Concern and Gratitude Expressed for Missionaries Injured in Brussels
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
Concern for the injured missionaries counted among the dozens of victims of the March 22 Belgium terrorist attacks and the other victims has been felt throughout the Church. Many offered silent and family prayers on their behalf. Others utilized Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to express sympathy, support, and appreciation.
The four full-time missionaries were injured in a bomb blast at the Brussels airport. More than 30 people died and 270 were injured in two attacks, one at the airport and another at a nearby train station.
Each of the injured missionaries was hospitalized; three required surgery. There were no reports of harm to other members.
Sister Fanny Rachel Clain, 20, of Montelimar, France, who was at the airport en route to her mission assignment in Ohio. She was hospitalized with minor injuries.
Elder Joseph Empey, 20, of Santa Clara, Utah. He suffered second-degree burns to his hands, face, and head and required surgery to repair shrapnel injuries to his legs.
Elder Richard Norby, 66, of Lehi, Utah. Elder Norby underwent surgery after suffering burns and shrapnel wounds. Doctors placed him in a medically induced coma following surgery.
Elder Norby’s wife and missionary companion, Sister Pamela J. Norby, was not at the airport at the time of the explosion.
Elder Mason Wells, 19, of Sandy, Utah. Doctors operated on Elder Wells to repair his Achilles tendon. He was being treated for burns and shrapnel wounds.
The three elders, who were accompanying Sister Clain to the airport when the explosion occurred, were apparently close to the detonation site. Sister Clain had reportedly already passed through airport security and was further away from the blast than the other missionaries. She suffered minor cuts and burns.
Thirty-four people died and many more were injured in back-to-back terrorist bombings in the Belgium capital. The airport attack occurred just after 8 a.m. An attack at the nearby Maelbeek metro station happened about an hour later.
The First Presidency issued a statement a short time after the bombings:
“Our prayers are with the families of the deceased and injured, including four of our missionaries who were injured and hospitalized. We also pray for the people of Belgium and France as they continue to deal with the uncertainty and devastation caused by the recent terrorist attacks.”
France Paris Mission President Frederic J. Babin spoke of the day’s horrors in a brief video released by the Church.
“We’ve been through some tragic events. … And we pray for the families and all those who have suffered from the tragic day,” he said.
The four injured missionaries, he said, have “been taken care of and we’re looking at the possibility for them to feel better soon and to get out of the hospital.”
President Babin said the elders and sisters serving in his mission were instructed to stay in their apartments until it was deemed safe to return to their regular missionary duties.
In the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attack in Paris, the missionaries were educated on safety precautions and procedures. During such troubled times, the missionaries are anxious to share the gospel’s message of peace and joy, said President Babin.
“We would like to thank [the missionaries] for all they do. They are wonderful.”
The families of the three seriously injured missionaries released statements hours after the attacks.
“As a family, we feel the power of prayer from those we know and those who only heard Mason’s name for the first time today,” wrote Elder Wells’s parents, Chad and Kymberly Wells. “We will continue to pray and hope for everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Elder Wells is a 2014 graduate of Utah’s Lone Peak High School, where he played several sports and served on the student council.
His companion, Elder Empey, graduated from Utah’s Snow Canyon High School in 2014, where he played rugby.
“We are grateful our son, Elder Joseph Dresden Empey, is alive and doing well. … We have been in touch with him and he is grateful and in good spirits. We have also been in contact with his mission president. We are thankful for the outpouring of love and prayers from throughout the world, and we pray for all those affected by this tragedy,” wrote Court and Amber Empey.
Elder Norby is a seasoned missionary. He presided over the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission from 2003 to 2005 and also served as president of the Orem Utah College 1st Stake. Sister Norby is a former member of the Relief Society general board.
The Norby family released a statement expressing their appreciation for the medical professionals caring for Elder Norby. They also thanked the many people who were praying for their loved one:
“We wish to express our love to the Paris France Mission president, President Babin, his wife [Sister Marie-Francoise Babin], and the fine missionaries. Our prayers go out to all those who were affected by this terrible tragedy and wish for the speedy recovery for all the wounded bystanders.”