SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah News) – 23 missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were airlifted out of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria arrived in Utah to a hero’s welcome Wednesday.
After the storm’s devastation, the LDS Church reassigned all 155 Puerto Rico missionaries to missions in the continental United States. The 23 who landed at Salt Lake International Airport Wednesday afternoon will now serve the remainder of their missions in Spanish speaking zones here in Utah.
The twin sister of Elder Benjamin Soto said her brother and his fellow missionaries were in the middle of the destruction.
“It was sad. How everything got destroyed and they didn’t have any electricity or any water,” Vanesa Soto said. “Everything was just destroyed. The people he knew from the Church…everything was just gone. Everyone was living with just nothing. He lost everything he had. He has nothing now.”
Vanesa said it was tough on his family back here in Salt Lake City.
“We were worried. It was a crazy situation,” Vanesa said. “But we knew that he was on his mission and God was protecting him all the time. He was protected for sure. We had no doubt about that.”
Since Ben is still on his mission, Vanesa didn’t get to speak to her brother but the two did share an emotional embrace.
“He actually got to hug me and to feel…feel safe,” Vanesa told ABC4 Utah News. “It was amazing. I haven’t seen him in a while and I bet he needed the love of his family for sure after all he’s been through and I was here and I’m very glad I got to be here for him.”
Vanesa says her brother won’t be so far way now. He’s been assigned to serve the final 16 months of his mission in Kearns.