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Senior missionaries share how their missions were affected by COVID-19 and their plans to come back to Hawaii

Sister and Elder Johnson smile wearing aloha shirts with PCC name tags with ti plants behind them.
The Johnsons said they’ve come to love their home and people in Hawaii and plan to return.

Senior missionaries Scott and Jackie Slivka; Lyn and Keith Johnson; Susan and Gregg Lockhart; and Mark and Alonna Randall left Laie in March 2020, when the Church released them due to COVID-19. They shared hard it was for them to leave their missions, their hope to return soon, and what they learned from this experience by expressed their trust in the Lord.

Lessons from the pandemic 

The Lockharts said they have learned to have more faith. “He has a plan and knows our individual plans. We just have to be patient and keep living the gospel.”

Sister Lockhart commented, “We are so thankful for a living prophet on the Earth at this time who is getting instructions and directions from our Savior and Heavenly Father for us.”

Looking back on their mission, the Johnsons, from North Ogden, Utah, said when they were set apart to leave, they were told by their stake president they would make lifelong friends, and that’s what they did.

“We serve where we are called, and bloom where we are planted. In the end, it is all for our growth, learning, experience, and truly, it is all for the kingdom. Heavenly Father is mindful of each one of us, and our every move.”

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We serve where we are called, and bloom where we are planted. In the end, it is all for our growth, learning, experience, and truly, it is all for the kingdom.
The Johnsons
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Despite the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, Elder Slivka said he has tried to see the positives. “We have been taught there is opposition in all things. To remain happy and have hope, we must accept that and work to recognize the great blessings that have come along with the disappointments.

“We have faith that the Lord still has a plan for the students of BYUH and the PCC.”

The Slivkas said they learned patience as they waited on the Lord’s timing. “We met many amazing young adults and young families who are destined to be the spiritual leaders in their countries. Perhaps this pandemic is refining them even more.”

Responsibilities at BYU–Hawaii

Scott and Jackie Slivka, from Murray, Utah, were called as IWORK missionaries. With funds provided by donors, they purchased supplies and assembled welcome bags for new IWORK students each semester. They also staffed the Student Support Center located in the Polynesian Cultural Center.

They provided a place for student employees of the Center to take a break during their day. “Our goal was to give support and encouragement, especially to new students as they adjusted to college life,” the Slivkas said.

From Calgary, Canada, Susan and Gregg Lockhart said their mission was supposed to last from November 2019 to October 2021. Sister Lockhart worked in the Center’s uniform warehouse, and Elder Lockhart was a handyman for the Center’s Food Services before the couple left.

Mark and Alonna Randall, from Phoenix, Arizona, both worked in the Ukulele Experience at the Center. They gave tours, taught ukulele lessons and sold ukuleles and other food and art items. They said they had great interactions with students and other senior missionaries who served with them. The Randalls also served in the YSA 14th Ward, the Laie YSA 1st Stake Choir and the temple. Of their experience, they said, “Our mission was a very rich and diverse service opportunities for us.”

Elder Johnson was called to serve in the Center’s marketing department as a finance analyst. He was assisting in financial projections and forecasts for the Center’s marketing sales, he said. His overall objective was to fine-tune the marketing dollars spent and received, while Sister Johnson worked in the Hukilau Marketplace stores.

Sadness of leaving

The Randalls’ mission was scheduled to end on June 3, 2020, but instead, they went home on March 23 due to the pandemic. The Randalls said they were surprised when the Church announced general conference would be online only.

“We are in our 70s and this has never happened in our lives before. Then they canceled church meetings, closed the temple, BYUH went online and the PCC temporarily closed.”

According to Randalls, the senior missionaries were advised to get a two-week supply of food and provisions in case they had to quarantine. “Then one week later, we were told that all the senior missionaries would be going home. We just had a few days to sell our car and other items, and give away the extra food and supplies we had,” the couple explained.“We waited two days for instructions and then we were told to arrange our own flights home.”

They arrived at home on the last Hawaiian Airlines flight directly to Phoenix. “The plane was full, and we all wore masks. It was a strange feeling to be in the airport with everyone so quiet and pensive, leaving Hawaii under such strange circumstances,” they recalled.

Elder and Sister Slivka had served for 10 months when they left. “Like all of the senior missionaries, we were very sad to leave so unexpectedly. We love all the students we have come to know, and try to stay in contact through Facebook and Messenger, so we can still be of some support.” They plan to return and complete their mission at the Center as soon as they are permitted.

For the Johnsons, leaving was hard for them as well. “We’ve come to love our life and home in Hawaii, but mostly, the people, missionaries, students and our Laie Married Student 4th Ward very much,” Elder Johnson said. “We were teaching the self-reliance class’s financial portion, which we enjoyed immensely. We miss our students and missionary friends so much.”

Sister Johnson said her husband very much enjoyed his work at the Center and was heartbroken not to be able to finish his projects. “He was so close in a study analysis he really wanted to continue and complete.”

The Johnsons said they arrived in Hawaii in September 2019 with the intent of staying 18 months. They are planning to return to finish their mission when it is allowed. “Our return has been bumped to 2021, but we want to finish what we have started,” the couple said.

Coming home

For the Slivkas, one of the hardest things about coming home was going from interacting with more than 100 students every day to coming back to quarantine, where they only had contact with their family.

“Our son and his family were caring for our house, so we shared the space and enjoyed their new baby while we wait to return,” they said. During the quarantine, they said they spent time doing family history, yard work, service opportunities and loving their grandchildren.

The Randalls said they were quarantined for two weeks at their home with another senior sister who had sold her home before leaving on her mission.

“It was so good to have her with us. We settled down and stood on the porch and played our ukuleles for people who came to greet us and sang ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ Family members and friends supplied us with the basic food and cleaning items.”

All missionaries who would have gone home before June 15 were told they would not be returning. Because of this mandate, the Randalls said they are done with their mission. “We are sad our mission was cut short, but we completely understand and are grateful we were able to be home during the pandemic.”

The Lockharts shared they have kept busy with activities, such as hiking, walking, golfing, pickleball, reading, playing games, working in the garden and doing small renovation jobs inside their house.

“We have continued to read our scriptures and study ‘Come Follow Me’. We have done some traveling to Jasper, Alberta and Kimberley, British Columbia. We went camping with our family. We are very much looking forward to our returning to our mission ‘ohana.’”

Before their mission, the Johnsons had sold their home of 30 years. Elder Johnson said, “So coming home, on the spur of the moment, we were homeless—such an interesting position to find ourselves in. We did the mandatory 14-day quarantine in St. George, Utah, then went to Arizona to see our daughter and family,”

They then returned to Utah to assist their son in a few home building projects. According to Sister Johnson, “After six weeks, we came to Brigham City, Utah, to live with my stepmom. My father had passed away in Nov. 2019, so she is living in a large home alone. It’s been wonderful to be here.”

When it became apparent that they were not returning to Hawaii until Jan. 2021, the Johnsons said they decided to settle in a bit deeper and buy a home of their own once again. “We bought a beautiful home in Litchfield Park, Arizona, near our daughter and her family. There we have four grandchildren,” Sister Johnson said. “We have another four grandchildren in Utah, so we plan to travel back every couple of months to watch them grow into amazing human beings. Family is everything.”

The Randalls said they plan to continue to serve in the Church, go to the temple and enjoy their growing family of five children, 20 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “We will strive to continue to be missionaries to our neighbors and friends and good ministers in the Church.”

Their three grandsons are serving as full-time missionaries, and they want to love and support them as they serve. Randalls shared that they will be forever grateful for the opportunity to “labor in such a beautiful place with beautiful people.”

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