missionary training centers in Utah and Mexico are closed. Current training is being held online.
Some Colorado missionaries who were serving in other countries are now in quarantine.