SALT LAKE CITY — A direct hit by Hurricane Maria first decimated Puerto Rico. Now it is scattering the Mormon missionaries of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission all over the United States.
LDS Church leaders decided Friday to evacuate all 155 missionaries and reassign them to Spanish-speaking missions from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Yakima, Washington. The final 118 missionaries arrived in Miami on Tuesday evening, according to Andrea Wilde Lutz, whose parents were serving in Puerto Rico as senior missionaries.
“We all felt heartbroken, completely heartbroken, to leave our island and the people that we loved,” said Eliza Turner, 20, one of 36 women evacuated to Atlanta on Saturday. A single elder made it to Atlanta, too. On Sunday, Turner flew home to Idaho Falls, Idaho, one of six sent home early because she had just weeks left on her 18-month assignment.
“No one complained,” Turner said, “but it was really upsetting. It’s very painful.”
It’s the second time in four years that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has evacuated an entire mission. The Puerto Rico Mission is not closed, but missionaries won’t return until basic infrastructure is rebuilt.
A week after Hurricane Maria, most of the island still had no power, no phone service, no internet and no running water. The entire island is on a water-boil notice. Food, drinking water and fuel — and flights out — are scarce and rationed. A curfew is in place from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
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