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All LDS missionaries accounted for in tornado region

By Genelle Pugmire - | Dec 14, 2021

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

In this aerial photo, destruction in downtown Mayfield, Ky., is seen Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in the aftermath of tornadoes that tore through the region.

Some of the most comforting words parents of mission-aged children can hear after a devastating natural disaster is “all missionaries in the region are accounted for.”

That is what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday following a weekend of devastating tornadoes.

While the LDS Church is still gathering information and evaluating its best options for helping, stories continue to flash on TV screens and online video streams of homes standing and 30 seconds later looking like match sticks. They are without water, bathroom facilities, clothing and shelter. And, the needs will be there for much longer that just these first few days.

Christmas is going to be a bit different this year. Many of the people in some of the hardest-hit areas are living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings, according to media reports. Many have nothing but their lives and memories.

Friday’s string of tornadoes touched down in six different states where some cities were completely obliterated and at least 88 lives have been lost during earliest counts.

Michael Clubb, Associated Press

A car sits among the remains of a destroyed house after a tornado in Dawson Springs, Ky., Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, ripped across the middle of the U.S. on Friday.

While many LDS Church members may not have been directly affected by the twisters, that area of the country has a notable presence of members and buildings.

LDS Church statistics show the following:

  • Kentucky: 35,886 members, one mission and one temple.
  • Illinois: 56,888 members, one mission and two temples.
  • Arkansas: 32,307 members and two missions.
  • Mississippi: 21,649 members.
  • Missouri: 72,525 members, two missions and two temples.
  • Tennessee: 52,920 members, two missions and two temples.

That totals 272,175 members, eight missions and seven temples along with several meeting houses.

“The devastation is like we’ve never seen before,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. “There is massive damage. This tornado didn’t discriminate.”

Beshear noted they were already short on nurses due to COVID-19 and now they are short on houses. Infrastructure in some areas has been completely destroyed.

Robert Blumsted, Associated Press

Tamara Yekinni hugs a friend outside a shelter in Wingo, Ky., on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, after residents were displaced by a tornado that caused severe damage in the area. Yekinni is an employee at a candle factory where employees were killed and injured by the storm.

“We’re going to see the other side and we’ll rebuild,” Beshear added.

It is anticipated there will be more information forthcoming from the church as far as reports and humanitarian aid. As in other disasters, it will be most likely that members with yellow helping hands vests will be organizing to help their neighbors in need.

Voluteers help Martha Thomas, second left, salvage possessions from her destroyed home, in the aftermath of tornadoes that tore through the region, in Mayfield, Ky., Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.

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