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Missionaries from South Pacific share uniqueness of returning with hundreds of others in same situation

Judy Brock clings to a railing and Jeff Brock tries to pull her away.

A missionary couple serving in Kiribati, along with 300 missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints flew home on April 4 from the South Pacific island. They knew they needed to go home even though they didn’t want to, explained the couple.

Stuck in quarantine in Fiji, the couple was not expecting to return home with such short notice. Jeff and Judy Brock from Georgia said they were serving as humanitarian missionaries in Kiribati. Just before being sent home, Sister Brock went to Arizona for their son’s surgery and Elder Brock stayed in Kiribati.

Before the coronavirus pandemic became more widespread throughout the world, the Brocks had been advised by the mission president in Kiribati to come back together wherever it would be.

Sister Brock was unable to enter Kiribati because the borders were closed. She was put in quarantine in Fiji for 14 days before she could enter Kiribati. Her husband soon joined her in Fiji to comply with what the president had asked of them, with the plan of returning to Kiribati after to finish their mission.

However, they were soon told they would have to return home and left their mission early along with the rest of the missionaries returning home.

Of the missionaries returning home, Sister Brock shared parents in the airport said, “They literally did come with just clothes on their backs.”

A joyful reunion

The Brocks said seeing missionaries reunite with each other was a joyful experience. Elder Brock described the experience as an uproar of joy and hugging.

“It was a beautiful reunion ... Imagine four groups of 300 missionaries who have known each other in some way, all experiencing very similar emotions getting together in this one place. It was emotional,” he added.

Cole Young, who served in Kiribati for seven months, was looking forward to being reunited with his sister at the Fiji airport after she had served in the Fiji Suva Mission for 17 months.

“I was just so happy ... I had been looking towards seeing her since the day she left. She is my best friend.”

Bailey Young said she was prepared to see him, but she didn’t get to. She said the Lord really did answer their prayers, but in His timing not hers.

Cole Young said, “She told me that she had been praying to see me in Fiji, and it didn’t happen. But then it did on our way home together. So, our prayers were answered, but in God’s timing.”

Humanitarian service

The Brocks said they were not allowed to proselyte because they had another calling: Finding ways to involve Church charities and bringing support to those in need.

Sister Brock said, “We can't proselyte, so we get these moments where you really get to feel the Spirit so strong, the unity, and the love. It didn’t matter your race, nationality, or culture. You could just feel an incredible amount of love.”

The Brocks pose for a picture while wearing masks.

She said not only did she feel the love from the missionaries, but also everyone who served them to get them all home. This included the flight attendants, pilot and the Fiji Prime Minister when he shared his gratitude.

“They were just as gracious to us in helping to get us home as he felt we were to get his nationals home. It was a really unifying experience,” she said.

Elder Brock explained, “We may never experience that again, flying with 300 missionaries with a common bond. It was a unique experience.”