LOGAN — More Utah families are getting word that their missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in the Philippines are safe following Friday's typhoon, and 24 missionaries who were previously unaccounted for have now been found safe.
Early Monday morning, Monica Baker of Cache County said her son, Elder Gregory Baker, and his companion, Elder Preston Hughes of West Valley City, were safe and walking in Merida, near the Tacloban area.
Elder Hughes' father, Randy Hughes, said he received a text message from his son Monday morning saying the missionaries in Tacloban are OK and being evacuated to Cebu.
Venita Wiscombe of West Valley said she got a quick message Monday morning from her son that he is safe in the East Cebu area.
"They were all told to try to email their parents to tell them they were safe," she said. "I'm sure there are hundreds of missionaries trying to get through to their families. It was just a couple lines, that's all."
"It said, 'Dear family. We were told to contact our family and tell them we are OK. I am OK but please pray for the people of Tacloban,'" she said.
Wiscombe said they had a message from her son's mission president earlier, before her son emailed, but she still worried.
Some missionaries in the area are still unaccounted for, including Sara Webber of Tooele. Her mother, Gidget Webber, told KSL Monday she got a call at 6 a.m. saying they are having a hard time getting into the area, but once they do, missionaries will be taken to Manila.
Sara Webber, the first Miss Tooele City, has been serving in the Phillipines since July. She was serving in Tacloban where the typhoon hit hardest. Her family just received word she will soon be on a plane to Manila, the capitol.
"She's going to go kicking and screaming because she's fallen in love with the children," said Sara's mother, Gidget Webber. "She's fallen in love with the Philippine people."
The Webbers were told that Church leaders in the Philippines have been locating missionaries in the early morning hours and the 24 missing missionaries have now been located.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported that all of its missionaries serving in the 21 missions in the Philippines have been contacted and are safe following the devastating loss of life from Typhoon Haiyan," the Church said in a statement Monday evening. "The parents of those who had been unaccounted for have been personally contacted.
"The Church expressed its love and sympathy to all those affected by this disaster and all the people of the Philippines. Church buildings provided life-saving refuge during the storm and are now serving as shelters and disaster relief sites.
"The Church is pleased to engage with other relief agencies in the Philippines to address the aftermath of the storm. We are providing food, water, shelter, and other life-sustaining resources."
Late Saturday night, the church issued a statement saying each missionary was provided a 72-hour kit, all were moved to safe locations before the storm and are in areas that were less impacted than the city of Tacloban.
Contributing: Carole Mikita and Devon Dolan