Stuck in Côte D’Ivoire
COVID-19: Messages of Faith

“Stuck in Côte D’Ivoire,” Liahona, May 2020.

Digital Only: Young Adults

Stuck in Côte D’Ivoire

None of us missionaries knew what would happen next.

Capture the Ministry. Holland

The author lives in Utah, USA.

I had been a missionary in the French-speaking Côte D’Ivoire Yamoussoukro Mission for five months when COVID-19 started changing our lives. Church meetings were cancelled. Then we learned there had been a confirmed case of the virus in a nearby city, and we were given social-distancing guidelines. I realized that this new virus was more serious than I had previously thought.

Two days later, one of the assistants to the mission president called and told us that all of the non-native missionaries needed to pack and get ready to leave the country. I was so upset. Although I had only been serving for a few months, I already loved Côte D’Ivoire, the culture, and the people we served. I felt like my work there was not finished.

As I gathered with my fellow missionaries, I could tell that we all felt heartbroken. But what none of us knew at the time was that we would soon be stuck in between places—not doing missionary work but not home either.

In Need of a Miracle

After a devotional and a bus ride to the nearest international airport, we slept in a stake center on beds made from folding chairs. When we went to catch our flight the next day, we got bad news. One of our layovers airports had closed, so we weren’t allowed to board. We went to a nearby hotel, thinking we would only be staying there for a day or two until another flight was arranged.

The next day was Sunday, so we shared testimonies with each other in a tent on the hotel grounds. We all felt the Spirit and recognized that Heavenly Father was protecting us. One of the elders had an aunt who lived nearby, and even though she wasn’t a member of the Church, she fed us rice, fish, chicken, and cassava root. We were so grateful for that meal. Later that day, five elders were able to catch a flight home, but there wasn’t room for the rest of us.

Over the next several days, missionaries continued to be evacuated alphabetically by mission. (I had come from Yamoussoukro, at the bottom of the list.) Together, we gradually began to adjust to life in a hotel room. One day we tried to take a private bus to a nearby soccer field, but the hotel staff said that if we left, we couldn’t come back in case we got infected. So instead we came up with other ways to entertain ourselves: playing games and watching Book of Mormon videos, for example. We started making friends with the hotel staff, and the days began to blur together.

Then the government closed all nonessential traffic between the city we were in and outside areas. Returning to my mission area was now no longer an option. But the airport closed too. We were stuck! We needed a miracle.

Two Powerful Fasts

After talking about our situation, we decided to fast for a miracle. We wanted to get home, but more importantly, we wanted to know what the Lord wanted us to do. I don’t think I will ever forget the sight of 25 of us gathered in a hotel room, praying to start the fast. In some ways, it was the easiest fast I’ve had, not because I didn’t feel hungry but because we were all fasting together for the same purpose. We prayed again to end the fast and felt peaceful. We knew that no matter what happened, Heavenly Father would take care of us.

Later that day, we found out the Church was working with the U.S. embassy to fly us home. We were excited, but after a week of disappointments and delays, we wanted to wait until we were on the plane before celebrating. So instead, we focused on yet another fast—this time following President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation to pray for relief from the effects of the coronavirus throughout the world. It was at the end of that fast that we got more good news. We received itineraries for our return flights! We were finally heading home.

The Lord Is with Us

Now I’m back with my family, in quarantine, and trying to learn what Heavenly Father wants me to do next. I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I have learned an important lesson through all of this: even when I don’t know what will happen next, I can feel peace by patiently trusting the Lord’s timing. In the middle of uncertainty, I can choose to believe that Heavenly Father knows how it will all work out.

I know there will be many decisions for me to make in the near future. But I’m not alone. And neither are you. If you’ve also been sent home from your mission suddenly, reach out to those you trust for support during this difficult time of transition. But ultimately, it is our Savior who understands and can help us better than anyone. His promise to the Apostles in Matthew 28:20 applies to us as well: “I am with you always,” He said, “even unto the end of the world.”