OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — A Utah couple is asking for prayers as they have not had contact with their son, who is serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, since the Gabrielle cyclone hit New Zealand last weekend. There are 12 missionaries in total who are unaccounted for.
Logan Williams, 18, and his companion have not been heard from in more than 40 hours as of today. According to his mother Amy Williams, Logan and his companion had not evacuated before the flooding hit Wairoa, a town southeast of Auckland.
“I hold on to the knowledge that Logan is highly intelligent. He’s been prepared for things like this, and he has a great strong testimony,” Amy Williams said.
Williams has been on his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints since October 2022 and arrived in New Zealand in December 2022.
“The last contact anyone has had with him was us, and that was 6:30 p.m. in Wairoa, Monday evening.” Amy Williams said. “At that time, the missionaries were asked to shelter in place […] by their mission president.”
She said that Logan told her the water levels in the river had risen ten feet in about four hours. That was concerning to him, but the missionaries had been asked to stay put and not evacuate.
About eight hours later at 4 a.m., the river banks in Wairoa overflowed and flooded the city, according to New Zealand news reports. It has reportedly flooded about half the homes in Wairoa. At this time as well, reportedly all communication was knocked down, except for satellite phone or contact with a rescue team.
“We are holding onto hope that he and his companion made it to high ground. Thank you all for your support, your prayers, calls, texts, and visits,” Amy Williams said in a Facebook post. “He is in the Lord’s hands, and there is no better place he can be.”
Williams’ father said that we live in these days where we can talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and not being able to do that is what’s made it hard.
“The hope we hold on to is just being able to hear his voice, being able to know that he’s okay,” he said.
Media relations manager for the Church of Jesus Christ, Sam Penrod, said the Church is aware of the 12 missionaries in that region of New Zealand who have not been able to check in after the storm.
“The missionaries were aware of the incoming storm,” Penrod said. “They had enough supplies and are in a community where there is a Latter-day Saint ward with Church members to provide support.”
Penrod said the Facebook post, which suggests a missionary is “missing,” should more accurately say he has not been in contact with the mission president since the storm.
“As soon as the communication is restored to this area, we are hopeful to get an update to share,” Penrod said. “I do know the mission president is providing regular updates to parents and family members.”
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins declared New Zealand to be in a National State of Emergency because of the cyclone. This is only the third time a National State of Emergency has been called in New Zealand’s history.
“New Zealand has never seen anything like this in its history, it’s the worst national disaster they’ve faced in 100 years,” Amy Williams said. “They were not ready, they were not prepared and it’s just been devastating.”