“President Sekiguchi shared a wonderful message on how we can continue to do the work even from our apartments,” said Henrik Harman, a junior studying economics from Charleston, West Virginia. “My companion and I were asked to sing the closing hymn and once we finished, our president received the message. He looked at his phone for a second, then began to tear up as he read it to us.”
Harman is one of 50% of all missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent home because of COVID-19 as reported on March 26. He served for four months in the Japan Tokyo North Mission before evacuating on March 26.
“I was joking with my companion and the Sisters at first, but once I sat down and called my family to inform them, the weight of my emotion hit me,” Harman said. “I couldn’t help but cry as I told them the news. I thought I had the next 2 years of my life planned out, but that was all taken from me. I felt defeated.”
Harman’s mission made changes as worldwide church attendance was suspended for members of the Church.
“Everyone knew that we were bound to be put in quarantine, but no one wanted to accept it,” Harman said. “Japan, especially our mission, was a very safe and sanitary country. People would always wear masks if even the slightest bit ill, and people were also pretty to themselves.”
The missionaries were asked to buy two weeks’ worth of food and spend the majority of their time inside. Their apartment became their new proselyting area as they tried to contact others through the phone and online. Harman spoke fondly of the one short month he spent outdoors in Japan.
“Our area was pretty large and well developed so we would mostly look for new apartment complexes to knock, but we occasionally found ourselves in long winding neighborhoods filled with traditional homes and beautiful gardens,” Harman said. “What I miss most is walking into our branch building on Sundays and greeting all the members as they walked in. We would always bow and smile to them and often share stories about each other. Of course, I couldn’t understand most of it, but they always smiled and encouraged me.”
Harman began the long journey home with much sadness, but felt the reassurance of the Spirit. His mission president held a final testimony meeting for all departing missionaries, and the next day he landed in West Virginia after nearly 20 hours of travel.
“Once I got home I felt basically completely useless,” Harman said. “I was still a missionary at the time so I couldn’t do much of anything, and due to a mandatory quarantine I was basically confined to the upstairs of my house.”
It was during this time he made the decision to postpone his mission and start school at BYU-Idaho. Initially, his decision was to be reassigned as soon as possible, which he told his stake president.
“The whole next day I just remember not feeling right,” Harman said. “I was unable to think of anything other than my decision. When my father returned from work, I confronted him on my dilemma. He directed me to Doctrine and Covenants 9: 7-9. It speaks of a stupor of thought and the importance of studying out in your mind, as well as asking for help from Heavenly Father. I felt that stupor of thought.”
Harman expressed gratitude for his father’s advice.
“He has helped me to realize more the guidance I need from my Father in Heaven,” he said. “This experience has given me a sign of proof that there is a plan for me.”
He reflected back to the sleepless night after he learned of his early release, his confusion with the turn of events.
“Eventually I couldn’t stand it and walked over to the balcony of our apartment and opened up the blinds to find a bright full moon,” Harman said. “I stood there for a moment taking it all in and I remember having a feeling of calm wash over me. At first I didn’t recognize it, but it was the spirit comforting me through that time and telling me it would be all right.”